Gaming Pet Peeve: Driving in Games (and other transportation)

One of my biggest pet peeves in video games is having to get into a car when it’s not a driving game.

If driving is a core mechanic, like it is in racing games or the Grand Theft Auto series, it can be really fun. I enjoyed mastering racetracks in Driveclub, and I played so many hours of GTA V that I got pretty good at driving and won my first online race.

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The Mako looking sturdy and peaceful for a change

My problem lies with non-driving games that throw driving in and do a shoddy job of it. Did I like getting in that bumpy old Mako in Mass Effect, or having to zoom around in a warthog in Halo? Not really. Those games are about shooting things, exploration, character development, whatever. They’re not about driving, and I would argue that may be a reason why driving in those games doesn’t feel like a very polished experience. (Halo is way better than Mass Effect, I will say.) Even if the driving mechanics are solid, because the player isn’t spending much time driving in those games, it always feels rough and more challenging than it should be.

The worst game for me in that regard is Gears of War 2. The game has you driving a tank at one point (the easiest, because it’s slow) and even riding some of the flying beasts in the game. Usually you have to be shooting while you do that. It’s such a pain, because it’s hard to aim when you’re in some other mode of transportation. I want to be on foot, taking cover, and firing my regular weapons. That’s what Gears of War is all about. Taking control of a vehicle is a hassle at best, and a reason to lower the difficulty to get through those sections at worst. (Yeah, I did that.)

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Flying in the Halo: Reach mission “Long Night of Solace” is a nice exception to this!

That being said, there are some pretty cool vehicles in some games. I really like flying the Convenant ghosts in Halo, because I have an unlimited supply of ammo in them and feel more protected (until my ghost explodes, anyway — but it’s way more durable than I am without it). I also love the space mission in Halo: Reach. It’s absolutely epic, and flying a spacecraft feels like a refreshing change of pace in that case.

I guess the best cases are when piloting some other vehicle is a choice, because then it’s more about adding variety to the gameplay. It’s not forced on you by the story or terrain; you can jump in a vehicle if you feel like it and engage in combat that way, or go on foot as usual. But as soon as taking over some vehicle becomes a requirement, it loses a lot of its appeal.

Here are a few problems I often encounter when I try to control a vehicle in games:

  • I can barely keep the car on the road.
  • Enemies are shooting at me while I’m trying to keep the car on the road.
  • The car drives really, really slowly.
  • The car keeps flipping upside-down.
  • The car keeps catching on fire and exploding on me.

And no matter how good the driving mechanics are, at the end of the day, I just want to experience the core gameplay — the action that drew me to the game in the first place, the stuff I’ve been practicing in every mission and getting better at! Not the driving.

— Ashley

9 thoughts on “Gaming Pet Peeve: Driving in Games (and other transportation)”

  1. I don’t know if I’ve even played enough games with driving to have a generalized opinion of it as a feature.

    I feel like I’m the only one who actually liked the Mako sequences in ME1. There were too many of them, but they added some welcome variety to the gameplay. I think the later games were the worse for its exclusion. Then again I really hated the tank segments in ME2 DLC, but that’s because, A: they decided to throw in platforming for some damn reason, and B: it was made of tissue paper.

    Only other example I can think of is Defiance. Can’t say I minded driving in that game, but I was spectacularly bad at it. Makes me glad I don’t drive in the real world. I’d be a menace.

  2. I’m with you on this one. This can be so frustrating. The worst application of this for me is when a game that doesn’t include driving as a main gameplay element ends on a random vehicle section. I’d ideally like to finish a game utilizing tenets of the core gameplay. So when the last thing I get to do in a game is something else entirely like piloting a vehicle I have never used before… ugh.

  3. I feel your pain! Though, for me, motorcycles, or any two-wheeled vehicle, are the worst. I get that riding a motorcycle in real life is much different than driving a car and that developers probably try to mimic that, but motorcyles in games always seem to have really crappy physics. Like, they always seem way too difficult to maneuver and way too easy to crash. (GTA IV and Sleeping Dogs come to mind…great games but HATED each and every mission involving motorcycles.)

    1. Haha I can imagine, I can’t remember riding a motorcycle in a game though I’m sure I have tried it in Sleeping Dogs! I imagine they’re kind of wobbly compared to an in-game car…

  4. Your post comes at a really good time! I’m having this EXACT same issue with Saints Row 4. I absolutely hate any mission or part of a mission where I have to drive. The worst are driving spacecrafts or helicopters! If I thought driving on the road was bad, the flying ones make the road driving look like a breeze. I constantly got frustrated when I had to restart a mission several times after exploding my aircraft. Eventually I did clear the mission, but not without having so many do overs. Ugh. I wish these things weren’t a necessary part of your game.

  5. There have been a few times when playing Far Cry 3 and Metal Gear Solid V when I crashed the vehicle and died instantly. It’s usually pretty funny – especially when the crash breaks the physics engine. I’d say the saving grace is that vehicles usually aren’t mandatory for these types of games (or if they are, it’s in very small doses). All I can say is that I’m glad steering in real life is a lot more precise than it is in these games; could you imagine how nightmarish that would be?

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