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.
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.)
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.