What is the dream open world driving game?

Forza Horizon 5 has just launched and Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown is set to launch next year. But there has never been a proper simulated driving game, and that’s a real shame.

Image credit: Kunos Simulazioni

Seeing our very own Ermin Hamidovic driving a free roam mod on Assetto Corsa and ChampionJoe driving with a racing wheel on Forza Horizon 5 brought back some memories for me of a time when I used to be dead set on seeing the perfect open world driving game be brought to life. So I thought I’d share it with you.

The Tragic Backstory

Ten years ago, I was playing F1 2010 and Gran Turismo 5 on my PlayStation 3 and I saw the new Test Drive Unlimited game was releasing. I was hyped, because the original TDU game on PlayStation 2 was one of my all-time favourite games, even if all the Ferrari cars that were available on the Xbox 360 version were absent for me. At the point I played the original TDU, I didn’t have a wheel but I did for TDU2 so I was looking forward to getting it and driving around on the wheel. Fast forward to the day I pick up my copy and realise I had to use a controller. Imagine my disappointment.

This was a worryingly consistent trend that I saw over the next few years. No open world driving game would ever be optimised for wheel usage, and whilst I’m not saying pad-only racing games aren’t good, it was always a noticeable void in the market.

Yes, I did just point out how Forza Horizon 5 is playable for a wheel, but PlayStation players can’t race on that game. So here’s hoping that Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown answers my prayers, but in the likely case that it doesn’t, here’s a concept of what would be the perfect open world driving game.

Living vicariously

I think it’s safe to say that many of us were avid Top Gear and The Grand Tour viewers, and I was no exception. However, it seemed I was the only person in the world who didn’t watch for those cheap car challenges and for seeing grown men falling over and shouting at each other, instead I tuned in to watch all the items that were actually about the cars.

Unless we were born into immense wealth, none of us could enjoy these supercars outside of video games. Image credit: Steam Community

The vast majority of us are never going to afford a LaFerrari or a Bugatti Chiron, so we get into driving games because it’s the only way we really are going to drive these cars at all. We have plenty of games that satisfy those who want to drive road and racing cars on closed circuits, but what if we want to live that exotic supercar driving lifestyle? Live the fast life.

So that’s what I envisioned years ago. A game that could allow us to be seated in our sim rigs, pick a LaFerrari Aperta and drive on a mountain road with that glorious V12 screaming, it’s just the dream isn’t it?

What would it involve?

In TDU2, you’re invited to take part in a racing competition. Although, you’re brought into it by pure chance after you get fired from your valet job and then the same person who got you fired is like “Hey how about you compete in this prestigious racing competition?” which is such an aggressive shift, it gives you whiplash. Feels like it wouldn’t happen in reality.

Then there’s the competition name itself, Solar Crown? No offense TDU devs but is that honestly the best name you could come up with? It doesn’t even have anything in the name to indicate it has to do with racing exotic cars, it sounds more at home as some kind of sun-powered spaceship tournament. So in this open world driving game, you are sent to southern France and northern Italy, to compete in the inaugural Giro d’Strada, which roughly translates to ‘Road Tour’.

The Giro d’Strada is an independent racing competition looking to bring back the road racing of the mid-20th century, taking inspiration from such legendary events as the Mille Miglia, the Targa Florio and the Tour de France Automobile. That type of competition would be very fitting for this concept.

You arrive at the airport and get a call from your manager who tells you the person running the team is picking you up, and they will take you to the humble workshop that they’re based in. You have to enter into amateur qualifiers in order to qualify for the Giro d’Strada and you can choose a ride out of a few entry level cars that the team already have.

If anybody saw the third episode of The Grand Tour‘s first season, they went on an actual Grand Tour. This being a trip through southern France and northern Italy by aristocratic young men from the 17th to mid-19th century, which is what the Giro d’Strada would be taking inspiration from. It even had people coming over from America whose ability to attend was made possible by sponsorship, so that’s another element we can incorporate into the series. You will be racing and subsequently trying to complete challenges in order to earn more money from sponsors who you can represent.

The setting

The area of southern France and Northern Italy, with the Riviera coastline looking over the Mediterranean on one side and the twisty mountain roads in the Alps being on the other side provides the absolute perfect environment for an open world driving game.

As well as collecting cars in your many amazing houses and driving them, you can also go on grand tours with your friends. Plus, unlike most open world driving games, how about adding an extra element to make this game even more unique by having properly scanned race tracks? Since we don’t see many open world driving games doing this.

Well, we saw race tracks in the likes of the first two TDU games but they were very half-hearted, and The Crew 2 attempted to recreate Laguna Seca, key word being attempted and even that’s a bit kind. With that being said though, the Jersey Race Track in that game is a pretty cool facility.

Imagine that we could have properly licenced circuits in this game. Mostly Italian tracks, furthest south being Misano and including the likes of Mugello, Monza, Imola and others in that general area. Also street circuits such as Pau and Monaco would be accessible both as public roads with traffic and closed off for events.

Like in my F1 2022 wishlist article, an added aspect of the game would be cross-platform communities called ‘clubs’. You can create your own club or join a pre-existing one, and further on down the line, you can have car meets in your designated clubhouse or space. Being able to play this incredible game on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC could be optimistic perhaps, but something the wider community just needs.

Is this realistic?

Yes, the market of open world racing games is already very saturated. The Test Drive, Forza Horizon, Need for Speed games and so many more examples have provided that concept but never in a way that leaves a proper driving enthusiast with that feel of authenticity, the essence of what it means to be living the high life. They can turn a wheel and feel like they’re driving on a mountain road in Italy, and hear that glorious engine. A game you don’t just race on, but you go for a drive on.

Live the dream on the open road
Live the dream on the open road. Image credit: Slightly Mad Studios

If this game were to exist, let’s call it Viva Veloce, which translated from Italian means Live Fast. Because that’s what we all want to do, live fast. Because I am personally fed up of being restricted to the Azure Coast track on Project CARS 2.

What would you like to see in an open world driving game? Tell us on Twitter at @overtake_gg or in the comments down below!

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