As MotorStorm and OnRush’s Evolution Studios falls apart, we investigate whether there’s any hope left for the arcade racer.
Originally published August 11, 2018 for Doublejump.co
It finally happened. Even after its death as a Sony studio and divine resurrection as a branch of Codemasters in 2016, Evolution Studios is gone.
Codemasters’ eleventh-hour intervention was already an incredible boon for the studio, but with the senior staff – including designer and face of the studio Paul “Rushy” Rustchynsky – let go, Evolution has seemingly been melted down into a support arm for the wider development house. With one of the few prominent developers in the genre dismantled, what could this mean for the arcade racer?
In 2016, it made sense for Codemasters to pick up Evolution, whose Dirt and GRID series were moving closer to racing sim (simulator) and Evolution helped fill a sudden gap in their racer-only repertoire. In 2018, though, its dismantling makes sense as well.
Despite being a common genre in previous generations, the arcade racer has been going the way of the platformer in recent years; OnRush wasn’t an outlier but rather next in a chain of AAA arcade racers to release to an apathetic public. It’s a shame about OnRush, too, being such an ambitious take on an arcade racer that it doesn’t even include racing. Essentially a clever redux of MotorStorm, OnRush fused elements of Overwatch’s dynamic class system and support play, Rocket League’s candy-plastic aesthetic and rewarding, skill-based car control and even the autonomous bot players from Titanfall that serve a role separate from the players themselves. OnRush’s demise might have more to do with the opaque state of multiplayer gaming in 2018, but it’s still further proof that even the most novel take on the arcade racer can’t capture a wider audience in today’s market.
So far during the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One’s lifespan, arcade racers have been few and far between. They’ve also been pretty disappointing.
Let’s start with EA’s Need for Speed series, the arguable (modern) face of the genre. Having released two clunkers in a row – Need for Speed (2015) and the Fast and the Furious-styled Need for Speed: Payback – interest in the series is at an all-time low. Among other issues, this is at least partly due to intrusive online practices – Need for Speed (2015) required a constant internet connection while Need for Speed: Payback focused its entire progression system around loot boxes. As the main arcade racer in gaming today, EA’s continued mishandling and shameless exploitation of the franchise helped push the spotlight entirely onto racing sims and ‘sim-lites’ or ‘sim-cade’ titles (which are exactly what they sound like).