The first game I ever played was Wipeout XL on the Playstation One, released in 1996. I was four years old and didn’t understand the concept of anti-gravity or even really cars in general, I just knew they went broom broom and went super fast. A huge part of what I liked about it was the sound track, which featured an instrumental version of Firestarter by the Prodigy. I didn’t know what any of that was at the time, and I never ever managed to complete even the first level, but I liked it.
A lot of the games I grew up with were driving games. Driver was a big one, and my first experience of an open world of sorts. I also played a fuckton of Rollcage, but I never ever actually played things like MarioKart or anything like that. I was awesome at whatever version of World Rally Championship we owned, and a beast at Grand Turismo 3 and 4, only really held back because I knew fuck all about how the cars worked in Grand Turismo’s much more realistic setting. That might be why it took me three attempts to pass my driving test.
Then I got into PC gaming and I just kinda stopped playing racing games in general. The first games I got were Left 4 Dead, Half-Life 1 (for €0.79 – one of my first online purchases) and the Garry’s Mod/Team Fortress 2 bumper pack, and from then on, I found myself sticking to shooter games.
Turns out though, my driving game skills came in handy. Saints Row: The Third features a lot of driving, as you have to drive (or fly) from mission to mission. While several friends had always mentioned that driving was their worst enemy in Saints Row, I found most of the driving missions no issue at all. The flying missions, I’m so good that I’ve often left my fellow gang members behind. The final missions of the game, which involve flying a Tornado helicopter around, were a breeze, and I wish I could have completed the very last level using one.
Even when faced with 200 ping and SRTT’s bad lag compensation, I will still make it work. I have to be able to predict the future at times when playing with aabicus, but he prefers it when I drive – I don’t crash as much. You can’t shoot properly because of the lag, but that doesn’t matter, I can drive on the wrong side of the road and confuse the heck out of the AI.
But more importantly, I can also fly planes, something aabicus sometimes can’t do at all. Occasionally, I can land them too. Sadly, the 200 ping meant I couldn’t quite land my plane on top of my Saints Row crib, but it’s definitely doable. In fact, I consider it a challenge to park a plane on top of a building. Go on, try it.
On top of all that, I just find driving around so relaxing. You put the radio on, listen to the music (or turn the radio off and listen to your own) and drive around the city. It’s a much better experience early on when the bridges aren’t lifted between islands and there’s no zombies on Arapice Island, but it’s a good way to relax and explore Steelport. Saints Row 4 forces you to explore to get upgrades, but the whole super powers matrix thing means you no longer appreciate driving around. You can do this in your super OP tank, or your upgraded police car or whatever, but just taking a parked car also works.
Unfortunately, in the sake of fairness, Saints Row: The Third will try and remove OP vehicles if you take them to a mission start point. It’s fun when it works though.
I also managed to drive around in the PC port of Saints Row 2, despite having really fucking awful driving controls. Thing is, I like Saints Row 2, but being unable to drive the way I can in other games put me right off it. It felt like I was playing in the same high ping from playing with aabicus but far, far worse. Yes, I know, I can get the Gentlemen of the Row, which tries to fix this stuff (and got the guy who made it hired by Volition) but still.
Although clearly I’m not that good at driving. The hardest Trailblazer missions are two of four missions I need for 100% completion. The other ones are the hardest 100K Insurance Fraud mission (which is 99% luck based) and the hardest Snatch mission (because AI is retarded).