By Declan Edwards
Racing games don’t tend to be open-world, Forza Horizon and Burnout series excepted, and require little animation.
Put it this way, what animation needs to be shown
compared to this
Racing games require very little movement of humans, animals, or foliage to make them look realistic.
They also only have to load a small area. Donington Park vs Renaissance Rome.
Hang on, I’ll get a screenshot of an old game
ToCA Race Driver 3 on PS2. It still looks good today. Let’s have a look at a few things…
Those spectators? 2D and not animated. The body of the car only changes with light and damage, otherwise it’s the same the whole time. The sky rotates as you turn, but the clouds don’t drift. A racing game is about physics, the crowds you only see for a few seconds don’t need to be massively detailed.
Most other games feature humans. Wiggle your fingers… that simple action requires almost as much as an entire vehicle if you want it to look realistic. Now spread that across the entire body, add clothes that need to look and move realistically, and put dozens of those character models on screen together… it ain’t going to work.
Something has to give, and it’s usually the finer details of NPCs. Their fingers don’t move, they don’t blink outside of cutscenes/FMV, their facial expressions rarely change, their torso doesn’t exist beneath the wire frame of their clothing, they move robotically 90% of the time, and they seem to turn on an axis as opposed to naturally. You don’t notice that unless you’re looking but of course you’re looking otherwise this question wouldn’t have been asked.