Where Are The Road Games?

And I don’t mean games of The Road – that’s an entirely different kettle of misplaced licensing. I mean this: the road movie is a fruitful, interesting genre for film, and even TV, but what is it’s equivalent in gaming? Could it have one? Or are all linear games basically just that classic story-as-journey? Are shooters our road movies? Maybe, but perhaps there’s something in the nature of travel in videogames that makes it difficult to execute something authentically “road”. More essentially redundant thoughts below.

I started pondering this back in 2004, when I was the first person outside Valve to play through Half-Life 2 (just thought I’d drop that in there). The highlight of the game, for me, was the Highway 17 section, which saw Ol’ CrowbarBoy driving along the coast in a ramshackle buggy, clambering out along the way to deal with obstacles or occasionally explore the roadside shacks. Years on, I’m aware that whole bunch of people found that section a little contrived, with the vehicle acting more like a burden to be carried, than as a fun and useful new tool, but it remains in my imagination. For me it was a taste of something unusual: a road game. Not a racing game, nor simply a vehicular sequence. It was the point at which the game broke out of simply being a route through arenas of action, as shooters have been for countless years, and become more like a journey. Of course the route might have been entirely linear, but there was still the option to stop and explore, which I like a great deal. Sure, I didn’t have to get out and explore that seaside shack, but the minor battle that happened inside it was worth experiencing. It was a kind of optional adventure by the roadside. As such, the real action that happened when I got out of the car… but I’d have to go back to my ride, because we had to go forward. Classic road movie material.

I came away from Half-Life 2 hoping to see loads more of Freeman-on-the-road. Indeed, that was the best part of the episodes too, in, er, Episode Two. But I was also expecting other developers to rip off Half-Life 2 a lot more than they actually did. Surely, I thought, there will be a bunch of physics-puzzle FPS games… Surely, I thought, there will be a bunch of shooters that also give you a car… Not so much.

Anyway, when I was racing around FUEL last year – in a buggy not unlike that of Half-Life 2 – I had flashbacks to these previous musings. In the intervening years I had accepted that the real challenge for a road game would be creating ten or more hours of road. That was going to be tricky, not least because the player would have the option to speed through it. But perhaps that’s no longer a problem. It took me the best part of eight hours simply to do a loop around FUEL’s Wales-sized micro-America. When development houses are clearly able to produce such staggering amounts of terrain, why /isn’t/ there a road game of some kind? Can it really be the content problem?

Perhaps it can. The proof would be in the getting-out-and-exploring, which is far harder to do procedurally. To really create enough material could well be out of bounds for any but the biggest studios, and most of those have their budgets firmly inserted in well established genres. To create something of a length of time that gamers have come to expect, and still make it vehicular, means making it back and forth. (GTA, Borderlands, etc.)

If there is an option for the road game, then, perhaps it lies with something quite unlike traditional mainstream game models. Perhaps it could be something like Tale Of Tales’ The Path, where everything is in the brief journey, or a Roguelike, where the fixed randomness mixes up the experience for each playthrough. It could still be linear, still have the “road-trip” essence of Highway 17, still be a one-way journey, but it could deliver something which was never the same each time. A highway through the desert on which events could be different enough time for us to play through again and again. Perhaps the journey is no more than an hour or two, but within a game set of game mechanics that could generate vastly different stories: hitch-hikers, car-crashes, bandits, UFOs…

“You’ll never guess what happened to me on the road!”

It’s not like there isn’t plenty of material to rip off work with.


  1. Heliosicle says:

    I’d quite like a STALKER game to feature vehicles (like the first one was meant to), they could keep all the same assets from CoP and SoC, touch them up and release it as one huge map with a jeep, or a motorbike. There wouldn’t even need to be missions, I realised after finishing CoP that the last couple were definitely the weakest part.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I think there is a hack to unlock the vehicles actually. They’re kind of redundant when Mr Stalker is a one-man motorcycle, of course.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      Ditto :)

      The Oblivion Lost Mod brought the vehicles back, but a 30 second drive would bring you to the edge of an area.

      I’d like a huge game where it’s mostly wasteland, with vehicles that you can stash things in and upgrade (e.g. speed, durability, armour, radiation/chemical/biological protection etc.).

      I believe, though I have no way of substantiating this, that many of our ‘open’ games are so small and densey populated with buildings etc purely because they don’t implement vehicles.

      Does anyone remember Mercenary on the Commodore 64/Spectrum? Or the sequel Damocles? You could fly a ship, drive a car or walk, and to get from one place to another on foot would take ages.

    • GameOverMan says:

      Mercenary was ahead of its time and Damocles expanded the concept on 16-bit computers. Let’s not forget other games in the same vein, such as Hunter or Midwinter and its sequel.

    • Grunt says:

      Midwinter 2: Flames of Freedom was an amazing experience. You NEEDED a vehicle to get around, because walking properly took ages. Still, the walk could be worthwhile as you’d come across random enemies or a hut or two. I used to like going for walks on the beaches as the sea animation, the rolling waves washing up against the shore, was much more convincing than the current habit of animating a flat plane with sparkly shaders.

      If only they made games like that today…

    • Tomhet says:

      “I’d like a huge game where it’s mostly wasteland, with vehicles that you can stash things in and upgrade (e.g. speed, durability, armour, radiation/chemical/biological protection etc.).”

      Hard Truck Apocalypse was pretty good, despite the title. It was called “Ex Machina” in Russia, and I don’t really know why they had to change it for international market.

      link to eng.targem.ru

  2. zipdrive says:

    Would you consider the traveling stuff one encounters in Just Cause 2 or Oblivion as an emergent “road game”?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Well there are bunch of “open” games that have those elements. But they’re almost too open. A road movie is characterised by inertia, so a game using the same ideas would need to be, if not exactly linear, certainly heading in a particular direction. You don’t have to be with, say, Oblivion.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      For me, Just Cause 2 steps too far out of the bounds of reality for me to personally see it that way, and the open nature of the game tends to detract from seeing it a a journey. Something more linear strikes me as fitting the bill better. As to Oblivion, I never played it enough to provide an opinion.

    • Janxer says:

      Oblivion? Nah, the fast travel completely kills that. Also your ability to run forever.
      Morrowind came closer, but traveling by transport was instantaneous, so that kinda ruined it, party.
      Morrowind is still the closest example to a game where the world really felt alive and the distances felt like they mattered.

    • Veret says:


      You’re half right there. Fast-traveling in Oblivion completely kills the road aspect, but if you just have the self control to not do it then you suddenly get a rather excellent road game (assuming you get a horse; otherwise it just drags). There are also plenty of mods like OOO that remove the fast traveling ability to make sure you don’t miss out on that. This more or less proves your point, really; I just wanted to remind everyone who didn’t know you can/should play the game that way.

    • zbeeblebrox says:

      I’d say the fact that a Road game would – by definition – be limiting the player to its one (or handful of) road and the road’s immediate vicinity means that you’d actually have a TON more space to work with. Think about it: imagine FUEL’s map disassembled and put back together as one long strip. It would go on for AGES! You’d have waaaaaaaaaaaay more than 10 hours of gameplay. Probably more like 80!
      In fact, almost every game – even linear ones – sacrifices pure length for overall volume. Half Life 2 would cover a lot more distance if each square meter removed the “square” part of its equation. Scale was never an obstacle.

  3. Thermal Ions says:

    Dare I suggest that L4D1/2 with their campaign modes somewhat touch on this. Sure they’re on foot rather than on wheels, but it’s a journey that differs with each game, through (a) the procedurally based AI Director, and (b) because of the fellow players who change the experience each time. It tends to create that “You’ll never guess what happened to me …” conversation – amongst those I play with or chat on our clan forums with anyway.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yeah, that does make sense. Good call.

    • Don says:

      Had I the skills, which I sadly don’t, I’d be working away at the Zombieland mod for L4D. That pretty much followed the classic road movie format with the added bonus of zombies. Perhaps it wouldn’t appeal to the twitchier members of the zombiephile community who have a compulsive desire to shoot something every 10 seconds but in Clan Superchilled, which I’d start in conjunction, we’d be quite happy to sit back for 5 minutes, watch the scenery go by while the Midnight Riders belt one out, and then hop out and run around searching for cans of gas/Twinkies whilst fending off the zombie hordes.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Sign me up :)

  4. sklaav says:

    Interstate 76…

  5. V. Tchitcherine. says:

    Oh boy, a stunning idea that deserves to be produced. Imagine a cross between On The Road and No Country for Old Men, one receives a simple assignment to go to X destination with perhaps a few mandatory but perfunctory complications at A, B and C (minor ones too), but if one explores the stops, one will be embroiled in a thrilling tale of unexpected intrigue.

    I’ve just came up with another game that will forever haunt my dreams yet will probably never be made (just like Deus Ex 2; Deus Ex 1 with better graphics and even more sophisticated and divergent gameplay systems)

    Feelsbadman.jpg indeed.

  6. Five says:

    The road sections were definitely my favourite parts of Half Life 2 for many of the same reasons described in the article.

    The slightly erratic handling of the vehicle was part of the charm as it mirrors exactly how I’d drive a car (i.e. dangerously and with no dexterity).

    It felt a mile away from anywhere and was just nice to get out of the car and have a walk around. It was peaceful, yet with enough danger around to keep you on your toes every time you looked inside a cabin.

    Can you imagine a road game set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse? Out of the way locations to explore, supplies to manage, your car to keep in good repair, and half life-style physics puzzles to beat along the way.

  7. Risingson says:

    Ditto in the joyment for the road sections in HL2. Or the boat sections. They gave a sense of freedom in a linear game that was just great. Or a sense of grandness.

  8. Risingson says:

    And about the road gamings: Vangers and Autoduel.

  9. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Far Cry 2 did have some nice little moments as you trekked across the whole map, in order to shoot someone in the face, you might come across a crashed plane, surrounded by debris.
    Of course, it was mostly buried under flaws, but I enjoyed it.
    ps, The Road, was a good book, but soooo depressing :(

  10. Brendan C says:

    I think the one true road game would be to do as Loading Ready Run did and play Desert Bus with a bunch of friends for hours on end, thus simulating the tedium of any real road trip.

    link to desertbus.org

  11. Inigo says:

    “Press ‘E’ to flail madly and terrify hitchhiker.”

  12. James G says:

    I’ve also been disappointed that more games don’t hit the road movie vibe. I’ve come close at times, when striking out to a distant point in Fallout 3, but the journey is too short for it to work fully, and too often the destination is a bit too arbitrary for it to relate to the journey itself. I think I’ll need to explain that one.

    While the destination is always primarily the excuse for the journey, it also shapes the impression of the journey itself. The destination is psychological as well as physical, and so is the journey to an extent. It would be interesting to play with this idea. In the semi-randomly generated idea you suggest, it would be interesting if the destination changed along with the journey itself. I’m not sure if you’d want to tie the two together too tightly, or allow the player to do that themselves, but it strikes me that the journey is likely to be different if you are travelling to a best friends wedding, than it is if you are travelling to their funeral, even if the road itself is the same.

    I’m now wondering if it would be possible to achieve something in ‘Sleep is Death.’ The format means that it would probably be best split over several sessions, but perhaps even then the form it more suited to vignettes, than the idea of a journey.

    • The Innocent says:

      @ James G

      STALKER has already been mentioned, and it sounds like people may not have felt the road movie vibe from it, but given the way you (aptly) define the feel of the road movie genre, I’d argue that STALKER does a great job, and it’s the game that first came to mind when I read Jim’s article.

      You have a single ultimate destination (the Center) that sits and waits like some great slumbering creature, consuming everything that stumbles into its lair, and it’s altered everything about the surrounding territory and the journey itself, both physically and psychologically. Even though for much of the game your goal doesn’t have anything to do with the Center, you know the entire time that you’re acting out a slow downward orbit towards it, and that when you get there it will define your character. Everything on the way is either just a road you have to take to reach it, or a detour that you choose to take.

  13. Mitza says:


    With the car as your mobile base of operations. Upgrading it, using it as inventory, bed and, sometimes, weapon. I imagine it would be one of the first inanimate objects I would care for in a video game – stepping out of the car to go check out that possibly zombie overrun little town, but afraid to leave it there alone, unprotected :)

    This, along with the possibility of alternating areas of violence (cities overrun by zombies) with eerie oasis of silence, peace and beauty could make a game I would definitely buy.

  14. Jason Moyer says:

    The “on the road” aspect of Far Cry 2 is kind of disappointing, but I thought the “on the river” parts were great. I enjoyed the game a lot more once I ditched the cars for the most part and started boating everywhere, especially on the last map where you could journey from one corner to the other and soak in the atmosphere.

  15. cliffski says:

    I’d humbly suggest that we don’t need them. Games are not movies, and should stop trying to be like them. We don’t have a romantic comedy genre either, and movies have precious few RTS titles.
    Thats just each medium having its peculiar strengths and weaknesses.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Perhaps so, but you aren’t trying to come up with interesting and relevant talking points for a daily blog about games :)

    • DavidK says:

      I think people are taking the ‘games are not movies so stop trying to make them like movies’ schtick too far. This article isn’t about making games into road movies, it’s about applying ‘roadness’ to games.

      Or in other words, there are road movies and road books — both distinctly different, yet with similar qualities — so why not a road game?

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      I agree with DavidK, even though I’m a bit of a ‘stop trying to make games like films’ guy. I don’t think any style or theme should be off-limits to any medium, even if it borrows from (or tries to emulate) another.

      A road game wouldn’t really have to be anything like a road film, it would just have to evoke a similar mood, either through storytelling or gameplay mechanics. If a game did try to mimic a road movie with any real detail it would probably fail miserably.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Cliffski: For someone who’s made his whole career by trying to do topics and themes in games which no-one else is doing, you’re being pretty close minded on this one.


    • Thermal Ions says:

      Interesting you put it that way Jim. I had been wondering what your main motivation for posting on the subject (or other similar “discussion” articles for that matter) had been – sharing your personal musing or rather throwing a topic out there to see what interesting discussion / ideas others come up with. I suppose of course that the former ultimately provokes the later therefore it may be a question not easily answered.

    • Carra says:

      It’s just a matter of time until someone posts a link to a romantic comedy game. Sadly, I can’t think of one. Masq was a great romantic game but missed the comedy part.

    • lhzr says:

      @cliffsky: d’oh

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      @cliffski That’s an odd point of view to take, cinema already has its own version of Kudos, ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’.*

      *I’m not being snarky, thats a compliment, to both probably.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Carra:

      So Dragon Age wasn’t a Rom-Com? :s

  16. Alexis Kennedy says:

    Whoa, did you write this before or after the Hopper news broke? :-)

    This is a fine idea. But I suspect the procedural approach is a red herring. Good road movies know where they end when they begin, and they signal it again and again along the way. Easy Rider, Vanishing Point, Wild at Heart (I think) even feature premonitions.

    “When development houses are clearly able to produce such staggering amounts of terrain…”

    You really have this covered in the next para, but it’s topology, not geography, that’s important in road movies. The thing that makes Highway 17 brilliant (and it is brilliant) is that every turn in the road offers you some event or story: there are no long blank travel stretches. Long geography is only interesting in montage. Every so often I talk to someone who’s been seduced by the idea of travelling across America by road and found they regret it when they reach the big, flat, wheaty states in the middle.

    • arqueturus says:

      I think what you’re referring to there is Jim’s point that a ‘road movie’ as a game needs to be linear and structured to make the most of it. Consider the impact of the very first level of Unreal…

      These amazing highs only work if they are presented to us at the perfect point and that’s generally something that full sandbox game can’t do.

  17. Alexis Kennedy says:

    a second thought. One of the other things that makes H17 so poignant is the sense of freedom. You’ve just come out of the cramped spaces of Ravenholm, people have been telling you what to do and where to go for hours, and of course (though you might not know it on the first playthrough) in a very few hours Freeman’s going back in the box. This sense of escape from the normal run of things is, I think, key in any good road movie (consider Easy Rider, Thelma & Louise, the Straight Story – very different but they all have that in common). cf also Travels with Charley – a book not a movie but Steinbeck talks again and again about the look that people get in their eye when they see his camper van and realise what he’s doing.

    so I think your prospective game would work best if it captured that escape; which might mean it worked best as a segment in something larger, or at least with a framing narrative of the static.

  18. Langetc says:

    It might be a bit consoley, but what about Brutal Legend?
    It had a real roady sort of vibe happening.
    Though maybe it was just more open-world-with-a-car…

  19. Eeko says:

    Fallout. That one should be on the road.

  20. negativedge says:

    “Art Form A does Thing X, why can’t video games!??!?!!?”

    Where are the first person shooters of film?!?!?!?

    • JB says:

      DooM, the movie? =)

    • Rinox says:

      Kick Ass (which, in fact, kicked ass) had a pretty extensive “fist person” shooting sequence too.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      Or any number of 80s action flicks.

    • MajorManiac says:

      Good point. There is a very good FP(Shot) film called the ‘Lady in the lake’ –> link to youtube.com

      Definately worth a try to anyone who likes the First Person Perspective. My Favorate moment is when you (the main character) uses the phone by putting the hand set upto the camera. :)

    • Unaco says:

      Shoot ‘Em Up? That was quite clearly an FPS made into a movie.

    • negativedge says:

      Why doesn’t poetry have any platformers?!?!?!!?

      Oh Lord, where is the Civilization IV of rock and roll?!?!?!

      Every time I play Tetris I can only google the Sistine Chapel and sigh

  21. Anthony says:

    Somebody up there mentioned a cross between L4D and Zombieland.

    I would pay monies for something like that.

    In a sense, Red Dead Redemption is at times a road movie, without the car obviously. You spend a lot of time on the horse, doing little random investigations on your way to a goal. It’s not really linear being as it is all sandboxy, but you do usually have a goal in mind, be it go see this guy or up into the hills to hunt bears. There’s a definite sense of a journey going on, especially when it’s just you and a horse trail through the wilderness. I couldn’t count the number of times I’d stop off and check something out or be confronted with some random scenario. It really aides the perception that it’s not just the destination that matters.

  22. JB says:

    Yet another lot of love here for Highway 17, I played that section over and over. A good game based on a premise like that would probably be a complete pain to get right, but I’d certainly welcome it.

    Slightly off-topic, but a game based on “The Road”, I’d love that. Call of Pripyat gives me a similar vibe to that, but obviously it would have to be even more paranoid and isolated.

  23. Cooper says:

    Road movies are an odd US culture thing.

    Can you imagine what one set in the UK would be like?

    The trip itself couldn’t be more than 10 hours long there’s not enough road here. And most of it would be spent in a traffic jam going clockwise on the M25.

    As for inertia – that’s what the HL games are about – pushing you forward, stumbling from one encounter and the next. The germ of what makes road movies is, as you recognised, already there in the game as a whole. The Highway section just added the vehicle to the road movie.

    I’d add that road movies, like good zombie movies, are also more about the dynamics between a small group. Hence the L4D analogy above is spot on.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Exactly Cooper, a road movie/game is generally lacking something if it’s just a sole individual making the trip. Sure an individual can be changed purely from those they come in contact with, however the pinnacle is when there is a travelling companion involved and it’s not just the individuals changing but how their own perceptions of the same events leads to a change in the relationship between them. That’s something very much easier to portray in a scripted movie than to generate in a game which faces the challenge of having to provide a framework within which a player participates.

    • Robomutt says:

      Clockwise is a road movie set in the UK. I might argue for Withnail too…

    • Robomutt says:

      The secret is to have dodgy cars.

    • whaleloever says:

      Also, Radio On is a terrific Brit road movie, like Ken Loach directing Vanishing Point. In fact, it’s far better than any American road movie.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Cooper: “Can you imagine what one set in the UK would be like?”

      A UK-sized road movie set in the USA would only take you from NY to Chicago, round New England, up the Californian coast or across Texas.

      On the other hand a US ‘NY-to-LA’ style road movie in Europe could take you from London all the way to Moscow, Sengal or the Turkish border with Iraq/Iran crossing loads of countries. Plenty of potential there – possibly *too* much even.

  24. Arsewisely says:

    Mass Effect’s a road movie game. The Normandy’s your chevvy and you have a series of destinations to which you must travel, with a load of sidestops to explore along the way. It may not have that vibe but the ‘road movie’ structure’s right there.

  25. Gosh says:

    Rage will be soon!

  26. Demon Beaver says:

    I had a bit of that feeling playing through Metro 2033. Your ultimate goal is to reach a distant station, and your travels are partly braving the (not quite) empty tunnels, partly visiting the human settlements, which are really all very different from one another. The atmosphere is mostly solemn, downright sad sometimes. And from time to time you get to explore the surface, vast as it is, you can’t stay for too long. Always pressing on…

  27. Young James says:

    I’m surprised everybody has overlooked two of the best road games of all time – Full Throttle and Oregon Trail. You could maybe even include Sam & Max hit the road, which while comedic adventure is also a travelogue of sorts.

    I guess i see two types of games being discussed here – one is an adventure/thriller where travel is an important element, like full throttle. But to really be called a road game I think you need a destination (even if its a metaphysical one), and the challenge needs involve getting there.

  28. Henry Turner says:

    I’m still waiting for ‘The Big Lebowski’ on the PC. Bowling minigame, anyone?

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      I’d be up for Barton Fink, complete with wallpaper-and-tack sub game.

      I’ll show you the life of the mind! I’LL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND!

  29. Risingson says:

    Just to add a random personal fact: I once dreamt about “Krzysztof Kieelowski’s Bleu: the videogame”. It was a Shenmue-like RPG with lots of lyrical content. A bit like Syberia.

  30. Hidden_7 says:

    Absolutely this.

    I want an “open-world” type game where the map is far more rectangular that square. The path would be fairly linear; you’re always going east, generally, but the non-linearity is in the stops. Maybe there’s a couple different routes you take, do you stay on the highway, or pull off on to a scenic side-road that runs through a little town. Possibly the town is in peril! Maybe you’ve got to save it. Or not, your choice. Have the plot be generally of the Mass Effect 2 variety, that is, from the outset you’ve got your final mission in mind, you know where the story ends, but not what happens along the way. The rest of the game is preparing for whatever encounter awaits you at the end of your journey.

    Basically, by just stretching a world map some, such that it resembles a path far more than a sandbox, and starting your character at one end and saying “ok, now get to the other end” you inject a lot more meaning into simply existing in the game world than if you start your character in the middle of a square and say “ok, now do x amount of things”. If I’m playing Oblivion, and my character is standing in Anvil, that doesn’t mean anything. If I’m playing this road game and I’m at the town at the half way point, I’ve got half a game of experiences behind me; you’ve given a firm sense of progression to simply having your character be at a place in the world.

    It’s true that every linear game is like this, if I’m in Curst I can look back and be all “oh man, remember the Hive? good times.” But by giving your journey a destination you inject a lot of meaning into simply moving forward. You’ve got an ending coming, and that can weigh on you some. It may even give you reason to stop and solve a small settlements problems along the way, to prolong the journey and put off your destiny. Very similarly to a point Kieron made in a EWS a while back, Torment works its side-quests better than other RPGs because a) the world wasn’t going to end if you don’t save it right this second and importantly b) there was a bit of a sense of dread to progression. You feared the end to your journey, your character feared it some. He’d want to get lost for a moment in someone else’s problem.

    I think having the vehicle is a really important here, at least for me. Driving is intrinsically more interesting to cross great distances, and it’s even more fun if you know you could be walking. I had a great bit of fun with FUEL just tooling off across the country side, but my heart would break a little bit whenever I’d pull over to a big of geography that looked interesting, say a farmstead or something, and remember that I couldn’t get out and investigate.

    So, yeah, basically Fallout, give your character a car that means something, can store stuff, can upgrade etc. Start yourself on the west coast, have the initial dungeon resolve with “you need to get to the east coast, it’s important, but the world won’t end if you don’t get there ASAP,” then populate the road along the way with side (and some main) quests. Have some of them be in preparation to your final mission so it gives you a reason to be doing it. Discourage backtracking to make progress meaningful (it’s not really a road game if when you make it to the last city it’s somewhat trivial to go back and do all the quests you missed along the way; those are for future playthroughs). Boom, you’ve just made a game I would play the heck out of.

    Developers, do this, it’s not as hard as it sounds, not really much harder than any other open world style rpg. Amount of content is the same, stretch bits of interest out with procedurally generated terrain, which is ok because we are driving so we’ll tolerate more empty space (not too much, though) than if we were walking, and it will be JUST as saleable as Oblivion or Fallout3 or Mass Effect or any of those other RPGs that do big numbers.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I can think of a number of contrivances that would discourage the player from turning back that are more subtle than the usual ‘impassible geography’ (ie a cliff that you can’t climb back up). How about a town that, after you’d completed whatever quest(s) involved in the area, was implacably hostile, even dangerous to the player. (cf Easy Rider).

      Mind you, if Fallout:New Vegas doesn’t have at least a cheeky nod to Fear and Loathing somewhere I’ll be surprised.
      (F&LinLV is sort of a road movie, in so much as it’s a trip movie)

    • Marcin says:

      Yeah. Still hoping someone will buy FUEL’s technology and put in some meaningful exploration and interaction in the environment other than finding a ramp. That world as-is would be pretty brilliant if populated by Borderlands-style enclaves where you’d *HAVE* to stop for well, FUEL (haha), supplies and upgrades.

  31. Tei says:

    A this point, on the game world, and the world in general, I think what we need is for games to “open” people. Help people that has not imagination, to have one. Help people that has to rush everything, to play in slow pace. Cure the Obsesive Compulsive Dissoreder people. Imagine a game that not only is fun, but health the achievements collectors and trophy collectors, to not need these things.
    We have lots of games that feed this sickness, the need for speed, the collector disorder, etc.. what we need is games that fix these problems, healing people.

    THEN, we can have a proper road game. Now is imposible, because a road game is about …the road, and if you put people in a car nowdays, will ignore the road, and will put his eyes on the endgame.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I don’t really think they will. When you give someone a game like GTA, or Fallout3 or Oblivion or what have you, they are far less likely to immediately plow through the bare minimum story missions to get to the end than they are to just start murdering folks and blowing things up and generally screw around. Which, if that’s how they get their fun out of the game, more power to them.

      Heck, in Mass Effect 2, you had to do, what, like 6 total side missions minimum before you could skip to the end and successfully finish the game. And yet that game worked perfectly fine, and I really doubt that a majority of players did that.

      Basically in this hypothetical road game, I really doubt that people are going to get in their car, and drive straight to the destination ignoring everything along the way. People that do that are bound to have their interest piqued by something on the road at some point and pull over and stop. Really it’s far more likely that people looking to, as a younger me would have said, “not play it properly” are going to drive into the first town they see and start blowing things up, or going off road to look for wicked jumps. If that’s their fun, let them at it. They’ll have their game where they can just have a roadtrip of destruction, people looking for a more involved, story-driven experience will play it like an RPG, doing side quests etc and they’ll have their game, and it will be the same game.

  32. Jimbo says:

    Red Dead Redemption itself isn’t a ‘road game’, strictly speaking, but it does a great job of feeling like it is at times. The world is phenomenally well-realized and there are tons of random events, some contrived and some that feel truly random.

    One of the optional side-quests toward the end of the game has you collect 2 of every type of flower in the game. Now I know this sounds terrible and that was my first reaction too, but because of how the flowers are placed (different types in different areas on the map), it’s really just an excuse to ride right from one end of the map to the other. This’ll see you riding out of the snowy mountains, across the Great Plains, through the States, across the border and right across Mexico. If you choose to get involved in everything you come across along the way, this would probably take you a good couple of hours. This ended up being one of the most enjoyable parts of the game for me.

    Is Homeworld a road game?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Jimbo: You may have a point with Homeworld actually.


    • DrGonzo says:

      The problem I found with the flowers was that I had already gone from one end of the map to the other about 30 times. So far I’m struggling to finish RDR and I don’t know why, it feels like a chore for the most part. I have spent a ton of time in the multiplayer though and love it, hopefully the next game will be entirely co-op focused.

  33. d2 says:

    I loved the Highway 17 section of Half-Life 2, especially the bridge. Brilliant game. Still in my top 5 gaming experiences. Great storytelling. Great characters. Great design.

  34. Spacewalk says:

    Children of Men game please.

  35. Chevluh says:

    Full Throttle would kinda qualify, though it’s short, and Grim Fandango even more so

  36. Grunt says:

    I always thought it a shame that the Mechwarrior games only ever gave you a small-medium arena to muck about in. Travelling between Nav points was kind of fun, if the designers remembered to space them out enough. While there wasn’t any overt action to deal with the sense of threat remained. And it felt awesome stomping along in your mech. A Mechwarrior ‘road’ experience would be simply amazing to behold.

  37. bigfatboris says:

    @Young James

    I was thinking Sam and Max first, but agree with Full Throttle as well. I always think of “road trip” style films/books as if a force of nature is blowing the protagonist through a series of strange and odd locations, Fear and Loathing being a film example and American Gods by Neil Gaiman as a book example. Something about them has to be strange or surreal or, for me, its not real road. Those two games seem to capture that vibe nicely.

  38. lhzr says:

    i’m still holding hope for this: link to en.wikipedia.org

  39. EtsSpets says:

    Interstate 76

  40. Mr_Day says:

    It sounds like we both want an update of my favourite Atari Masochist game, Overlander:

    link to youtube.com

    Driving packages across a wasteland with a distinct lack of fuel*, with an Interstate 82** stylee update, might be a lot of fun.

    * I always ran out of fuel, it wasn’t linked to how fast you went but how long you took.
    ** But not I82. ‘Cos it was rubbish.

    • Mr_Day says:

      I realise now that there would have to be more to it than that to be a road movie.

      But imagine the possibility of charging across a wasteland, illegal packages in hand, double crossing fences to deal with, all the time chased by the faceless pawns of the powers that want to be.

  41. Tom OBedlam says:

    Fallout 3 is fairly road movie, or at least had the potential to be. If they had made the characters as interesting as a bioware game then I think they’d have managed it. You have momentum of the main plot, the continued need to travel, exploring and discovering new locations and the beautiful landscape.

    Honestly, that long walk across the wastes to the vault 112 with the 50s simulator in would have made for a superb road movie sequence, if you had decent companions.

  42. Muzman says:

    Cooper: You’re right about space, but that’s why UK stories that borrow a lot from the road movie usually involve disaster as well. I’d put 28 Days Later and Children of Men in that pile, and perhaps series like Survivors (the old one) and Last Train.

  43. Heliocentric says:

    Arma 1/2 zombie mod. Limited fuel. Limited ammo and only one evacuation point miles away. Millions (thousands?) of zombies.

    • Five says:

      And now at the mention of a zombie mod I am suddenly interested in ARMA…

    • godwin says:

      Wow that would totally work! A blown up L4D. Co-op with more players, maybe a stranded military unit, or rescue/evacuation team – these perspectives aren’t really represented in zombie genre media.

    • Lilliput King says:


      Awesome to the max.

  44. Chris D says:

    RPG’s are surely the road movies of gaming. You have a long journey, picking up companions on the way. There’s a nominal goal you’re striving towards but really the focus is on the journey you make, the relationships you form and how you change along the way (complete with handy levelling up mechanic to represent the last one).

    Not sure if I’m allowed to mention them here but the Final Fantasy series are totally road movies, especially 7. On PC I reckon Dragon Age and Mass Effect both qualify despite the lack of cars.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Hmm… I dunno. Road Movies really put the emphasys on the “Road”. It’s just not something you can draw by thinking about it. It’s there, it’s real and you can feel it from the start.

      Dragon Age, Mass Effect (and many of the game I see listed in this thread) are about Going Places. Not really “Road”. I expect Road Games to not place me more than once in the same place. And I expect them to make the Road the focus of the story. Both in the value of the journey, but also in how it affects the character inner journey. From bad-to-good, from good-to-bad, from bad-to-worse, it doesn’t matter.

      But while one can see personal discovery as a frequent theme in computer games, that alone doesn’t qualify them as Road. There really has to be a plot centered around traveling somewhere (can be the unknown) and that journey is the story. I agree that I have yet to see a Road Game.

  45. MadZab says:

    I completely agree, people are totally overlooking Full Throttle, which is by all means a road-game adventure-title if there ever was one. And a fantastically great game, if dissappointingly short.

  46. ZeroByte says:

    Half-Life 2 Episode 2 becomes a pretty fantastic co-op road game once the driving sequences start. Grab 2-3 other friends, the Synergy mod and the vehicle spawning commands and it becomes a blast. You drive through some pretty nice scenery occasionally stopping for a shooty fight and culminating in that pretty intense final fight (the difficulty scales with the number of players) and you get something pretty memorable. Admittedly there’s not much in the way of replay value though.

  47. Starky says:

    I’m going to second Homeworld as a road game.

    It doesn’t matter that it’s a sci-fi in spaceships, it gives that emotion of having to get somewhere, with the road behind you lost forever.
    You’ve no choice but to travel. It is after all a game about being a refugee.

    Honestly what I would LOVE to see is a Stephen King Dark Tower Game.
    Strange fantasy post apoc world, where you play a lone gun slinger, having to follow the road after some mysterious man who’s always one step ahead and running into the strange and weird things along the way that more often than not sidetrack you?
    Yes please.

    As was mentioned above, make it linear with the illusion of a larger world (like Half-life 2 manages), give it the illusion of a sandbox, as a corridor rather than a box.
    In an idea world I think Obsidian (for the Vampire bloodlines characterization), plus Rockstar (For the red dead engine and experience) plus Valve (for the amazing level design, and ability to make linear feel non-linear)…
    Then I think we’d basically have the greatest game ever created.

  48. Fumarole says:

    Personally I’d like a non-arena Carmageddon. But a game based on The Road where you keep people in your basement for food would be welcome too. Perhaps there’s a workable hybrid in there somewhere…

  49. Matt D says:

    The Leisure Suit Larry series was all about getting your Com in my Rom.

  50. Strikezulu says:

    It’s certainly an interesting notion. I would argue, however, that one of the most important parts of a road story/adventure is the traveling companions. Having well developed NPCs along would be crucial. Not only would they provide much needed dialogue during stretches of driving, they could nudge you towards the crafted content amidst the procedurally generated terrain. Each companion could have their own plot hooks and agenda, and hours of recorded dialogue.

    You would need at least two permanent companions for ongoing dialogue, along with a few temporary ones like hitchhikers and what-not. The two primaries need to be dramatically different from one another, and closely tied to the game’s story and mechanics.

    Every road adventure needs at least one crazy comic relief character. How about the player’s eccentric buddy, who acts as a navigator? They can hold the map and give directions verbally, pushing the player towards the content (but not railroading them.) Their eccentricity can lead to all sort of interesting diversions from the route.

    The other main NPC can be the reason for the voyage. For whatever reason, you need to transport them to the destination. Ideally they should have mixed feelings about it. Maybe they need to make a decision at the end, and the choice they make will be influenced by the player’s actions and the adventures they have on the way there. Perhaps a love interest the player is driving to their wedding, a VIP being transported to an important meeting, a witness being taken to testify in an important case, or a prisoner being moved for some reason.

    You ought to have a character or faction that’s actively opposing the trip, too. They would work to place obstacles in the player’s path throughout the voyage. You need a villain, after all. Between enemy action and the mishaps that naturally happen on a trip, you could have a lot of fun things happen en route.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Stick this in post-apocalyptia and you’ve got yourself a customer!

    • Mischa says:

      After reading 50 replies, yours is the first that makes me think of The A-Team: on the run from an opposing faction, different companions, excentric buddy… And each stop (episode) is a self-contained adventure!
      It might event work. But probably not with the A-Team characters.