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Racing Games The Cruis'n USA port on the Nintendo 64 featured drastic Rubber-Band A.I. from the few lead cars that would try to pass you, including "That F**king Blue Car". The top two cars in any race would drive perfectly and always managed to avoid crashing into traffic, even clipping through traffic that was going to wreck them if the player couldn't see it. The only way possible to achieve victory was to force other racers into the oncoming cars. Even then, it wasn't foolproof, as not only did you have to get lucky with the timing (since oncoming traffic is nearly impossible to predict and/or see coming), the AI cars would be back on your tail in less than ten seconds. On the higher difficulties, the only way to win was to knock a car into the opposing lanes towards the end of the race and hope an oncoming car rammed them off the road.
Road Rash 3 for the Genesis thoroughly abuses this trope. One racer (Lucky Luc) always manages to stay ahead of you. You can have the same bike as him, and he still manages to get ahead of you so he can spam his oilcans. If you decide to grab the next higher bike, or two after that, he STILL is usually a bit faster than you, or can at least catch up to you with no problem. The game also has some serious Rubber-Band A.I.. The super secret bike tops out (when not using the nitro) at around 215 MPH. You get this bike (with the proper code) on the first races (if you decided to cheat back). You can speed past every other racer and take first place within the first 11 seconds of the race, but if you crash any time after that (most noticeable when you're at the end of the race), at least five other racers will pass you before you can get back onto the bike, even if you don't get flung too far away from it.
RC Pro-Am: In certain races, the yellow car will suddenly move twice as fast as all of the other cars on the track (including your own, even a fully-upgraded car). If you hear a high-pitched squeal and see the yellow car slingshot ahead of the pack, you'd better take it out quickly or forget about a first-place finish.
You can be a cheating bastard too. You have Secret Player Moves: Weapons. Even at super turbo speeds, if the yellow car eats a missile or bomb, it goes boom and loses its super turbo for a bit. Actually, the yellow car's cheating is in response to your blasting the other cars, so the safest rule is to minimize your use of weapons unless you're forced and resort to other techniques like ramming while protected by Roll Cages. What's worse is the late game tracks where EVERY car does this the instant they pass you up. If you don't blast them out of the starting gate, you can't win!
In The Simpsons Hit & Run, each level has a series of races to win a car. Almost every race will feature the next level's starter car as the lead opposing car, and it is always superior to any car you can access in the current level. This is especially bad in the second level, where Lisa's level 3 Malibu Stacy car is insanely better than anything Bart can access in his level 2 arsenal, making the races a nightmare to win. Special mention also must go to Marge having to solo-race Frink's Hover Car in one of her races, which is the most nimble car in the game. Her starter car, by comparison, is an SUV that will tip over at the slightest provocation (if you know Simpsons Lore, you'll totally get the joke though - Canyonero!). In addition, the AI cars are nigh-impossible to push off the road and are generally perfect drivers except on really sharp turns. Of course, you can always come back to the early levels with a better car, making it a cakewalk, but that means you're prize is a car with worse stats than the ones you already have your hands on. Furthermore, oftentimes the cars you can just buy from Gil tend to have better stats than the cars you win in races anyways.
Burnout: This is enforced in order to encourage you the player to find shortcuts on a route to get quarter mile leads. Burnout 3: Takedown features broken one-way Rubberband AI in many of its events. When you're in the lead, driving perfectly and constantly boosting, the AI will be, as a helpful yellow pop-up caption exclaims, "right on your tail!" no matter how many times you wreck them. The moment you crash, they start to take an insurmountable 30-second lead that is nearly impossible to overcome.
In Burnout Paradise, the computer drivers will always get a head start in race events, allowing them to boost past you before you even get control of your car.
Marked Man, on the other hand, is a bitch on Class A and Elite levels. There are way more parked cars, gridlocked traffic and they throw the best aggression cars in the game at you regardless of what you are driving. Sometimes you will be lucky to make it a mile in a four mile Marked Man.
In Crash Team Racing for the PS1, Nitrous Oxide literally starts the race before the green light that signals the race's start. That isn't all. All the bosses would have an unlimited amount of weapons after passing through the first crate. (Or "Passing by" the first crate area, if you jump ahead and take the crate they would, they would still get the items even if they didn't break a weapon crate.) The only advantage is that they would only use one weapon type and would always fire behind them. The Final Boss uses weapon types of every other boss in the game!
Also, all racers crash and stop to recover whenever you hit them with missiles, bombs, or TNT/Nitro crates. N.Oxide spins a few times but is otherwise unhindered by any weapon you throw at him.
The trend of cheating AI would continue even in the latest remake, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. The computer, even on easy mode, can be seen rubber-banding with constant speeds. Even if you hit them with a weapon like a missile or a bomb, they get up and their speeds are unhindered. Not helping is the fact that some of these computers can get powerful game-changing power-ups at second place, while you are stuck with TNT/Nitro Crates and potions as low as 8th place. On top of that, the slower-speed characters, if chosen by the computer, would be given a massive speed boost that can outpace even an Advanced-level racer. At this point, it's all a matter of luck if you can beat the computer.
Crash Nitro Kart's final boss Emperor Velo puts Oxide's cheating to pure shame. Not only is Velo substantially faster than you, he races with two companions that drop extra power-ups for you to dodge and act as a shield to him from your projectiles. He drops static orbs like mad and can roll bombs backwards at you with pinpoint accuracy, to the point that there is no way a human player could pull off the stunts he uses with those bombs. Now, other bosses in the series, their challenge is to get in front then stay in front as they cannot hit you while you're in front of them; but if you're in front of Velo not only does he speed up immensely, but he starts spamming homing missiles on you! Better pray to the RNG gods you get in front of him early and stay ahead or he'll get so far ahead, you'll never even see him during the race.
Abused to a bizarre end in the Super Nintendo game Super Off-Road: The Baja. Each and every one of your competitors had their own preferred place in the lineup, and Heaven forbid you should attempt to take that place from them. For example: Should you take third place from the AI driver who typically came in third, he would become a super driver fueled by rage; he would gain speed, cut corners, ram your truck mercilessly, and pretty much suddenly become the Uberdriver in his efforts to dislodge you from third place. Once you dropped back to fourth place, though, that driver would return to normal, and never challenge Mr. Number Two for HIS place. (Of course, then Mr. Fourth Place would have his turn at harassing you.) Coupled with the tendency for the AI in first place to absolutely obliterate you should you dare violate his sacred position AND stage last-minute comebacks at speeds approaching those of a low-flying jet fighter, winning any race at any difficulty level became far more based on luck (and your ability to keep from being rammed into oblivion) than skill.
Classic F1 racing game Super Monaco Grand Prix featured a version of this that kicked in only after you'd become World Champion. In order to speed up the process by which a driver rose in the ranks, the game featured a system of "challenging" whereby if you beat someone in a better team twice in a row, you'd be offered their place (and thus, a better car). Once you'd won the championship, you were automatically placed in the best team (McLaren ersatz "Madonna") and then promptly challenged by some unknown newcomer in a team halfway down the rankings. Scoffing as the first race of the new season begins, you can only watch in horror as his blatantly inferior vehicle accelerates past you and proceeds to completely destroy you. Two races later, he's driving your supposedly top car (even though he shouldn't need it...) and you're stinking up the field in the crappy blue and turquoise thing he started in. G.Ceara is the driver in question, and bears a resemblance to a certain Ayrton Senna. He is beatable, however - there are videos showing him being beaten in San Marino and Brazil, but you can be sneaky enough to prevent his Brazil challenge in the first place. He literally gives up once you pass, and after Brazil, he's no longer a threat.
In Ridge Racer 6 for the Xbox 360 (and perhaps other Ridge Racer games), the computer cheats so often it's almost pointless to even try the harder difficulty levels and race types. Special races, for example, pit you against a car that you can win if you beat it. This car is always better than any car you have available at the time. Also, the "Reverse Nitro" races are well known for rampant cheating. In a Reverse Nitro race, your car cannot gain nitro from drifting like it can normally, so you are given an extra two tanks to work with and the only way to get them back is to go into what the game calls "Ultimate Charge" (coming out of a nitro blast while drifting). Somehow, all computer-controlled cars in these races can gain nitro simply by driving in a straight line for a couple of seconds, completely ignoring all the rules for nitro boosts set out for you. This means they can, suddenly, blow past you with a fully charged 3-tank nitro boost just after they finished another 3-tank nitro boost. In Ridge Racer 64, not only did the rival car have ridiculously effective Rubber-Band A.I. but if you crashed into it, you stopped dead while the rival wobbled a bit but basically carried on unaffected. This was the case even if the rival crashed into you from behind, in which case it would drive right through your motionless car.
Every Tokyo Xtreme Racer series game has nearly invulnerable AI, with impossible handling abilities. "Boss" racers will always catch up with and pass you, regardless of your cars' relative stats. If a race starts with you slightly in front of another car, there's a chance you will accelerate faster. If you start a race behind the exact same opponent, they accelerate into the distance and are never seen again. Also, another game in which the traffic is actively trying to destroy your car, changing lanes to block you in and adjusting the timing of their lane changes to hit your car at any speed.
In Midtown Madness, some racing modes involve competing against computer-controlled cars, and since you are always in danger of smashing into vehicles or obstacles, it helps greatly that they are too (not to mention that it's gratifying to see them smash head-on into oncoming traffic or miss a critical turn). Except that if they ever leave your immediate surroundings and end up in a part of the city of Chicago that isn't currently being "simulated," they go into cruise mode and move quickly and safely wherever they are meant to go next. In one of the races, a single computer car takes a very different route than the rest, meaning that in order to win you must be very lucky to have it crash during the parts of the race when it ends up being near you.
The game based on the Dragon Booster television show is guilty of this. While you only ever have five energy points, and have to recharge by getting powerups, the AI racers have unlimited energy, ignore obstacles (offscreen, at least; onscreen, they just charge into nearly all of them), and even have equipment that is unable to be obtained by the player. It's made up for in that the AI is dumb as a post.
In Red Baron Arcade (as with many, many flight/driving/racing type games), if there is any penalty to being rammed, you can bet that the computer has any number of planes or cars (or whatever) cheerfully lining up to ram the absolute crap out of you as soon as you start targeting the thing that will let you win that level.
Need for Speed is basically built on this as its norm: Underground combined Rubber-Band A.I. with your opponents always having just slightly better cars than you. Because of that, it was easier to deliberately downgrade your car in the endgame by using a weak engine and so on. The AI would be downgraded as well so that relatively everything stayed the same, but the race would be a lot slower and therefore more forgiving. Your top speed for the race could be reported as x MPH, with your opponents given as x-n. Even if, at that top speed, the opponents had passed you. The AI actually deliberately steers traffic so they'll cross paths with you. Cars come out out of an intersection with precise timing so that you'll hit them. If you're in the lead on the last lap, this becomes even more likely. The best tactic is to swerve wildly just before every intersection so you won't be where the computer thought you were going to be.
Furthermore, Underground 2 and Most Wanted also had an egregious feature whereby even if you managed to build up a decent lead in spite of the Rubber-Band A.I., in the last lap of the race one of the opponents would make a miraculous comeback and pass you unless you managed to block him or had a lot of nitro to burn. This was presumably done to make the races more dramatic, but of course the end result was just more frustration.
In Most Wanted: Car damage initially seems inverted, since police vehicles suffer from damage - both mechanical and visual - and can be destroyed, while your own car is indestructible.note This is outweighed by the fact that the computer has an infinite supply of them, though. But it's actually subverted, because your car has an Achilles' Heel in the form of Spike Strips, which will almost always result in you getting immediately busted without getting extremely lucky and being extremely skilled. Police cars can drive through spike strips with impunity.
It is possible to drag a car with it facing the opposite direction, because it got its rear wheel caught on your front end, and then not only free itself, but proceed to gain magical turning abilities where it obtains a zero-degree radius turn, and speed off. Past you.
The cops also rarely go after the computer players. There may be one or two occasions where if you deliberately slow down and give up your position so the other can get the cop first, they will actually go after the more egregious speeder. Otherwise, the cop will usually go after you, and completely ignore everyone else.
Most Wanted even goes so far as to actively lie to the player. One of the loading screen tips tells you that with a well-executed pursuit breaker it's possible to take out all your pursuers at once and get away easily. But doing that just causes a new police car to instantly spawn nearby. Following the advice and slowing down to allow cops to catch up and get them all can then easily have the opposite result than the tip claims, since even though the car is invulnerable, it can still get caught in the pursuit breaker and immobilized just long enough for that new cop car to bust you.note However, this can be considered Anti-Frustration Features if you're trying to accomplish pursuit milestones like, say, Bounty and Cost to State, as destroying police cars counts for both.
Cop cars in Most Wanted can also travel sideways across the road in a controlled fashion (not power-sliding) to get in your way, as though they have 4-wheel steer with a 90-degree capability.
Every PSP version of Need for Speed seems to put a lot of effort in ensuring that its AI has a new annoying trick at its disposal. By the time of NFS Undercover, the CPU cars could drive faster than you, no matter what was your car and how well it was upgraded, were not affected by crashes (they were back on your tail in just few seconds), could TELEPORT if you somehow managed to make them stay really behind, or TURN MID-AIR! In one of the urban stages, there is a 90-degree turn just after a really long straight that ends with a significant bump. To drive past it you simply have to slow down, but the CPU cars can drive into it at full speed, jump and turn in the air. Funny sight when you are looking behind at that time.
Your opponents in Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed are rather fond of the Reverse PIT manoeuvre. It's performed in exactly the same way but it's the guy pushing that spins out. It's incredibly annoying when you've got a fast car and it gets congested. Generally, your opponent's cars weigh twice as much as yours according to the physics engine.
In Need for Speed: Undercover (non PSP), even if you have the pedal thoroughly buried in a Mclaren F1, police SUVs will still lazily pull in front of you as though you were parked. For those still confused; this is a scenario in which a Cadillac Escalade is represented as faster than one of the fastest production cars ever produced.note The F1 remains as of 2011 one of the fastest production cars ever made; as of July 2010 it is succeeded by very few cars including the Koenigsegg CCR, the Bugatti Veyron, the SSC Ultimate Aero TT, and the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.
In Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010) you can pass a parked police car, at top speed, in the fastest car in the game (Veyron) and it will be on your tail in just a couple of seconds, even if you didn't slow down at all.
While most people point Underground as the debut of rubber-banding AI in the franchise, it is Older Than They Think - Hot Pursuit 1 had opponents that would quite literally cheat in many ways: Their cars could zigzag around the course very quickly without losing any speed, so they could block you from overtaking them. Even if you were able to zig-zag as fast as they can, you'd lose a lot of speed and fall behind.
They're able to negotiate extremely tight corners without losing a sliver of speed. All of your cars understeer and need to slow down a lot to make the many 90-degree turns without crashing.
They can easily ram you off the road and continue like nothing happened. Try to do that against them, and it will feel like trying to shove a brick - you'll lose a ton of speed and likely even lose control of your car and fall behind, while your supposed victim continues like nothing happened.
They do not lose speed or traction when driving through dirt, mud or snow. You do.
Even if your car is much faster than theirs - say, a Spectre R42 against its C-Class peersnote The Spectre R42 is a C-Class car whose performance matches that of a B-Class car - even surpassing them in a few aspects - outclassing pretty much everything in its tier - they will catch up to you and easily overtake you. And if they're more than 7 seconds ahe