It is surely not a difficult thing to do. You take the basic game structure from Wing Commander and replace all the space combat with racing cars around tracks and/or city streets. Then you profit. Why has no-one done this?
The few racing games out there that do have storylines of sort are generally half-assed efforts where all the plot is delivered through badly-written text put into the game as an afterthought, or they simply don’t carry their potential through far enough.
I can think of a few recent examples. Motorstorm Apocalypse, though I didn’t play it, reportedly had a plot of sorts, but it fell into the former category above. Motorstorm Apocalypse, lest you’re unfamiliar, had you racing around a city that was blowing up and falling to pieces — surely an ideal situation for a rudimentary Michael Bay-style plot with some characters and shouting. It wouldn’t have to be a complex plot, just something to break up the racing with some motivational scenes that gave it some meaning.
Split/Second had a go, too, with its TV show-style presentation, incredible electro-orchestral cinematic soundtrack and episodic structure. It stopped short of actually giving the game’s antagonists, the “Elite Racers”, any degree of personality (or indeed faces), though it did end on a cliffhanger (which will now never be resolved — thanks a lot, Disney).
Recent Need for Speed games have taken a pop at it too, but tend to lose interest after the introductory sequences. The closest example I’ve seen to what I’m looking for is Need for Speed The Run, but apparently — again, I haven’t played it — neither the racing nor the plot are particularly up to much. (I must say, I am curious to try it, though, purely to see how close they get to what I’m imagining in my head.)
There’s also a Japanese eroge called Moero Downhill Night Blaze that reportedly combines a visual novel with racing action, but judging by its required system specifications, I’m not counting on it being an especially spectacular offering on the racing front. (I do intend to play it, though, as the whole series sounds like fun in story terms, even if the racing ends up sucking.)
And then there’s Midnight Club Los Angeles, which occasionally has Grand Theft Auto-style cutscenes, but not nearly enough to carry a coherent plot.
I’m honestly bewildered as to why no-one has tried this properly yet. We live in an age where video games are more “cinematic” than ever, and yet the racing game genre is still following the same old conventions it’s been using since the PlayStation 1 era — and possibly before. I would pay good money for a racing game with a good, well-written plot — given that I never, ever complete racing games (Split/Second is, to date, the only exception), an unfolding narrative with interesting characters and a degree of overblown drama would be just the incentive I need to up my game and see the experience through to its conclusion.
If I had any clue how to make such a game — or indeed access to a team to make such a game — I would do so in a heartbeat. Sadly, though, I have a sneaking suspicion my desire to see a game like this will remain nothing but a far-off dream.