I often tend to think of racing games, and the racing genre of video games as the music genre of ‘Rap’. We all know it exists but for those who aren’t particularly interested, and we tend to make some basic assumptions which never turn out to be true. Let’s look at this further. You think ‘racer’, and most gamers will think of it as another car game that involves you driving around a pre-set track. With rap, people just think of it as a collection of men and women swearing – talking about shooting one another. But none of those are quite true. Unless you take the time, you will find that rap music is quite lyrical and more often than not, a message is behind what is said. Likewise, racing games go beyond just driving around a track over and over – and this is what I aim to show with this article. Below are a list of what I consider, the top five racing titles available on the current generation consoles.
To begin with this list, I find no game more fitting than MotoGP 08, the latest instalment to the MotoGP franchise and Capcom’s first attempt at such a title. The interesting thing about this game is that it mightn’t be the most stunning visually and nor does it offer a wide variety of race modes, but it does offer one vital element which should be evident in all track-based racing titles, that is, a wide track listing. Spanning numerous countries, from Australia to the United States, from Spain to Italy, this game features all the tracks on which the real-life championship encounters and is, as a result, a lot better for it.
MotoGP 08 – Capcom
With three physic models ranging from Arcade for beginners to Simulation for more serious racers, all gamers here are accommodated for. In addition there are a couple of difficulty settings and three different engine classes to choose from, so a challenge can be found. Including all teams as at last year’s season from 125cc to MotoGP class, you will also find your favourite riders and race with them or alongside them in Championship and Career Mode respectively. I have enjoyed every moment of this game, and with qualifying pre-races in both those modes listed, this game does go beyond the standard track racing game.
Test Drive Unlimited – Atari
Moving from track-based to open-world racing, Test Drive Unlimited stands to this date, almost three years after release, as the greatest open-world racer available on the current-generation consoles. Based on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the developers over at Eden Games have almost recreated the real-life location and turned it into a driver’s paradise. Of course, apart from a few buildings removed for privacy reasons, the level of detail is commendable. What also makes this game unique is the inclusion of Easter eggs which, for a racing game, are quite rare. Ranging from a portal to Eden Island and using various vehicles to enter otherwise sectioned-off areas, this game does go beyond the traditional drive and race standards of a racing title.
Onto the specifics though, this game continues to impress. Admittedly, the graphics might not be fantastic, but for its time and even if looked at today, they are good enough and in no way does it impair gameplay. The car listing in this game is also next to superb, focusing on the greatest exotics from around with world with the inclusion of a few high-end tuners, TDU offers the chance to drive around at breakneck speeds in cars from an Enzo Ferrari to a Pagani Zonda F, and there are even a few sports bikes to rip the roads up with. With the inclusion of car dealerships, clothing stores and purchasable houses, this game will make you feel like you are a character living in this virtual world … and is one of the few racing titles out there that I believe truly show that sense of speed realistically – without the use of wind lines or blurred vision.
Need For Speed Most Wanted – Electronic Arts
This is quite a surprising title to mention in this list for some, because, unlike others which have and will be mentioned, this one isn’t the latest instalment in a series and was released quite a while ago. It does however, rightfully deserve its place in this list – being one of the few games out there to offer what I consider a ‘complete’ package. Often with games, particularly racing titles which have been released as of late, they will boast fantastic graphics but sub-par gameplay, or, will offer great gameplay but average graphics. With Most Wanted though, the graphics and gameplay where nothing short of impressive, and is what I consider one of the few truly solid titles from the Need For Speed franchise.
Being another open-world racer, this game featured impressive police pursuits and fast-paced racing, utilising what could only be described as a phenomenally well-designed open-city. The Career mode is solid and isn’t one which can be completed quickly or without some level of driving skill. The car list is also impressive ranging from the Volkswagen Golf to the Porsche Carerra GT, with a collection of supercars and tuners in-between. As a game which gets progressively difficult as the Career continued and as one which offered a well-structured side-mission mode (the Challenge Series), it stands amongst racing fans as of the best games from the franchise, and another excellent title in the genre.
Race Driver GRID – Codemasters
I approached this game with caution when I purchased it mid-last year. I was definitely pleased with the offerings of Colin McRae DiRT, but the demonstration didn’t leave me too impressive. Regardless, I put faith in Codemasters and luckily, they didn’t fail to deliver. This was basically a transition from the gravel to the tarmac for the developers, using the same brilliant physics engine which was used in DiRT, it worked surprisingly well. One thing which strikes all gamers who have this game, or rather, who have come across it, is the sheer detail in the graphics – from both the environments and the cars themselves. Some have complained about the amount of bloom/glare, but honesty, nothing to date comes close to how visually pleasing this game is.
Another track-based game, this title focuses on using both real-world locations – including but not restricted to just tracks, alongside with some street racing in both the United States and Japan, to be brief. The car listing also follows suit with the inclusion of just race vehicles, nothing which hasn’t been seen in professional racing series, but don’t let that mislead you, there are still supercars like the Lamborghini Murcielago GT-R so the range is definitely there. Career mode is quite long and during, you will be able to manage a racing team with real-sponsors, which places greater emphasis on careful driving in some instances, and not just being a dash for the finish in each race. It also boasts Formula-3 class vehicles which was a massive selling-point for many racing aficionados out there, and there will be the release of a V8 Supercars pack in upcoming months, which is set to please the Australian fan base.
Colin McRae DiRT – Codemasters
The final game to top this list is Colin McRae DiRT, one of the greatest racers to grace home consoles and without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable racing titles to date. Deciding to forgo realism in terms of physics, DiRT impressed gamers with the level of detail in both the environments and vehicles and the impressive track and car selection. There hasn’t been a game which I found, that offered this level of enjoyment and fast-paced racing action on the current consoles. Boasting a wide variety of race variants and with an lengthy Career mode, DiRT delivers in bounds above what is expected of a racer.
Being able to soar alongside beautiful green forestry in vehicles like the Mitsubishi Evolution or whether it be tearing up the mountains in automobiles from lorries to the Toyota Celica GT at Pikes Peak, every race in this game is an enjoyable one. Providing also a number of different difficulty settings which affects both the A.I. competitiveness and the realism in damage, this game doesn’t fall short of providing a challenge either. In addition, and what I found was the greatest bonus, real-life liveries are available for use within the game allowing you to recreate the stunning performances from rally championships worldwide, and this just takes the game a whole step further. Without a doubt, this racer stands as one of the greatest titles available to date.
There it is gamers. While some will argue there are others more worthy, I find those listed fit the bill nicely. Each with something particular about them, investing in a few off the list will ensure great gaming moments for some time.