Last year I said that racing games were stuck in a rut. The release of Forza Horizon 3 was the only real standout feature of the year. 2017 has thankfully featured a slew of high-end raging games. Some high profile releases have featured controversy, with aspects of long-running series being removed to allow for the inclusion of loot boxes. Other releases, on the other hand, have simply improved on previous releases and only included more for the player.
Following on from last week's Strategy Sunday, today is the equally terribly named Motoring Monday. It only makes sense, then, to talk about the racing games of 2017 and the racing games of the coming year.
Forza Motorsport 7 (7.5/10)
Forza 7 was certainly one of my more controversial reviews of 2017. I vehemently oppose loot boxes, due to their pervasive nature of preying on players. Even worse is a game that removes features from a previous title and places it behind a paywall. In the case of Forza 7, this is the mods system. Previously, you could simply increase earnings by increasing the difficulty of a race. Now, this is done through mods found in loot boxes bought using in-game credits and real money. Actively linking in-game rewards like an increase of credits, cars and more to these boxes. This follows other controversies, including the disingenuous selling of VIP membership.
Speaking of the game outside of bad consumer practices, there is a lot to praise but also some to criticise. It looks and sounds fantastic. Or, at least, for the most part. The cars look and sound fantastic. The level of detail in the cities that you race around are equally brilliant. It's a shame that other areas of tracks can feel flat and lifeless, with surroundings equally so.
One of the best parts of Forza 7 is the ability to simply jump in and play. The accessibility is arguably higher than any other racing game of the year. With a highly enjoyable racing system and a number of features and competitions to add to this, you'll find it hard to find a game in the genre with as much variety.
Project Cars 2 (9/10)
Project Cars 2 is a culmination of hard work and lessons learned. The original Project Cars was one of the most unforgiving racing games around, loyal to its simulation origins. It did have a number of issues with bugs and a limited vehicle roster. Slightly Mad Studios have improved on everything to make Project Cars 2 arguably the best racing sim around.
To quote myself "Project Cars 2 is a true racing simulator, possibly the best that the market has to offer. The problem comes with the fact that it’s uncompromising. This has invariably led me to, at least half the time, actively disliking my time with the game. I’ve no shame in simply saying that I, personally, am not good enough. Hell, it’s even punishing me so much that I was locked out of my career. Lack of accessibility is invariably the biggest issue with the game."
It can be uncompromising, that is certainly true. It doesn't make it easy for those not adept at racing sims. But, sometimes this purity can be commendable. There's certainly a wealth of content to explore and the weather system is the best I've ever encountered in a game, truly dynamic. The way everything looks and interacts with each other makes Project Cars one of the most impressive racing games around.
Gran Turismo Sport (7/10)
Gran Turismo Sport is a strange one, that much is certain. Just how stripped bare the game is, compared to older releases, is astounding. Of course GT Sport is the only game to actually allow you to earn an official racing license. Each and every car is 'premium' in the fact that they are likely the most detailed car models available in games. Throughout, the game simply looks fantastic.
The problem is the content. It's all too easy to look at GT Sport and say "wait, that's it?". A paltry roster of cars compared to its competitors, a limited number of tracks and a limited number of game modes. Polyphony Digital want it to be the go-to game for racing eSports and the online, sponsored by the FIA, has the potential for that. As the go-to racing game, though? Likely not.
Nathan himself said it best in his review, by saying: "Gran Turismo Sport is a good game, and yet, it’s still a disappointment. Given this series’ pedigree, good simply isn’t good enough. GT Sport still brings it on the track, but its lack of content can’t be ignored, and you can’t give the game top marks in a world where Forza Motorsport 7 and Project CARS 2 exist. If you’re a diehard fan of Sony’s series or really into online racing, GT Sport is worth a shot. If you just want the best racing sim out there, you may want to kick some more tires. "
F1 2017 (8.5/10)
F1 2017 is Formula One racing distilled. Or, rather, I should say its Formula racing at its purest. The best in the series, F1 2017 smooths out a number of issues that have plagued the series for a long time. Purpose was one of the core issues tackled. Naturally you always want to win the race, but the career mode has been made considerably more engaging. The linearisation that has plagued upgrades has been removed, implementing more player choice. As well as that, a host of events that can include classic cars add to the level of variety.
Not without its flaws. There are still a few issues with the AI. The AI is all too ready to ram you to the curb and then penalise you for any contact, regardless of blame. Other complaints I had when I initially reviewed the game appear to have been patched out as of now, which is always a positive sign.
"There’s little more than can be said about F1 2017 than it’s the best in the series. From the extended and more detailed career to the host of other modes available to play, you’ll not find yourself getting bored. The game looks, sounds and feels fantastic. There’s little doubting it has annoyances like the AI making idiotic decisions and the game then blaming you for them as well as detection issues for some challenges, but even these end up feeling like minor issues in what is otherwise an excellent game."
Burning up the Track: A Year in Review
Racing games will never be the most populated genre in the world. It'll never feature the most standout games around either. It's a niche genre, but much like strategy games in 2016, 2017 has been a great year for racing games.
Of course, there have been a few games that have been average, but certainly playable. WRC 6 and MotoGP 17 come to mind. Others were simply not that good at all, Micro Machines: World Tour is a perfect example of that. There have been other great games that I haven't covered above. Notable exemptions are Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, Gear.Club Unlimited and the Wipeout Omega Collection. I've excluded these as a result of them being remasters, remakes or ports of older titles.
As always with these lists, I simply can't cover everything. Here are some other notable racing games of the year:
If I've missed anything, here's the best chance to tell me where I've gone wrong. While you're doing that, make sure to tell me what your best racing game of the year was. Now let's look forward to the current year and hopefully a number of new great racing games.