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Gran Turismo introduced a generation of gamers to Japanese performance cars (and TVRs...)
We take a look at some of the best current, and classic racing games
What makes motorsport great? The fact that we all think we’d be good at it. Yet, the closest most of us get to the chequered flag at Le Mans or the five red lights at Silverstone is via joystick and console in our humble abodes.
Over the years there have been hundreds of attempts at capturing the imagination of sofa-sat racing drivers across the world, but which got to pole position? Here’s how our top ten line-up on the grid.
With over 70 million worldwide sales, Gran Turismo is by far and away the most successful racing video game in history. Now in its sixth form, the Polyphony Digital series first arrived in 1997 on the Playstation, with 140 cars and 11 tracks at the gamers disposal. The game’s unique license-system, showroom layout and car modification modules have since become synonymous with the franchise, with other features such as the online party system, 3D compatibility and GT Driving Academy further enhancing GT’s reputation in recent years. With Gran Turismo 7 due out at the end of 2015, Gran Turismo looks to maintain it’s position at the forefront of video racing games.
Wading in to battle in 2015, Project: CARS has well and truly announced itself as the absolute last word in motorsport gaming. Where Project: CARS has struck gold is with motorsport purists, with the driving experience itself being prioritised over the body panels and kerbing. That’s not to say that Project: Cars isn’t jaw-droppingly beautiful, because it really is, but it ensures that the driver is sat very much on the start-line, and not in the showroom.
Developed on the back of PGR’s success, the newly named Forza Motorsport came to fruition ten years ago, as a direct opponent to Sony’s Gran Turismo series. Since then, it’s fair to say the franchise is at the forefront of video racing games, in terms of gameplay, variety, graphics, and online multiplayer capability. Featuring both race cars and road cars, the game has remained one of Xbox’s greatest sellers, with the last edition, Forza Motorsport 5, raking in just under two million unit sales circa 2014.
Out of all the games on this list, Ridge Racer is certainly one of the most significant. Put simply, it brought 3D-racing to the masses, with the original game being launched in tandem with the release of the game-changing Playstation. After several more editions of the arcade-racer, Ridge Racer again helped Sony flog the Play Station 3 as it had 12 years previously, with Ridge Racer 7 reminding fans of the advanced gaming generation that it’s still acceptable (and bloody fun) to make smoke and go sideways on public roads.
A best-seller in the UK game charts upon release, the 1997 title V-Rally was one of the hits of the Playstation 1 era, allowing gamers to race across a number world rally stages and live out their rally dreams. V-Rally was fun, purely for the reason that going sideways on the brink of a cliff-face in the famous blue and gold Suburu Impreza is more fun than clipping an apex in a single seater (from the sofa, that is).
Need for Speed Underground 2
Thriving on the success of the original Need for Speed Underground game (and the Fast and Furious film franchise), NfSU2 saw the franchise go from strength to strength. In its second edition, gamers were able to modify over 30 licensed cars for street racing, with race-types involving sprints, drifts, circuits, and time trials. One the games biggest appeals was the addition of ‘explore’ mode, allowing drivers to roam freely around the city from race meet-to-race meet – making this one of the first truly open world driving games.
Project Gotham Racing
Released as a direct rival to Gran Turismo 3 in 2002, Project Gotham (or PGR as it is more affectionately known) was Xbox’s first real attempt at an all-grounds-covered racing game. Published by Microsoft, PGR featured the likes of Jaguar, Ferrari, and Porsche in its first incarnation, with the latter two particularly important as it struck a deal with gamers that Gran Turismo at the time could not. Much more arcade than simulation, the game was much more ‘fun’ than ‘realistic’, which at a time when graphic performance and general realism in consoles of the time was still weak, often worked in PGR’s favour.
Unlike Monaco GP years previous, F1 2000 was licensed, and thus featured every track, driver and car from the 2000 Formula One season. With EA Sports the developer, the game was a real success, with pit radio, damage features, every on-track session, and realistic pit stops bringing the sport alive through virtual reality. A bonus was the soundtrack, with the likes of Placebo underpinning the game off-track and Jim Rosenthal overseeing proceedings on-track.
Monaco GP: Racing Simulation 2
Perhaps the first of it’s kind, the Monaco GP series was the modern-day console’s first real attempt at capturing the spirit of Formula One - and in many ways, it worked. Each of the 16 rounds from the 1998 season featured, along with 22 cars from 11 teams; again, much like the games real-life alternative. What made the game most famous however was its lack of licensing, meaning fake drivers and cars, which did taint the ‘simulation’ aspect to the title. Nevertheless, Monaco GP was no-frills approach to F1, which at its time of launch, was well received.
Test Drive: Le Mans
The Test Drive series had been around for years, but in 2000 Infogrames brought the world’s biggest race to consoles everywhere with Test Drive: Le Mans. Starting in the depths of the GT class, players raced the likes of Corvette LM GTs and the bonkers Marcos LM600 through the night, eventually ascending to the heights of the LMP1 class with the BMW V12 LMR. A simulator it was not, but Infogrames attempt at making Le Sarthe enjoyable was ballsy if not pinpoint.