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Team VVV Racing Game of the Year Awards 2018: Best Surprise

Martin Bigg On March 12, 2018

It's fair to say we were absolutely spoiled with racing games in 2017, in what was a landmark year for the genre. In the space of just one month, we witnessed three contenders from major franchises jostle for position in a spectacular race to the finish line. After a long four year wait, Gran Turismo made its belated debut on PS4 with the release of the online eSports-focused Gran Turismo Sport, but it faced stiff competition from its Xbox rival franchise. Forza Motorsport 7 boasted the most comprehensive car selection of any racing game released this generation, as well as crisp 4K graphics and a new, more engrossing career mode.

Taking on these two racing game goliaths was Slightly Mad Studios’ racing simulation Project CARS 2. As the least established IP, Project CARS 2 was the ambitious underdog with huge potential, promising to be most authentic racing simulation ever made with a diverse variety of racing disciplines, an innovative dynamic weather system, and an unrivalled track selection. Annual licensed games such as MXGP 3, MotoGP 17, WRC 7, and F1 2017 also all saw significant improvements that elevated them above typical incremental updates, while futuristic racing fans were treated to the long-awaited comeback of the WipEout series with the release of WipEout: Omega Collection.  

You can view the full list of nominations for the Team VVV Racing Game of the Year Awards 2018 here.

Best Surprise

Sometimes a game you didn’t have any expectations for can take you completely by surprise. These are the racing games of 2017 that we never expected to blow us away.

Best Surprise 2018 nominations


MXGP 2 was an underwhelming sequel since some of its features were downgraded compared to its predecessor. Consequently, expectations weren’t very high for MXGP 3 when it was released just a year later. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that MXGP 3 was a significant step forward the series. For the first time, Milestone scrapped its in-house engine in favour of Unreal Engine 4, which completely transformed the experience, allowing Milestone to finally unleash its potential. The lighting looks much more natural, and the deep grooves carved into the track by the game’s dynamic deformation affected the bike physics, making it surprisingly challenging to find the optimum racing line.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was always going to be a fun kart racer, but it wasn’t developed specifically for the Nintendo Switch. Instead, it was an enhanced port of the three-year-old Wii U version. Nintendo could have easily released a straight port of Mario Kart 8 on the Switch and it still would have been a best-seller, but the developers took the time to improve aspects that were lacking in the original release. Proper arenas have been added to the Battle Mode, and multiple power-ups can be stored, which adds a new tactical element to the gameplay. As a result, Mario 8 Deluxe was one of our highest rated games of 2017.

WipEout Omega Collection

At one point, it looked like Sony had no interest in releasing WipEout for the PS4, much to the dismay of long-time fans. And then out of nowhere, WipEout Omega Collection was announced just a few months before its release. It may not have been developed specifically for the PS4, but it’s one of the best graphical showcases of the system. Running in 4K and a buttery smooth 60fps on PS4 Pro, WipEout Omega Collection is visually stunning. There’s a huge amount of content for futuristic racing fans too, as the package includes all the craft and tracks from WipEout HD and WipEout 2048. Let’s hope it sold well enough to persuade Sony to give a new WipEout game the green light.

Motorsport Manager Mobile 2

Marking a return to its mobile roots, Motorsport Manager Mobile 2 is one of the most comprehensive racing team management games available, offering a substantial package for its £3.99 asking price. No wonder it was one of our highest rated games of the year.

Winner: WRC 7

WRC 7 screenshot snow

The progress Kylotonn Games has made with the WRC series is simply staggering. WRC 5 was a fun rally game that suffered from technical setbacks and a handling model that didn’t have the depth that simulation fans craved bu the game was still a commendable achievement considering the French developer had to start from scratch. Fast forward just two years later, and WRC 7 took us completely by surprise during our first hands-on at E3 2017.

Major changes in the rules and regulations for the 2017 WRC season permitted more powerful cars harking back to the notorious Group B era. Likewise, the game series received significant changes under the bonnet. The physics steered closer to the simulation side of the spectrum than ever before as the cars have a more realistic sense of weight, which, coupled with fantastic force feedback, makes flinging them around corners extremely satisfying.

While WRC 5’s stages were short, wide and too forgiving, WRC 7’s extended Epic Stages are brutally challenging – some sections are barely wider than the width of your car, and the bumpier surfaces can send you off course if you aren’t careful. Annual game releases typically offer incremental updates, but Kylotonn's efforts to make WRC 7 a realistic representation of rallying moved the series forward significantly. It’s for this reason that WRC 7 was easily the best surprise of 2017.

Do you agree with our winner? Let us know in the comments below.

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