Features The E3 2015 Racing Game Preview

Features

Martin Bigg

Writer

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Is it really that time of year already? Yikes, yes it is: all aboard the E3 hype train!
Yes, E3 has crept around once again, an event we games journalists love and loathe as we’re inundated with stacks of new game trailers, earth shattering surprises and juicy updrates on our most-anticipated releases as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo reveal what the future holds for the gaming industry.

This year we’re expecting virtual reality to be particularly prevalent in the run up to the release of the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus next year. Far from being a gimmick, virtual reality is going to be a game changer – especially for racing games.
Indeed, we believe virtual reality will revolutionise the genre, as so do the developers: Slightly Mad Studios are avid supporters of virtual reality, which is why Project CARS already supports Oculus Rift and will also work with Sony’s Project Morpheus next year. As such, first party demos showcasing Project Morpheus are bound to dominate Sony’s conference (which is once again on at an ungodly hour in the morning here in the UK – better stock up on Red Bull), but there’s a good chance we could see Project CARS used as a third party demonstration – particularly as it’s the only representation of virtual reality racing on PS4 since DriveClub doesn’t support it.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of high profile racing games to look forward to, as we await the full reveals of Forza Motorsport 6 and Need for Speed.  It’s just a shame the surprise has already been spoiled for some of the heavy hitters thanks to a number of online leaks. It takes months of careful planning to gather maximum momentum and impact – Turn10 must be fuming over all the spilled Forza Motorsport 6 details.
This year we’ll be bringing you more exclusive coverage on the hottest racing titles than ever before directly from the E3 show floor. We look forward to bringing you along for the ride.
So, without further ado here’s a handy breakdown of all the racing games you can look forward to seeing at E3 2015.

Forza Motorsport 6

Forza Motorsport 6 is arguably the most anticipated racing title at this year’s E3, and yet it was one of the most underwhelming game reveals in recent memory. Announced far earlier than we expected back in January, in reality it was a publicity stunt to announce the arrival of the new Ford GT while confirming it will feature in Forza Motorsport 6 in-game as well as on the cover art. No details were disclosed about the game whatsoever.

To some, Forza Motorsport 5 was disappointing thanks to its downgraded graphics and noticeable cutbacks in car and track content compared to Forza Motorsport 4. Being an Xbox One launch title fraught with tight developer deadlines, these shortcomings weren’t exactly surprising, though.
With two years between them and Playground Games plugging the gap with Forza Horizon 2 last year, it’s fair to expect Forza Motorsport 6 to rectify these shortcomings and be the game Forza Motorsport 5 should have been. Recent leaks suggest this will indeed be the case with a significant spike in content: compared to Forza Motorsport 5’s 150 car count, Forza Motorsport 6 will feature twice as many with over 450 cars. Likewise, the number of track list is being doubled to 26 with locations including Daytona and Rio. Elsewhere, other long-requested features are expected to feature in Forza Motorsport for the first time: namely night racing and weather effects as seen in Forza Horizon 2, and increased AI that will now see you racing against 24 opponents.
Turn10 may no longer have the element of surprise, but E3 will still be the place to see the first ever Forza Motorsport 6 gameplay unveiled.  We can’t wait to see how Turn10 will respond to the increased competition.

Need for Speed

You can usually count on Need for Speed being a regular fixture at EA’s conference, and this year is no exception. Last year, Need for Speed was sorely absent however, as developer Ghost Games were allotted an extra year to develop the sequel to Need for Speed Rivals, taking the opportunity to  revaluate the core credentials of the franchise and deliver the game Need for Speed veterans have been nagging for. The result? The next Need for Speed game is called…Need for Speed.

Launching as a series reboot, Need for Speed harkens back to the illegal street racing days of yesteryear and will be set in a nocturnal open world setting. Car customisation is also said to be back in a big way with the help of Speedhunters for those who enjoyed ruining their car with phat body kits, neon lights and custom paint jobs.
Fans have been requesting a successor to Need for Speed Underground in droves for years, and by the looks of the teaser trailer that’s exactly what you’re getting – if not in name, then at least in spirit. Expect to find out more when the full trailer is revealed along with a possible stage demonstration of Need for Speed at EA’s press conference.
Oh, there’s also a possibility we could find out the final release date of its mobile spin-off Need for Speed No Limits, too, in case you forgot it existed.

F1 2015

Running on last-gen tech while Codemasters fine-tunes the next iteration of its in-house EGO engine for the current-gen, everyone knew that F1 2014 was a stopgap for this year’s entry. Indeed, F1 2015 marks Codemasters’ belated first foray into the current-gen, in what promises to be the most technically advanced F1 game yet.

The visuals have had some obvious overhauls and there’s some new TV-style presentation for added authenticity, but we’re more interested in the handling – from our first play-through, the physics proved to be a significant step up as Codemasters are taking the F1 game series in a more simulation direction.
F1 2015 has since been delayed until July, and we’ve not had confirmation if it will feature at E3, but we’ve only seen brief snippets of gameplay courtesy of a short teaser trailer presumably paving the way for a more in-depth look during E3.

Assetto Corsa

Developed by a tiny team of four at Kunos Simulazioni, Assetto Corsa has become one of the leading PC racing simulations. It’s an interesting hybrid: the realistic physics are clearly pitched for hardcore PC players, and yet the road car-centric car list has made some people perceive it as the PC’s answer to Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. Imagine our surprise, then, when it was revealed that Assetto Corsa is on course for consoles, with a PS4 and Xbox One release planned for next year. Suddenly, console sim racing has become increasingly crowded as the underdogs take on the established Forza and Gran Turismo, as new IP Project CARS is also shadowing their slipstream.

Assetto Corsa’s console debut will feature over 100 cars, over 20 tracks and uncompromised physics. Kunos Simulazioni have already confirmed that Assetto Corsa will be making its debut at this year’s E3, where new PC content will be revealed– at the very least, we’ll probably find out all the remaining cars included in the Bonus Car Pack DLC, but we’re hoping for some more substantial reveals.

Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo

This year marks a new direction for Milestone, as the Italian developer is focusing on new IPs in addition to their annual licensed motorsport titles. First up was their bike racing IP Ride which had its fair share of issues, but Milestone’s hearts were in the right place, even if the execution was lacklustre in some areas. After releasing four annual WRC games, Milestone are now developing Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, a new rally IP that will benefit from their extensive experience with rally games which have steadily progressed over the years into solid titles.

Whereas Ride can be seen as a spiritual successor to Tourist Trophy, Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo is shaping up to be spiritual successor to Richard Burns Rally. Milestone are aiming to deliver a realistic rallying experience , although they have their work cut out as they’re going head to head with Codemasters’ DiRT Rally, which is also aimed at hardcore rally gamers.
What we’ve seen so far suggests Milestone is putting up a fair fight. While it’s too early to tell if the coredriving experience will live up to their promise, releasing Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo exclusively on current-gen formats has meant Milestone no longer has to spread their resources – the result is easilyt Milestone’s best looking game by far, and we’re happy to see the environments appear to be getting as much attention as the car models this time as the terrain detail has noticeably improved. Add in new rallycross events and over 50 contemporary and classic rally cars, and Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo is looking like one to watch for rally game enthusiasts.
We’re expecting to see more details and gameplay videos of Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo at E3. We’re also hoping to get a first look at Pikes Peak – it’s already available in DiRT Rally, so it will make for some interesting comparisons.

WRC 5

We’ll openly admit we were quick to write off WRC 5 when we found out that Kylotonn Games had taken up developer duties.  Not only does the French firm have no prior experience in the rally genre compared to Milestone who released four consecutive WRC games, but their back catalogue doesn’t exactly inspire you with confidence, to put it politely – take a look at Truck Racer 2 if you want to know what we mean.

However, we were soon swayed after learning that ex SimBin and Eden Games staff are working on WRC 5 – previous games the team have worked on include GTR, RACE, Test Drive Unlimited and V-Rally 3. Suddenly, WRC 5’s claims of being a rally simulator don’t seem as far-fetched.
The trailers and screenshots released so far still haven’t blown us away, but it’s still too early to make an informed judgement, and the pedigree of the newly-enlisted staff gives us hope that WRC 5 will be a worthy contender to Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo and DiRT Rally. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a hands-on at E3 to find out.

Mad Max

Movie game tie-ins are traditionally terrible, so it’s probably a good thing that the Mad Max game isn’t a direct adaptation of Mad Max Fury Road. To be fair, it probably would have translated to a game pretty well considering Mad Max Fury Road was essentially one long car chase extravaganza – it was like watching The Raid with cars.

And that’s exactly what you’re getting with the Mad Max game, an open world dystopian vehicular car combat game from the makers of Just Cause (Just Cause 3 is also on the horizon this year) with some gritty hand-to-hand combat thrown in for good measure.
Like the film, high octane car battles seem to be the order of the day, but Mad Max also promises some deeper game mechanics beyond the bombastic action – to survive, you’ll have need to scavenge for parts used to upgrade your car. If Just Cause have proved anything, it’s that few developers can match Avalanche’s appetite for destruction, so we look forward to seeing what they can do with a film license.

Rocket League

Who needs another incremental FIFA game when we have Rocket League?

Top Gear has proven that car football should be a legitimate sport, and developer has taken this one step further by making a fully-fledged car football game series. Their last game, the awkwardly titled Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, went largely under the radar on PS3, but this hopefully won’t be the case with Rocket League’s PS4 debut.
Several Rocket League betas have been underway to give it more exposure, and its reception has been universally positive: fantastic fun and highly addictive. It’s also a game that’s easy to play but hard to master, as you have to be tactical in order to win.
Rocket League has been confirmed to be on show at E3 at Sony’s booth, but final kickoff starts in July. Twisted Metal’s Sweet Tooth will also be making a cameo appearance in the PS4 version, so what’s not to like?

Unconfirmed

Gran Turismo 7

Releasing Gran Turismo 6 on the ageing PS3 was a mistake, leaving the gap wide open to competitors on current-gen platforms. First up was Project CARS which has already snatched pole position having dominated the UK charts and shifted one million copies in just one month. Meanwhile, Forza Motorsport 6 is preparing to launch off the line later this year on Xbox One, not to mention the arrival of Assetto Corsa on consoles next year. The console sim racing market has never been more crowded, so Polyphony urgently need to show their hand and react to the increased competition by revealing the next Gran Turismo game for PS4 – otherwise the granddaddy is in serious danger of being left behind by the competition.

We know very little so far other than the fact it’s in development, but there are early signs of promise – particularly the prospect of vastly improved audio effects since a former Forza sound engineer has now switched sides.
Developers were also spotted at the Isle of Man some time ago, implying that we may even see bikes in Gran Turismo 7 which would make sense because the Polyphony team are just as passionate about motorcycles as they are about motorcars. After all, it’s been nine years since the release of the Gran Turismo two wheeled spin-off Tourist Trophy, and bikes were originally meant to feature in Gran Turismo HD until the game was canned and redeveloped into Gran Turismo 5 Prologue which didn’t feature bikes in the end.
And yet other signs point to the renowned perfectionist still clinging onto the past, with sources suggesting we may not have seen the last of the Standard vs. Premium car divide.
We’re not likely to see Gran Turismo 7 until next year at the earliest, so we would be happy if Polyphony provided impatient players an appetiser by announcing Gran Turismo 7 Prologue for release later this year. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn into Gran Turismo Prolonged.

DriveClub PlayStation Plus Edition

Remember how DriveClub PlayStation Plus Edition, i.e. the free-to-play, cut-down version of DriveClub, was originally meant to be launched with the full release? Yeah, that didn’t quite go according to plan. Eight months later, DriveClub PlayStation Plus Edition is still nowhere to be seen.

After being bombarded with requests on its ETA, recent DriveClub game updates and server upgrades have implied that its belated release is imminent, so those who are still on the fence about buying DriveClub (If you haven’t already, why not?) shouldn’t have too long to wait for what essentially sounds like a glorified DriveClub demo.
Don’t be surprised if DriveClub PlayStation Plus is simultaneously announced and released during Sony’s live E3 conference.  Evolution has also now confirmed some Japanese car content is on the way, so an unveiling at E3 also seems likely given the high demand for Japanese cars in DriveClub Eurocentric car roster.

Criterion Games’ Beyond Cars

Whatever happened to Criterion Games’ Beyond Cars? After working on acclaimed the acclaimed Burnout series along with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted which have gone on to be arcade racing staples, last year Criterion Games announced a brand new driving game that wouldn’t be confined to cars. Instead, Criterion declared Beyond Cars as a “vehicular action sports game” that lets you control a variety of vehicles, including off-road ATVs, boats, planes and even freefalling wingsuits.

It sounded like an intriguing concept, but we’ve heard nothing about the project ever since. Granted, Beyond Cars was at a very early stage of development when we last saw it, but a whole year has passed now. Hopefully we’ll get to see how Beyond Cars has progressed at EA’s press conference.

Twisted Metal

In E3 2010, David Jaffe took to the stage with a surprise reveal of a Twisted Metal reboot for PS3, complete with a full size Sweet Tooth ice cream van on the stage. History could be about to repeat itself, as a new Twisted Metal trademark was spotted earlier this year.

It’s probably wise not to get your hopes up, though: Twisted Metal didn’t sell particularly well on PS3, and David Jaffe is currently busy with the free-to-play Drawn to Death.

Logitech Driving Force G29/G920

Just when we all thought Logitech had pulled out of the console peripheral market for good, recent rumours suggested that they were making a console comeback with a follow-up to the fabled G27 wheel called the G29. And so no one was surprised when Logitech officially announced the G29 for PS4, PS3 and PC. What was surprising, however, was the news that the G29 is getting an Xbox One counterpart in the form of the Logitech G920.

Granted, the Logitech G29 isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing wheel we’ve ever seen – it looks like a Frankenstein creation welded together with parts from the Logitech GT and G27. But the G27 is sorely missed for good reason: it had great build quality, leather materials and respectable force feedback but didn’t cost the earth.
Interestingly, the G29’s higher price point puts it in direct competition with high-end wheels from Thrustmaster and Fanatec, despite it having similar hardware specifications to the older G27 – Logitech could have missed a trick here, as there are plenty of high-end and entry-level wheels in the market, but nothing in the mid-range. Nevertheless, more choice of racing wheels for console gamers can only be a good thing, and we look forward to seeing how the Logitech G29 and G920 perform at E3.

Driver

This one is a bit of a long shot admittedly, but I think we’re overdue a new Driver game, don’t you? Ubisoft typically reveal a surprise new game in their E3 conferences – and it’s been five years since the criminally underrated Driver: San Francisco.

Mind you, Ubisoft don’t seem to know what to do with the franchise: surely the dismal Driver Speedboat Paradise mobile spin-off isn’t the last we’ve seen of Tanner?

What are your most anticipated E3 2015 racing games? Shout out in the comments below!

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