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.
Racing games have often left a lot to be desired in the audio department. It’s a shame because hearing the sound of a roaring engine begging for mercy when you floor it in a powerful car is an essential part of the driving experience. Thankfully, things are starting to improve. Advances in recording technology have allowed developers to produce more authentic audio effects that immerse you into the cockpit more convincingly than ever before.
For years, Milestone games have suffered from lackluster sound design. Not so in MotoGP 17. Engine audio in racing games often sounds too artificial, but in MotoGP 17 Milestone applied distortion effects to make the bikes sound much more realistic. These bikes don’t sound like what you hear on the TV: in real life, the engines are ear-piercingly loud to the point they sound distorted. Hearing a field of bikes is absolutely deafening. MotoGP 17 was a massive step up, with significantly improved audio design that sets a new standard for future Milestone titles to live up to.
Like MotoGP 17, MXGP 3 also had considerably better audio design than its predecessor. Each bike class has distinct audio, while other sound effects like cheering crowds sounding horns create created a more immersive atmosphere. The less said about the ear-bleedingly-bad dubstep soundtrack the better, though.
Gran Turismo Sport
Another series that’s often criticised for its dismal sound design is, of course, Gran Turismo. It’s a running joke that cars in Gran Turismo games sound like vacuum cleaners, but Gran Turismo Sport finally changed that. But while the engine sounds are certainly better than they ever have been in a Gran Turismo game, the audio design isn’t quite at the level you would expect for a game that spent four years in development, and unfortunately falls behind the competition as a result.
Forza Motorsport 7
Cars in the Forza Motorsport series have consistently sounded more realistic than some of its console competitors and the seventh game in the series was no exception. Considering the vast range of cars available, Forza Motorsport 7 has a variety of ear-pleasing audio effects, but some of the engine notes still lack authenticity resulting in solid, but unspectacular sound design.
DiRT Rally won our award for Best Audio in the 2017 Team VVV Racing Game of the Year Awards, so our ears had very high expectations for DiRT 4’s sound design. While the cars still sound satisfyingly realistic as you would expect in a Codemasters game, it didn’t quite hit the same high notes as DiRT Rally, sadly.
Winner: Project CARS 2
While you can accuse some of the games on this list of having vehicles that sound too similar, this isn’t the case in Project CARS 2. Slightly Mad Studios went to extraordinary lengths to capture the unique character of every car in the audio design ensuring that they all sound distinct, from the aggressive V8 growl of a Jaguar F-Type, to the glorious sound of a turbocharged Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution being pushed to the limit and the raspy roar of a Honda Civic rallycross car tackling a dirt surface.
Other subtle audio effects, such as the sound of the wipers grazing against a dry windscreen before the rain sets in, add to the immersion. Even the grandiose orchestral score, which wouldn’t sound out of place in a big-budget blockbuster film, that accompanies menus effectively conveys the anxiety a driver feels before the start of an intense race. Project CARS 2 is an aural assault and a masterclass in audio design.
Do you agree with our winner? Let us know in the comments below. Check back soon for more Team VVV Awards 2018 coverage on the website and YouTube channel throughout March.