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 Game of the Year
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking back at the last year of racing games in what was an incredibly competitive year and honouring achievements across a wide range of categories. But there can only be one overall winner. It’s time to crown our racing game of the year in the Team VVV Racing Game Awards 2018.
F1 2017 is undoubtedly one of the best video game representations of Formula One and was one of our highest rated games of 2017. Codemasters has refined the visuals and handling so it looks and plays better than ever before, and the game also saw the welcome return of classic content featuring a range of iconic cars from the 1980s to the 2000s. What elevated F1 2017, however, was its expanded career mode, with different team-based objectives and expectations and an in-depth research and development system immersing you into the world of Formula One. F1 2017 is a spectacular return to form – the license is clearly in very capable hands right now.
Forza Motorsport 7
While the handling lacks the depth of previous games, Forza Motorsport 7 caters to car enthusiasts like no other current racing game franchise. Turn 10’s close relationships with car manufacturers has resulted in several high-profile video game car debuts, including the Porsche 911 GT2 RS and the long-requested Bugatti Chiron. With over 700 cars, Forza Motorsport 7 features by far the most comprehensive vehicle selection in any current-generation console game – and the roster is still expanding with monthly car packs. It also looks glorious running in 4K and 60fps, showcasing the power of Xbox One X.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
As one of the highest rated games of 2017, it’s difficult to find fault with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. While it's technically an enhanced port of an old Wii U game, the developer rectified some of the original game's flaws, adding a new fully-fledged battle mode, the ability to store multiple weapons like in Double Dash adding a new tactical element to the gameplay, and enhanced the visuals to 1080p and 60fps. With 48 original tracks, 43 characters, including new additions such as the Inklings from Splatoon, and all DLC released for the original game, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers a truly substantial package. Its breadth of content puts many modern racing games to shame.
Porting the game to the Switch was a masterstroke, too. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks stunning in motion when played in handheld mode, and the Switch’s portability also means you can play local multiplayer on the go, which is as fun and addictive as ever. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is quite simply the definitive kart racer.
DiRT 4 didn’t live up to the impeccable standard set by Dirt Rally and suffered from a confused identity, but it’s still an undeniably fun rally game that caters to a wider audience than its predecessor. This was achieved with the implementation of two distinct handling options: ‘Gamer’ harks back to the fun and accessible handling of DiRT 3, while ‘Simulation’ presents is more realistic and requires more skill.
There’s also a solid selection of classic and contemporary rally cars, and Codemasters’ powerful ‘Your Stage’ track generator, which can produce a practically limitless number of special stages, is undeniably innovative, even if some of the uninspired generated tracks leave a lot to be desired. The tech has a lot of potential, however, and we look forward to seeing how Codemasters utilise it in future titles.
WRC 7 won both Best Surprise and Best Off-Road Game in this year’s Team VVV Racing Game Awards, making it a strong contender for racing game of the year. Kylotonn’s third rally game surpassed all expectations, thanks to its more realistic and weightier car handling, improved graphics and sound, and superb stage designs that capture the intensity of rallying, including new Epic Stages that can take up to 15 minutes. It may lack innovation, particularly in the barebones career mode, and could do with more stages, but it’s easily one of the best WRC games in years that left us craving more content.
Gran Turismo Sport
After such an arduously long wait, it’s fair to say Gran Turismo Sport fell short of expectations in some areas. Compared to previous games in the series, the track and car selection is subpar, and the absence of a traditional car-collecting campaign is also disappointing. Monthly updates are adding new cars and tracks free of charge, but it's still a sparse package that makes it feel like a Steam Early Access title.
That said, Gran Turismo Sport delivers in other areas. The visuals are breathtaking, setting new standards for console racerrs – the meticulously modelled cars are marvellous to behold, and the lighting is astonishingly realistic. Gran Turismo Sport is also a dream to drive, thanks to intuitive, beautifully balanced car handling that hits the sweet spot between realistic physics and playability whether you play with a pad or a wheel, and its online multiplayer is the closest equivalent to iRacing on consoles, delivering the best online racing on PS4.
Winner: Project CARS 2
Project CARS 2 is the complete package for motorsport fans. It’s by no means perfect, however. The initial release was hampered by bugs, and while Slightly Mad Studios has rolled out numerous updates, there are still issues that need addressing. The demanding car handling also isn’t for everyone, particularly as some cars require some finetuning to feel intuitive on either a wheel or controller. But when it’s firing on all cylinders, no other racing game comes close to matching Project CARS 2’s ambition and authenticity.
Project CARS 2’s career conveys the life of a racing driver better than any other game currently available as you advance from karting and single seaters to prototype endurance racing, while constant communication from your race engineer adds to the immersion. As a package, Project CARS 2's scale is staggering with an incredible breadth of content that’s unrivalled. The well-curated car selection features double the number of cars of the previous game, the huge variety of racing disciplines was further diversified with the addition of rallycross and oval racing, and the selection of real-world racing circuits, many of which were accurately laser-scanned with drones, is unmatched.
Above all, unlike many of the racing games released in 2017, Project CARS 2 innovates and moves the racing genre forward. It brings hardcore simulation racing, a genre that’s typically reserved for PC players, to consoles, and while Project CARS 2 was the underdog competing against the two racing game goliaths Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, it overtook its more established competitors in many areas.
Slightly Mad Studios’s LiveTrack 3.0 technology, for example, is a game changer, bringing best-in-class weather effects that affect the environments realistically. Rainstorms form dynamic puddles, which form dry racing lines in real-time, thus changing your racing strategy. Unlike Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, dynamic weather effects can also be applied to every racing circuit with options to set different intervals, reflecting the unpredictability and raw intensity of motorsport.
Project CARS 2 also gives you the freedom to customise your experience with a comprehensive range of options that put other games to shame, from the number of opponents and laps to weather intervals, times of day and unique car and track combinations. It also has the advantage of being available on all platforms, while PC players benefit from triple screen and VR support. Project CARS 2 is a remarkable racing simulation that pushes the genre forward, setting new standards for its more established rivals to follow. For that reason, Project CARS 2 is our racing game of the year.
Best Surprise: WRC 7
Best Graphics: Gran Turismo Sport
Best Audio: Project CARS 2
Best Automotive eSport: McLaren’s World’s Fastest Gamer
Best Post-Release Support: RaceRoom Racing Experience
Best DLC: Forza Horizon 3 Hot Wheels
Best Environment Selection: Project CARS 2
Best Vehicle Selection: Forza Motorsport 7
Best Handling: Gran Turismo Sport
Best Online Multiplayer: Gran Turismo Sport
Best Indie Game: Redout Lightspeed Edition
Best Handheld Game: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Best Bike Game: MXGP 3
Best Off-Road Game: WRC 7
Racing Game of the Year: Project CARS 2