From high profile releases like Forza Horizon 3, the resurgence of rally games with DiRT Rally and the start of the console sim racing saturation with the long-awaited arrival of Assetto Corsa, 2016 was a transformative year for racing games. To celebrate, we’re hosting our first ever Team VVV Racing Game of the Year Awards (something we’ve been meaning to do for years) to recognise achievements in racing gaming, from best graphics and sound, to car lists, handling and indie titles, we’ve got everything covered.
Sometimes a game you didn’t have any expectations for can take you completely by surprise. These are the racing games of 2016 that we never expected to blow us away.
Racing games are often rated solely for having realistic graphics and handling, but sometimes all you want from a racing game is for it to offer unbridled fun that you can pick up and play. TrackMania Turbo filled this void, offering the pick-up-and-play appeal of an old-school arcade racer that’s been sorely missing this generation as developers strive for realism at the expense of fun. Simply put, we didn’t expect TrackMania Turbo to be so polished, feature-packed, and utterly compulsive.
It’s unfortunate that the timing of Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO’s release put it directly in DiRT Rally’s path, because it fell under a lot of people’s radars. And that’s a shame, because that meant you missed out on a very respectable rally game.
Whereas Milestone’s WRC games were mostly incremental updates that failed to innovate, the sheer breadth of content in Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO took us by surprise. The car and track selection offered more variety than any other rally game available, and the authentically designed stages designed using GPS data from the real locations put other rally games to shame. Compared to Milestone’s previous car games, Sebastien Loeb Rally EVO is a significant step up that bodes well for its future rally titles.
When it was announced that the WRC license had been handed over to Kylotonn Games, we were admittedly sceptical – their previous game at the time was the dismal Motorcycle Club, after all. WRC 5 was flawed, but earned our respect considering it was developed in such a short period of time. It set a solid foundation which WRC 6 improved on in every respect, particularly with the more authentic track designs and approachable handling that gave the cars a more realistic sense of weight without being too demanding to drive. Again, were pleasantly surprised by how much Kylotonn managed to achieve in a such short space of time.
If you couldn’t already tell, we’re rather smitten with RedOut, which has appeared in almost every honourable mention of our awards. The dazzling art style, innovative craft controls and terrific track design blew us away, which was surprising considering how little promotion the game got in the run up to its release. There’s no doubting that RedOut is essential for fans of futuristic racers pining for an official WipEout sequel (no, WipEout Omega Collection doesn’t count).
Winner: Ride 2
Ride 2 is by far the best game Milestone has released in a long time. While we criticised some of the Italian developer’s releases in 2016 for being unforgivably formulaic, and, in some cases, a step backwards (we’re looking at you MXGP 2), Ride 2 was a huge step forward that finally showed Milestone’s true potential. Plus, it wasn’t saddled with bugs on release like the original game, so you didn’t have to worry about your save game getting corrupted.
People don’t tend to have high expectations for bike games, but Ride 2 changed that with its huge selection of bikes, challenging tracks including the narrow Northwest 200 circuit and vastly improved physics that made nailing apexes fun, rewarding and addictive. Even the audio was enhanced – we never thought we would be praising the sound design in a Milestone game. There’s still room for improvement, but Milestone accomplished its mission: Ride 2 is the Gran Turismo of bike games.
Do you agree with our winner? Let us know in the comments below.