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.
Deciding which game to crown our racing game of the year for 2016 was no easy task. While there have been some very strong contenders, most of them had some glaring flaws that unfortunately held them back.
Assetto Corsa is a sublime simulation with the best car handling you’ll experience in any racing game right now, but it’s a subpar game experience. Kunos Simulazioni ported the hardcore simulation physics from the PC original perfectly but forgot to adapt the game for console audiences. The career is a chore to play through, the game was plagued with glitches on release, there are still no private lobbies available for online multiplayer at the time of writing, and the way the game abruptly transports you to the pit lane with no fanfare after each race is jarring and removes you from the experience. Such a shame.
Forza Horizon 3 also seems like an obvious winner. It ticks many boxes: it has great graphics, a substantial car list, and an engrossing online multiplayer. Most importantly, it’s fun to play for casual gamers, with enough depth to please hardcore car enthusiasts. It’s a shame, then, that the new structure, where you take on the role of the festival boss, took away the sense of progression of its predecessors.
Winner: DiRT Rally
DiRT Rally is mercilessly unforgiving and lacking in content compared to its competitors. So why is it our racing game of the year? Because Codemasters took risks – and they paid off in spades. After a spate of lackluster releases, this was the return to form from the renowned racing game developer we had been waiting for.
Most console racing games are designed to appeal to mass audiences, which is why hardcore simulation games are a rarity on platforms other than PC. As Assetto Corsa showed, satisfying such a decidedly different audience on consoles is not an easy feat to pull off.
Removing the flashbacks, which many of us have taken for granted in recent rally games, was a commendably bold design decision. Certainly, the challenge this presented aggravated casual players – but that audience is already catered for with the accessible WRC series. But removing this safety net had a profound effect on the entire experience: for the first time in years, rallying felt exciting, intense and downright dangerous in a game, leaving you with a foreboding sense of dread because every corner had the potential to end in disaster and result in a restart.
Combined with its superb visuals and awe-inspiring audio design, DiRT Rally successfully reinvigorated the rally game genre and captured the essence of rallying better than any recent game – an achievement that makes it both our best dirt game and our undisputed best racing game of 2016. Roll on DiRT 4.
Do you agree with our winner? Let us know in the comments below.
Don't forget to catch up on all our previous racing game awards: