While 2014 was a good year for racing games, 2015 could be an even better one. There's the potential for new editions of both the biggest names in the racing game genre, there are two new franchises ready to roll out – plus a brand new motorcycle racing game.
So without further ado, let's run down the list and see what these racers are all about.
Forza Motorsport 5 appeared a little over a year ago as a day one launch title for Xbox One – which means unless there are development issues, Forza 6 is pretty much guaranteed to appear some time this year. Whether it'll be before or after the summer remains to be seen (post-Summer seems most likely based on prior release timing), but either way, expectations are high for Turn 10's latest edition of its storied racer.
The current game did feel a little rushed, sporting less than half the 500 cars of its predecessor, and a mere 17 tracks compared to the 26 of Forza 4. This was a slight disappointment, but understandable considering the fairly short developmental timeframe Turn 10 had to produce the game. However, this time out there should be no excuses, and all things being equal, we'll see a return to a broader range of cars – some perhaps taken from the newer Forza Horizon 2 – and a more diverse range of tracks.
Hopefully lessons learned from Forza Horizon 2's heavy multiplayer component might also help refine Forza 6's online racing and offer new features and elements.
One thing likely to change this time around is DLC. Forza 5 was criticized for its use of heavily integrated DLC, which left a sour taste in many players' mouths. This time around it's expected to be more like Forza Horizon 2, with meaningful content updates, rather than a system that feels like it's nickel and diming you.
One of the most interesting new racing games is Slightly Mad Studio's Project CARS. Set for release initially on PC, Xbox One and PS4, and with later versions slated for Steam OS and Wii U, Project CARS differentiates itself from the more established racers with a sandbox approach to competitive driving. When the game starts, all cars and tracks are unlocked, and it's up to the player to decide which path they'd like to take through the game, from Kart and Track Day racing all the way to high-end GT and Les Mans Prototypes.
The game is focused heavily on the racing experience, with events taking place over several days and incorporating shakedown, qualifying laps and the races themselves. Weather also plays an important part of the proceedings, and conditions can change dynamically during races, and from day to day.
The game features almost 70 cars – which isn't many when compared to the likes of Gran Turismo and Forza – but then again, they're all racing vehicles, so there's at least some focus on a specific car type, rather than the very broad spread other games tend to offer. The game also features 52 different circuits, which is very impressive, and will help deliver a wide variety of races once track variations are factored in.
So far I've only played a brief demo, but the game looks extremely promising. It seems the focus is on picking the cars you like best, essentially making them your own, and then racing them in pertinent series. A different approach from the established racing games that require you to drive many different cars in numerous series. How this will play out remains to be seen, but it's a smart move by Slightly Mad Studios to help Project CARS carve out its own niche in the highly competitive racing genre.
World of Speed
The second game due this year from Slightly Mad Studios is World of Speed, a PC game that'll be launched under the auspices of My.com. Where it differs from Project CARS is that it's all about production vehicles, from humble hot hatches to the highest-end supercars. It's also different in that it's a free-to-play, massively multiplayer online action racing that does not have a single-player component. All the action takes place in online races, and revolves around team play – be it temporary pick-up play, or racing with an established group of people.
I've played a couple of demos, and was reasonably impressed. My biggest criticism is that the handling feels a little inert – though that might have been due to the steering wheel setup each time – but what is impressive is the track and car modeling. The game does look absolutely terrific.
What's going to be interesting is seeing exactly how the free-to-play model works. I'm expecting something like World of Tanks where there's a solid free component, but if you really want to succeed in the game, you'll need to buy premium cars, or premium upgrades.
So far, only 20 cars have been confirmed for the game, but My.com announced that additional cars are expected to be added regularly, with the intent of making World of Speed feel like a continually evolving game.
Gran Turismo 7
I certainly wouldn't bet a large sum of money on Gran Turismo's 7th outing appearing on PS4 later on this year, but there's an outside chance that this game might see daylight in the latter stages of Q4 based purely on the fact that, by that time, Polyphony will have had some 24 months of potential development time to invest in the title.
And if a full game doesn't appear, perhaps Sony might pressure the legendarily slow development team to release some kind of "Prologue" interim game just to fill the void between now and whenever Gran Turismo 7 finally rolls out of the garage.
Whenever it does appear, it'll be interesting to see whether the game will follow the familiar and somewhat well-worn formula that the series has fallen into. I think it's a safe bet that a new Gran Turismo would likely present a slight evolution of the format and content of the prior outing, but the big question is – how many cars will it feature? Gran Turismo 6 tipped the scales at more than 1,200 cars, but many of them were legacy models that looked exactly like the madeover PS2 models that they were. I really can't see those making it to the PS4 version without some kind of miraculous makeover, but what will likely be ported across are the newer GT6 models, which, along with new GT7 cars, could mean the game featuring some 300-400 cars this time around. That's still plenty to be getting on with, but it would put Gran Turismo on a potential par with the Forza series for the first time.
But then again, perhaps Polyphony will surprise us. Most of all, by releasing the game this year!
Set to debut in Spring on PS4 and Xbox One (plus PS3 and Xbox 360) is Namco's Ride – a motorcycle racer from Milestone, makers of the pretty damn good MotoGP 14, which I reviewed a month or two ago. In many respects it sounds similar to Polyphony's Tourist Trophy – it features around 100 motorcycles that include supersports, sports, naked and even historic bikes, and a host of famous motorcycle tracks to ride them on.
Very little is known about the game at the moment, but I loved the riding mechanics that underpinned MotoGP, and if the developers can address some of the graphical issues that plagued the PS4 version of the game, it could be a really solid racer – and a very welcome one for motorcycle racing fans like myself.