Monday, December 21, 2020
We do enjoy a good racing game, here at XBA towers (we don't work in a tower. We work from home, in our undies, at the moment), and sometimes we're not entirely sure that the humble racing game is appreciated quite enough. From the halcyon pixel days of OutRun to the eye-searing loveliness of Gran Turismo, Forza Horizon, and the like, racing games are now a delectable platter, running the gamut from retro-inspired new takes on beloved greats to deep, all-encompassing sims.
There's basically never been a better time to be into racing games, with this year putting out a smattering of proper gooduns, the majority of which are, to be fair, sequels. But that doesn't matter where quality is concerned, does it? With that firmly in mind, here are our top five racing games of 2020. Pedal to the metal!
Purveyor of perennially excellent racing games, DIRT 5 is a cut above, even by Codemasters' lofty standards. As well as boasting serious MotorStorm vibes, DIRT 5 looks and handles like a dream, has tracks and races by the bucketload, and then throws in the new Playgrounds mode for good measure. Enabling you to build your own arenas and challenges, or play ones that other, more industrious folks have created, Playgrounds is a great addition, but it's the strength of the off-road racing itself that leaves an impression. Kicking up mud and gravel, as you execute the perfect drift, jostling with the pack, fighting for first place – DIRT 5 has off-road racing thrills in spades, and it looks utterly stunning to boot.
Since taking up the official FIA World Rally Championship license with WRC 5, in 2015, French developer Kylotonn Games (now known simply as KT Racing) has steadily become more assured in making WRC its own. With WRC 9, the studio released its most accomplished rally racer to date, with a fantastic Career mode, pitch-perfect handling that felt realistic but not impossible to wrangle, and impeccable presentation to tie the whole thing together. Surfaces feel distinctive, each rally event is the exotic, globetrotting experience that it should be, and the addition of Rally New Zealand and Rally Japan expanded the number of different locations to master. WRC 9 is not only a comprehensive rally racer, but it provides muddy, challenging thrills aplenty.
Codies strikes again, with its best Formula One game to date. Overflowing with depth and detail, F1 2020 offers one of the finest racing sims around. Since first picking up the official FIA Formula One license, in 2010, Codemasters has taken the series from strength-to-strength The Career mode is among the best offered by any racing game, with oodles of options and mechanics to drill down into. F1 2020 also boasts My Team mode, enabling you to immerse yourself in every facet of your F1 team, from performing on the track to ploughing resources into R&D, and deciding what to prioritise. Another string to the series' bow, My Team proved deeply involving, but, as ever, it was the on-track experience itself that shone through once again. F1 2020 is sublime.
Recalling the powersliding thrills of Ridge Racer, Daytona USA, and their seminal mid-90s ilk, Hotshot Racing heralds a spiritual return to the low-poly, blue-skied glory days of yore. Deliberately old school, with its oddball characters, flat-shaded graphics, polygonal sparks, and arcade handling, Hotshot Racing isn't entirely beholden to its influences. It embraces modern trappings, like 8-player online races and 4-player split-screen, as well as a series of 'Pursuit' modes, which have you playing as a cop chasing racers, or racers attempting to outrun the fuzz. The perfect kind of retro racer to dip into when you're craving an unadulterated injection of straight-up, quick-and-easy adrenaline, Hotshot Racing is wonderfully uncomplicated and beautifully simple in the best possible way. Sometimes, that's all you really need.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered
While it would have been nice to give this spot to Project CARS 3, it not only didn't do much that we hadn't seen before, but even pared things back somewhat. Now for a massively hypocritical follow-up: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered, a souped-up version of a ten-year old game, is still brilliant in 2020. Arguably Criterion's best racing game since it ditched Burnout, Hot Pursuit retains the nitro-charged essence of that series, with a spectacular sense of speed, wince-inducing crashes, and a consistently exciting cat-and-mouse hook, which sees cop and racers going head-to-head. No, it's not new, but it was nonetheless nice to have a welcome reminder that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is still incredible – with the return of Autolog and a bit of a visual overhaul, it's even better.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020 @ 03:40 AM