At EGX 2016, Gran Turismo Sport will be playable by the general public. And me. Especially me. I'm already queuing...
Can you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up? For me it was always one thing: a racing driver.
I was F1-obsessed from a young age. While I’d dabbled in a few Commodore and Mega Drive games (always belonging to my cousins), nothing hooked me on gaming until Psygnosis’ Formula 1 on the original PlayStation, back in 1996.
Microprose Grand Prix
And that was it. I was king of the chicane, lord of the pit lane. Three-time world champion... on the PlayStation, anyway. As you may have guessed, I never went on to realise my dream (tech blogging by day, crime-fighting racing driver billionaire by night…), but I have been able to get an annual fix of F1 action from then on, through various consoles and PC games.
From Ridge Racer to Ultra-Realism
As I spent my youth mastering Silverstone’s 18 corners in virtual representations of some of the best F1 cars of the past 20 years, the technology behind the games grew, developed and matured. Simulator technology is a big deal in F1 nowadays, and on gaming systems racing games now strive for pinpoint accuracy in a marketplace once dominated by arcade racers.
I remember games such as Ridge Racer, Destruction Derby and Need For Speed 2 on my PlayStation, each with its own blend of pick-up and play arcade action.
Ridge Racer Revolution
In console terms, racing games began to get serious with the release of the original Gran Turismo in time for Christmas 1997. Suddenly the realism of this game, from the graphics to the handling began an accelerated move towards more authentic racing games, pushing pixels and game mechanics to such a level where many racing games worth their salt are now considered driving simulators.
In following years Gran Turismo would be the standard bearer for console racing games. I remember the first two F1 games I owned on PlayStation both having arcade modes, those soon died out in the pursuit of podium-quality perfection. Where PlayStation had Gran Turismo, Xbox got Forza, and hyper-realism became the normal.
Racing games drew me in with the accessibility, playability and the “dream factor” of getting to be an F1 driver. Over the years many studios have continued to refine the craft and applied it to various different driving games. Codemasters are a great example of this. From the studio that created the seminal MicroMachines they’ve gone on to develop the Race Driver and Dirt franchises (and F1, of course) into well-polished and respected games.
The latest models
Gran Turismo Sport
The battle for ultra-realism on consoles continues with the release of Gran Turismo Sport (2017, but will be previewed at EGX) and Forza Horizon 3 (released 27th September. Away from the console world there’s a whole other league of incredibly detailed racing sims. rFactor has long been hailed as one of the most authentic driving games around, with and Assetto Corsa and iRacing are also worthy contenders.
While there has never been so many incredible racing games out there, I do wonder whether this never-ending race to be the most accurate, authentic, and realistic is making the genre less accessible? I got into racing games because there was a massive pick-up and play appeal, and a progressive learning curve. Not because I wanted to hear the sound of the engine alter as I changed gear.
I still play racing games because it’s a part of me now. The dynamics are roughly the same across all games in the genre, making it easy to jump between driving experiences and challenges. I do notice that casual gamers are far more inclined to go for a game of FIFA rather than a quick 3-lap blast around the Nürburgring and maybe, if in amongst all this realism, we’re missing a game like Ridge Racer or Destruction Derby to put some fun into racing games for the non-fanatical among us.
What are your favourite racing games? Do you know of any under-appreciated games that we should be playing? Let us know in the comments below.