From racing sims to the arcadiest of the arcades, the racing genre had a strong year in 2018.
Years ago, when you thought gaming, racing was the first genre that popped into your head. As time has gone by, the prevalence and importance of the racing genre has continued to go down, and while it’s no longer at the pedestal it once used to be on, it still continues to deliver some excellent games every year. 2018 was no different, and gave us plenty of great racing titles to experience, from racing sims, to arcade racers, to combat racers, and many others. Here, we’ll be taking a look at the ten nominees for our favourite racing game of 2018, before we decide on a winner out of those ten.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE NOMINEES ARE…
In an era of racers where classic franchises such as Burnout and Need for Speed have either perished or become mere shadows of their once great selves, Wreckfest is a dream come true for those who’ve been yearning for a a good, solid arcade racer. Wreckfest is all about speed, and damage, and it’s extremely good at what it does. Watching vehicles crash and get wrecked is just delightful, and never gets old, and its destruction-centric mechanics are implemented wonderfully, making for an experience the likes of which have become increasingly rare as time has gone by.
THE CREW 2
With The Crew, Ubisoft Ivory Tower put a foundation into place that they could maximize on with future instalments, and while whether or not The Crew 2 fully realizes that potential is debatable, what isn’t debatable is that it’s still a damn fine game. The ability to switch between land, air, and water vehicles literally at the press of a button makes for an excellent mechanic that opens up free-roaming open world gameplay in The Crew 2 to a vast array of opportunities, and also leads to some excellent moments in event racers. There are issues with the game that hamper the experience, sure, but The Crew 2 is still a game you can sink dozens of hours in, issues and all.
FORZA HORIZON 4
Forza Horizon games have only been getting better with each successive instalment, to the point where a large number of people would even argue that the Horizon subseries is better even than the main Motorsport line of games. Forza Horizon 4 continues that upward trajectory, impossibly enough, and delivers not only one of the best games of this generation, but quite possibly one of the greatest racing games of all time. In Forza Horizon 4, there is never a shortage of things to do, with new racers, events, and challenges constantly popping up at a healthy rate, without ever getting repetitive or boring. Simple open world gameplay is also nothing short of blissful, while the mechanics of changing seasons, and how that changes the world itself as well, adds way more to the game that any of us could have imagined.
Italian studio Milestone has had a dominance over motorcycle racing games for a number of years now, but with RIDE 3, they might just have put out one of their best efforts yet. RIDE 3 is a marked improvement over its predecessors, thanks to its switch to a different engine, which it leverages to improve upon areas that needed improving, and also refine others that worked well enough before. RIDE 3’s love for motorbikes is something that shines through in every aspect of the game, driving the different kinds of bikes, participating in its vast array of activities throughout its career mode, and customizing every vehicle in your garage with the game’s deep customization tools, makes for an overall experience that spells some incredible things for the future of this franchise.
Made by the same team that has brought games such as MotorStorm and DriveClub to the masses, Onrush looked like a very different beast from the get go. By combining squad play with combat racing, Onrush is unlike anything the racing genre has ever given us, and its drive to do something new and different is commendable. What’s even more commendable is that it puts its money where its mouth is, and executes most of its outside the box ideas very well. Onrush hasn’t received nearly as much success on the commercial side of things as many feel it should have, and though the game didn’t launch without issues of its own, but in spite all that, it remains one of the better racing games we’ve played all year.
NASCAR HEAT 3
In a genre dominated by the likes of Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo, and F1, a racing sim has to make a pretty huge splash to be able to make its mark. Year on year, the NASCAR Heat series has been making gradual improvements in a bid to do just that, and in its third year, it’s come closer to doing that than ever before. NASCAR Heat 3 still has a lot of room for improvements, from physics and collisions to visuals and sound design, but it stands out as a marked improvements in a number of areas, such as the addictive challenge mode, and the heavily improved and engaging career mode. If the franchise can continue this upward trajectory, it would spell very good things for its future.
As is the case with most annual franchises, it’s hard to pinpoint any particular thing that F1 2018 does that sets it completely apart from its predecessor, but playing it at length reveals that with a combination of smart tweaks, minor improvements, and design changes, racing sim masterminds Codemasters have successfully delivered what is possibly the best game in a franchise full of excellent games. F1 2018 is a blissful experience on the track, with driving mechanics and simulation better than you’ll experience in most other games, and a suite of progression systems and other ancillary systems in the career mode that will keep you thoroughly engaged for a long, long time. It might not be a revolution in the racing genre, but it’s very nearly a perfection of everything that the F1 series has been about for the past few years.
GRIP: COMBAT RACING
GRIP Combat Racing is a title that you have to commend for trying things that have become less and less common in the racing genre as time has gone on. It is, true to its name, pure arcade, chaotic fun, and in an age where hyper-realistic racing simulators are a dime a dozen, there’s something refreshing about that. Issues arise with faulty online and technical deficiencies every now and then that cannot be denied, but at its core, GRIP is a game that can time and time again provide players with thrilling, memorable, and intense moments like few other racing titles have been able to do in recent years.
For the average person who doesn’t have a fanatical love for bikes or two wheeler motorsports, MotoGP 18 is a hard game to recommend, but for aficionados, there’s a lot to like here. It makes significant improvements over its predecessors by improving things such as physics and handling, which immediately makes for a much more enjoyable experience, while the career mode and its progression have also been improved significantly. There’s surely still a lot of room for improvement here, and even Milestone’s own RIDE 3 is an easier game to recommend to most people, but MotoGP 18 is a step in the right direction for the franchise.
Gravel is put fast-paced, arcade racing fun. When it’s at its best, it delivers solid and extremely enjoyable off-road racing gameplay the likes of which isn’t easily found in most racers these days, and for the many, many fans of that particular kind of racing games, Gravel has a lot to offer. There’s an argument to be made that Gravel isn’t nearly as full-featured as it should have been, and that it has issues with a lack of players to play with online, but a variety of racing types and events in single player, combined with solid driving mechanics make for a game you can still get plenty of enjoyment out of.
AND THE WINNER IS…
FORZA HORIZON 4
Playground Games have only gone from strength to strength with each new Forza Horizon game that they’ve created, and with Forza Horizon 4, they’ve taken the entire Forza franchise to unprecedented heights, and in the process made one of the best Xbox exclusives of all time. It exhibits a thorough understanding of what makes for an excellent open world game, and an excellent racing title, and combines those two things perfectly for an unforgettable experience. The sheer and simple act of driving around is fun, filling up your garage and decking out your cars with upgrades makes for excellent progression, there’s a vast variety of enjoyable and memorable events and races to participate in, and every time the season changes, a whole world of new gameplay opportunities opens up within the Horizon 4’s open world. Forza Horizon 4 isn’t only the best racing game of 2018, but also quite possibly one of the greatest racing games ever created.