The racing games this year weren't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but quite frankly the line up below shows one thing very clearly indeed: Criterion, we love you, and we need you to be making Burnout games again. The industry needs you!
Also that Polyphony really ought to make the next-gen jump, and we need Mario Kart 8 like fish need water.
But as stated above, that doesn't mean this year's offerings were bad at all. In fact there was a decent variety of racing titles out there, especially if you owned more than one platform.
F1 2013 provides a very good formula one driving experience both to veterans and newcomers alike. Its gentle introduction, tweakable driving aids and different single and multiplayer modes mean there is something for everybody. However the similarity to its predecessor may mean that those having experience of F1 2012 won’t find enough here – despite the allure of classic cars and tracks – to tempt them away from what they know, and more importantly to part with their hard-earned cash.
This graphically exquisite and mechanically impeccable racer shows off the Xbox One to advantage, but ends up slightly hamstrung by a lack of tracks and inconsiderate progression system. The all-important cars are more beautiful than ever, handle better than ever, yet some of the series' magic and generosity of spirit is gone. Quality is a kind of value, though, and Forza 5 oozes it from every hyper-detailed, lustrously reflective, painstakingly-simulated pore. A brilliant launch title, then, but needs work to become a true successor to Forza 4.
Gran Turismo 6
If you're looking for a driving simulator, then Polyphony deliver the goods once again with Gran Turismo 6. The damage modelling is laughable, and we'd love to see the series make the jump to next-gen platforms, but GT6 was the only game this serve up a petrolhead banquet of hundreds of cars with unique, bespoke handling models, and a wealth of truly expansive customisation options that allowed you to get under the hood and tinker away to your heart's content.
GRID 2 isn't interested in making new friends or pandering to an audience that doesn't get skin-of-the-teeth racing. It lines you up with a whole bunch of personality-ridden vehicles and dares you to tame them in a game that offers a rich and varied content diet. It demands that you follow its rules and then challenges you to be the best. And it's a lot of fun, even if it does play it safe much of the time.
Need For Speed: Rivals is an exhilarating thrill ride that's very nearly brilliant. The foundations for fun are present and correct, but last-gen compromises transform AllDrive from a game changer into a nigh-on dealbreaker. Then again, "nearly brilliant" is just another way of saying "very good indeed." There's no shame in that.
Best Driving/Racing Game 2013 | F1 2013
We didn't really want to hand this award out to anyone, really. Most of the games have fairly glaring flaws that knock the shine off of otherwise exemplary experiences. In GRID 2, the lack of a cockpit cam proved unforgivable; in Forza V, the microtransactions shoehorned into the game upset the delicate balance that Turn 10 perfected on last-gen tech; Need for Speed Rivals' promise is almost totally undermined by the lack of simultaneous players and empty game world; and outside of the handling models, Gran Turismo 6 is a sterile experience with damage modelling that would embarrass dodgems.
Thankfully, Codemasters quietly got on with it this year, further refining their excellent Formula One franchise, adding in a host of classic cards and tracks (with daredevil-enticing, computer-free handling for the older vehicles), and making the series more accessible. Mid-GP saves meant that for the first-time, you could venture through a whole season in pick-up-and-play fashion. It's still on of the most rewarding, engrossing, detailed, exhilarating, and challenging franchises in the genre. Codemasters know what their niche is, and this year they came out firing on all cylinders.
So there you have it. That's our victor in the driving/racing category, but what about yours? Cast your votes and let us know your thoughts below.