2014 was supposed to hold so much more for racing fans. Instead, Project Cars and the new-gen versions of F1 2014 were pushed back to next year, Driveclub (and even Forza Horizon 2, to a much lesser extent) launched with severe difficulties, and The Crew... well... let's just say that 2014 will be a year that Ubisoft should probably file under "must try harder".
In the end, the two best racing titles of the year came from the Wii U and the Vita!
What we said: Once you've wrangled the handling model, there's a solid driving game underneath it all with fun tracks to tear down at terrifying speeds as you zoom through the incredibly detailed environments. But if the netcode isn’t fixed soon, this’ll be an abandoned rusty roadside wreck by Christmas.
What we said: Any track racer can make overtaking feel exciting, but Forza Horizon 2 also makes driving an absolute joy in and of itself. Superb cars, gorgeous scenery and a generous economy make up for a few missteps, meaning that the first big automotive release of the season will also be one of the best of the year.
What we said: GRID Autosport isn't just an apology to irate franchise fans; it's an enormous and polished racer that caters to fans of practically any racing discipline. From TOCA and Formula 3 to street circuits and party games, online and solo, Autosport lets you race on your terms, even if it lacks personality off the track. One of Codies' last last-gen games is destined to be one of the biggest and best dedicated track racers of the last two years, though the PC version is likely the smarter buy.
What we said: Mario Kart 8 is a great example of how to keep a 20-odd year old franchise relevant. It isn't shy to give you what you've already had before with it's predictable racing fun. But conversely it also offers up so much more with this latest installment thanks to brilliant track design, item tweaking, customisation and a strong online offering to keep you coming back for more for months to come.
What we said: A fantastic racer that’s sped onto the Vita out of nowhere. So fast in fact that nobody has noticed it yet and the online multiplayer servers are all too quiet. There’s still a lot of fun in the extensive single-player modes though thanks to some delightful track design and the fun handling offered by the numerous vehicles available. You’ll not spend a better £4.99 this year.
What we said: The Crew's magnificent automotive American playground and high-octane multiplayer road trips are sensational, but the tragedy is that Ubisoft and Ivory Tower didn't know when to stop. Its irredeemably dreadful storyline, grim personality, invasive premium currency, miserly economy, deeply inconsistent event quality and always-on restrictions are all unnecessary yet wilfully sabotage what should have been a masterpiece. There's still fun to be had here, but approach in a deal with a crew of your own or steer well clear.
Winner: Mario Kart 8
Nintendo have done a great job with Mario Kart 8. They've managed to capture the familiarity of the Mario Kart franchise but throw in plenty of new tricks to keep things fresh. The anti-gravity mechanic, multiple routes and tactics, plentiful unlockable customisations, new items, MKTV, online customisation and tournaments and additional gamepad functionality build on an already solid base. What results is a game that is fun and familiar on one hand, but so new and deep on the other, that you'd be crazy if you didn't grab it with both.
What was your favourite racing game of 2014?