7 upcoming racing games jockeying for position

Whether you’re looking for horsepower-perfect simulations or futuristic car-combat, 2010 is already set to be the year of great racers. From realistic licensed rides and formula one racers to cartoony customized characters and arcadey powerups, a slew of four (and two) wheeled machines are roaring for your attention. Which ones will rev your RPMs? Peruse our garage menu, and feast your gear-brain on these lovely speed-junkies…

Gran Turismo 5

An alternative look at Sony’s anticipated, delayed racer

This geologically-measurable wait is the spiritual sequel to the highly regarded long delay to GT4. And we hardly need mention that PS3 GT was really first mooted in the early Triassic. The press release is on display in the Natural History Museum, balled up in a fossilised forest.

Only joking. We love love. And this is what Gran Turismo is about. The love of one man – Kazunori Yamauchi, the big cheese at Polyphony Digital – for cars. Slow, fast, off-road, on-road, petrol, hybrid or electric, he doesn’t care. Is it okay for a man to love something metal? Completely, and just a bit sleeplessly? Of course, so long as it’s never consummated. Consider. The fourth game featured a wooden-wheeled ‘Patent Motor Wagon’ from 1886. No joke. Polyphony was so proud it released screenshots. It had one horsepower. It was slower than one horse, yet there it was. Yamauchi loves cars. Do you?

What this series has never been about, at least so far, is a love of racing. It’s been the F1 to its competitors’ bumper cars – untouchably advanced, creeping in its progress and strangely undynamic. It’s all about the technology. This may change, but on the evidence of Prologue, we’d be surprised. The bare facts imply an increasing obsession: over 950 cars, the return of Photo Mode, the ability to export replays to YouTube and PSP. It has Ferraris, Lamborghinis, a full Nascar field… these are the headlines for Polyphony. Not the racing.

However, it has moved on. There’s a reasonable damage model now, plus moveable objects – barriers, cones, lines of nuns – and an online mode far superior to Prologue’s Fisher Price effort which, legend has it, actually ran in the mind of a sleeping cat. Wait. Not lines of nuns; zebra crossings. It does, of course, look sensational. Turn away from GT5 and your sofa, your terrible curtains, and the pleading faces of your loved ones will seem boxy and low res.

So, if you love cars like Kaz Yamauchi, GT5 will be the wet patch in your bed of motoring roses. Sure, Polyphony is adding dynamism, and needs to, but accusations of ‘sterile’ environments miss an important point – nobody can create twisting roads as brilliantly as Polyphony. GT’s fictional circuits are better than its licensed ones and often a match for that Jesus of tracks, the Nordschleife. Which is here too, by the way. Almost 1000 perfect cars and many perfect circuits (out of 70) surely mean motoring – if not strictly racing – heaven.

F1 2010

All the realism you’d expect with… a lifestyle simulator?

F1 2010 promises to deliver all the standard must-haves of a plushly licensed sports sim. That means realistic depictions of all teams and drivers involved in the current season, plus 19 minutely detailed circuits. The comprehensive Career mode lets you follow a driver’s whole competitive life as he swaps from team to team, or you can choose to choreograph the rise of a single manufacturer. EA’s short-lived PC sim F1 Challenge would be proud.

The boasts about the racing experience are also familiar. Codemasters say to expect palm-sweating wheel-to-wheel action against AI drivers that reflect the genuine strengths and weaknesses of their real-life counterparts. You’ll need to watch your competitors, learn where they get things wrong (breaking too early on corners and so on) and adopt that knowledge into your strategy. Crucially too, Codemasters want to get away from the accepted idea of arcade and sim modes.

Their theory is, if they make the handling ‘authentic, predictable and persistent’ all gamers can learn to drive like Hamilton without having to feel they need a PhD in vehicle dynamics. So you’ll need to cope with tyre blisters and marbles, while deciding whether its worth using the engine management system to boost your performance for a crucial overtake (it could knacker the motor and you’re only allowed eight a season).

Our hands-on test drive confirms this is the real deal – a twitchy handling experience that will see your car spin out into the grit if you so much as look at a corner in the wrong way. But then the wonderful acceleration, a generous slipstream model and pin-point steering physics also let you blast back into contention before prodding and pushing your way through the pack. It’s hardly the intuitive thrills of the Colin McRae series, but it feels like more fun than most of the po-faced entries in the F1 archive. Plus, the visual style has that trademark, gritty, slightly washed out patina of the latest Codies titles, rather than the glaring yawn-inducing realism we expect from sports sims.

And of course, this is Codemasters – a developer that loves to tweak the racing genre. Their catchphrase for the game is ‘be the driver, live the life’, which means you’ll be able to wander around the paddock areas, flirt with the media in post-race press briefings and use your agent to get you a better team. You also need to watch your greatest rival – your teammate – as you’re competing for the best upgrades and preferential treatment. Sadly, living the life doesn’t appear to involve dating popstars, though. Perhaps that’s being saved for the DLC.

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  • reveffect - May 5, 2010 3:05 a.m.

    come on people just admit that the only reason that most of you are already siding with split second is because it looks better. trust me once you play both of the games and actually consider how the game play works in both of them blur clearly comes out on top. the only thing that split/second has going for it are its graphics and explosions. even real die hard fans of the burnout games and sim racing fans are saying that they prefer blur over S/S. some of the reasons were that in S/S they almost encourage you to stay behind the pack because there are no defensive moves or powerplays that you can pull off if you happen to be in first where as in blur there are both offensive and defensive power ups and moves that you can pull off. blur is also basicly the mario kart game for non wii owners so if you like mario kart like games but dont want to buy a wii just to play them then blur is a good choice. blur also has more of a fun factor than S/S to the point where even if your losing in blur you are still most likely going to be having fun. the races are more unpredictable in blur where as in S/S it seems like the power plays dont really change no matter how many times you run the track its the same animation. S/S has some good ideas but there are still some things missing that would make it better. yes i know that sega all stars is also a mario kart like game that is available on other consoles as well. anyways i cant say everything that some people have already said about the difference between the two since this is too long already. if you guys still think that s/s is better after playing both then thats your opinion and im not going to force you to change it. this is just another case of people judging a book by its cover with out seeing whats behind all of the pretty graphics and large explosions. dont get me wrong i will still get s/s its just that its not a first day buy for me like blur is. i would much rather wait for the price to drop on s/s or rent it.
  • lilyeister - May 5, 2010 2:32 a.m.

    woww, 950 cars? does anybody know where i could find a list? if there's a noble or a spyker in there suddenly the wait seems worth it
  • Vercetti - May 5, 2010 2:21 a.m.

    Looking forward to F1 2010. Hopefully it will be a good racer.
  • philipshaw - May 4, 2010 2:17 p.m.

    Read this in PSM3 last month and Split/Second looks awesome!
  • Spybreak8 - May 4, 2010 9:15 a.m.

    I hope Codemasters hits F1 out of the park, I highly enjoyed Grid and I just love F1 cars. I'll pick up Split/Second eventually but I think I'll be spending my mula on Red Dead Redemption.
  • CH3BURASHKA - May 4, 2010 5:15 a.m.

    Split/Second > all others. At this point, GT5 is now a pity-purchase - enthusiasm has waned, and it's more of a museum piece than a legitimate vidja gam.
  • GodofPS314 - May 4, 2010 2:04 a.m.

    Modnation Racers!!! i have never been a huge racer fan but I love me some Littlebigplanet!
  • Cyberninja - May 4, 2010 12:12 a.m.

    when GT5 is released i will kick a puppy so i am guessing never
  • Pocotron - May 3, 2010 9:15 p.m.

    Ah ModNation... Why do you have to look so fucking awesome everyone I see you? ...this would explain the boner... ReCaptcha: eternal aflame They know my love for the game is eternal!
  • michaelmcc827 - May 3, 2010 8:41 p.m.

    I'm super excited for Blur and TDU2...I really can't see what all the fuss is about Split/Second, I actually thought the demo was horrible, wasn't fun or inspiring at all, it seems people are praising the idea rather than the actual gameplay. Also, I don't really see how GT gets by with "Oh, but it's for car lovers". Forza was released last year, and already has a much bigger features list with extremely comparable graphics and a tuning system unrivaled by GT...guess nostalgia wins over for some people.
  • Rhymenocerous - May 3, 2010 7:51 p.m.

    Meh. I want a new Wipeout. Or maybe Micro Machines.
  • ensabahnur - May 3, 2010 6:46 p.m.

    Definitely gonna get Split Second
  • crumbdunky - May 3, 2010 4:43 p.m.

    After GTPSP was so panned by critics I was amazed to find it refusing top leave my handheld for any reason at all so far since jumping in late last year and if GT5 is anything like as addictive(in a gets-better-the-more-you-play way)then the wait MIGHT well be worth it.Suerbkies are also not on my fave list. TDU2 has some incredibly slick ideas and will be watching what actually makes it into a decent game feature but having played a bit of the beta I have to say I'm actually more interested in MNR than any of the others(even as a confessed GT fantard). From what I played(and not going into all the creation options/side of things which is also massive)it manages to avoid the chief annoyance of MKWii by toning down that rubberbanding AI and last minute Blue Shell/lightning effect and reward skill a little better. Sure, the power ups/weapons do take their toll but it's not nearly so arbitrary as MKWii and leaves you feeling more that you earned your victory/eighth place. Funnily, I had zero interest BEFORE actually having a go too! Dunno about which(if either) of the B.lur/S/S battle will turn out OK but I'm still interested. Can't be arsed with F1 and have played too many WRC games in different guises to care anymore.
  • Spacegrass - May 3, 2010 3:49 p.m.

    I'm really looking forward to GT5's Nascar mode; who wants to drive an Italian supercar on the world's most amazing tracks, when you can make left turns in a Monte Carlo for a few hours instead? Sarcasm aside, I'll probably get it for the 950 cars; are there even that many in real life? Blur and TDU2 also look promising, but I can't get excited for split/second because it doesn't have real cars, or split-screen apparently.
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - May 3, 2010 3:27 p.m.

    I'd still prefer to get Blur. And I'm SO getting ModNation Racers... It looks so fucking good! :D
  • Metroidhunter32 - May 3, 2010 2:22 p.m.

    No mention of hope for a new F-0?
  • Turboash - May 3, 2010 1:55 p.m.

    Can not wait for GT5! I'm such a fanboy of that series!
  • EnragedTortoise1 - May 3, 2010 1:28 p.m.

    ModNationRacers for me. Split/Second if I have enough money.
  • Wolverine08 - May 3, 2010 1:10 p.m.

    Gran turismo is going to be in alot of trouble against all those other promising racers, but I think it'll pull through. But, I'm sorry, Blur just doesn't grab me at all. I'm all for OTT action, but to be it's just a bit silly, it can't make it's mind up whether it's a simulation or a mature Mario Kart. For me, if it ever comes out, GT5 will win ( also does anyone on GR know any info or hints at when GRID 2 will be out, if ever?)
  • WrathLord03 - May 3, 2010 10:54 a.m.

    Ok, read it. Not as much of a fan as racing games as I was, but I am looking forward to Split/Second (Velocity). I don't like realistic ones, mostly because I'm horrible at them, but anything that does the same thing as NFS: Most Wanted (re invent the casual racer) is on my list. In my opinion, Split/Second combines explosions and cars, which is already a winner, and all its missing is realistic damage and a physics tweak...which is actually a lot. @OnxyOblivion: perfect for ruining someone's game plan, and after playing GT2, 3 and 4 I'm become a bit weary of it - the wait DEFINITELY hasn't helped. @NorwegianKingOfNames: As long as I make an actual comment, I think I have redeemed myself.