Favourite racing/driving games ?

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Mandrake
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Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Mandrake »

Hi Everyone,

I'm sure I'm not the only one of us that plays racing games,so thought it would be interesting to find out what racing games you guys play and enjoy... :)

There are a lot of driving games out there on the PC and consoles but a lot of them don't do anything for me - why ? Because so many have absolutely rubbish arcady physics or gimmicky gameplay...

I think I must be in the minority of gamers in general but for me a driving/racing game is all about the car physics/handling and "feel" of the driving, so I lean strongly towards the sim end of the spectrum (but not full sim, which is generally boring to play) while a lot of racing games are arcady with not even the slightest attempt at actual real car physics or handling simulation...

This includes games like most of the Need for Speed series, (particularly carbon which was awful) any of the Burnout series, split/second, driver san francisco, etc... in a lot of games physics and handling aren't simulated at all, front/rear wheel drive cars don't behave any differently, different cars feel much the same, you can take corners just about at a right angle, cars have ridiculous amounts of grip and then breakaway (if they can) in ridiculous ways, etc... for me this is no fun at all, but these type of games sell a lot, mainly to teenagers who haven't driven a car, let alone know how a car handles on the limit! :-D

For me a good racing game needs to have not only a decent physics/handling simulation but needs to feel "visceral" and exciting, give you a real sense of speed and a sense that you're balancing on the knife edge of keeping a car under control and that everything can and will go spectacularly wrong if you make just one small mistake at a critical time... :lol:

My list of favourite driving games is relatively short.

Contrary to what I said above, there was one Need for Speed game that did stand out for me, in fact I was hooked on it for quite a while a few years ago... and that's Need for Speed Underground 2 which came out in 2004 for PC and Xbox...

Yes it draws heavily on the fast and furious movie franchise for inspiration, involving the underground "tuner" scene, and a somewhat juvenile plot, and it was definitely not a sim racer by any stretch, (leaving heavily towards high power low grip slidey handling) but it did have a very detailed physics/handling model that was absent on all other need for speed games, a wide selection of cars with very different handling, (big/small front/rear wheel drive cars handled VERY differently) and the most extensive set of tuning and customisation options I've seen in any racing game to date.

A lot of the customisation was visual like body kits and so on but as well as engine/brake/transmission upgrades etc you could go right down to the minute detail of adjusting individual gear ratios, turbo boost and engine torque curves, suspension ride height, springing stiffness, damping, roll bar stiffness, front/rear diff power division on 4wd cars, front/rear brake balance and so on.

And all this stuff really did work and was simulated fairly well, you really could tune the handling balance of the car between understeer/oversteer, and achieve things like oversteer on braking by deliberately playing with the front/rear brake and suspension balance etc. To progress through the game you really did need to do some amount of tuning as well, as you were often trying to win races with a car that was barely up to the job so getting the gear ratios right for the type of driving, tuning the suspension etc was necessary to win races...

A lot of fun having that much control, although the fact that none of the later NFS games had this amount of tuning ability suggests that it was too complex for the general game playing population, so they dumbed down both the tuning and handling/physics model in later games in the series...

The game also managed to give a really good sense of speed thanks to a blur effect, sound effects and a "nitrous boost" option. Normally I don't like nitrous boost in driving games as its a bit of a cop out, but in this game it works...at high speed dodging in and out of traffic you get a good sense of tension that one mistake is going to end your race in a spectacular fashion...

On the down side there was no vehicle damage at all, either visual or mechanical, so you would tend to take risks like using side rails to help you get around corners etc, and do lots of nudging and shoving of other cars... :twisted:

Moving on to the more modern games I think my favourites would by far and away be the Codemasters series, made right here in the UK. :)

This includes Race driver Grid, Dirt 1, 2, and 3. They also released a couple of F1 games which I've only just briefly tried the demos, and have Grid 2 out in a few months time.

When I first got an Xbox 360 a few years ago I was looking around for a racing game to get and a friend suggested Grid, by the time I got an Xbox Grid was already 3 years old so was on discount so I grabbed it, and I was glad I did.

Absolutely excellent game especially for 2007, outstanding graphics, wide selection of cars and racing categories, a good selection of real and make believe tracks, a good career mode, but most of all the feel of the game is great, extremely "visceral" for lack of a better word. Compared to later codemasters games the handling model is a bit on the arcady side to be fair, and that is noted in some of the reviews, but the game is so great in other ways that it can be overlooked.

It's a very challenging and unforgiving game (I've still not completed it 3 years later because it got too difficult and I didn't want to cop out and go down to easy difficulty :lol: ) as you're often going very fast in very tight tracks and the slightest mistake usually causes a loss of control that results in a spectacular crash that ends the race, unlike Need for Speed Underground 2 where you can bounce the car off anything without damage even a modest bump does serious damage to your car which damages the engine or steering, and a good thump totals the car in a sudden and bone chilling fashion. Fortunately they introduced a "rewind" system which has since been copied in a lot of other racing games, but I believe Grid was the first to have it.

I skipped over Dirt 1 after trying the demo as I found it a bit lacking in the physics/handling - where Grid got away with a simpler physics model because it was primarily high grip tarmac racing, Dirt is primarily dirt and gravel racing, and that showed up the simple handling model a lot more as you're in a constant state of slip in off road racing so you really do have to model the physics properly for it to feel right.

The next game in their series I got was Dirt 2 which has simply fabulous graphics, is centered around off road racing instead of track/street racing like Grid, and has a vastly improved physics/handling model that is now getting very close to sim level quality. This is the first off road racer I've played that can claim to have got the handling/physics really right, and it really makes the game for me. The level of attention to detail on the cars is also amazing. When watching a replay you can literally see every part of the suspension moving over the bumps, particularly the off road buggy type vehicles...and even see the glint and reflection off the wheel rims...

There is a mixture of rallying, rallycross, and also buggy/monster truck racing, with a good career mode. My main criticism of Dirt 2 is that they went a bit overboard in the whole American X-Games and Monster truck theme... the actual traditional WRC style rallying component of the game which was a large part of Dirt 1 was only a small part of Dirt 2, maybe 40% of the game, with a lot of monster truck and stadium racing, and although it did incorporate traditional rallying there was no official WRC backing so none of the recognisable WRC cars or teams, despite it having a better rallying simulation than the official WRC games...there was also a bit of an odd selection of cars - some of the cars in the game were really not rally style cars and were a bit out of place in the game. The engine sound of some of the cars was also a bit weak and not convincing sounding.

Next up was Dirt 3, the graphics and handling/physics model seem identical to Dirt 2 (eg, exceptional) but the emphasis has gone heavily back to WRC style rallying with that being the majority of the game, and they now have official WRC backing which means that there are actual WRC cars in the game including Sebastian Loeb's WRC C4. :-D

I think if you're a fan of WRC rallying (as I was, although I haven't kept up with in the last few years) then Dirt 3 is the game to get. As well as the modern cars like the current crop of WRC cars there is a massive selection of classic rally cars including minis and the infamous Group B Audi Quattro, which is insanely powerful and aggressive to drive.

The graphics, handling/physics, engine sounds, car selection, tracks are all outstanding in Dirt 3, and it's probably my overall current favourite racing game, although I think Dirt 2 comes a close second due to liking particular tracks in that game. If I had one small complaint about Dirt 3 it would be that the career progression is a bit simplistic and lacking compared to Grid and Dirt 2, but for me having the physics/handling right is more important.

There are a few tracks that are tarmac or have tarmac sections and the handling feels outstanding in Dirt 3 on these sections as well, so I'm really looking forward to Grid 2 which will be a followup to Grid in theme but with the far superior handling model from Dirt 3 :)

Other racing games I've played that I'm a bit more ambivalent about are ones like the Forza series - I have Forza 3, Forza Horizon and have tried the Demo of Forza 4, but there is something missing in them for me. If I compare Forza 3 or 4 to Dirt 2/3 they feel very sterile - the Forza games are often held up as being "sim racers" but I just don't get that impression from them.

To me the handling in Forza 3 and 4 feels poor - the cars feel very heavy and planted solidly to the ground, move very smoothly, the steering is very slow and unresponsive, bumping or crashing into other cars feels like there is no real physics interaction between them, and it seems very difficult to crash...if you go too fast around a corner most cars seem to devolve into plow on understeer despite being rear wheel drive cars, with it being almost impossible to spin the car around and lose control etc, it just doesn't feel real at all to me, it feels more like you're on rails.

Compare that to Dirt 3 and the contrast is huge - cars in Dirt 3 are very responsive to the point of being a bit twitchy, the steering is very sharp, they respond to every little bump they hit, if you knick a mound of dirt on a tight corner it can throw that corner of the car up in the air easily lead to you fish tailing out of control or rolling the car, in other words all the spectacular crashes you see on actual WRC rallying can and do happen to you in Dirt 3.

Forza Horizon is something of an improvement over 3/4 although to be honest it looks like they've just tried to clone Dirt 3 right down to the music and menu structure... Forza Horizon's handling feels a bit more real to me than Forza 3/4 but at the end of the day its a very sterile and overly smooth feeling handling compared to Dirt 3 where its seat of your pants stuff and full loss of control is only a moment away at any time. You look like you're driving on a rally road but the car responds as if its a smooth tarmac road... I don't think I've managed to flip a car in Forza horizon yet, whereas its a common occurance in Dirt 3 if you get too friendly with the bank on the side of the road :-D

I have two other games that are not racing games that deserve special mention for at least attempting to incorporate car physics and handling into them. Those of you who play games will know that nearly all games that include car driving but for which car driving is not the object of the game have absolutely rubbish car handling which can seriously detract from the gameplay.

One that springs to mind is Alan Wake, which has some brief car driving sections with absolutely awful car physics to the point that just getting from A to B is an exercise in frustration...another game where driving is a bit more important is LA Noire, which has absolutely awful car physics that distracts from the game and causes you to fail missions because the physics is so bad.

This is par for the course with driving in non-driving games but two notable exceptions I've found are Grand Theft Auto 4, and Mafia 2...

Obviously there is a lot of driving in GTA 4, but it's not a driving game, its an open world city based crime/mayhem game...the handling of most of the cars in GTA 4 is very sloppy, lots of suspension travel and body roll in particular on all but the sports cars, and most of the cars feel very heavy, but then again it is set in fictional New York so heavy rollypoly cars might actually be close to the mark :lol: The point is whilst the tuning of the cars is towards cars that roll a lot and don't have a lot of grip, nor particularly good acceleration or braking, they have done a really good job of modelling the physics, the cars all have a lot of suspension travel that you can see working realistically, tyre grip and transfer of weight is accurately modelled, and unlike many games where you can take corners at incredible speeds you do actually have to slow down to a reasonable speed to get around a corner... :lol: physics modelling of pedestrians and other objects is also very well done. So hats off to rockstar when all the other GTA clone games have absolutely rubbish car physics.

Mafia 2 was also a pleasant surprise - another open world(ish) crime game, set in the 1940's, the period cars are actually a joy to drive and more realistic than many actual driving games, I had a lot of fun just getting from A to B through the city in the game because the handling of the cars felt quite realistic, engine sounds were good etc... so hats off there too...

So, what are YOUR favourite driving/racing games ? :)

evilally
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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by evilally »

I haven't played games for a while, I did own a playstation 1 & 2 for the sole purose of playing Gran Tourismo (I didn't own any other games). Without doubt, the best physics I have ever seen in a driving game is one called "Live for Speed". It doesn't have flash graphics or a techno soundtrack, but if you want accurate physics you must must try it out.

http://www.lfs.net/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It makes a mockery of everything else in my opinion. It also deserves investment in a decent force feedback wheel. I haven't played it for many years, but I assume it's just as good!

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Citroening
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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Citroening »

Back in the good ol' days, Need for Speed Underground 2 was always my favourite - I'm not going to dare think about how long I spent on that game. Unfortunately nowadays though, I just don't really get the opportunity firsty due to time, but also that I decided to sell the PS2! :lol: However, I did keep a few games "just in case" and one was NFSU2.

It really was a cracking game with so many different options for modifications etc. Definitely one of my favourites. Wonder if they'll bring out a NFSU3?

As tech has moved on I have Real Racing 2 on the iPhone which was quite good. I've now got Real Racing 3 on the iPad, and coupled to the Retina Display it is very good indeed. I've not spent too much time on it but there's lots of nice tracks and the Time Lapsed Multiplayer works well too.

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Post by addo »

My favourite games are real life ones; the first is to trick your adjacent motorist into a false start at the red lights - especially when there's a red light camera at the intersection. The second is "reaction time" - who is first over the stop line once the lights turn green. Who needs a Porta-Tree? :twisted:

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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Northern_Mike »

I was never a great gamer. However GP2, GP3 and GP4 by Codemasters/Geoff Crammond were undoubtedly the best driving sims ever in my view. Played them all for weeks, nay months on end.. brilliant. The level of technical car configuration was far above anything else I've ever seen and each tiny change made a difference as you'd expect it to.

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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Northern_Mike »

addo wrote:My favourite games are real life ones; the first is to trick your adjacent motorist into a false start at the red lights - especially when there's a red light camera at the intersection. The second is "reaction time" - who is first over the stop line once the lights turn green. Who needs a Porta-Tree? :twisted:
I'm with you on this Addo. Real life is much more fun than gaming. Winning "reaction time" is easy. I stop a cars length, maybe more behind the line and go hard on amber. I still cross the line on green so no cameras get me but I'm already moving 30-40kmh.. it's most effective doing it in the wrong car. 2cv, Reliant Robin etc...

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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Xaccers »

Two that spring to mind are Revs for the BBC


And sega ralley, which we had at uni, and I was quite good at it throwing the car around corners and spinning across the winning line. People tended not to ask for lifts home if they saw me playing it!
Did see two Chinese students playing it as though they were doing their driving test, feeding the steering wheel through their hands etc and of course slamming into the walls as you really needed to throw it about :)

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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by red_dwarfers »

I don't really play computer games, if I do then not for very long. One of my favourite game series though is Lotus Turbo Challenge on the Amiga. Fantastic music and just enough difficultly to keep me interested without getting bored. And I get to drive around in a 90s Lotus 8-)

The music:


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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by myglaren »

Last computer game I played was "Jet Set Willy" on the Spectrum :? 1987-ish.

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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Northern_Mike »

red_dwarfers wrote:I don't really play computer games, if I do then not for very long. One of my favourite game series though is Lotus Turbo Challenge on the Amiga. Fantastic music and just enough difficultly to keep me interested without getting bored. And I get to drive around in a 90s Lotus 8-)

The music:


I'd forgotten this Kev, me and my brother used to play this for ages on the Atari ST520 we had! Brilliant game.

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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Mandrake »

red_dwarfers wrote:I don't really play computer games, if I do then not for very long. One of my favourite game series though is Lotus Turbo Challenge on the Amiga. Fantastic music and just enough difficultly to keep me interested without getting bored. And I get to drive around in a 90s Lotus 8-)

The music:

Ah yes, I do vaguely remember that game :) Its incredible how much racing games have progressed in the last 20 years...compare that clip to this crash clips compilation from Dirt 3 :) (the music isn't from the game btw, it was added by whoever did the compilation)


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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Sid_the_Squid »

For me current racing games/sims I play.
Race driver grid (tons of fun but not that realistic handling, best damage model ever!)
Forza 3 (awesome, more realistic handling)
Forza 4 (same as above with slightly better graphics and more cars)

Historically my favorite racing games/sims
Gran Turismo 4, the tutorial of the game where you had to earn your license to race was genius, really taught me a lot about cornering theory, one big thing that is missing in forza series.
Need for speed most wanted
Need for speed underground
Need for speed Porsche 2000 (kick started my love of porsches)
Need for speed 1 (lamborghini diablo VT)

I'm a bit of a gamer ;)

Tried Dirt 3, didn't like it.

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Post by addo »

Northern_Mike wrote:...I stop a cars length, maybe more behind the line and go hard on amber. I still cross the line on green so no cameras get me but I'm already moving 30-40kmh.. it's most effective doing it in the wrong car. 2cv, Reliant Robin etc...
Yes, the RT game is best won with a slug, you can even give the "loser" a jaunty toot as they rush past, humiliated. It's awesome when you can do it to them multiple times, too.

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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Northern_Mike »

Yep. I had to deliver my grandfather's car to a dealer after he passed away. It was a 3-wheeler Reliant Robin. I did exactly as you say, repeatedly, to a guy in a Mercedes (probably a C-Class, this would be 2001) at many sets of lights as we went through Rochdale in the North West.

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Re: Favourite racing/driving games ?

Post by Citroening »

Citroening wrote:I've now got Real Racing 3 on the iPad, and coupled to the Retina Display it is very good indeed. I've not spent too much time on it but there's lots of nice tracks and the Time Lapsed Multiplayer works well too.
Here's a few screen grabs of it on the iPad - obviously the clarity is as clear as your monitor but it's very good...

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