I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: 2012 was the year of variety in the world of videogames as evidenced by the massive range of quality titles that not only approached the same genres in different ways, but also provided enough choice to satisfy all tastes.
The racing game genre was similarly affected by this diversity with games offering arcade and karting fun alongside rally experiences and realistic open-world racing. Here are the very best racers of 2012, all of which gave gamers wonderful and different opportunities to get their motors running:
Ridge Racer Unbounded
Namco (Bandai)’s series of arcade racers may be one of the longest running series around with well respected entries over the years, but developer Bugbear set out to create something new and fresh with Ridge Racer: Unbounded to revitalise the franchise, with the results being an enjoyable and destructive romp through the city of Shatter Bay.
Now able to careen through walls and chunks of the world, Ridge Racer: Unbounded still included classic drifting and drafting but rewarded carnage over skill, while an easy-to-use track editor allowed you to create and share your own racing playgrounds. A fun arcade racer that could act as a great diversion if you can pick it up cheaply.
The Forza MotorSport series is synonymous with realistic driving and real race circuits, but after four entries it was time for a shake up. Enter Forza Horizon from Playground Games, an ostensibly open-world exploration racer set in the deserts, canyons and surrounds of Colorado in the US.
While realism in the driving simulation was taken down by half a notch, Forza Horizon looks every bit as jaw-dropping as previous Forza games, this time with a light story to spur you along to better cars, more difficult challenges and greater rewards, all set to the beat of a carnival atmosphere.
Every year, the team at Codemasters manages to squeeze new features, details and realistic touches into the F1 series of racers, and F1 2012 is no different. Now in its third iteration, you would think the team would have run out of new things to add, but F1 2012 stands as the team’s most realistic and authentic F1 title to date, with all of the real world circuits, teams and racers from the season included.
Annual driving consultant Anthony Davidson even makes an appearance to teach newcomers how to navigate tricky corners and extract precious split-seconds out of their setup. It may sound trite to say it’s ‘the best yet,’ but it really is true of F1 2012 – fans of Formula One racing mustn’t go without!
Codemasters’ DiRT series is known for its off-road rally thrills and frantic point-to-point dashes across treacherous and tricky terrain around the world, but DiRT Showdown adopts a decidedly more urban approach to its locations and colour palettes with race types comprising regular racing, demolition events and skill-based ‘hoonigan’ challenges.
Included in the location change is a more arcade style of racing, which for purists is made up for with the potential for exciting multiplayer races, as well as the pure chaos that explodes during an event. It may not be the rally-based racing of DiRT that you know and love, but give Showdown a chance to impress you with its visuals and playful game modes and you’ll be hooked soon enough.
WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship
Without any stiff competition from Codemasters this year as far as rally racing is concerned, developer Milestone has seized the opportunity to fill the gap in 2012 with WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship, an officially licensed racer that’ll see you taking to dirt, tar and snow tracks around the world in real rally cars, while throwing those motors around corners and going flat out to defeat your rivals.
The WRC series has always been overshadowed by the more well-known DiRT series, so this year is definitely its time to shine and it does so with aplomb. If you’re missing a rally racer in your library, WRC 3 is the one to complete it.
When you’ve had your fill of the challenge of a realistic racer and you’ve suspended your sense of disbelief with more arcadey offerings, it’s time to get back to the basic, relentless entertainment of a good kart racer! LittleBigPlanet Karting exhibits all of the fun of this genre with additional options to customise your kart as well as create and share your own tracks with others around the world online while designing your very own power-ups, too.
Multiplayer gaming is also a big focus of LittleBigPlanet Karting and you’ll be able to play either split-screen with friends or online, with a range of special racing modes included to keep things fresh. Great family fun.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Sonic and his SEGA friends are finally treated to an excellent racing game of their own in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, which could be classified as an arcade-style title what with its incredibly creative and vibrant race tracks all set in the universe of a classic SEGA game, and each with its own unique challenges and chances to dominate opponents with well-timed power-ups.
The best thing about the game? Your vehicle of choice will transform at set periods to cope with changes in terrain, as solid ground makes way for water-based racing and a trip down a waterfall provides an opportunity for your ‘car’ to sprout wings as you fly through the remainder of the course. Multiplayer features allow for fun with friends, but the game’s extensive campaign challenges will keep you more than busy.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted
It’s Criterion’s Need For Speed: Most Wanted, and don’t you forget it! After dipping into the franchise with 2010’s Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Most Wanted is another re-imagining of the classic arcade racer, this time with a Burnout Paradise-esque open-world to explore, hundreds of activities and secrets to find, as well as the chance to drive any exotic motor you find lining the streets of Fairhaven City. Unlocking better, more effective parts for your cars will keep you competitive against the aggressive AI, as well as the extremely persistent police who are out for blood if you exceed the speed limit by even a kilometre.
Want another way to explore the meticulously created city? Why not take part in freeform multiplayer races while comparing your times and achievements with friends via the Autolog 2.0 social network feature? It’s addictive stuff!
Need For Speed: Most Wanted is fit to burst with features, with impressive visuals and a terrific soundtrack to match the eyeball-rattling speed and delight of urban racing.
If you enjoyed this feature, be sure to read the rest of El33tonline’s 2012 Buyer’s Guides (so far):