Forza Motorsport 7
The Forza Motorsport franchise has long been a cornerstone exclusive title for both the Xbox platform, and the Microsoft brand at large. It’s the best-selling simulation-grade racing game on the Xbox platform and, for the most part, is remarkably successful in remaining a challenge for new players to the genre and more experienced racers alike. It might not be the ultra-realistic in its car handling model, but it sure comes pretty close.
Topped off with a truly expansive list of cars and tracks, dynamic weather, and vastly improved graphics and lighting – this is truly an essential game to have for the Xbox-owning serious car-nut. As a Microsoft Exclusive the Xbox is the only console out there that'll give you that Forza Motorsport 7 experience.
Forza Horizon 4
Forza Motorsport’s open-world offshoot, Horizon, steps away from real-world circuits and instead offers a more mainstream arcade-like street racing experience. But before you fret, this is open-world racing done right!
The fourth instalment is back-dropped by the expansive Welsh countryside and, while the car list isn’t quite as incredible as Forza Motorsport 7, there are still around 650 cars (with more being added constantly) to choose from. And your choice to race them either on and off the tarmac, give Forza Horizon 4 a truely broad appeal. It's good arcadey fun, but avoids being cartoonishly unrealistic as well. Regular updates are constantly adding more cars and game modes too, so there's heaps of longevity in this one.
Project Cars 2
If you’re an absolute track-rat wanting something more serious than Forza Motorsport, Project Cars 2 may be what you’re looking for. Launched in late 2017 as the dreaded ‘second album’ to the much-loved crowd-funded debut for the Project Cars franchise; PC2 was bugged by “weird handling quirks”, as described by dep-Ed of Motor Magazine, and our IRL oversteer expert, Scott Newman.
A 60GB update later and PC2 has become a top-shelf sim-racer that offers a level of depth to satisfy the most serious of motorsport nerds; as well as a vast array of tracks and racing codes from historic F1 to modern day LMP Prototypes.
Codemaster’s DiRT 4 is the modern archetype of beloved bygone games like Colin McRae’s rally series or the old WRC games. It brings an improved array of track sections and stages – even utilising AI to auto-generate a virtually endless selection of configurations – as well as contemporary lighting and graphics that hold their own amongst the current generation of racing games.
Gameplay wise, it’s still angled at mainstream approachability with the option of two physics modes: ‘simulation’ and ‘gamer’, but offers an expansive career mode and a car list that is suitably varied between beloved historic racers, and more modern machinery.
Dirt Rally 2.0
If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool rally-nut; you may find the mainstream Dirt series a little watered down for you. Dirt Rally 2.0 offers a far more white-knuckled and unforgiving experience aimed at more proficient (or ambitious) rally simulator players. There’s no in-game training school like Dirt 4; you’re thrown straight in the deep end here. And you’ll likely be crashing big when you first start, but with a steeper learning curve comes greater satisfaction.
The career mode isn’t as extensive or fleshed out, but the driving mechanics are significantly more detailed and realistic, nuanced down to how well you weight up nose the car on corner entry. If you’re serious about going fast off road, this is your game.
F1 2019 arrived ten years after Codemasters formally acquired the F1 licence and launched its first foray into Formula 1 with F1 2009. There have been highs and lows, but the current installment of F1 2019 is undoubtedly its most polished and best yet.
The big news was the inclusion of F2 for this game, which can either be played in isolation, or as a tie in to the mammoth ten-season career mode. It’s the most accurate representation of the F1 circus, and the racing is equally as intense. It's also currently the simulator-of-choice for the official F1 Virtual Grand Prix which, given the current state of the global Coronavirus pandemic, has essentially replaced the actual F1 Grand Prix season.
Need for Speed: Heat
The latest rendition of your favourite outlaw racing game is like a cross between the old NFS Underground series (still not as good though), and Most Wanted’s thrilling police chase system.
It’s definitely the most cohesive game since the franchise’s controversial 2015 reboot, and the car customisation is unrivalled for those who enjoy creating unique virtual vehicles. It’s not without its quirks, and the thoroughly arcade-like physics may not be for everyone; but until another game lets you put Voltex aero and Car Shop Glow taillights on an FD-series RX-7, this is still the game to have for you late-model ‘tuners’ out there.
Assetto Corsa was released on Xbox back in 2016 after numerous delays. It’s more online-competition-focused stablemate, Assetto Corsa Competizione is due to hit consoles in June of this year, so is the celebrated sim still worth looking at?
For serious sim-seekers; yes! Assetto Corsa continues to offer one of the most realistic and true-to-life driving experiences available on the platform, and if you’re a fan of PC2, this is certainly one to add to the collection. The opponent AI have their moments, and the track selection isn’t huge – but the game is something to be commended for a relatively small indie game house without the backing of triple-A developers. This is a game that knows (and listens) to their players; and whose magic is felt most in the pure heat of door-to-door racing.
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