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Catching Up With Next-Gen’s Racing Games

Detailed car models and sprawling tracks make racing games great demonstrations of a console’s power. No new console generation is complete without a few racers to show off. The impending launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One come with a bevy of choices for gearheads. Microsoft’s exclusive Forza 5 injects a new physics system into its detailed sim. Sony’s DriveClub combines social networks and racing, while Gran Turismo 6 developer Polyphony Digital contemplated a seventh entry for PS4. Third parties are also in the mix, with the cross-country drives of Ubisoft’s The Crew, and the heated pursuits of Need for Speed Rivals. Here’s a rundown of what each game is bringing to the table for next-gen.

Forza Motorsport 5
Release: November 

Platform: Xbox One

Microsoft’s exclusive Xbox One racer shows off the system’s power by continuing with the series’ attention to detail while adding in a revamped physics engine. Vehicles now have suspension systems independent of the car’s frame. This allows for open-wheel cars like rally cars in Fortza 5. Another new key element of Forza 5 is the Driveatar, which is a cloud-based service that saves your driving habits and uploads an AI approximation of you for your friends to drive against. The Top Gear guys are also back for this installment to add some color.

DriveClub
Release: November 15

Platform: PlayStation 4

This social network-minded racer is being developed by Evolution, the team behind the MotorStorm series. Players can use either the Dual Shock 4 or the Vita's remote play fuction, which increases your opportunities to accrue a bunch of points for your crew. Points unlock new cars and tracks. You can keep up with your buddies’ lap times and progress by using DriveClub’s social network integration. PlayStation Plus members can download it for free on November 15, the PS4’s launch day. The free version won’t have all the tracks and cars that come on the retail disc (microtransactions are supported), but game director Col Rogers says it’s still a great deal.

Gran Turismo 6
Release: December 6 (PlayStation 3), TBA (PlayStation 4)

Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4

The sixth entry in this legendary Sony racing series is on the way to the PlayStation 3 on December 6. Developer Polyphony Digital is at work on a PS4 version of the game, but says that iteration could evolve into Gran Turismo 7 depending on how development goes. We’ve already got our hands on Gran Turismo 6, so be sure to read up on our impressions. Players can drive concept cars from BMW and Aston Martins that might never otherwise hit the road.

Need for Speed Rivals
Release: November 19 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC), November 15 (PlayStation 4), November (Xbox One)

Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

EA is continuing the Need for Speed series’ focus on the cat and mouse game of cops and racers. Rivals is one of the few racing games I got my hands on at Gamescom 2013. I like blasting down mountainside highways and joining AI cops’ pursuits of illegal racing. I’m usually terrible at drifting around tight turns, but the act feels natural with Rivals’ responsive controls. Racers earn extra points the longer they flee from the cops, forcing them to choose between safely banking their score or fleeing further for bonus points.

The Crew
Release: 2014

Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC

Ubisoft’s new racing IP injects a huge, impressive open world into the driving formula. Developer Ivory Tower has recreated the United States in their vision. Players can drive from the West Coast to East Coast in about two hours, free of load times. Fast travel also allows you to leap from New York, to Florida, the Midwest, Las Vegas, or anywhere else you and your friends want to race. I played a race through America’s Midwest farmlands, blasting through sunflower fields, dodging trees, and abusing highway exit ramps with my turbo boost for a huge jump. Car customization is an important feature. You earn car parts, money, and experience to progress down RPG-like skill trees including specializations on brakes or handling, for example. Choosing the right car for your race is important, whether that means taking a dirt car out on a muddy construction site, or building a sports car tuned for street races.

Adopters of next-gen consoles have a host of racing games to choose from, but we're happy to see that promising titles like Gran Turismo 6 and Need for Speed Rivals will be available on modern consoles. For a genre as seemingly straightforward as racing, these five titles have an exciting amount of variety, from The Crew's open world to DriveClub's social network integration. We'll have to wait until all these titles cross the finish line to see which one comes out ahead.

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