The lights are on
Any year in which two of the genre's biggest franchises – Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsports – go head-to-head is a year worth paying attention to. And that's even more so when the pair aren't the only ones winning this year's awards.
Even in a year of all sequels, there was plenty to marvel at, with different games putting their own stamp on the genre and giving race fans something to enjoy. At the same time, it was also a year where even the biggest racing franchises made some missteps. Does this signal the end of simulation racing? Will some gamer's negative reaction to Forza and Gran Turismo's microtransactions influence the genre? See where racing games are in a year's time will be interesting.
Until then, enjoy the awards, and be sure to voice your thoughts down in the comments section below!
Best Innovation: Forza Motorsport 5
It's common for a big racing franchise to benefit from the bells and whistles of a new system, but arguably no game has gained as much from its new home as Forza Motorsport 5. The Xbox One's rumble triggers add a dimension to the racing that is a revelation. Being able to feel your car as it accelerates and decelerates lets you experience the car in a new way and more truly understand its power.
Best Online: Need for Speed: Rivals
The series has long tried to blur the lines between online and off, but Rivals ushers in a new universe for the franchise where gamers' worlds wonderfully collide. AllDrive mixes the campaign progress of up to six different racers allowing them to tackle co-op challenges, go up against each other as cops vs. racers, or simply interfere or cooperate with each other as everybody races around the open world of Redview County. Since there is no hard line between online and offline play, you really feel like you're living in one crazy world where anything can happen.
Biggest Disappointment: Career Modes
Racing fans looking for a great career mode to really get them inspired will be left wanting with this year's batch of games. Forza lacks the track variety and abandons the more inviting career structure of Forza 4, Gran Turismo 6 is as dry and rigid as ever, F1 2013 hasn't changed its career format in years, and even Grid 2 – which builds its career mode around an actual story – never really gets its hooks in you.
Best Track: Grid 2's LiveRoutes
Tracks in Grid 2's LiveRoutes races are randomly generated, and the system works more smoothly than we thought possible. As if you weren't already sweating it going maximum speed around a bevy of turns, the fact that LiveRoute races take away your mini-map ratchets up the tension another notch. The first Grid made the concept of rewinding races an industry staple, and LiveRoutes should be next.
Best Cars: Gran Turismo 6
Like Gran Turismo 5, GT 6 features a handful of cars that were specifically designed just for the game, like the Red Bull X2014 prototype (shown). The game also has a roster of over 1,100 cars, and includes over 120 new additions for the series from classics to a moon rover.
Racing Game of the Year: Need for Speed: Rivals
Rivals impresses in a variety of departments, from its fast-paced racing, innovative AllDrive online feature, and beautiful (and varied) open world, to its parallel cop/racer career paths, Speed Point risk/reward system, and bevy of upgrades. First-time developer Ghost Games (with the help of talent from Criterion Games) pulled out all the stops and deserves no less than first place.
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.