The 2011 Racing Game Of The Year Awards

by Matthew Kato on Dec 28, 2011 at 05:00 AM

Racing games are always a year-in-year-out staple of consoles, but was it just another year for the genre? Absolutely not. Whether you were looking for a definitive sim-racing experience or wanted to just have some arcade fun, 2011 was a great year for race fans.

Check out some of the deserving games below, and be sure to let us know what you think about the games that won awards – and those that didn’t – in the comments section below.

Best Track: Rainbow Road – Mario Kart 7

Rainbow Road is a mainstay in the Mario Kart franchise, but its appearance in Mario Kart 7 and how nicely it dovetails with some of the changes for this iteration, make it a standout experience. Instead of the usual three-lap race, Rainbow Road is just one long lap split into three different sections. This allows the player to experience environmental changes such as racing on planet rings and the surface of the moon, as well as fly through space using the game’s new glider feature. It’s a fun new way to experience an old favorite.

Best Car: Ford Fiesta Gymkhana Car – Dirt 3

We could argue all day about which car among this year’s racing titles is the fastest, rarest, most spectacularly engineered ride out there, but frankly we’re not interested in that kind of pissing contest. No, the car we liked the best was Ken Block’s Monster Energy Drink Ford Fiesta gymkhana car. The game’s gymkhana cars were particularly tuned for gymkhana racing (as opposed to the title’s other rally cars), and Ken Block himself even had a hand in how this particular car was tuned. And it wasn’t just that this car got loose around every corner in some kind of fake attempt to induce gymkhana acrobatics. The car feels different when trying to produce sweeping power slides versus tighter donuts, and using it in the gymkhana events requires a slightly different skill set to maximize its handling. The specialization of this gymkhana car made it all the more fun when ripping of wild stunts in the game’s Battersea compound and events. Gymkhana was a key feature in Dirt 3, and it wouldn’t have felt as cool if Block’s Fiesta was just another car in your garage.

Best Multiplayer: Forza Motorsport 4

This award has to go to Forza 4 for offering the full package of online goodies. The game not only offers up different alluring multiplayer race types like Cat and Mouse and Tag, but also features a fully stocked cupboard of community options. This not only includes things like sharing cars with Car Club members, auctioning cars, and trading customized car liveries, but also a rivalry challenge system that you could spend endless hours in just trying to beat friends and keep up your own times.

Honorable Mention: Test Drive Unlimited 2

Read on for our Racing Game of the Year and more! 


Biggest Disappointment: Need for Speed: The Run

The Run had some cool racing moments when you’re driving across the country, but the game fell well short of its even cooler premise: Participate in a cross-country race versus over a hundred drivers – including some action-packed segments where you’re going to have to get out of your car. The game never really delivered on this promise, and worse than that, was really only an above-average experience in general.

Best Feature: Shift – Driver: San Francisco

We all rolled our eyes when we heard about Driver: San Francisco’s inclusion of a gameplay mechanic that allowed protagonist Tanner to possess drivers of other cars all while being in a coma, so we didn’t think it would be such a fun and well-implemented device. The game – which doesn’t take itself too seriously – does a good job of giving players interesting things to do with the mechanic, like controlling two cars at once or navigating set-pieces forcing you to jump to another car to avoid disaster.

Racing Game of the Year: Forza Motorsport 4

In the past the Forza franchise has shuffled the components in its deck to little meaningful effect, but this year the series hit upon a winning formula. The flexibility of the career mode, pacing of car/money rewards, and variety of career and online races (not to mention the integration of the two) make Forza 4 feel like a complete experience and not just a list of cars and tracks. You could easily approach Forza 4 from different angles and still feel completely satisfied – whether you’re a sim-racer looking for a challenge on the track or a multiplayer connoisseur who can’t stand to see your friends post the best times.

We’re sure that developer Turn 10 Studios will tweak things in successive iterations of the career mode – just like they’ve done for Forza 4 – but we like how this one is designed so much that we don’t know that we want things to change too much.