The 2012 Racing Game of the Year Awards

by Matthew Kato on Dec 24, 2012 at 05:30 AM

It’s once again time to get out our stopwatches and clock the lap times of this year’s best racing games.

This year featured some of the genre’s biggest studios – Criterion, Codemasters, and Turn 10 – crafting games that were slight offshoots of what they were known for. Still, the quality was there and race fans were able to take advantage of good racing of all varieties.

Click on each game to go to the review, and feel free to sound off on my choices and include your own in the Comments section below.

Best Track – F1 2012 (Codemasters Birmingham)

I like F1’s newest track in Austin,Texas – Circuit of the Americas – and not just because I’m an American. The first turn is dramatic as you charge up the hill of the front straightaway into a sharp blind left turn. This is followed by some smooth esses that help you maintain your speed while still requiring some skill. Finally, the back portion of the track gets more difficult with some hard turns of various arcs and track widths that mess with your perception upon exit.

Best Danica Patrick Appearance – Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Sega)

Okay, maybe this isn’t even a legit category, but I wanted to give this game some props. While I didn’t play it, my colleague Jeff Cork was impressed with it – particularly the mod system and the overall progress it made from its predecessor. And if you’re thinking that this game didn’t have any real competition in this category, don’t forget that Danica also appeared in this year’s NASCAR the Game: Inside Line.

Best Multiplayer – Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Criterion Games)

Apart from constantly being able to challenge your friends’ scores in any number of areas throughout the map – whether that’s a longest jump or time on a particular race, the game’s environmental multiplayer challenges will have you and your friends trying to all jump your cars up on some building ledge or similar hijinks. Don’t forget that it’s always good to take down a fellow racer while you’re at it.

Next: Check out some other categories like our Biggest Disappointment and our Racing Game of the Year.

Biggest Disappointment – Dirt Showdown (Codemasters Racing)

Don’t get me wrong – I had a decent time with this game, but I also had big hopes for it as well. While Showdown’s various racing games were fun, the novelty did not hold up long enough for this game to feel like anything other than a sidestep for the series.

Best Feature – Need for Speed: Most Wanted’s EasyDrive (Criterion Games)

It sounds weird to rave about a menu-based feature, but EasyDrive is the game’s unifying hub that highlights all its car customization, car upgrades, race and car selection, and Autolog options. By using the d-pad, you can access all of these sub-menus easily. This dovetails nicely with the game’s philosophy of getting you into races quickly – whether that’s an Autolog-driven race against a friend or a car customization race.

Honorable Mention: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Sega)
The game’s use of the Wii U GamePad for multiplayer, which helps alleviate the offline splitscreen clutter.

Racing Game of the Year – Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Criterion Games)

Most Wanted hits a lot of racing game highs: top speeds, sexy cars, challenging racing, and even spectacular crashes – and it does it while layering on cop chases, addictive multiplayer, and an easy-to-access format. Criterion Games’ talent for conveying its larger philosophies into its games is not easy, but it makes this title a success and should make the studio’s stewardship of the franchise exciting in future releases.

Honorable Mention: Forza Horizon (Turn10 Studios)
Both Forza and Most Wanted are open world games, but approach their titles slightly differently. Forza’s more measured approach offers no shortage of fun races to participate in, as well as areas of the world to explore.