The Electronics Entertainment Expo is to the videogame industry what SEMA is to us. In short it is the place to be to show off the latest innovations and ideas in the world of videogames. Now what would E3 and videogames have to do with us you ask? Well for many of us videogames were our first opportunity to drive. Whether it was playing Daytona USA at the arcade or Gran Turismo at home on the PS1 many of us will agree that games like these were our first opportunity to get behind the wheel of a car.
Realism is the goal of every new video game. In the peripherals department, full immersion is the current trend for accessory companies. Playseat was on site to showcase its racing simulation cockpits. Sony had its Project Morpheus headsets on display alongside Oculus Rift to give gamers a look at what virtual reality gaming will look like. Perhaps the most impressive peripheral we saw on display was the Virtuix Omni - an omnidirectional treadmill that translates a player's movement in real life into the game.
Despite all these new innovations they pale in comparison to what E3 is really about and that is the upcoming games. Here our top three racing games to look out for:
Forza Horizon 2
The latest addition to Microsoft Xbox's best driver's series comes Forza Horizon 2
. It continues where its predecessor left off as players are transplanted from Colorado to Southern Europe to continue on with the fictional Horizon Festival.
Like its predecessor Forza Horizon 2 is an open-world game, giving players the freedom to explore a world that is three times larger than the original Forza Horizon. Set in southern Europe, the world of Horizon 2 is described by its creators as "a place of vast landscapes, amazing vistas, beautiful, unspoilt scenery, and incredible diversity." Featured locations include Provence, Tuscany, Cote d'Azur, and the Mediterranean Sea. This vast world offers the variety of standard racing and exploration. In one moment players can be offroading through the fields of an Italian farm and in the next they're navigating the cobblestone streets of a nearby village.
According to lead game designer, Martin Connor, "We have these iconic towns and iconic cities in this part of Europe, but we didn't pick them purely because they were beautiful and they had this visual diversity. One of the big decisions as to which ones we used and which ones we didn't use was the road network that these towns are built upon. So over the years that these towns and villages and cities have been expanding the road networks have become almost spider web-like in nature, so you can imagine from a racing game's perspective the sort of options that gives you."
Rather than focus on improving the look of Forza Horizon 2 by improving texture resolution or upping the number of polygons the team behind Forza Horizon 2 choose to improve lighting mechanics. "We believe next gen beauty isn't about poly counts, it's not about texture resolution. Those are last-gen concepts. Next-gen beauty is about light. It's about light and how it plays on every surface in the world. How it reacts to them. How it scatters from them. It's about the way sunlight glints on the bodywork of a car. It's about the way the entire world reflects back at you from the surface of a puddle in a cobbled street." said creative director, Ralph Fulton.
All forms of light have been reworked to be as dynamic and realistic as possible. Heck, even Rayleigh scattering (the optical phenomenon that makes the sky look blue during the day and red and yellow during sunset) has been recreated in the game to make the sky look more realistic.
To further add to the realism a first of its kind dynamic weather system has been introduced. Players will be able to see a sky change, moisture build up causing fog and clouds formations that burst with rain that of course also effect driving conditions.
Drivatar technology has also been introduced. This AI feature allows the game to learn how to play based on the actions of living players. The result is the creation of AI-controlled opponents that are just as unpredictable and just as challenging to play against as real live people.
With over 700 events and over 200 cars announced Forza Horizon 2 will be a massive game when it hits streets at the end of September. Combine this massiveness with a wide variety of multiplayer options and we're looking at literally days and days of digital automotive fun.
A radical departure from other racing games, Driveclub
places emphasis on other things such as social interaction and the mechanics of the game itself rather than cars or the actual racing.
Players can form clubs to share experiences or issue challenges to players both inside and outside their club. In fact, club status is directly tied to rewards accrued by members of the team. "The social elements are primarily there to keep the game alive and fresh and new," says game director Paul Rustchynsky. "I think that's the key behind our social side, but there's also another layer of attracting people to the racing genre who traditionally don't play it."
To help further promote the social aspects of Driveclub companion mobile apps will be available for iOS and Android devices that will give players the ability to track the progress of their friends and rivals as well as view live streams of other players from the comfort of their mobile phones or tablet devices.
With 55 different tracks spread across five countries Driveclub is not as large as some of the other games it's competing with, however the team behind Driveclub have made sure that multiple runs down the same track will not necessarily result in the same experiences. One way Driveclub makes this possible is through the use of a dynamic weather system. Clear skies, rain, snow, it's all recreated in Driveclub. A dynamic day and night cycle changes visibility conditions as well.
While Driveclub may not be as massive as some of the other racing games, its emphasis on social interaction is unique. We just hope that this doesn't degenerate into screaming matches with foul-mouthed 12 years olds on the other side of the world.
Best described as an MMORPG rather than a racing sim, The Crew
certainly lives up to its tag line "Never drive alone." Taking advantage of social interaction features offered by next-generation consoles such as the Playstation 4 and Xbox One The Crew
throws players into an open-world recreation of the United States that's ripe with exploration, challenges and races. According to sources, the map is so massive that an in-game drive from coast-to-coast would take players roughly two hours to complete.
For those wanting structure, The Crew features a storyline-driven campaign that can be completed either alone or with other players. However, due to the open-world nature of The Crew players will have the option of deviating from the campaign and exploring the world around them.
The Crew gives players a wide variety of customization options for their vehicles both visually and performance wise. To further emphasize the RPG aspects of The Crew, players will need to level up their vehicles much like they would level up characters in a traditional RPG like Final Fantasy in order to install certain parts.
With such a strong emphasis on social interaction we can see The Crew becoming a huge success with RPG gamers . However, we can also see this huge emphasis on social interaction alienating players and leading to The Crew's downfall. In either case we won't know for sure how successful The Crew is until it hits stores this fall.