What Has Happened In Racing Since Gran Turismo 5’s Announcement?

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost five years since Sony initially announced Gran Turismo 5, or back as it was known at E3 2006, Vision Gran Turismo. The game is literally nearing the finish line, set for a worldwide release later this year. But since its announcement, racing games have changed a lot – and for the better. Believe it or not, it’s gotten quite a boost from new improvements and enhancements, and it’s only going to get better following the release of GT5, with such games as Motorstorm Apocalypse and Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit hitting the track around the same time.

But out of all the racing games that have come out, which have been the most influential? We’ve decided to sum it up in five departments, all of which have changed the course – literally – of how far they’ve come. There’s no doubt that Polyphony Digital’s dream machine will fit right in with this company.

Motorstorm and DiRT Redefine Off-Road Racing

Back when the Gran Turismo games dipped into rally races, many people thought that Polyphony did a great job with it. However, over the past few years, we’ve seen a few dirt racers that have improved on the formula. Black Rock Studio hit the racing circuit with the impressive Pure, THQ evolved its MX Vs. ATV series into a racing threshold (topped off by last year’s release of Reflex), Codemasters’ Colin McRae license turned a corner with the excellent DiRT games, and Sony effectively took the genre into the next generation of gaming with Motorstorm and its follow-up, Pacific Rift (an alternate game, Arctic Edge, was also released for PlayStation 2 and PSP). The dirt will continue to fly over the next few months, with a new DiRT on the way and Southpeak’s Nail’d getting some mad air.

The Introduction of Open-World Racing Many folks think that a racing game is all about starting and finishing, with no spectrum to cover in-between. However, over the past few years, developers have been thinking outside the box, presenting racing universes in which a plethora of endless challenges await. Criterion Games topped its previous racing efforts with the release of Burnout Paradise, a game that has you (and friends) accelerating through a living, breathing world, jam-packed with challenges and events. Atari and Eden Studios also hit the open road, taking a trip to Hawaii for Test Drive Unlimited. Here, racing is almost limitless, with a number of tournaments and opportunities available. The sequel, set for release next year, will add even more activities thanks to online integration. Last but not least, Electronic Arts has expanded its Need For Speed franchise with the online MMO racing game Need For Speed: World, and will push even further in November with the online-friendly Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit.

Online Racing Welcomes the Competition

When Vision Gran Turismo was announced, online racing wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today. Over the years, however, several games came out that brought the competition in droves. Nintendo finally added online features to its popular Mario Kart series with its debut on the Wii; Burnout Paradise enabled friends to hook up in private events and public time-based goals on each section of road; revitalized arcade classics like Outrun Online Arcade and Hydro Thunder Hurricane attracted old-school fans; and many of 2010’s racing releases include online functionality in one form or another (Gran Turismo 5 included). It’s now a pretty common feature, even if some people don’t realize it.

Bring On the Community

Gran Turismo 5 will have plenty of community-based features when it arrives, including a custom track creator and a plethora of online goods. But a pair of notable games thrived on features such as these. ModNation Racers, released earlier this year for PlayStation 3, not only has a robust track creation system, but also features hundreds of kart and rider creations for users to try out – even Mario clones. If you’re looking for something a little more serious, there’s Forza Motorsport 3, a game that still has a strong community today with literally thousands of user-rendered liveries and robust online features through Xbox Live. They no doubt set the tone for the user features to come with Polyphony Digital’s latest.

Racing Gets Competitive – and Destructive A spiked purple shell isn’t the only way to take out a fellow driver. Not anymore. Prior to Gran Turismo 5’s original announcement, Criterion Games ruled the road with the delightfully destructive Burnout 3: Takedown. Since then, it’s pushed the series even further with sequels Burnout Revenge and Paradise before moving on to this year’s release of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, which has plenty of high-speed hijinks of its own. In addition, two stand-out racers that came out earlier this year – Split/Second and Blur – introduced new demolition-based tactics. Blur relies on several high-tech weapons to take down opponents, while Split/Second relies on a different tactic. Instead of cars having weapons, the track itself is a weapon, as racers can activate booby traps to stop the competition in their tracks.

So, yeah, the racing genre has changed a lot over the years, but there’s still plenty of room for Gran Turismo 5 to rule the road.

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Robert Workman
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