For petrolheads across the country, the pandemic has done a bit of a number on the amount of motoring they can do. From cancelled road trips and commutes to the reduced number of motor races available to watch this season, things have certainly stalled in the last few months. If you’re someone who’d usually be hitting the open roads right now, then you’re probably missing your usual fix of getting behind the wheel.
However, there’s one aspect of motoring that the pandemic hasn’t pumped the brakes on that’ll still let you get your pulse racing. If you’ve been staying at home more than usual, then you can always occupy your time by playing some of the many, many driving and racing video games and give some virtual vehicles a run-around instead.
From immersive, realistic simulators to fun games the whole family can enjoy, there are all manner of driving games you can play to satisfy those car-based cravings during these more restrictive times. Here, we’ll show you the best titles out there right now…
Forza Horizon 4
Experience the roads of the UK without being stuck in traffic jams or having to navigate endless roadworks with Forza Horizon 4! Though the Forza series’ Motorsport titles are regarded for their realism, its Horizon entries are a little more freewheeling, letting players experience an open world environment where driving physics are a little more…relaxed.
Taking place in a fictionalised version of the UK, it’s an excellent way of taking in some of the British Isles’ more popular roads, especially if your actual road trip plans were previously scuppered. Smaller versions of real-life locations like Edinburgh, the Lake District and the Cotswolds are all present and correct, while seasonal changes (a first for the series) let you bomb around in different weather conditions for an added challenge.
And with 670 licensed cars to take for a spin, there’s a nearly endless number of ways to race cars around the game’s gorgeously rendered scenery.
With the 2020 season only beginning in July this year, those looking for some wheel-to-wheel action have been a little hard up when compared to previous seasons. Luckily, that’s where F1 2019 comes in. Allowing you to get behind the wheel of some of the world’s fastest cars and start your own career, the game does a superb job of recreating the speed, excitement and, yes, the danger of competing in a Formula One competition.
An essential for any F1 fan, the game’s career mode is a large focal point, letting players ascend from F2 up to the big leagues; and there’s a nice differentiation between the two tiers, with each division having their own tracks and commentary! It’s also hugely impressive in terms of visuals too, with particular praise being heaped on its weather effects, with water splashing off each car’s chassis during downpours and spray from opponents in front making visibility very treacherous indeed in the process.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Whether you’re a Mario Kart fanatic or a casual fan of the classic racing series, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers something for everyone. With 48 courses and 42 characters from across the iconic Mario universe, all your favourites are here. And what’s more, everything is unlocked and available from the get-go, so you and your family can get right into the action straight away!
It’s not exactly realistic compared to the some of the other games on this list, but for fast and frenetic fun, it’s a great antidote to the current climate. Plus, with tournaments and the unreal speed of the 200cc class, it’s a surprisingly challenging (not to mention addictive) game.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Another nostalgia-fest, if you fancy a trip down memory lane with one of the PlayStation’s most legendary characters during lockdown, then Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is well worth checking out! A remastered version of 1999’s Crash Team Racing, it also includes content from later instalments in the series too, which all adds up to a dizzying amount of options, characters and modes to take for a spin.
It’s a surprisingly tough game, but thankfully there are still plenty of power-ups dotted across every track including invincibility, increased speed and explosive nitro crates to help you out. Plus, there are even customisation options so you can make your own personal kart, thanks to a variety of bodies, wheels, and paint jobs to choose from!
Rally driving is undeniably fun, but let’s face it, getting to experience it yourself is a little unlikely right now. DiRT 4, however, is as close as it gets to the real thing, letting players take on a variety of tarmac and off-road terrains around the globe, with an immersive, bone-shaking handling model designed with insights from professional rally drivers Kris Meeke and Petter Solberg.
Praised for its accessibility, it’s a great pick-up-and-play title that offers a near-endless amount of fun thanks to its ‘Your Stage’ feature that generates tracks based on settings and parameters that you get to choose. Elsewhere, the popular Joyride mode returns, offering players a chance to complete stunts and challenges, while the DirtFish rally school lets you hone your skills and learn advanced techniques to give you the edge over you opponents.
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