The best new racing games coming in 2021 | FOS Future Lab

05th January 2021
Ethan Jupp

The arrival of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X represents the first jump to next-generation console gaming in over seven years. With new consoles come higher frame rates, higher resolution 4K gaming and ray tracing capability. What car games can we look forward to that will take advantage of next-gen? We break down the most hotly-anticipated racing titles due out in the coming months and years.

Forza Motorsport and Horizon – Xbox Series X

Forza Motorsport will be released in Autumn 2021.

We open with the Xbox halo title, Forza Motorsport. Following the rocky launch of Forza Motorsport 7 three years ago, Turn 10 is implementing something of a course-correction for its arrival on the Xbox Series X. Bucking the usual two-year Forza launch cycle, we’re now a year overdue for what you’d imagine would be called Forza Motorsport 8. Such are the changes being implemented, they’re seemingly dropping the numbering system for a clean ‘Forza Motorsport’ soft reboot.

“With Forza Motorsport, we’re taking the lessons and evolutions of the entire history of Motorsport, and building an all-new Motorsport experience that takes full advantage of the speed and immersion of Xbox Series X,” the Forza website reads.

“That means you can expect stunning visuals and tech, such as ray tracing, native 4K, and 60fps, and some brand new game concepts, all intended to connect players to the Forza universe, and each other, like never before.”

Expect more than your average paint-by-numbers Forza when it arrives, then. There’s no release date yet, but we’re estimating it’ll arrive in Forza’s usual Autumn release window. If it’s half as much of a revolution and step-change as Forza Motorsport 2 was all the way back in 2007, the Forza franchise will be back on form. What’s more, as soon as the new Forza Motorsport title releases, you can bet a next-gen Horizon sandbox will follow soon after, hopefully with a reasonable map size increase...

Love racing games? Read our list of the nine best racing games of all time.

Gran Turismo 7 – PlayStation 5

Gran Turismo 7 will be released in Spring 2021.

The Gran Turismo franchise wrote the driving simulator rulebook, didn’t it? Old as the hills it may be, Polyphony Digital has a history of taking the opposite approach to release schedules, by comparison to Turn 10, for better or worse. That’s to say there are no on-the-dot two-yearly releases. GT fans wait and wait, sit through preview games, then wait some more. That’s why after almost 25 years we’re only on the eve of the seventh full numbered GT title and the third to release in the entire 15-year lifetime of the Forza franchise.

It's almost always worth it though and now the wait is nearly over again for Gran Turismo 7. It's fixing to supercharge the recent brilliance of Gran Turismo Sport, for the new PlayStation 5 hardware. That means native 4K resolution and ray tracing for crisp reflections, on top of everything we already love about Gran Turismo. Being a numbered entry, expect a full-bodied game with a healthy car and track list and of course, graphics that are second-to-none.

“Whether you’re a competitive racer, collector, fine-tuning builder, livery designer, photographer or arcade fan – ignite your personal passion for cars with features inspired by the past, present and future of Gran Turismo,” the site reads.

“From classic vehicles and tracks to the reintroduction of the legendary GT Simulation Mode – enjoy the best features from past instalments of the series. And if you love to race – practice and compete in the FIA Championships and Sport Mode. But Gran Turismo 7 is also about more than racing. Refine and create in the evolved tuning and customization mode or improve your skills and racing strategies through Driving School.”

A family of car fans? Read our list of the six best racing games for kids.

Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown – Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5

‘Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown’ will be released in late 2021, early 2022.

Now, the most mysterious entry but possibly the one we’re most excited about. New Forzas, new Gran Turismos, they come around every few years. A new Test Drive Unlimited is a once-a-decade occasion.

The original, in 2006, set standards for open-world driving and luxury lifestyle games that have yet to be beaten. The 2011 sequel added great new elements but compromised in other areas. Shortly after, the publisher and developer folded. Now the IP is owned by Nacon Games who are actively developing the third instalment, Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown, for what will hopefully be a 2021 release.

Very little is known about the game beyond the fact that it’s coming. There will be working lights, indicators, windscreen wipers and more, if cryptic tweets from senior producers are to be believed. What is confirmed, is that the map will be a 1:1 recreation of a real island or region, as was the Hawaiian island of Oahu used in the first two games. The location, however, is not yet known.

The developers have been very vocal about their love for the originals and seem conscious of exactly how special they were. That gives us hope that the magic will live on in the third game.

A sim racer? Take a look at our rundown of the seven best sim racing games.

Need for Speed 2021 – Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5

The new Need for Speed game will be released in Autumn 2021.

Need for Speed is another famous title that has of late been stuck in a rut. Following a soft reboot in 2015 and a fresh direction courtesy of Ghost Games, the last two entries have been a bit cut-and-paste. Happily, Criterion Games are back in the saddle, already delivering us a nostalgic remaster of 2010’s Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. An EA Games quarterly earnings call confirmed a full NFS release in “fiscal year 2022”, which runs from October 2021 to September 2022.

“We plan to launch at least six new games on the next-gen consoles in FY22,” said EA CEO Andrew Wilson in a recent financial report.

“These will include a new Need for Speed game, bringing some astounding visual leaps, developed by the Criterion team, who have launched some of the most highly-rated games in franchise history.”

Little else is known about the game. As is becoming a recurring theme, expect big changes beyond what the usual periodical releases have delivered in the recent past.

What racing games can I play now?

A big criticism of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, next-gen console releases is that new titles fully optimised for the new hardware are few and far between. If you’re short of digital motoring kicks, there’s not a lot fresh to go with your shiny new console.

Happily, for this generation, backwards compatibility is a massive focus. So your copy of Forza Horizon 4 will run better than ever on your Xbox Series X. Likewise, Gran Turismo Sport will run without a hitch on the PS5.

Project Cars 3 and Assetto Corsa Competizione are the major racing releases of 2020. Happily, both are expected to be optimised further in the near future to take advantage of the powerful new consoles.

WRC 9 (also from Nacon games) gets a fully-optimised upgrade, too, which is free for those who bought the game on the outgoing generation of consoles. The only launch racing title? DIRT 5, which was actually delayed to launch alongside the next-gen consoles. It’s out on both, and also upgradeable for free to next-gen if you bought it on your older console.

For now, though, it’s tough to tell which will arrive first: the next-gen console you want that’s out of stock, or the upcoming games designed to take advantage of them...

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