This year is one of the best for racing game fans. Later this year will see the release of Gran Turismo Sport (the first in the franchise to come to PlayStation 4), Forza Motorsport 7 (which is turning into the Xbox One X’s biggest hitter), Project CARS 2 (which looks to improve in nearly aspect on the massively ambitious first game), and Need For Speed Payback (which seems like an entertaining blend of the Need For Speed and Fast and the Furious franchises). We have already had the brilliant Wipeout: Omega Collection and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe alongside solid games like Flatout 4, MXGP 3, and MotoGP 17. One of the most impressive contributors this year, though, has been British developer Codemasters.
Codemasters have released three great games over the last three months. The beginning of June saw the release of DiRT 4, the twelfth game in the developers’ rallying series that began as Colin McRae Rally, before moving to Colin McRae: Dirt, and eventually switching to simply DiRT after the tragic death of Colin McRae. The previous entry in the series was 2015’s DiRT Rally which was a stripped back return to form for the series after the overindulgent DiRT Showdown which, though not a bad game, somewhat lost sight of what made the series great. DiRT 4 keeps DiRT Rally’s super realistic handling model, tough as nails difficulty, and emphasis on racing, but throws in some easier AI options & assists as well as tons of extra cars, tracks, and events.
DiRT 4 is one of the best rally games around. The game looks gorgeous, has a top-notch handling model, and enough content to keep you busy for many months to come. All of this is before you even scratch the surface of the great multiplayer that can keep you occupied for many years (or until DiRT 5 gets released). It is a game that deserves a lot more credit than it has received. DiRT 4 has a Metacritic score in the mid-80s on consoles, but it’s not a game that many people are talking about. This is a really good game that a lot of people are missing out on.
Just three weeks after the release of DiRT 4, Codemasters followed up with the relaunch of the Micro Machines franchise. While not quite up to the same level of DiRT 4, Micro Machines World Series was still a lot of fun. The game did a great job of bringing back childhood memories of arguing with friends about who pushed who of the racing track. Tracks and vehicles appeared familiar without being copies from the old games. Gameplay was just like it was all those years ago though with cars bumping off each other, driving through tracks based on dining room tables, snooker/pool tables, and woodworking surfaces. It was also a smart move to make this a budget-priced game. The franchise had been dormant for a while (in terms of video games anyway) and producing a smaller, concise game was absolutely the right thing to do. The game is a nothing like DiRT. The handling, perspective, and graphical style are all completely different, which just goes to show the talent and diverse creativity of the developer.
Producing two quality games in a year is impressive, but then following that up with the magnificent F1 2017 is exceptional. The latest game based on the Formula 1 racing series is the best I have ever played. The variation of difficulty level is superb. The recreation of the tracks is flawless with such details as the bumps of the streets of Monaco being absolutely spot on. The game also does a brilliant job of adding importance to the different practice sessions by providing you tasks to complete that help your team to get the cars ready for qualifying and the race. There are some graphical glitches on the human characters that you interact with between races (seriously what is going on with Claire Williams’ hair!?!), but when you are racing it looks gorgeous and plays beautifully.
Codemasters have knocked it out of the park this year and this isn’t even an anomaly. They have been releasing quality games since 1985. Their output has spanned early 8-bit titles, through 16-bit and 32-bit systems all the way to modern systems and the latest eighth generation of consoles, they have even announced Xbox One X support for F1 2017. They are a developer that deserves far more acclaim than they have received. Most gamers have heard of Polyphony Digital and Turn 10 Studios, yet Codemasters should be mentioned with the same level of reverence and awe. This is a company that has consistently made quality products and pushed boundaries.
Codemasters have earned every bit of their longevity. They are one of the most consistent developers around. I firmly believe they deserve to be mentioned alongside the likes of Polyphone Digital and Turn 10 Studios, but also studios like DICE and Rockstar as they have created much more than just racing games. So let’s all take a moment to appreciate Codemasters and give them the credit they deserve. I for one will be keeping a close eye on whatever they release next (here’s hoping for a new GRiD game).