Your guide to 2020’s best video games consoles and racing games

From FIA-sanctioned competitions, to arcade action, these are the consoles are racing games to pay attention to this year

The 2020 console video game racing guide

The 2020 console video game racing guide © Microsoft

Many of us might dream of being a racing driver, but access to motorsport is a tough and costly process. Could one of the latest powerful games consoles offer a solution, or just a welcome dose of escapism?

Whether you are an experienced gamer, or a newcomer to the world of consoles, let this be your guide to the options available.

Xbox vs PlayStation – a historic rivalry

Xbox vs PlayStation – a historic rivalry © Sony – Microsoft

Coke vs Pepsi, Apple vs Android, City vs United. All huge rivalries, and the games console world is no different with Microsoft’s Xbox against the Sony PlayStation. Both companies have new upgraded consoles available, and there’s no definitive right answer to which is best.

However, one may suit your gaming needs better, whilst the lure of brand-exclusive games may also draw you to a certain console.

Why should I buy the Xbox One X?

Xbox One X © Microsoft

The Xbox One X is described as being the most powerful games console on sale, and closer to a gaming PC wrapped in a user-friendly box. Think of it as the equivalent to road-legal race car and you’re on the right lines.

With the ability to display games in fancy 4K HDR, along with 76% more CPU power than the regular Xbox One, this is a serious piece of kit. It’s also more powerful than the PS4 Pro, and packs a 4K Blu-Ray player to watch the latest movies. Oh, and if you’re done with discs, it’ll also happily stream Netflix and Amazon Video in 4K as well.

Performance doesn’t come cheap, with the Xbox One X retailing at £318.99 in the UK. Microsoft also offers the cheaper £164 All-Digital One S, which can still play all the same games but lacks the ultimate processing power of its bigger brother. Games for both average around £40-60.

Is the PlayStation PS4 Pro better?

PlayStation PS4 Pro © Sony

On pure technical comparisons, no. The stats of the PS4 Pro lag behind the Xbox One X, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically discount it, especially if you’re only looking to game casually.

Whilst the PS4 Pro will still show games in 4K HDR, it does this via upscaling it to the TV, rather than in native 4K. It sounds a small difference, and for many will be negligible, but will be a consideration for those wanting the ultimate visual performance.

It is substantially cheaper than the One X though, with a current retail price of £317.99. The regular PS4 can be found for £229, but there’ll be no 4K ability with that machine. The price of games is similar to the Xbox.

What consoles are coming soon?

Xbox Series X © Microsoft

Both Microsoft and Sony are planning to launch new consoles in 2020.

The Xbox Series X will be the latest console from Microsoft, launching in time for Christmas. Complete specifications have not yet been released, but expect more power and amazing visuals. 8K video ability also seems likely.

Not wanting to be left behind, Sony will launch the PlayStation 5 at the end of 2020. This will also be heavily upgraded compared to the current PS4 Pro.

Both consoles are said to retain compatibility with older games, meaning any titles bought now should not be redundant.

What exclusive games does the Xbox One have?

Microsoft Forza © Microsoft

Microsoft’s Forza franchise was first introduced in 2005, with the latest Forza Motorsport 7 launched in October 2017. Forza 7 packs in a garage crammed with 700 road and race cars, each with detailed interiors and the option to tune and customise them to your heart’s content.

There’s a challenging single-player mode, along with the option to race online against real people, allowing you to be fully immersed in motorsport competition. The Forza Racing Championship also offers the ability to compete for actual cash prizes and glory.

There are a number of driver assists like traction and stability control to help out newcomers, whilst changeable difficulty settings allow it to be challenging without frustrating. New cars are added each month, but do cost extra, whilst 32 different race circuits offer multiple thrills.

Tell me about Forza Horizon

Forza Horizon © Microsoft

Forza’s other offering is the Horizon series. Centred more on having fun, these offer a massive open-world environment to explore and tackle jaw-dropping challenges.

Forza Horizon 4 is the latest version, and sees Britain used as the backdrop of the automotive action. If you’ve ever had the urge to race a car against a Vulcan bomber jet, or drift around the streets of Edinburgh, this game is for you.

Recent developments have included a Lego Speed Champions add-on, featuring brick-based versions of real sports cars. It sounds silly, but is serious fun.

What does the Sony PlayStation have?

Gran Turismo Sport © Sony

The thirteenth game in the now two decades-old Gran Turismo series, Gran Turismo Sport is intended to offer a genuine motorsport experience.

Polyphony Digital has focused on modelling real racing as closely as possible, and has continually added new cars and circuits since the game was launched.

Aside from a few arcade challenges, and the inevitable licence tests, the meat of GT Sport is racing online against others. Thankfully, the game encourages good online behaviour, but is worth noting you’ll need to be constantly connected to the internet to even save this game.

FIA-sanctioned online racing

GT Sport © Sony

However, GT Sport can lay claim to offering genuine FIA-sanctioned competitions. Battling against online rivals, the winners will receive trophies, and an invite to attend the formal FIA annual awards event alongside real racing drivers.

Gran Turismo also has a strong history of creating real racing drivers through the GT Academy, with Jann Mardenborough and Lucas Ordonez achieving real-world success.

The game was also used as part of the inaugural FIA Motorsports Games in November 2019.

What racing games are available for both consoles?

F1 2019 © Codemasters

If you’re unhappy with this season’s World Championship, F1 2019 lets you change history and compete in the full Formula 1 season. All the tracks and drivers are present, along with bonus classic cars.

Should the rough stuff be more your style, Dirt Rally 2.0 centres on rallying and rallycross, with a detailed career mode. Recent additional content features vehicles used by the late Colin McRae.

Need for Speed Heat

Need for Speed Heat © Electronic Arts

Need for Speed Heat is an open-world game set in Miami, Florida, seeing players dive into the world of illegal street racing.

Meanwhile, Project Cars 2 and Assetto Corsa are both renowned racing simulations that will require commitment to truly get the best from. NASCAR Heat 4 best serves American racing fans.

How do I race against others online?

Xbox Live and PlayStation Network © Sony – Microsoft

An internet connection (whether wireless or wired) is going to be a necessity for either console. Frequent updates and new content are added constantly, so playing in isolation would defeat the point. Essentially, it’s like using a supercar just to drive to the shops.

The Xbox One uses the Xbox Live service, and you’ll need to pay for the ‘Gold’ subscription in order to undertake multiplayer gaming online. Factor in £29.99 for a 6-month membership, but you will get a host of additional content and even free games through the Gold service.

Sony’s PlayStation Network ‘Plus’ service is the equivalent to Xbox Live, and would be needed to take part in the majority of features offered by GT Sport, for example. Pricing begins at £49.99 for 12 months, but guarantees you two free new games each month and more.

It’s worth remembering that console networks are exclusive, meaning you sadly can’t race against someone with an Xbox if you have a PlayStation – even with the same game.

Do I need to buy a steering wheel?

Thrustmaster steering wheel © Thrustmaster

It all depends. Almost all of the games featured above can be played perfectly fine with a standard control pad. If you’re only planning to use your console for casual gaming, and keeping it in your main living room, sticking with the control pad is perhaps easiest.

However, if you plan on creating the ultimate racing experience, a steering wheel is the first step on that deep dive. Dedicated force feedback steering wheels are offered for both Xbox One and PS4 Pro, with £200-300 needed for the best ones.

Is there anything else I need?

4K TV © Sony

Given that both the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro focus heavily on 4K HDR gaming, if you haven’t done recently it might be time to invest in a new TV.

Both consoles will work perfectly well with a normal HD television, and therefore you don’t need to upgrade immediately. However, you’ll get the most from your shiny new console by pairing it with a 4K TV, and especially one that features a dedicated ‘game’ mode.

Time to make a decision

Decision time © Microsoft

As noted, there is no right answer to this question. Will you be tempted by the cheaper PlayStation PS4 Pro, and the lure of FIA-sanctioned online racing with Gran Turismo Sport? Or would you rather go for the ultimate performance console experience with the Microsoft Xbox One X.

Whichever choice you make, there is a wealth of games and accessories to on offer to make your console racing as realistic as you could want.

What if I just want to have fun?

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe © Nintendo

OK, not everyone dreams of becoming a racing driver. For many, consoles offer the chance to just have fun with friends and family. There is still the chance to add racing to the mix, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe available for the Nintendo Switch.

It might not be serious motorsport, but expect the competition to be just as fast and furious when you’re competing for family pride.

The Switch currently retails for £279, whilst the handheld-only Switch Lite can be found from £189. Games are priced in the region of £30 to £40.

What if I just want to play on my smartphone?

Smartphone racing © Gameloft

Carrying around an entire games console is not necessarily the most user-friendly option if you want some quick racing fun. Fortunately, the power of modern smartphones means they can offer racing thrills and spills to rival a console.

We have previously picked out our favourite mobile racing games, suitable for both Apple and Android devices. These range from classic arcade challenges, to in-depth rallying simulators and motorsport management.

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