A day at the virtual races

I love driving games. I remember playing driving games at the video arcade as a kid. Then came the home video game consoles and the personal computer. I’ve played video driving games from the beginning and continue to drive to this day. I loved driving games before I could drive. When I switched to the Xbox 360 as my gaming system I was excited about the driving games available.

One of the most popular racing game series is Need for Speed. I put hundreds of hours into the NFS series on the PC. After getting the Kinect sensor my second big buy for the was the Microsoft force feedback wheel. since I like to sit in front of the TV to drive I had to set the wheel on my lap. The wheel came with a table clamp but I decided against sitting a table in front of me. Since a table was out of the question I had to figure a way to stabilize the wheel. Searching online I found an expensive but excellent solution.

After researching I decided the best option was a Wheel Stand Pro. The wheel stand pro line of wheel stands are made for several different wheel manufacturers. I knew that buying from WSP I’d get a stand created for my type of wheel. All of the reviews I researched gave glowing reviews. They are expensive but well worth the price. I wanted a stand that would last and hold up to a lot of racing! Now that I was set with a driving wheel and stand, it was time to research what racing games were available for the Xbox 360.

There’s a used movie and game store I visit when I head into the city. A selling point for me when I switched from PC gaming to the Xbox 360 was the large library of used games available. Buying used video games flows with my personal goal of reusing as much as possible. I don’t feel a need to buy a new video game when there are probably thousands of used versions out there in the world. So every trip to the city I stop by and see what used racing games they have.

My criteria for racing/driving games is simple. It’s got to be fun. I am not a big fan of over the top arcade racers but as long as it’s a fun time I’m up for trying it out. On the flip side, I’m not too concerned about a total driving simulator. There’s no way I’m going to know if driving a Ferrari or BMW in a racing game is anything close to real life racing in those cars. I do like a happy medium where I feel like I’m in control and any wrong decision could mean a spin out or crash. A driving game where I simply smash the gas and drive won’t get played often or returned. Some of the Need for Speed games are known for their arcade feel and easy driving experience.

Any racing game I play I use the dashboard/cockpit view if the game has the option. It gives me the best feeling of actually driving a car. Here is a list of my current racing games and what I think are the pros and cons of each. My gaming setup: 47 inch Vizio LCD TV, Xbox 360, Sony 5.1 Home Theater and Microsoft Force Feedback Steering wheel. One big comfy chair.

Forza Motorsport 4: The first Xbox 360 racing game I bought was Forza 4. The research revealed this was a racing game I had to have! It was the most recent racing game available. I have no experience with the earlier Forza games. Forza 4 looks and sounds fantastic. The game has a range of cars for every race fan. I love muscle cars! I had several muscle cars in my youth and it felt great to drive something so familiar. I’m able to set Forza 4 to my liking and have a half sim racer. More sim than arcade is how I like to drive. Force feedback is very good.

GRIDI first played GRID on the PC. The first thing that knocked my socks off was the visuals. And the racing was another punch to my face. GRID became my favorite racing game for a long time. GRID has drifting which is a ton of fun! GRID is a great racing game offering intense racing and insane drifting all wrapped up in a very polished package. I bought my copy for $15. Find a copy of GRID, you’ll love it! Force feedback is very good.

Dirt 2 and Dirt 3: Dirt 2 is another racing game I played first on the PC. I got hooked with the original Dirt game. Visuals are great and racing pretty intense. Dirt 2 has remained on my favorite list of racing games. Dirt 3 is a game I’m still getting used to. Force feedback is good.

Shift 2 – Unleashed: I bought Shift 2 from a major retailer that had it marked for sale at $19.99. That’s pretty cheap for an NFS game and I thought it must not be very good if it’s marked down. I was wrong. The game looks pretty good but the driving sent me over the edge. It’s intense. It’s really intense when you drive using the helmet camera view. The helmet cam is the best first-person driving view in ANY racing game I have ever played. You have that sense of wearing a helmet and look into the corners as you approach them. Force feedback is good.

Shift 2 has the best crash experience. Hit a wall too hard or spin out and I found the color leaving, going grey and getting blurry. Much more realistic than bouncing off the wall and continuing on as though there are bumper pads along the road. Shift 2 is by far my favorite Need for Speed game. Ever.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (Limited Edition): Hot Pursuit is a game I bought from a friend. It’s an average arcade racing with the police chase them. I enjoy it for the sense of speed and the police chases. It’s fun but gets old for me because of the arcade nature of racing where you basically bounce off the side of the track and keep going. Fun in short bursts. Force feedback is average.

Need for Speed: The Run: This is a game I’ve borrowed from a friend. I do like playing it and it’s been a fun time. The story feels thrown together and I’m not really interested in it. The racing is fun and while it’s more like the arcade Hot Pursuit than Shift 2 I like the cross-country race idea. It can be intense at the time. I wouldn’t buy it new. Used if I could find it cheap. Force feedback is average.

I recommended Forza 4, GRID, Dirt 2 and Shift 2 to any Xbox 360 racing fan. Each is different and will give you many hours of racing fun. If you have any racing game suggestions please add them to the comments below! Drive safe and keep the racing in the game!

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