I’m sure we all heard the news yesterday; Codemasters announced the acquisition of Evolution Studios. This acquisition means that Codemasters are now the premiere suppliers of racing games in the world (not bad for a small UK startup in the mid-80s) with some genuine world-class talent.
Personally I think this is a great move for both companies. We have Codemasters who are the leaders in the racing game genre but have struggled with next-gen technology and Evo who have intimate knowledge of the architecture and inner-workings of the market leading machine; the PS4.
I personally think Evolution are the perfect candidates to update the creaking EGO engine – I think we can all agree that ‘Driveclub’ looked absolutely stunning! Hopefully Codemasters can find a place for them within their structure and we can start to see exciting new projects too – while I’m not a fan of past games I’d love to see if, with help from Codies, they can make ‘Motorstorm’ a genuinely good series!
While we look ahead, why not look behind us?
Here is my personal top 5 (a list! I haven’t done one of these in ages!) games from both companies.
5. Micro Machines: Turbo Tournament (1994)
The daddy of local multiplayer racing games! It’s an oldie but it is a goodie! This game wrote all the rules for racing games until the Gran Turismo – it is was a bloody brilliant game! The aim was to leave your rivals in your dust, by building a screen of distance between you and them you’d earn a point – first to ten points wins.
You’d make friends with MM and you’d lose them too! The game cartridge had two controller ports that allowed for 4 players to take part – but it also allowed two people to use a controller – this meant that 8 players could take part at once (one selected tracks). 8 PLAYERS! ON A MEGA DRIVE!
Multiplayer was where it was at in MM; the game actively encouraged all sorts of underhanded racing tactics such as using powerups, car weaponry (the tanks for example) and good old-fashioned ramming opponents off the track!
4. Race Driver: GRID (2008)
‘Race Driver: Grid’ took the foundations laid by ‘Colin McRae Dirt’ and successfully applied them to the circuit racing game formally known as ‘TOCA: Race Driver’ and it was fantastic!
While the game was made more friendly to an international market (read America) Codies didn’t skimp on the best part of the TOCA series, the racing! All races are against 19 AI controlled opponents who act in an incredibly realistic manner, some will let you pass and others will be aggressive as any human. This makes every race an event and hugely unpredictable! Thankfully though your car will be dependable as the updated physics engine is incredibly consistent, much like Dirt you can push your car to its limits with repeatable results.
Crashing has real consequences here too, the damage model on show is still the best in the genre 8 years later! You really don’t want to crash at all as the impact it has on your vehicle is noticable and it will cost you races – there’s always the rewind feature though!
Grid is a fantastic achievement in the racing genre.
3. Pursuit Force (2005)
Remember ‘Chase HQ’? Well meet its contemporary brother!
A stone wall PSP classic made by BigBig (who were absorbed in Evolution – so it still counts). The game was a fast paced arcade title that had the player in the role of the titular ‘Pursuit Force’ on a mission to rid the streets of 5 gangs over the course of 30 missions.
The gameplay was chase HQ in 3D, you chased these gangs over the tarmac and when you caught up with them you had to take them out – this is where the twist comes in. You could leap from car to car and shoot everyone in a frenzy of bloody violence, some missions had you in a car (which you could jump from), some a motorbike (which you could jump from), some a boat (which you could jump from) and even a helicopter manning a minigun!
This game was a real blast to play and if it wasn’t so bloody punishing it would’ve been higher up this list!
2. Motorstorm RC (2012)
I am not a fan of the ‘MotorStorm’ series because the physics were all over the place and it made races seem unfair when you spin-off/explode/drive into an abyss seemingly at random – but I will concede that the idea behind it is an absolutely sound one. It just needs a guiding hand to make it a legitimately great series (hopefully Codies can offer that).
‘MotorStorm: RC’ though is the best game Evolution Studios has ever made! It is a top down racer that harks back to games like ‘Super Skidmarks’ and ‘Micro Machines’ and as a result it is a pure driving experience that feels right at home on the VITA.
The game features 4 styled areas based on previous games in the series (Monument Valley, Pacific Rift, Arctic Edge and Apocalypse) with 4 tracks in each section and countless cars in 8 different categories content is not an issue here – when you count the fact that it’s cross-buy (with PS3) neither is value!
The best part of the game though is undoubtedly the racing, it feels like classic arcade titles and the cars all feel like RC cars! Gone are the heavy, unresponsive cars of ‘MotorStorms’ past and in their place are light vehicles that feel perfect and control absolutely perfectly.
Everything here is great – there really is nothing better than a pure racing experience
1. Dirt (2007)
Before Codies tried to pander to the American audience with HUGE and somewhat shitty rock music, bombastic “carnival” dressings, and shitty filler events like ‘gymkhana’ – we had ‘Colin McRae: DIRT’ and it is still the best in the series!
First things first, this was our first look at the EGO Engine (which was called NEON here) and it was absolutely beautiful to look at as it was to play! Everything screamed high-end; tires compressed on impact, particles of dust was everywhere and the game just looked “right”! The physics engine also played an integral role everything had a sense of weight, the cars handled exactly as you would expect them too and it created a sense of confidence in the player. You could learn each cars limits and compensate for any of its short comings – the perfection in its systems meant that success was down to player skill
Maybe it was because the game had a very narrow focus and it didn’t try to bloat the game with needless events. Each mode felt unique, full-featured and had limitless replay-ability. Every one of the modes is well worth playing either alone or with friends.
Dirt was a beautifully simple, focused and polished game that everyone can enjoy and should experience! It really feels like the perfect racing game!
Not only is it Codies best game, but it is probably one of the best racers ever made!
Why not tell me in the comments what your favourite Codemasters or Evolution Studios game is!