Race for one of these speedy thrills

Race for one of these speedy thrills

Thrill car racing is just a video game away.

This week, I had the pleasure of getting into the driver’s seat with an expert on car racing video games, a 9-year-old third-grader who has been a car enthusiast since he could talk. When it comes to video game playing, he plays car-racing games almost exclusively. His collection of racing games is so extensive that we could only compare his favorite five.

First and foremost, there’s Xbox 360’s Forza Motorsports 4, favored because “you can pick any car.” From a GMC pick-up to a Bugatti Veyron (the fastest road legal car on the road, according to my young speedster), this Turn 10 Studios game has a car representing 80 manufacturers. It’s incredibly realistic, from the cars to the 22 worldwide venues. You can choose a Ferrari 458 Italia and nudge bumpers with a Toyota Sprinter Trueno Apex at Florida’s Sebring International or choose a Cadillac Northstar LMP-02 and speed toward the checkered flag at Germany’s Hockenheimring. This detailed game, rated “E” for everyone and costing $50, operates like most racer games, providing more and more cars to choose from as the player/driver reaches new levels of achievement. And for the most realistic play, the game is best operated with the remote sensor for Kinect.

Second in the stack of racing games is NASCAR: The Game 2011, rated “E” for everyone. If you love NASCAR and or speed, this is a great game for you. It’s very lifelike with pit stops, wrecks and authentic tracks. There are 43 cars and 23 tracks to choose from with level achievements. You can even pick your team, like Home Depot or Lowe’s, and a famous driver like Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Danica Patrick or Tony Stewart. However, you also have the option of racing as yourself and building your own racing career with sponsors and endorsements. This game is available on Xbox 360, PSP3 and is due out for Wii this spring. Cost is $60.

Here’s a race of a different kind … Need for Speed: The Run, rated “T” for teen. It’s a cross country, Cannonball Run type adventure. You’re Jack Rourke, racing from San Francisco to New York with a $25 million prize waiting. You run from cops and the like. The varying legs of the race represent different levels, and the final race pits you against subway trains, which my young player says is “way cool but pretty hard.” Buy it for your Xbox, PSP3 or Wii for around $30.

Enter the island of Ibiza, where you’re a lowly valet parking attendant who gets recruited into a reality television series and becomes a high-flying racecar driver of luxury cars in Test Drive Unlimited 2, rated “T” for Teen. There’s a progression of play that makes cars available as you achieve new levels. What’s different in this game is you have to earn money to buy the cars. Cars aren’t the only thing you can buy – houses and plastic surgery options, too. This game has more story and characters than any of the other racing games. My young player just likes the race component with luxury cars. Get it to play for $16 for Xbox or PSP3.

Only one game for the Wii is stashed in the master driver’s racing collection, and it’s Monster Jam Path of Destruction, rated “E” for everyone, and also available for Xbox and PSP3. Enjoy coast-to-coast lifelike monster truck sporting with dirt-filled arenas and fans. You pick the truck – Grave Digger, for example – and the venue. There are 28 trucks and scores of venues from Indianapolis to Orlando and Houston. This game is easy to navigate, has enticing graphics and will likely appeal to the youngest virtual monster truck driver wannabes. For only $20, why not let them?