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3 Racing Games We Can't Wait to Play This Year

If you are an automobile enthusiast in 2017, there's a good chance that when you aren't wrenching on your own vehicle or heading out to an automotive event, you'll find yourself playing racing games on a PC or console. And with driving simulations are becoming more realistic and immersive than ever before, to call them "games" is bit of a stretch.

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Whether you call them games, simulations or anything else, 2017 is shaping up to be a huge year for virtual driving, with numerous titles set to release between now and the holiday season. We've picked out three games in particular in which we can't wait to start turning some virtual laps.

1. Gran Turismo Sport

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First up is Polyphony Digital's "Gran Turismo Sport," the long anticipated next installment of the legendary "Gran Turismo" franchise, which launched 20 years ago on the original Sony PlayStation. While there are few car enthusiasts who aren't familiar with the "Gran Turismo" series, it's been a while since we've had a proper "GT" game. The last release was "Gran Turismo 6" on the PlayStation 3 back in 2013, and "GT Sport" will mark the series' debut on the PlayStation 4 hardware.

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"GT Sport" is not a full numbered "Gran Turismo" release, but it's also a lot more than a "Prologue" edition, which we've seen in the past. The game promises to be a gateway to the next generation of "Gran Turismo" and features a heavy emphasis on online competitive play as well as the photo realistic graphics the series is known for.

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While it might not quite be "Gran Turismo 7," "GT Sport" should have no shortage of content. The car list will include 140 different vehicles both of the street and race variety, along with 19 different locations and 27 different layouts to race them on. Additional content has also been planned for after the launch.

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"GT Sport" was originally scheduled to launch last year, but its release was pushed back to an unspecified date in 2017. Last month Polyphony Digital released a limited access beta trial of the game that is ongoing, and initial impressions seem very positive. I probably don't need to say this, but if you are a fan of driving games who owns a PlayStation 4, this one's a must-try.

2. Forza Motorsport 7

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On the other hand if you are an Xbox gamer, then you should already be very familiar with the "Forza Motorsport" franchise, which itself has been around for well over a decade now. And while it's history might not go back quite as far as it's Sony rival, Turn 10 Studios has more than made up for that with steady releases of great games.

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While the next installment of the "Forza" franchise has not yet been officially announced, after 2015's "Forza Motorsport 6" and 2016's "Forza Horizon 3," the cycle is expected to continue this fall with "Forza Motorsport 7" and return to closed-course simulation-style racing.

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Even bigger news is that "Forza 7" will be optimized for Microsoft's new Project Scorpio, an upgraded 4K and VR-ready version of the Xbox One console, which promises even better graphics. Microsoft has already confirmed they will have more information about Project Scorpio at this year's E3, and that's when we expect to hear more about the next "Forza" release as well.

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Whatever the case, "Forza 7" is expected to build on the already impressive amount of content in "Forza 6" which included post release expansion packs featuring the Porsche brand and NASCAR racing, along with the usual schedule of monthly car pack DLC.

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One of the big additions to "Forza 6" was the introduction of wet weather conditions to many of the game's tracks, and we expect "Forza 7" to take things even further. Perhaps we'll see off-road/rally racing as featured in the recent Horizon games. We'll learn more at E3 in a couple months.

3. Project CARS 2

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Last but not least is the second installment in Slightly Mad Studios' "Project CARS" series. Set to release later this year, "Project CARS 2" is the follow-up to 2015's highly successful "Project CARS." While it doesn't have the first party support of the "Gran Turismo" or "Forza," "Project CARS" quickly claimed its place among the all-time greats, and we expect more of the same from the second installment.

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Not keen to rest on their laurels, Slightly Mad Studios is taking things even further for "Project CARS 2" with the introduction of snow, dirt and Rallycross to the game — all of which will be funneled through one of the most realistic physics engines in the business.

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The first game featured a massive number of race tracks, and the second one looks to improve on that with the largest number of racing circuits ever featured in a console game. Better yet, all of the courses will feature variable times of day and weather conditions.

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If I had one complaint about the original, it was that the car list was a bit European-heavy, but SMS is trying to remedy that with some cool new additions — including a number of historic Nissan race cars along with new domestic iron like Vaughn Gittin Jr.'s "Ultimate Fun Haver" Ford F-150. It's hard to think of a better vehicle with which to try out the new unpaved areas of the game.

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The release date for "Project CARS 2" has not been confirmed yet, but the game will reportedly be arriving in late 2017 on both the PS4 and XBox One as well as the PC. While it may not be able to match other games in terms of raw car numbers, it easily makes up for that with its incredible attention to detail and highly realistic physics.

These are just three of the big racing games due to release before the year is through. Each series will certainly have its loyal fans, but I'm one who is looking forward to trying out all of them in the coming months. Stay tuned for more coverage and impressions on all of these games as their release dates draw closer.

Do you suck at racing games? You should try out SEGA's "Motorsport Manager."

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