'Need for Speed: Rivals'

From: EA Games

Rated: E 10+

Who it's for: Fans of arcade-style racing games looking for an adrenaline rush

Console: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Grade: B+

The safest place to drive really fast is in your own living room. Of course, I'm talking about racing games, and the new generation of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles has a couple of good early choices for wanna-be speedsters everywhere.

The latest installment of EA's "Need for Speed" series continues the tradition of outlandish arcade-style races and adds a flurry of new online features that take it to the next level.

Anyone familiar with last year's "Need for Speed: Most Wanted" will recognize the framework for the new "Need for Speed: Rivals." The Cops-versus-Racers showdown continues, this time with a much more dynamic system to get in on the fun.

Set in the huge open world of Redview County, the "Rivals" landscape is both beautiful and diverse. Desert vistas melt into stretches of serene seaside, before transforming into snowy mountain passes.

The game magnificently renders each area as players speed around looking for races and rivals to challenge them.

To start an event, just pull up to the starting point and wait for the signal. Or, if you want a more personal head-to-head race, just catch up to another car and challenge it. You can even jump into a chase already in progress, helping other players catch a racer or elude the cops, depending on which side you are playing.

If you are connected online, the game will automatically place you in a world with other racers. This adds a human element to many of your encounters, instilling an unpredictable nature not found in computer-controlled opponents.

This isn't to say you will be engaged with others at all times, but opening that possibility really adds depth to the game.

Unfortunately, the game's biggest draw can also be something of a drawback.

Sometimes it takes an inordinately long time for the game to load as it looks for a good game to place you in. Even then it is still possible to wind up with racers of incompatible skill levels, making it difficult to win races.

Still, if you're looking for a strong arcade-style racing game, "Need for Speed: Rivals" won't disappoint.

Both new consoles were scheduled to have exclusive racing games at launch: "Forza Motorsport 5" on Xbox One and "DriveClub" on PS4.

'Forza Motorsport 5'

From: Microsoft

Rated: E

Who it's for: Xbox One owners who want a pretty racing sim to show off their new system

Console: Xbox One

Grade: B-

Sony pushed "DriveClub" back into 2014 because it wasn't ready to hit the street; "Forza 5" launched alongside the Xbox One in what looked like a decisive victory for Microsoft.

Looks can be deceiving, though.

As predicted, "Forza 5" looks great. The car models, tracks and environments are simply stunning to behold.

The game also retained the series benchmark controls, allowing players to adjust the settings to accommodate newbies and driving pros alike.

Developer Turn 10 Studios even included a nifty new innovation called the "Drivatar."

This virtual presence races in your stead, even when you are not playing. Once the game gets a sense of your skill and style, it sends your Drivatar out to race on your behalf, giving you a nice cache of credits (the in-game money) once you return to the game.

Likewise, other players' Drivatars appear in your game to race in your events. You can adjust the difficulty of those that appear, giving you a fair opportunity to win every race.

Overall, it's a great new system that makes the game far more dynamic than previous installments.

Unfortunately, the game's downside hinges on its quick release. 

While the inclusion of 200 cars sounds like a lot, "Forza 4" actually had three times as many, so there is a good chance your favorite ride didn't make the cut in "Forza 5."

To compensate for this, cars are more difficult to come by. No longer does the game award you vehicles when you gain driver levels. You must either buy all of them with in-game credits or tokens purchased online.

So plan on spending a lot of time or a lot of money collecting all of the game's best cars.

Also, there are only 14 tracks in "Forza 5," compared with the 26 from "Forza 4." This includes some glaring omissions like Nurburgring.

Still, everything that did make the cut is pure joy to experience, making "Forza 5" a pleasurable mixed bag.