Two new car racing games are released this month, both have been in development for some time and both have been hoting anticipated by both the press and the fans of both the previous games in their respective series, and of the platforms they are being launched on.

The first is the latest in the great Colin McRae rally series. This time called Colin McRae Dirt, this is getting a cross platform release on the 360, PS3 and PC. The graphics look amazing and this is one of the first games that is getting me more interested in the PS3 and the want to own one, although being released on the PC too I can still access the game.

With Dirt Codemasters have finally decided to expand the game beyond just rally driving. Dirt now features every form of off road racing you can think off, and it marries this up with a new graphics engine called Neon. This promises more natural environments that seen before in a racing game, and from what I've seen so far Codemasters have pulled it off.

They have taken this further than just expanding the racing to anything and everything off road. They have also expanded the playing experience into a personal career. At the beginning of each race the game narrates your own personal biography to date of everything you have achieved in the game. Your favourite driving places and machines, how high you have jumped, how far you have drifted, how badly you have crashed...

If you liked previous McRae games and you liked the TOCA series, especially the later Driver games with the career mode, then Dirt merges these two series and to great success.

I've only seen the game running on a 360 so far and it looked amazing, all be it with very minor slowdown in a couple of places. If it looks this good on a 360, I'm wondering if they are going to manage to make it even better on the PS3. I epecially hope they can utilise the PS3's greater processing power to get rid of the slowdown (all be it very very minor) that the 360 version does suffer from.

Highly recommended game for all games of rallying, off road racing and TOCA style championship career gameplay.

I did mention two games and so now we come to the second. Forza Motrrsport 2, exclusively for the Xbox 360. Until now there has been little to excite me or engage my interest on the 360. Most of the releases have been PC ports or have shared a joint release with other platforms. There have been a few exceptions such as PGR3 and Gears of War, but neither has been a big enough reason to entice me into actually purchasing the platform.

Forza Motorsport 2 is different. Just looking at the graphics moving will blow you away. The screenshots you will see online or in magazines look amazing as they are, so imagine these moving!

But a nice graphics engine do not make a great game on their own. What makes Forza 2 so special? For a start it takes everything Gran Turismo (GT) is known for, and it expands on it. It has all of the same elements that made GT into an RPG like car collecting, developing and tuning experience, but more so.

Just like GT you race to win money so you can buy parts to tune and perfect your existing cars, or to buy new cars, and as you progress you go up in driver rank and unlike new classes and race tracks as well as access to new models of car. But it takes this much deeper than GT. The one danger of GT has always been that it ends up becoming a quest to acquire every car in the game. In contrast Forza 2 goes much deeper, giving you the ability to customise your cars much more than GT ever has. The key to Forza 2's gameplay is car development. You can customise a lot more and spend as much money as you like on each car. They also gain levels much like an RPG character. The higher a car's level the more discount you can get on parts and the higher it increases the bonuses you can win from races.

It goes even further. You also have an extensive decal mode, allowing you to customise the visual look of the car's bodywork from a library of over 4000 shapes, creating a unique and one off version of the car. And still more. The game also has an online auction house where you can buy and sell these unique customised cars with other player.

It borrows many parts from PGR3 too. The money system and online auction the house especially. It also shares the photo mode, allowing you to pause the game mid replay or mid game and move around the scene taking picture of your car. These can then be shared with others and even uploaded to the Forza website.

And all this is without mentioning the actual racing. As already stated the graphics look amazing and the cars and tracks are very well modelled. The gameplay and car handling is equally as good. Offering levels of difficulty for all player skill levels in the form of car driver aids such as traction control and ABS. Switch these off to gain the advantage of faster lap times in skilled hands, or switch them on for easier control in difficult situations.

The opposition AI is also very well developed with each driver having their own unique set of characteristics. If a computer controlled driver finds themselves in a situation they are not suited too, or one they don't like then they have as much chance as a real player/driver of getting it out of shape and crashing.

Another thing that the AI seems to have finally got right is rubber banding. In many previous racing games it has been apparent that code similar to an invisible rubber band has been in use, with AI controlled cars only reaching a distance behind or in front of the player that the rubber band allows. One of the best examples of this is the Ridge Racer series, and to a lessor extent the GT series, where you never managed to catch the first place car until the last lap, and other cars remained close behind. While this does increase tension and suspense while racing it isn't very realistic. In Forza 2 you definitely don't get the sense of this rubber banding code being used which is great and it leaves the racing down to your skill and the various predetermined pros and cons each of the AI drivers has been coded to have.

This is definitely the first game that has enticed me into the 360 being a system worth owning. If the rumoured upgraded 360 does get released this year then I may just have to buy one!