DRM Encryption is Destroying Forza Horizon 3

getphoto-ashxLet’s talk about piracy. Technology has advanced to the point where basically any electronic product can be obtained at no cost to the end user through a relatively simple process, so naturally your average person will take advantage of this in order to save themselves money. While it’s virtually impossible to prove just how much piracy affects the financial side of a given entertainment company – and sometimes this rationale of “lost sales” can be hilarious exploited – businesses across multiple mediums of media have obviously fought back against the wave of renegade consumers who don’t intend to pay for what’s been built. Intrusive DRM programs like Starforcewhich bricked Windows 7 installs – were created during a time when ToCA Race Driver 3 was a $60 release to combat the popularity of uTorrent, GameCopyWorld, and ThePirateBay, while Croteam opted to include an invincible enemy within Serious Sam 3’s campaign mode purely to fuck with teenagers who “borrowed” the game “from a friend.”

Yet regardless of how creative each measure has been in combating piracy, there will always be pirates, and there will always be ingenious PC users who are bored enough to find a workaround. Unfortunately, in their efforts to prevent hardcore driving game fans who were short on funds from illegally obtaining a copy of the brand new open world racing game Forza Horizon 3, Turn 10 Studios broke their own product for legitimate users. There have been a steady stream of complaints regarding the game’s performance on Windows-based operating systems, but now we finally know why.

fh-3-efsAccording to a post on the official Forza Motorsport subreddit, a user by the name of dkhavilo discovered that his CPU performance was being heavily consumed by something called EFS while playing the VIP Access version of Forza Horizon 3. EFS, otherwise known as Encrypting File System, manually forces Forza Horizon 3 to constantly de-crypt relevant files during normal gameplay – a mammoth task for a driving game based around exploring an open world environment at breakneck speeds. The game is simply too big and too complicated for the DRM software to keep up, even on platforms featuring a Solid State Drive compared to the traditional Hard Drive storage systems, and as a result Forza Horizon 3 runs like shit for all but the most ridiculously powerful home computers. And unlike Microsoft Flight Simulator X back in 2006, which was notorious for high system requirements due to huge leaps in graphical fidelity and the complexity of the flight model, Forza Horizon 3 as an application is perfectly capable of running on modern computers. I mean, it’s not like the Xbox One version of the game runs poorly, and the hardware powering Microsoft’s latest console isn’t exactly groundbreaking by any means – it’s actually outdated by three years.

However, the PC version has basically been crippled by a DRM system so intrusive, it’s bottle-necking the CPU and causing massive framerate problems for all but a handful of users. It will definitely be interesting to see how Turn 10 rectify this problem, as the DRM functionality is basically built into how the game interprets its own data files. You can check out the full Reddit thread on the subject HERE; it’s certainly not pretty.


Reader Submission #118 – You’ll Want to Avoid Forza Horizon 3

forza-horizon-3-preview-boat-raceWe now live in a particularly special kind of hell. Barack Obama is pushing for a one-world government, citizens are being told to censor alleged “hate-speech” en mass on YouTube, and Google’s search results have been re-wired to avoid any link containing information that could offend only the most fragile of individuals found in society. If you use modern video games as your escape from the daily grind, and have been looking forward to blasting around the eastern coast of Australia in Forza Horizon 3 – a mammoth automotive sandbox that represents the pinnacle of open world driving games – you’re shit out of luck. Basically everyone who received early access to the game, whether it be by press credentials or those who pre-ordered the special edition, are reporting a vast array of crippling issues. That’s right, if you’ve suffered through abominations like Project CARS, Assetto Corsa, F1 2015, Need for Speed, MX vs. ATV Supercross, and NASCAR Heat, the third edition of Forza Horizon is just another game to add to that list.

Our boy Simon I. has come through with the full recap for PRC.net’s 118th Reader Submission.

c5660291-5e39-4d8e-9655-fb25a9d7abf1Hi guys. As you may know, Forza Horizon 3 is coming to PC, and is actually out now for Ultimate Edition users, but the number of issues with the game on PC, as well as with the Microsoft Store, is just mind-blowing.

First of all, you have to pray to God that the download doesn’t freeze and restart itself from the beginning. Yep, it’s fun to download 50GB worth of data all over again. And there are multiple errors on the Microsoft Store; some people don’t have the download option at all, some have already re-downloaded the game upwards of five times… It’s ugly. Personally, I’ve hit the 37GB mark, and now it’s started all over again.

fagza-forumsFor those who did manage to complete the download, they’ve encountered numerous issues such as:

The list goes on and on; the worst part being Microsoft and Turn 10 are totally avoiding addressing any of this – no comment at all, and people who talked to a live support member were told to just re-install the game. I personally spent $123 on this garbage and will probably miss the early access phase because it will take another 72 hours to download, and when it’s finally completed I’ll be subjected to a million more issues. Please cover this, people need to know about and avoid any game coming from the Microsoft Store!

c318e709-c051-4eb9-aae4-581d5884df63I guess this is the future of sim racing. Companies make a game that barely works and skirts around various national & international consumer protection laws, customers buy into these products based on carefully crafted trailers, and when shit hits the fan, the weaponized fanboys attack anyone who’s critical of the game and paint them out to be entitled basement-dwelling monsters who can’t appreciate a company’s “hard work.”

I won’t be picking up Horizon 3 because I’m one of those losers who believes there’s something sinister going on with Windows 10, so unless Sev gets his hands on a functional copy, don’t expect any sort of lengthy review in the near future. Apparently, we aren’t missing much if these threads are anything to go by, but I loved the original Horizon and played the ever-loving shit out of it. It’s disappointing to see a series like this, one which initially stood for quality and was used as a benchmark in the world of racing games, fall flat on its face in such a spectacular way.

Understanding the Engineering Behind a Papyrus Classic

uwtdrnyIt was a different time, a different era, and a different mindset. Racing simulators were once complete games, supported by loyal community members long after allegedly superior titles arrived on the market. When Electronic Arts secured the exclusive rights to the official NASCAR license over a decade ago, and sim racers learned NASCAR Racing 2003 Season would serve as a final goodbye for the legendary development team Papyrus Motorsports, hardcore virtual auto racing enthusiasts didn’t have enough time to pay their condolences – they were too busy modding. Over the past fourteen years, NR2003 has become an interactive history book in a way the real-life NASCAR Hall of Fame could only dream of; American Stock Car Racing’s past, present, and future have been passionately chronicled down to every last obsessive detail thanks to sim racers with a bit too much time on their hands.

If Dale Earnhardt hit the track in 1990 for practice at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a tiny contingency decal that was accidentally applied in the wrong cluster by a nervous rookie crew member, you can race that exact car.  If you were curious as to what the now-demolished Ontario Motor Speedway would look like on the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series schedule, you’re welcome to take a lap. If your uncle once told you stories of racing late models in the 1990’s, the entire field he competed against – including his car – is probably available for download. If the NASCAR Hall of Fame is a museum, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season is a virtual time machine.

But limitations to the underlying engine have caused many to lose interest in this title. Yes, at one point in time, NR2003 was the pinnacle of modern PC racing simulators. However, the planned obsolescence on the part of Papyrus quickly put NR2003 into the past as American Stock Car Racing progressed into the 21st century. Rumors of Sprint Cup entries producing upwards of 1000hp and generating ridiculous downforce figures resulted in real-world performance benchmarks that the Papyrus experience simply couldn’t match. With NASCAR Racing 2003 Season hard-coded to just four preset physics types, all of which were based on NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch, and Craftsman Truck series rides from the final portion of the 2002 season, the simulation value of NR2003 dropped with each new rules package change. Sure, the screenshots may indicate Dale Earnhardt Jr’s #88 Axalta Chevrolet is available for the landmark Papyrus simulator, but under the hood, it’s still driving like his #8 Budweiser Monte Carlo. And while you’ve undoubtedly come across shots of the Dallara DW12 turning laps at Indianapolis within the NR2003 engine, the game itself believes you’re driving a 2003 Chevrolet Corvette C5R from the SCCA Trans-Am Series.

verizon_ics_3A friendly Russian fellow going by the name of JJ Hemp is looking to change that, and bust the aging NASCAR Racing 2003 Season wide open for sim racing modders who desperately need a dedicated oval racing platform, as other titles simply don’t want to accommodate stock car racing. Posting under the nick of RaceReady78 on the small yet fairly active NR2003 Subreddit, Hemp has made an active effort to both understand and document a powerful physics editing tool for NR2003, one which could turn a now-aging piece of software into the rFactor of Stock Car racing. That’s right – NASCAR Racing 2003 Season could actually make a comeback.

Has this been done before? In short, yes. The tool Hemp is using was briefly circulated shortly after the release of NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, yet the landscape of sim racing at the time warranted drastically different results. With the future of PC racing simulators still largely up in the air – rFactor was a few years off, and nobody was sure what would happen to Papyrus as a company – those who attempted to work with this tool and upload their results for others to enjoy were pursued legally by the company now known as iRacing, discouraging anybody from making real progress with NR2003 from a physics standpoint. While both a historic Group C Prototype offering and 2005 IndyCar Series mod were eventually uploaded to show how much potential NR2003 still had as a legit modding platform – and each release was praised by sim racers – the harsh reality of dealing with John Henry and other iRacing representatives in a court of law became too much of a risk for the average modder. Those who did step up to the plate were basically destroyed financially, even if hilarious quotes from the litigation made iRacing to be the bad guy in the court of public opinion.

iRacing was scared the community could produce a better product than what iRacing would eventually become; the physics editing tool was promptly shelved and treated as a collectors item; the Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card of the NR2003 community. Those who could use it to its full potential simply moved on to other games, unwilling to deal with iRacing’s bullshit.

nr2003ss0012Hemp doesn’t give a shit, and today I’m extremely happy to bring you this exclusive interview with a guy who could possibly breathe another ten years into the life of NASCAR Racing 2003 Season.

PRC: Alright, to start things off, you’re not a guy in the sim racing community that anybody knows a whole lot about. Like, you’re not a “name” so-to-speak, so I guess the smart place to begin is to just sort of introduce who you are, how you got into NR2003, and the basis of what you’re doing here. Because this is something a lot of people will be interested in.

Hemp: Well originally, I’m actually from the Russian Federation, but I’ve lived in America for fourteen years. I’ve been playing PC games ever since the first Pentium 133 came out. Thinking back, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season came out around the same time I landed in the United States. However, I didn’t learn of the game until 2007-ish. I got a two year degree for Automotive Technology, so around 2007 myself and a buddy of mine were working in a mechanics shop. To occupy our free time, when there was no work (it happens), I simply googled “best NASCAR racing game PC”, and I’m sure you can guess what the result was. Being familiar with PC gaming as a whole, how to install games, hunt for fixes, stuff like that, installing the game and running the default content wasn’t much of a problem.

Before I knew it, we were putting laps on a laptop at work. Even with the keyboard, the game was something special, and it was the highlight of working at that auto shop with my mates. Fast forward to signing up for Valve’s Steam platform, I made friends with a few people who were really into NASCAR, and I started talking about this killer NASCAR game I used to play at work. They were initially put off by the whole “it’s from 2003” aspect, but it was one of those “they don’t make shit like they used to” type deals. So we got the game up and running for like five different people, and all of a sudden we discovered the modding aspect of this game. Like, hundreds of cars, tracks, mods, series, you name it. My buddies and I went through everything, driving all the different cars and tracks we could find – which was a lot.

Eventually, I started really combing through the NR2003 scene, and stumbled upon a page with a physics editor. Within minutes I had the thing on my desktop. But trying to figure out how to even start the program is complicated. After three days of editing the wrong text files and trying to figure out why nothing worked, I finally got it and made my first change. From there, I started studying the numbers and the values. Lots of them are still unknown, but slowly I’m moving through them all, one by one.

My best approach was to start coloring the Excel files. I would use different colors for the different values, and their individual purposes. That helped me to visualize the differences and similarities between the game’s physics. In my opinion, the game is so solid and nicely made that having an ability to mess with the car physics is like taking chess or checkers and making your own unique rules. Discovering the physics editor made me buy a Logitech wheel within a week, because I realized I’d stumbled upon much more than just an old game with a lot of mods.

I just really enjoyed the freedom to actually feel the differences that you make within the internal numbers. It’s like a game within a game. I’m lucky to be fascinated by all this stuff, and have my work benefit the community if it gets to that point.

1963-86-castles-smallPRC: Early in the lifespan of NR2003, efforts to make substantial changes to the underlying car physics were met with legal action by the company we’ve eventually come to know as iRacing. Are you aware of the fact that what you’re currently doing – editing the EXE – was something people were once taken to court over?

Hemp: I’m aware, but I’m also informed. When I was combing through stuff about NR2003 online, sure, I read all the articles about the scary lawsuits. However, when searching in detail, you can see that those guys got sued for distributing their mod along with a full copy of the game – a stand alone mod, if you will. You could basically download, lets say the 2005 IndyCar mod, delete the 2005 IndyCar content, and you’d have a perfect vanilla version of NR2003. That’s what iRacing didn’t like and got pissy about. Opening the EXE and modifying the source code is illegal. However, physics editing is nothing more than comma separated values. It’s just like another INI file with nothing but numeric values. Editing physics has nothing to do with cracking source code.

That is why we will never have double file restarts, overtime, and all of those goodies. With the physics editor we can simply change numbers that the game uses to make calculations, but that’s about it. In my opinion, physics editing alone opens a sea of possibilities. Editing the physics Excel file is the same as tweaking settings in text files – it’s not reverse engineering the EXE, it’s a spread sheet with a bunch of numbers that the game uses.

I’m not here to create a superior product and cut down on iRacing sales, but rather start a database on how to give this old game a facelift.

nr2003ss001PRC: With many modern racing simulators available, all of which advertise themselves as highly sophisticated modding platforms, why instead continue to dig into NR2003?

Hemp: Sophisticated sounds good, but is it really better? All of those games, including rFactor, have an ability to mod by default. The NR2003 editor has been around for ages, but due to corruption within the community – egos and all that – it;s been hidden for years as a collector’s item. Now that it’s available for the public, I think someone should fill in the blanks on exactly what it is, and what it does. I wouldn’t waste my time on rFactor as there are probably hundreds of people with more knowledge in regards to that game, but with NR2003 this is all new and uncharted territory. And with those stalker sites who love to run around, power trip, and bully people who have access to this stuff into staying silent, I’m here as a third party to bust it all wide open.

On a more serious note, the reason I’m setting my sights on NR2003 is the current state of NASCAR gaming. Were the Eutechnyx titles any good? No. Is the new NASCAR Heat any good? No.Was that NASCAR Sim Racing from 2005 any good? No. Meanwhile, there are still people who love this game and play it every day. Why not try, right?

3mfiowcPRC: The NR2003 community can be a strange, hostile beast; one where aging men embark on relentless cyber stalking campaigns over the mere quality of custom car templates. Have you faced any adversity from this community over your work?

Hemp: I’ve read all about that stuff. For now, nobody is messing with me. In my opinion, what they have done in the past is far worse than trying to mod a game or repost a template. It’s rediculous to the point I can’t begin to comprehend.

Personally, I don’t belong to any online racing community or anything like that, so I couldn’t care less about my overall reputation among the established NR2003 warzones and template makers. I’m simply here as an independent guy to show everyone what happens when an already great game has even more great things in it. The fact that the physics editor has been around for years, hidden by “elites” and used as a bargaining piece, is something that disgusts me.

main-difference-picturePRC: Let’s talk about your current project, the 1963 NASCAR Grand National Series. Your goal, I guess from the view of an outsider, is to turn NR2003 into a 1963 classic stock car racing simulator. Can you tell us what you believe the mod – physics and all – will look like when everything is completed. What can sim racers expect out of your first major release?

Hemp: Well let me stop you there. GN1963 Edit is nothing more than a way to show you the changes you can make in the text file. It’s much easier to choose which way you want to increase or decrease your numbers. I’m simply going through the fields in the editor trying to figure out what they are. I document my knowledge just so if anyone asks me a question about the editor, I would have a picture to show them.

I can also teach and explain, but regarding a final release, on top of cyber stalking and everything that goes on NR2003, we are not talking about any release or anything like that. Think of it more like a Wikipedia page dedicated to the physics editor, with GN1963 being a “perfect example.” Sim racers should expect every question about the editor to be answered, so they can get to work. That’s the main goal. It’s not a mod or a physics set, but a tutorial for other people.

As you know, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season has four types of physics: Cup, Busch, Truck, and Trans-Am. Each mod uses one of those four specifications. Within the editor, there are tons of unknown values, so it’s impossible to know exactly what they mean. However, by comparing the values for different physics, we can start to guess the general approach.

The reason I chose 1963 cars is very simple. They are very different from the cars we already have. The first steps are very clear; make an engine that has less power, and represents an old 427. The chassis is longer, the weight is heavier… Point I’m trying to make is that there’s a huge difference between these cars, and the default cars. It’s easy to take a swing towards a 1963 car feel. Make “good fields” worse, make “fast fields” slower, make “light fields” heavier. If we are trying to go from 2003 spec cars to 2016, how would we know if we’re on the right track unless you actually drove both cars in real life? Well, with a 1963 stock car, it’s much easier to tell from a modding standpoint if you’re getting it right. We can all guess how an old car drives or should drive compared to a modern stock car. A lot of the values in the spread sheet are real life numbers and dimensions. So you can easily just substitute real life numbers and be 100% correct. That still gives hope for many more edits that could be claimed as correct.

Am I done with understanding what all the values mean? I’d say I’m approaching 50%. It all comes down to the scale of how many things you want to edit. My goal is to document the process of figuring out the values in the editor, and what they mean in a manner that’s understandable for big mod teams. I’m here to simply talk about the physics and show what the editor is and what it can do.

gn63-0-tiny-lundPRC: Do you intend to release a final version of the 1963 physics as a sort of “prelude” to the second coming of the NR2003 modding scene?

Hemp: Hopefully not. My ultimate goal is for other people to use my documentation for their work own work, which would undoubtedly surpass my own efforts. Whether they build a physics set for the 1963 Grand National season, or the 2012 IndyCars, I don’t really care. I’ll race anything. I just saw a situation in which there was this extremely powerful tool out there, and nobody really knew how to use it. Honestly, you have to be stupid to ignore the possibilities of this program.

A lot of knowledge in regards to NR2003 is hidden or lost, plus NR2003 is so universal in terms of adjusting different things, and making models/mods and all that, it’s impossible for one person to know and be able to do everything. We don’t just need new tracks, or new car models, or new physics, we need all three at once. That’s the real deal and it’s what I’m hoping comes of this. In a year or two, I hope there’s a renewed interest in this game because the Papyrus magic was allowed to blossom into something more than just “look at my new car livery.” I want this to become on-par with rFactor, where teams can use my guide and suddenly within NR2003 there’s this historic 1970’s Trans-Am simulator with authentic physics that everybody’s driving.

nr2003-2016-07-14-18-06-34-25PRC: A big hurdle for many sim racers to get over is the ancient Force Feedback found in NR2003 – it pales in comparison to what we see in modern simulators. Have you found anything that could potentially lead to modders re-engineering the game’s dated force feedback?

Hemp: Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about Force Feedback. The physics editor is merely a set of numerical values; horsepower, torque, length, weight, and so on. It has nothing to do with the source code or opening EXE files to look into. You do feel the differences you make, so you’ll feel the car being heavier or less grippy in certain driving situations, but the core logic for Force Feedback has nothing to do with the editor. Someone more advanced will have to do stuff like that. Personally, the ability to have a simulated race alone or with friends with any type of car that modders will come up with will overshadow what some will call dated force feedback. NR2003’s AI and overall racing experience is that good.

Personally, I own a cheap Logitech Driving Force Pro, so any sim I play isn’t going to feel what the hardcore guys will want it to feel like.

main-pic-you-wanna-show-about-shortcutsPRC: What kind of quirks have you found while working on your project? There are rumors of the Pontiac chassis being the fastest of the four brands, and the cars gaining an extra 25 horsepower in overcast conditions. For as many accolades as the original Papyrus team received for NR2003, what kind of shortcuts were made under the hood?

Hemp: Oh man, I’ll be crucified if I talk about that. When it comes to the Pontiac rumors, I haven’t found any proof. There is only one set of values for one chassis. The track file will choose the chassis, and that’s it. There is, however, a hidden Chassis 0 that anyone can try without mods or anything. Just change your chassis type to 0 in the track.ini file. That one is very interesting, and it helped me to understand the general meaning of a few of the unknown values. That chassis has a different 450 engine with more torque and power, it has a set of tires no other chassis uses, so those are a dark horse as well. Also, it has a horrible drag coefficient of 0.82, versus the 0.53 found in the regular cup car. I wonder if that was their representation of an old muscle car? It has a drag coefficient of a brick, that’s for sure. Or it might be a hidden gem or an extra test chassis for them. Including chassis 0, and all four physics, there are close to 24 unique cars available in NR2003. I wonder if iRacing’s issues to fit new cars in have anything to do with that number.

Extra horsepower during certain weather conditions are hard-coded into the EXE, they have nothing to do with the editor. The game will take initial horespower from the editor and play with it however it was programmed to do it. I don’t doubt weather conditions have an effect on horsepower.

I don’t have a super deep knowledge of the game, but from looking at the numbers for hours I’ve indeed found a few shortcuts Papyrus took. The biggest one in my opinion is the physics themselves. Almost everything aside from the fields in the editor which depend on chassis type have been copy-pasted; meaning, the short track chassis for all four physics sets has the same value. The Craftsman Truck has different aero properties, tires, rims, and a different engine compared to the cup, but for the most part it’s a carbon copy of the Winston Cup physics. This is absurd, as if you took off the body work and lined the two vehicles up side by side in real life, they are most definitely not the same race car.

In terms of the Busch series car, the only values Papyrus changed were weight, wheelbase, and engine – although at the time this was somewhat realistic because the cars are extremely close to one another to begin with. So when the Busch series physics were first put up for download, it was actually nothing more than a few lines of code. That’s what the editor says, at least. I do not know what else goes on in the EXE itself, and I might be terribly wrong, but if I am making a 1963 physics set as an example, they didn’t try hard at all when creating the Busch series physics. I understand it is largely the same as the Winston Cup car, but the numbers say it was a very rushed job.

nr2003-2014-07-24-18-53-39-59While JJ Hemp still has an exceptionally long way to go in terms of research, curious modders intrigued by the possibility of resurrecting a Papyrus classic can sample his documentation by clicking HERE for the first edition of his Engine documentation, and HERE for the first edition of his Chassis documentation. The physics editing tool for NASCAR Racing 2003 Season can be found HERE. Hemp’s Reddit account, where he routinely updates users with progress he has made during his research, can be found HERE.

URD Meets Automobilista

ams-2016-09-20-17-47-18-05Reiza Studios may not have intended for Automobilista to be used as a modding platform, but payware third party content team UnitedRacingDesign have released their first project for the Brazilian developer’s newest title, bringing out the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R for yet another PC racing simulator. Already found in both rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa, the C7R for Automobilista is the first legitimate GT-spec race car available for Reiza’s most prominent game, as the comprehensive GT3 mod uploaded earlier this summer by the European Endurance Center relies heavily on ripped car models from software such as Real Racing 3 and Shift 2 Unleashed.

ams-2016-09-20-17-46-20-04If you’ve already tried this car for another modern simulator, the C7.R in Automobilista isn’t exactly a new experience. Built by the same team, with presumably the exact same data, the vehicle as it appears and drives in both rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa exhibits largely the same handling characteristics as it does in Automobilista. Glued to the racing surface and willing to obey even the most precise of steering inputs, the C7.R is an American GT entry in appearance, but graced with European ingenuity under the bodywork. Failing to adequately keep the power produced by the mammoth V8 in check is a quick way to loop the car, but any idiot with a steady right foot can turn acceptable laps with this thing provided they eschew the horrid default setup URD have packaged the car with. Use THIS if you’re having difficulties.

ams-2016-09-20-17-45-38-10Only featuring four liveries, there isn’t much racing to be done with this car inside of Automobilista; I assume URD instead want this release to function as a teaser for the inevitable Endurance GT payware pack – most likely including rival GTE entries such as the SRT Viper, Ferrari 458 Italia, and BMW Z4, albeit under clever monikers to avoid obvious copyright infringement.It’s only a matter of time until URD pull the trigger and unleash this package into the hands of the general public.

The question which now remains is if sim racers will want to purchase the same exact payware mod three times, just to drive the exact same cars and exact same liveries within a slightly different piece of software. While the 2013 Endurance GT carset has been routinely deemed a must-have purchase for rFactor 2, and highly recommended for anyone’s Assetto Corsa install, there’s something different about what this content would mean for Automobilista. The fanboys will most likely say otherwise, but Steamcharts indicates Reiza’s new game is basically dead on arrival, even after a mammoth crowdfunding campaign and lengthy Early Access program – and Reiza themselves have admitted Automobilista is merely a stopgap game before a project they’ve code-named Reiza2017.

Is it excessive for the guys at URD to keep rehashing the same mod over and over again for no less than three separate games? I believe so. In the past I had no problem with new mods continuously being converted from one platform to another – it was not uncommon to see a project released for rFactor cleaned up and ported over to GTR Evolution within a week, if not on the day of release. However, as the gap between the launch of each new major racing simulator increases (those who bought Assetto Corsa in 2013 probably saved up enough in three years to buy Automobilista in 2016), and the respective communities of each individual game overlap with one another, I’m definitely left wondering how far this concept will be taken.

You can make the argument that fantastic CART Factor package was also a rehashed mod, but at least people didn’t have to pay for it. Sure, the URD GT cars are of a high enough quality that it’s at least understandable to place them behind a paywall, but I certainly don’t want to be buying them for a fourth time when Reiza2017 launches next year.

You Can Get a Refund for NASCAR Heat on the XBOX One

maxresdefaultLast Monday, our review of NASCAR Heat Evolution for the PC went live, as DMR Games released the highly-anticipated oval racing title on Steam 24 hours earlier than we expected. It didn’t take long to plow through everything the game had to offer and discover why many of the hardcore sim racing news outlets – including traditionally positive publications such as Inside Sim Racing – were not provided with a review copy; Heat needed another year in development, and was simply not ready to be placed in the hands of the general public. Framerate problems and laughably dated audio highlighted a laundry list of complaints, which combined to form a video game barely worth twenty dollars, let alone the sixty dollar asking price. It drives sort of okay with a controller – much better than the previous Eutechnyx offerings – but there’s just too many technical issues and strange design choices for this title to overcome. Unfortunately, I’m one of those poor souls who couldn’t get a refund from Steam, and I’m left to pray my $60 will go towards a much better outing next year, but everyone else should really steer clear of NASCAR Heat Evolution.

csevv1musaaolid-jpg-largeWhile I was fucking around with the PC release, eventually discovering that online sprint races could be pretty entertaining with a competent group of users, my buddy bought the game off the Microsoft Store for his Xbox One. Throughout the week we’d been shooting each other texts about our initial impressions, and it wasn’t long before his complaints echoed many owners of the console version of the title. I knew the game wasn’t very good from my own experience, but I was still able to have a bit of fun with – just not sixty dollars worth of fun. Dan, who usually is quite accepting of video games regardless of their quality, told me the game was “still in beta”, and that he dropped it after a night of play; trying to forget that he ever purchased it.

I got to try the Xbox One version of NASCAR Heat Evolution for myself at his place this morning, and it immediately became apparent why he had yet to complete a single race; NASCAR Heat Evolution for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is dangerously close to being a scam. The only reason there is not some sort of class action lawsuit occurring, is because consumer product laws haven’t caught up to how people play and enjoy video games.

Brad Keselowski may be my favorite NASCAR driver, but I’m extremely disappointed with how he has handled the promotional aspect of NASCAR Heat Evolution. DMR Games have shipped an unfinished product which does not respect the customers who have paid full price for it, and it’s pathetic to see someone in his position blatantly mislead customers with carefully worded social media posts dancing around the fact that NASCAR Heat is awful. The game’s performance on the Xbox One is downright unacceptable; the only reason you’re not hearing more about it due to the fact that it’s not a Batman game. Now Monster Games claimed NASCAR Heat Evolution would be capped at 30 FPS on consoles, but the reality is that frequent framerate drops and miscellaneous stuttering fits call this value into question – a big deal when you consider how much precision is required for any kind of realistic racing game.

On the PC, these performance woes can easily be rectified by a trip to Memory Express, but Xbox One owners can’t currently do that because… well… it’s a console. A lot of aspects about modern video games are 100% subjective, but application performance is objective. Project CARS on the Wii U was cancelled entirely because it couldn’t achieve a steady 30 frames per second; NASCAR Heat Evolution performs about the same on far superior hardware, but yet it’s on the shelves for sixty dollars.

darlingtonVisually, I think DMR Games are extremely lucky no consumer laws have been put into place that establish an acceptable base level of quality for any modern video game. All preview pictures you see of NASCAR Heat Evolution have been taken from the Steam release, as the Xbox One version of the title does not resemble any images of the game you see posted online. There is no anti-aliasing to speak of, and as someone who still puts time into PlayStation 2 games on a regular basis, the visual fidelity of Heat falls somewhere between EA’s NASCAR 09 for the PS2, and 2005’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted for the Xbox 360. If the gameplay is good, I can overlook certain visual elements that aren’t up to par with other products, but Heat is almost eleven years behind the curve, while replicating the performance instability of an original PlayStation offering. It is genuinely surprising just how bad this game performs on consoles from a technical standpoint, and that’s before we address the issues found in the 4,000 word review published last Monday.

But on a positive note, Microsoft will let you get a refund for this game.

4myxboxWith fifteen minutes to kill before NFL Sunday began, and our illegal stream of NFL Redzone running in the background, I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to just ring up Microsoft and ask for a refund – he was just a tad too stoned to articulate himself correctly. There had been rumors… of sorts… that Microsoft allows one full refund per year of a digital purchase, and even if we couldn’t get one, at least we’d receive some kind of definite answer by talking to a live customer service rep. Again, Dan’s complaints of this game weren’t petty; NASCAR Heat Evolution on consoles is something I have no problem saying is dangerously close to a scam after trying it myself. This game is in such a despicable state, it should not have been allowed to reach store shelves.

originalWhile I didn’t catch the name of the guy that helped us out on this one, the Microsoft Support rep that took the call for Xbox Live user FeebleBarbecue today deserves a solid pat on the back. We were connected to a customer service rep in less than ninety seconds, and I gave an incredibly basic rundown of the situation:

“My buddy bought NASCAR Heat from the Microsoft Store, the game’s framerate is all over the place, and it’s several years behind visually. We looked online for a fix or news on potential updates, and messages boards are full of awful reviews saying they’ve taken the physical copy back to the store because it’s so bad. Is there any chance my buddy can get a full refund on his Microsoft Store purchase?”

The call lasted less than five minutes, and our anonymous Microsoft rep asked some extremely basic account info questions just to confirm the situation and enter it into their database. There was no fighting with some Indian guy whose name clearly wasn’t “Mike”, or an older woman who was moonlighting as an escort; our boy instead compared it to the issues seen in the Battlefield 1 beta, and immediately sympathized with the numerous technical gremlins when he saw the game’s release date was last Tuesday.

“It sounds almost the game’s still in beta, cause some of the guys around here are Twitch streamers and they ran into the same things with Battlefield 1 a few weeks back. Now your options are to try and contact the developers directly and alert them of all the bugs you’ve found, or I can just refund the purchase to the credit card…”

Boom, done. It’s obviously not something you can do with just any game that you aren’t fond of, but if you dial 1-800-469-9269 after purchasing an especially monumental pile of shit from the Microsoft Store with a growing list of negative feedback online, the five minutes out of your day to physically call up the Microsoft support line is a surefire way to receive a refund for an unsatisfactory product.