Thank You For Complaining About Assetto Corsa

No, hell hasn’t frozen over; Kunos Simulazioni have indeed pushed out an objectively fantastic update for their indie PC racing simulator Assetto Corsa, with the recent version 1.14 update bringing along a wonderful set of artificial intelligence upgrades that have turned the offline experience into much more than just a Chris Harris hotlapping simulator as many have previously joked about. I can assure you this is not a belated April Fool’s joke; it appears that overnight, the AI drivers were seemingly given world-class racecraft, and the end result is simply stunning – Assetto Corsa’s single player lifespan has now been exponentially extended, with the AI behavior leap-frogging every other modern racing simulator at the market in a resurgence akin to what we saw with Honda and Brawn GP between the 2008 and 2009 Formula One seasons. If you own Assetto Corsa on the PC, and have either shelved it or completely uninstalled it due to the lackluster AI opponents, I can say with 100% certainty that now is precisely the correct time to give it another whirl.

However, in this article I will take a drastically different approach than what many are expecting from an otherwise positive piece on Assetto Corsa. I will not praise Kunos Simulazioni for the contents of this recent update, because they simply aren’t responsible for what has been implemented. Instead, I will praise the community.

I shouldn’t have to give a lengthy history lesson to readers of PRC, but if you’ve been living under a rock for the past three years, the chain of events are quite simple to comprehend. When Assetto Corsa first shipped and started to reel in a very zealous group of diehard supporters, it did so primarily by offering a very engaging, intuitive driving model that felt leaps and bounds ahead of anything else on the market – an especially profound achievement given iRacing’s dominance over the sim racing genre. However, those not willing to bleed the colors of the Italian flag discovered that beyond the driving model, there wasn’t much else to do in the game. Online multiplayer was about a thousand times more painful to configure than already established offerings, and the game’s artificial intelligence was simply atrocious; absurdly slow on even the highest setting, driving straight into walls if the track grip was anything other than optimal, unable to pass slower cars, and downright embarrassing if you were a cheeky cunt and merely stopped on the track to see what they’d do – which was nothing.

Fanboys kicked and screamed inane phrases such as “you just don’t understand the point of Assetto Corsa; it is a DRIVING SIMULATOR, not a RACING SIMULATOR” upon valid criticisms of the AI cars being discussed in many areas of the sim racing community, while developers themselves on Twitter came out and said that the AI would never be able to pass faster cars and “probably never will”, adding that “people should work with the software, not against it.” The arrogance on the part of fanboys and developers was nothing short of mind-blowing; it’s like these people who loved Assetto Corsa like their first born child, didn’t actually want Assetto Corsa to improve – satisfied with mediocrity and internet “likes” for kissing the asses of developers on the official forums.

Regardless, sim racers unsatisfied by the single player experience in Assetto Corsa kept complaining over a period of years. At some point, these complaints must have been too much for Kunos Simulazioni to tolerate, as they have finally gone out and shut everyone up with an objectively wonderful batch of AI personalities to beat and bang with. Just the footage alone is impressive, which is why I’ve linked a couple videos that show off just how good the new update is.

Again, if you own Assetto Corsa for the PC, this is probably the time to either re-install, or fire up the application and spend a few hours messing around with the new AI code. It’s worth it, I promise.

However, there’s also a dark cloud in the distance that we should probably talk about. The long-awaited inclusion of private lobbies in Assetto Corsa launched only a few short days ago, but it’s been a bit of a mess. There have been a couple of people in our comments’ section ragging on Kunos for a disaster of epic proportions on consoles, and at this point I’m actually inclined to agree with them, again sticking to my belief that launching Assetto Corsa on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 was a huge mistake, as it’s only serving to damage the reputation of the company far worse than what a shitty little WordPress blog could ever do.

So for starters, the Xbox One version of the update didn’t actually launch. Microsoft and Sony have vastly different Quality Assurance testing processes, and the PS4 version was able to pass all of the mandatory checks, while the Xbox One update has been delayed by about three weeks. However, this is the least of the team’s worries. In implementing custom lobby functionality, the PS4 update actually broke online play for the Xbox One version of the game altogether, presumably as both variants were operating under the same basic server farm 505 Games had acquired for the two variants of Assetto Corsa. So while PS4 owners have a rocky yet useful implementation of custom lobbies, Xbox One players are struggling just to enter any sort of online race at all. On the Xbox One side of the Console Lounge forums, it’s basically mass confusion as users are completely unsure as to why online functionality in Assetto Corsa stopped working the moment the PS4 update launched.

I mean, thank God I own a solid PC, but I spent several years primarily using an Xbox 360 as a preferred gaming platform, so I’m aware of what it feels like to be at the mercy of a developer making countless mistakes behind the metaphorical wheel and unable to troubleshoot for workarounds in the meantime.

Regardless, there’s a silver lining to this custom lobby update. Like the AI upgrades, custom lobbies were also demanded by critics of Assetto Corsa for several months after launch – the bizarre dedicated server approach defended by fanboys and staff members who repeated the hilarious line of “our priority was to ship a stable game”  just as the shitty AI of the PC game was a few years ago – only inserted in because the tirade of angry customers upset that a common feature was left out for no justifiable reason wouldn’t stop.

So to those who have been very abrasive in their criticisms of Assetto Corsa, thank you. Kunos Simulazioni are finally listening to you, and it is resulting in a drastically better game than the one we once ripped on in the past. I can’t imagine how horribly unfinished this game would be if you guys kept your mouth shut and let fanboys and staff members bully you into silence.

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Reader Submission #140 – Calamity Forces HSO to Re-Schedule Indianapolis 500

An incredible package of open wheel cars warranted an equally captivating online championship, but for the Historic Sim Racing Organization, things on the competition end of the spectrum just aren’t going according to plan.

A few months back, we here at PRC introduced our readers to the stellar CART 88 mod for the original rFactor, a download bundling every single vehicle variant and driver combination that took the green flag during the 1988 American open wheel season into a light-weight download for the legendary rFactor simulation. While many were blown away by the sheer challenge of pushing these cars to the limit, and borderline-autistic attention to detail that replicated engine improvements and chassis swaps across each event, CART 88 as an rFactor mod was only part of the complete sales pitch; HSO would conduct their own full-length, full-distance online championship throughout the 2017 calendar year, allowing hardcore sim racers to step back in time and subject themselves to the same challenges their favorite drivers faced depending on their car of choice – whether that meant limping an under-powered backmarker entry to the finish line, or repeating Danny Sullivan’s dominance.

Yet after only two and a half events, HSO’s CART 88 championship is being remembered not for the intense battles, crafty race strategies, and stellar displays of sim racing prowess, but instead for ineptitude on the part of its entrants. Today’s Reader Submission from an anonymous sim racer competing in the series is here to tell us that while the mod is amazing, the series it was built for, isn’t.

Hello PRC. As I’m sure most of you know, the long process of practicing, qualifying and eventually racing the Indianapolis 500 is well underway. To coincide with this, the Historic Sim Racing organization are holding their own virtual rendition of the event. Using their exceptional, in-house developed CART 88 mod, HSO are running a full season using the mod, with the Indy 500 event being the jewel in the crown. However, this race – the most notable on the entire HSO schedule – has been absolutely plagued by issues. It has been memorable for all the wrong reasons, as the Indy 500 was cancelled (and promptly re-scheduled, to the credit of HSO) without even reaching a tenth of the proposed distance, as ignorance from competitors reigned supreme.

The race was due to start at 20:30 CET, but was delayed for over half an hour due to connection issues experienced by the head administrator. Inconvenient, but very understandable that we’d be required to wait for the primary official, because that’s who is going to guarantee us a fair race. However, this would be the most minor of problems all night, as in my opinion it descended into anarchy.

HSO’s Indy race called on a total of four manual formation laps. The first one was to be completed in rows of two, the next two run in single file, and the field assembling in the iconic rows of three for the final lap. One may ask how competitors were to know when to get underway considering rFactor can only support one formation lap, and the answer lies in hiring a manual pace car driver to do the dirty work for the three additional laps, and then typing “green” as a way to indicate a live green flag.

This is where the first start faltered. After four formation laps, the pace car driver miscounted the laps. He didn’t type green into the chat, and was still on the course. Confused, an admin further back down the field gave the go-ahead. This was disastrous, as the pace car was still on the racing surface. Despite the driver’s best efforts to get out of the way, the field was flustered and a major turn one pile up ensued, with the race restarting.

From that point on, the race was unable to restart smoothly. Several drivers who had partaken in the first start now had connection problems and could not see any cars, as their games did not sync with the server. There were several attempts at formation laps, many of which resulted in additional crashes due to some drivers not being able to see anyone. This was an unwise decision as the people having connection issues could have their problems solved by quitting the server and rejoining.

A short break was taken after the race failed to launch in a clean fashion, with the event now running an hour behind schedule.

Unfortunately, things got even worse. There were more pile-ups on the formation laps, leading to more restarts. In some instances this wasn’t the fault of HSO or any admins;  some drivers just had incompatible internet connections yet still tried to race when they should have thought twice signing up for an online league knowing their internet can’t handle it. As a result, the last restart sealed the fate of the race. A caution was called during the start procedure, adding an extra lap before the start as more sim racers embarrassingly crashed on the formation lap. The race did eventually get underway, but the group failed to complete a green flag lap before the yellow flew again. One driver, who had caused full race restarts in the past due to poor internet, put his foot to the floor way earlier than anyone else. He plowed through stationary cars, taking out no less than ten drivers while somehow managing to remain undamaged thanks to shoddy netcode. This ended up being the final straw for HSO admins, who cancelled the event shortly thereafter.

For HSO to operate properly in races of high notability and of a large entry list, they really need good restrictions on the quality of their competitors’ connections, and begrudgingly bar anyone with connection issues. If you can’t see anyone or are lagging like crazy, you should have the decency to park your car, simple. I’m not placing the blame totally on HSO here, the competitors should have the sense to pull out if their connection is like this. However, the admins should regulate how good their entrants’ connections are. I hope there are plans to do so.

This is not a hit-piece on HSO. I compete in the league on a regular basis and wholeheartedly enjoy it. Their in-house mods are the stuff of dreams and most of their races (which are on a smaller scale in terms of entrants) are meticulously organized and go down without issue. However, I would like them to learn some lessons from this farcical occasion. They are a non-profit organization at the end of the day, however their recent gigantic success in the area of mod development has catapulted them into the spotlight, and they need to be giving off a better showing than this.

I agree some effort should be made to impose internet connection requirements not just in HSO, but as many sim racing leagues and clubs as possible. Yes, back in 2005, high speed internet was a bit of a luxury, and at the time it would slightly inappropriate to demand the average sim racer to fork over a pretty penny just to continue what were essentially “gaming nights with the boys,” but times have changed. It’s been twelve years since the original rFactor came out, and cell phones can now download high resolution pornography at light speed while sim racing as a genre has grown exponentially, so there’s really no excuse for dropping loads on pricey wheels, pedals monitors, and button boxes while simultaneously lagging all over the fucking place because your ass suddenly can’t afford anything more than Wal-Mart WiFi.

Call me a major asshole, but you’ve had twelve years and a few console generations to put some money aside so you can upgrade your internet. At some point you have to stop pandering to these people.

However, I will say that the old adage of “sim racers turning five off-pace laps in a historic car before running to the forums and bragging they’re unable to drive it” is a large portion of why the CART 88 series isn’t going the way many have wanted it to. Though we rightfully gave HSO heavy coverage for a phenomenal mod, myself and Dustin ended up backing out after just two races because it was becoming very apparent that only a fraction of the grid could handle these cars for multiple laps in a row. Not only was building a setup for these beasts extremely finicky, they were very difficult to master on warm tires – we’re talking Grand Prix Legends in fast forward. By comparison, most of the guys who signed up for the league weren’t capable of driving the cars in a safe fashion; they either grew up watching the cars, or had an interest in historic online racing. That combination works well in other HSO series that use big, bulky classic GT cars with the weight and general performance characteristics of a modern family sedan, but certainly not here with these speeds.

There is a silver lining to all of this: I’ve been told that HSO will re-schedule the race and do everything in their power to force their league members to prove themselves (and their internet connection) in a different class before moving up to higher-powered cars such as 80’s CART monstrosities, it just sucks these things weren’t figured out prior to the season starting.

As We Predicted, iRacing’s Dirt Content Experiences Sharp Decline in Popularity

What was once sim racing’s biggest long-standing April Fool’s joke has now officially made the transition from reality into relative obscurity. North American and Australian dirt oval racing fans rejoiced back in 2016 when they learned it would be none other than iRacing tasked with taking a shot at replicating Dirt Late Models and Sprint Cars – taking a very popular discipline of local auto racing into the hyper-competitive environment of the online motorsports platform – but now that this content has been out for a little over a month, the honeymoon phase has concluded, and some are going as far as calling it a waste of resources. Though we praised iRacing’s muddy adventure when it first launched, with the cars being objectively the most realistic and believable vehicles available for purchase on the service after years of confusing tire model updates, we questioned the staying power it would have among the userbase considering dirt oval racing is seen as relatively low on the global auto racing totem pole.

A recent thread on iRacing’s official SubReddit has proven our primary concerns were right on the money, if not profoundly accurate. Reports of over 7,000 active users signed into the iRacing servers for the launch of dirt oval racing have now been replaced by woefully pathetic car counts that struggle to eclipse 20 total participants for the most well-attended events. This is a pretty big deal, as iRacing’s format relies on an abundance of entrants for each race so the service can split people into multiple groups based on their skill level. With so few drivers to split, and a maximum car count of just twelve vehicles for each race, it’s leading to situations where races are total shitfests because the talent pool is so diverse; barely competent drivers are forced to drive against highly skilled veterans.

And it’s not a fun experience for those involved.

Though the two users above each offer their own explanation as to why there’s been such a sharp decline in popularity for the dirt content, I don’t feel either are accurate, so I’ll put my own spin on things.

Dirt oval racing is actually extremely difficult; the cars by nature are configured to be fundamentally broken from a setup standpoint, and the driving style required is essentially flat-out drifting. The sim community by and large simply do not understand car setups enough to get the most out of their virtual sprint car or late model – quite hilarious given these games are intended for a hardcore audience who should in theory be all over that shit – and most sim races do not possess the car control necessary to run thirty five straight clean laps while dead sideways among an equally crazy pack of cars. I’m under the impression many iRacers bought the dirt content out of curiosity, realized they had nowhere near the talent level to drive the damn things, and gave up on it after only a few days.

You would think that the dirt content would bring a whole host of new users to the iRacing service, especially with talk of how accurate these cars are compared to the rest of the vehicles on iRacing, but there’s a fundamental flaw with this hypothesis.

As it stands, dirt oval racing is a very niche motorsport in both North America as well as Australia; World of Outlaws events haven’t been nationally televised since Spike TV was known as TNN back in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, and currently the only way to watch these races live is through a relatively obscure website that locks footage behind several pay walls. I’m not saying DirtVision is shit, I’m just saying that the average auto racing fan has no idea it exists in the first place. So the potential audience is significantly smaller than it was ten or fifteen years ago.

By comparison, the Ratbag World of Outlaws game for the PlayStation 2 sold half a million copies because everyone with a basic cable television package could watch sprint car racing on a Friday night with a familiar set of announcers such as Steve Evans and Ralph Sheheen introducing outsiders to the sport, while little kids or teenagers could point at a PS2 game in Wal-Mart and instantly have an entirely new type of car racing to dive head first into because it wasn’t much of an investment. This doesn’t happen anymore; iRacing requires an elaborate steering wheel setup, beefy computer, and a serious mentality just to get some base level of enjoyment from the title. Neither your average short track audience member, nor their offspring want to get screamed at by some elitist iRacing cuntwagon for ruining his safety rating.

Those who do brave those elements discover they can’t make a lap to save their lives because the cars are so difficult to drive, and the cycle repeats.

So you have a situation where after the honeymoon phase has ended, there’s twenty people signing up for dirt events. And on the outset it looks like a waste of resources, but I’m actually here to defend iRacing and tell you why it was worth the year of development time.

In learning how dirt oval racing works, how track surfaces evolve, and how dirt tire compounds behave, what iRacing learned on dirt will slowly apply to the tarmac vehicles. I gave the brand new Porsche a shakedown at Dustin’s house when we were shooting photos with the race car, and while I’m not going to say it’s this night & day difference that’ll make me come crying back to iRacing, it’s certainly something that indicated a few eureka moments were had behind the scenes. If iRacing continue in this direction, along with allowing Steve Reis to really dig through the software and undo some of the past mistakes from previous staff members, the dirt content will be seen in hindsight as a necessary evil to get the simulation back on track.

Sequel to The Crew Announced, But Does Anyone Care?

It started out as an ambitious project to re-capture the hidden magic of Test Drive Unlimited, but the end result was a run-of-the-mill open world racer with no compelling elements, and we’ve now learned through a message board post of all things that this sub-par package has somehow warranted a sequel. Though nobody will place a gun to your head and force you to buy The Crew 2 when it inevitably lands on store shelves for both major console gaming platforms and UbiSoft’s own uPlay service, it’s mere existence is the prime example of developers who refuse to see video games as interactive pieces of art, instead building an uninspiring experience designed solely to tick boxes of key features and distract customers from their own mundane personal lives for a few hours during the course of every evening.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am obviously not too thrilled about The Crew 2’s existence, but it has nothing to do with blind hate for a product I don’t entirely understand; I feel UbiSoft and Ivory Tower simply aren’t capable of making The Crew as an idea for a video game, into something you’ll be racing home after work to play for hours on end. I’d prefer for them not to waste everyone’s time with a second go.

Open-world driving games, when done right, can be fantastic. Need for Speed: Underground 2 and Rockstar’s Midnight Club Series blew the doors wide open on the sub-genre with stellar releases that allowed you to explore large environments at your own free will, with other developers scurrying around to try and attain some slice of the proverbial pie thanks to just how well gamers had responded to these all-around great offerings.

But there was a science behind the reason Midnight Club and Need for Speed had succeeded in a market dominated by Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, and Mario Kart; the driving model was something that could be understood and practiced to perfection by dedicated players, the customization – even now – was unprecedented, the environments were memorable despite their comparatively smaller size due to technological limitations, and the background narrative was just that – a loose story that sort of tied it all together, but wasn’t something the player even needed to pay attention to. That is your formula for a successful open world driving game, and it’s why the offshoot Forza Horizon was able to come out swinging in 2012 and immediately establish itself as one of the greats; Turn 10 paid close attention to the groundwork laid by Need for Speed and Midnight Club, while putting their own spin on it.

Ivory Tower failed to do any of this with The Crew, essentially embarking on one poor design choice after another that indicated the team hadn’t even bothered to understand why people might be drawn open world driving games in the first place. The driving model was often described as floaty and vague by wheel and pad users alike, meaning the core gameplay was something users “put up with” as opposed to learning and mastering, and that’s kind of important when your video game is all about cross-country marathons behind the wheel. Customization and progression had been intertwined with incessantly grinding for experience points – something that driving game enthusiasts have never taken kindly to in the history of the genre – while the giant map made it impossible for the team to ensure every square mile served a purpose; long, empty highways connected select areas of interest. And though there was at least some attempt at a generic Fast & Furious rip-off narrative, the story was just so over-the-top , intrusive, and forced that it worked against the game itself; you wanted it to go away so you could focus on other areas in The Crew, and UbiSoft kept throwing it at you.

It’s just a package that indicated UbiSoft needed a token open world driving game on their roster of products and just sort of shit something out. What’s even more surprising, is that UbiSoft Reflections were once behind the stellar Driver series of the late 1990’s, as well as the phenomenal Stuntman for the PlayStation 2; both entities known quite well for their stellar vehicle physics, so a regression between then and now is quite strange.

It didn’t help that the PlayStation 4 version of The Crew failed to support Logitech’s G29 racing wheel, considering racing games are universally much better experiences when under the command of a traditional car control input method and third party wheels are skyrocketing in popularity. The bugs and shoddy servers also threw a curveball into the mix; for a game that boasted tons of seamless online integration, UbiSoft struggled to ensure a smooth experience for gamers – something that should have been priority numero uno for a game of this scope.

But in my opinion, the most prominent display of UbiSoft’s lack of dedication to ensuring The Crew would be a successful venture, was in their stunning lack of creativity. The game’s first expansion pack,Wild Run, straight up copied the theme of Forza Horizon with a fictional automotive festival taking place in the middle of a vast rural area, while the second, Calling All Units, lifted police pursuit weapons from the 2010 reboot of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

Furthermore, The Crew continues to make use of UbiSoft’s obsessive tendency to place objective towers within the game world as a means of unlocking new tasks or events. This sort of makes sense within the context of a third person adventure game such Assassins Creed, but the fact that it has been shamelessly copy & pasted into a racing game of all things when it clearly does not pertain to the subject matter in the slightest is pure laziness.

All of these little details add up to a racing game that was designed by a team that not only fail to understand what makes an open world racer fun, they are unable to polish the product so key elements work as they should, and shamelessly rip ideas from other teams and shoe-horn in repetitive elements from in-house franchises, regardless of how well those gameplay design choices will benefit the end user experience.

So with The Crew 2  confirmed, it’s hard to be even the least bit excited at what the sequel might bring to the table. UbiSoft were simply not interested in creating a good driving game with the first iteration in the franchise, clearly neglecting to research what constitutes as an enjoyable open world racing game in favor of shitting out a hodgepodge of ideas and design choices that actively worked against each other. This is not the result of impending deadlines and rushed segments of development, but a team actively making poor choice after poor choice when it comes to the creative vision of the game, and it’s a problem that can’t be rectified overnight. Unless there is a drastic re-construction of The Crew’s fundamental makeup, you can write off The Crew 2 before we even see it in action.

First NASCAR Heat 2 Details Surface

Though oval racing certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea around these parts, and the previous NASCAR Heat game was nothing short of a dumpster fire that spat in the face of every fan who had already suffered through countless years of mediocrity, details have began to float to the surface regarding NASCAR Heat 2 over the past couple of days. With the leading company changing names yet again – now operating under the moniker of 704 Games rather than Dusenberry-Martin Interactive – and promises of proper development cycle culminating in a September launch window instead of the rushed process that undoubtedly caused last year’s game to nosedive in quality, NASCAR Heat 2 will once again release on a trio of modern gaming platforms near the end of the actual NASCAR season. A lot of you may rightly assume it’s a bit counter-intuitive for 704 Games to ship a product so late in the year, but this is the exact launch schedule EA Sports would use during their time in possession of the exclusive NASCAR license, so at least there’s a partial effort to retain that same tradition.

Aside from the sketchy name change, which raised red flags when we reported on it a few months back here at PRC, details have remained pretty sparse in regards to what the actual gameplay experience will contain when NASCAR Heat 2 drops this September. With Heat Evolution generating such a negative reaction from fans, not a lot of people are actively seeking out teaser shots or inside information, resulting in a situation where all we know is that the cover athlete will be either Martin Truex Jr. or 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch – decided upon during segment two of the all-star race at Charlotte this weekend, with the cover position going to the higher finishing driver of the two.

However, to my surprise there exists a core group of dedicated NASCAR Heat fans who have actually busted their asses to find out as much as possible about the new game despite the company’s previous releases not warranting any sort of fanbase, and though the major sim racing sites haven’t picked up on it, information is starting to leak. So to the NASCAR Heat YouTube and Twitter community, thank you so much for your dedication.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Brandon Brown heavily implied in a short Twitter video clip that all three major NASCAR national series – trucks, muscle cars, and sedans for those who can’t be assed with looking up sponsor names – will be included in NASCAR Heat 2. This is a major revelation, as once Electronic Arts and Monster Games began implementing several different NASCAR-sanctioned series into their games during the PlayStation 2 era, any developer who failed to include these support series were automatically at a disadvantage and blasted by NASCAR fans for having less content than games released a decade earlier. It’s exciting to know the lower-tier trucks and muscle cars will make a return to officially licensed NASCAR games, as it immediately indicates career mode will be exponentially more expansive than Heat Evolution and the Eutechnyx games were, presumably allowing you to climb the NASCAR ladder as an aspiring professional race car driver would.

This also indicates that all three series will have near-complete fields of real-world drivers if journeymen like Brandon Brown are talking about being in the upcoming NASCAR game, which is a major step in the right direction. Previous NASCAR titles by Eutechnyx and 704 Games – and Electronic Arts as well, though it wasn’t as big of a problem – routinely failed to acquire rights to all active drivers on the grid due to sponsorship or contract issues, leading to situations where feeder series drivers were placed in semi-fictional cars that never actually competed to ensure the 43-car fields would be populated entirely by real drivers. It was like if Codemasters could not get the rights to the Toro Rosso F1 team, so they shoehorned some random GP2 organization in it’s place – which pissed off fans who were hoping for the authenticity advertised on the box to actually be present in the software.

We’ve also learned a bit more about 704 Games, as what we originally speculated to be a questionable name change to get away from the nasty reputation the team once acquired appears to have warranted something much more beneficial – and we kind of wish we knew about this sooner, because it totally changes the atmosphere surrounding NASCAR Heat 2.

Fox 46 Charlotte have reported that the group are now located in the actual NASCAR office building residing in Charlotte, North Carolina, allowing team members in charge of licensing deals and miscellaneous authenticity quips to merely take a brief elevator ride directly to NASCAR representatives, in order to receive the green light for features, licensing approvals, and any creative freedom questions that may arise. Considering how much of the genuine NASCAR experience relies on correctly placed advertisement decals, unique car liveries, up-to-date track renovations, rule changes, and the other fine details of a racing series that many people correctly imply is this weird hybrid of professional wrestling and auto racing, it’s comforting to know that the resources to make a great game are literally two floors above them.

But it also means there’s no excuse if they fuck it all up.

It’s certainly not hard proof that NASCAR Heat 2 will be an overwhelmingly positive improvement compared to its predecessor, but so far it appears 704 Games have the tools in place to get the job done, and signs point to the return of additional series that fans have long requested to be implemented after years of being omitted despite their inclusion on inferior hardware. The key thing I’m looking at here is that on the outset, NASCAR Heat 2 will be enough of a change from the previous game to warrant a purchase and subsequent shakedown on launch day.

But if 704 Games once again release a product that is buggy, unfinished, and suffers from performance issues, their fall from grace will be even more tarnishing to the team, and most likely prompt yet another exclusivity swap. With the Eutechnyx series, at the end of the day you could blame the obvious lack of quality on a group of European game developers who obviously didn’t care about NASCAR and were pushing out a minimum viable product to generate a profit from loyal NASCAR fans. However, now that 704 Games are literally in the same building as NASCAR themselves, and have been graced with a full development cycle, there’s no excuse to ship a sub-par product. The classic Heat games of yesteryear were fantastic, with Dirt to Daytona still actively enjoyed by hardcore sim racers going through hell and back just to get Dolphin or PCSX2 running smoothly. If you can’t recapture this experience with modern technology and the full support of NASCAR, it’s a sign that more than a name change is needed.