Racing simulators certainly aren’t for everyone. The repetitive nature of the core mechanics only allow for the most dedicated of motorsports to succeed after long hours of play, whereas the lack of traditional progression elements in comparison to mass-market titles make it hard for the average gamer to find purpose in such a void and purposeless world. These games exist not for the entertainment of many, but for the obsession of few; software for those who eat, sleep, and breathe auto racing – “just one more lap, no matter how closely it resembled the ten before it” taking precedence over exciting rewards or unsuspected surprises.
Though it wasn’t technically the first of its’ kind, racing simulators have been on the market since 1989, dating back to Indianapolis 500: The Simulation from Papyrus. Like Flight Simulators, they have always been marketed with a clear target audience in mind – the ultra-hardcore – and have never over-saturated the gaming landscape to the point where you’re forced to play them. For every iRacing or Assetto Corsa, there has always been a Need for Speed or DriveClub readily available, offering the average car guy a way to relax and drive automobiles on his television without the hyper-focused training regime required to just finish a race.
Yet in scrolling through Steam reviews for the current crop of modern simulators, it’s as if the average gamer doesn’t even know this difference exists, and they have no problem taking it out on the developer when it’s simply not justified.
As an amateur race car driver myself, iRacing is not a very good training tool. The game rewards keeping you for keeping your tires cold when race car tires are meant to be kept warm, the subscription model has you technically renting the game rather than owning it, and updates to unsatisfactory elements take far longer to implement than what many gamers would consider to be a reasonable time frame. What iRacing does right, however, is offer the absolute best way to track your own statistics and race against a full field of drivers that boast driving skills similar to yours. As a racing fan, it’s essentially up to you to decide whether you want to race against people while learning how to break the game’s physics, or have less people to race against, but drive a simulator that feels like a real car. Many don’t mind the trade-off.
This particular user has given iRacing a negative review because it “penalizes you for someone else crashing,” referring to the game’s safety rating system. Incident points are handed out on a no-fault basis in iRacing – meaning if someone hits you, your “score” is affected as well – primarily because it’s virtually impossible to code an AI that can 100% assign proper blame when examining an auto racing incident in real-time, especially factoring in external variables such as netcode, unique sight lines, and driver ability. The compromise is to assume all involved in an incident are at least partially to blame, with good drivers recovering their safety rating over time by simply avoiding more wrecks than they’re involved in. Objectively, iRacing’s system works very well, and it’s actually one of the best parts in an otherwise controversial service.
This user is shitting on iRacing for a shortcoming no computer software can accomplish: human judgement calls. iRacing don’t deserve a negative review from this guy.
I’m not the biggest fan of Assetto Corsa due to how the game’s development and subsequent surge in popularity was handled, but I’ve found myself coming back to it in recent weeks due to the increased traffic seen on SimRacingSystem; a free add-on that turns the indie racing simulator into a very competent competitive platform. Assetto Corsa’s arguably biggest strength would be the stellar driving model, which works in combination with the game’s sublime force feedback to offer a very convincing “at-speed” feeling, even if not every car is as accurate as the team have claimed. What you do need to know, is that if you own a decent PC and some kind of third-party steering wheel, Assetto Corsa should be on your radar, if not an imminent purchase which leads you to explore other games.
The above user either didn’t know, or didn’t care to research the game prior to purchase, and attempted to turn laps in this hardcore driving simulator with a Steam controller. He found the experience with a traditional gamepad to be atrocious, but this isn’t exactly something you can blame Kunos for. Racing simulators in the 3D era of gaming have been designed primarily with plastic steering wheels in mind, and if you’re interested in these kind of games, yet have either failed to do a bit of reading beforehand or neglected to save up a bit of cash for a dedicated wheel in the hopes that it “still works” with a pad, you’re kind of a moron.
This is the predicament this user has found himself in, but of course, “it’s the game’s fault.” Kunos Simulazioni do not deserve a negative review from this guy.
This is the most reasonable review of the bunch, so I won’t be calling anyone a moron here. This particular Steam user says he once loved the simcade approach taken by the DiRT series, blending a rugged brand of off-road racing with simplified driving mechanics that make the gameplay accessible to a wide variety of users. However, he also notes he struggled immensely just to keep control of the car with DiRT Rally – a serious spin-off of the franchise that took aim at the hardcore crowd, and in the end he doesn’t recommend the game.
DiRT Rally, from the very first day it dropped, was not marketed in a traditional manner. There was no pre-release hype, it just sort of appeared as a half-finished tech demo for the simulation crowd to play around with, before eventually expanding into a full game over a period of several months. The standard DiRT audience wasn’t supposed to buy this game, because it wasn’t created for them to begin with; in fact most of DiRT Rally’s coverage was restricted to sim racing media outlets, and the occasional mainstream publication comparing it to Dark Souls to convey just how difficult the game was to normies.
Knowing all of this, as DiRT Rally has existed since the spring of 2015 and it takes two seconds to find out that it’s a much more demanding title than any other game bearing the DiRT namesake, the guy bought the game anyway, played the game for three hours, and then complained that it was too hard and wasn’t for him. Codemasters did not deserve a negative review from this guy, but he left one anyway.
DiRT Rally was our Game of the Year for 2015.
Lastly, we arrive at RaceRoom Racing Experience, a game that started as a hotlap simulator, but morphed into an evolution of Race 07 – this time primarily centered around micro-transactions and content packs rather than an already stout core game. RaceRoom in my opinion is one of the few modern simulators that demonstrates just how easy it is to over-drive corner entry and experience extreme understeer in a high-horsepower race car, though I’ve definitely not been keen on giving the title another go seeing as how little has changed in it over the past year. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, it’s just possible to see everything and move on without missing out.
RaceRoom, like many modern simulators, has been designed with a plastic steering wheel in mind. This particular user attempted to race with his keyboard – something you haven’t been able to do proficiently in a racing simulator for decades now – and immediately took to Steam to slam Sector 3 for cars that “instantly spin out when you give them throttle or turn.” RaceRoom Racing Experience was developed with the help of DTM driver Bruno Spengler and GT3 driver Kelvin van der Linde giving feedback on some of the more prominent cars featured within the simulator, but this user claims it is instead “the child of someone who thought the only thing that makes a game good are graphics.”
So basically we have this guy dismissing an otherwise decent racing simulator because he couldn’t play it in the same manner he played Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit back in 1998, completely ignoring the fact that video games may have progressed in realism over the past 17 years, and real race cars aren’t piloted via the buttons on the radio – because that’s basically what he’s trying to do. Sector 3 did not deserve a negative review from this guy.
You wouldn’t play Guitar Hero without the plastic guitar. You wouldn’t play Wii fit without the balance board. Not because the games don’t work without the plastic gimmick bundled with them, but because the games just aren’t a lot of fun with a standard pad – they weren’t designed for one. And yet everyone in the gaming world seems to generally understand this, but with race car games, they’re hit with a case of amnesia and suddenly furious at the developers that a high fidelity replication of GT3 sports car can’t be steered with a couple of buttons.
Have you tried playing The Number of the Beast on Expert with a standard controller? You aren’t going to get far. Not because the game is broken. Not because the developers are elitist pricks who refuse to appeal to the common denominator. The game was built for specific peripherals in mind, and you should probably buy one. At the very least, maybe developers simply need to convey in promotional material that you need steering wheels for these games, because the average normie doesn’t seem to get it – even though they figured it out with Guitar Hero when those games were popular.
I have no interest in basketball. I wasn’t a terrible shot in high school and generally understand how the game works, but I certainly don’t find myself purchasing NBA 2K18, complaining I’m getting blown the fuck out and losing every single game against the AI, and then leaving a shitty review crying that it’s not NBA Street. I generally tend to avoid hardcore basketball games in favor of the more simplistic shit, as I know that NBA Jam and NBA Street offer an experience on-par with my level of interest.
For whatever reason, not many are opting to apply this logic to racing simulators. I get that we could use some quirky unlockables here and some career modes there, and maybe the ability to design a car without three year’s worth of Photoshop experience. I absolutely agree developers need to do more in these areas than they’ve ever done before. However, the sheer number of people who just flat-out don’t seem to give two shits about motorsports in the slightest, diving headfirst into ultra-hardcore stuff, is extremely confusing.
Look, it’s cool that people are curious, because there’s probably a few out there who tried DiRT Rally and Assetto Corsa on a whim, and now they run in league races three nights per week. Let’s be real, this is an exception; there are many more showing up, hating everything about the games despite the promotional material being very up front about what they’re getting, saying the games are shit, and then fucking off, never to return.
That’s really weird. You don’t see much of that in other genres.
So why does this matter, and why should we care?
These groups do not care to sit down and read individual reviews to deduce which customers are retarded and trying to play the game with a keyboard, versus which customers are genuinely enjoying the game and appreciative of the developer’s effort. If they see a high score on Metacritic or Steam, the game is a success. Anything lower, and financial support for the future is jeopardized, which is why there’s such disparity between developers in sim racing. Unless you hit it big the first time, which teams like Reiza (GSC 2012), Image Space Incorporated (rFactor), and Sector 3/Swedish SimBin (Race Pro) didn’t, you’re not going to have a lot to work with if you want to carry on operations.
Even the most batshit insane nit-picks contribute to the game’s overall community reception, which means a “Slightly Positive” or “Mixed” review average on Steam may not actually be reflective of the experience you receive when you buy said product, but the financial backers couldn’t give a shit – their reception equally contributed to a less than stellar aggregate score.
This is something a team like Kunos may agree with in private but never voice publicly; the idiots crying that Assetto Corsa isn’t fun with an Xbox pad and down-voting the game to oblivion on Steam, may have potentially had a ripple effect on backroom financial deals. Those reviews add up, because for some reason, there are a lot of people who don’t particularly care for racing simulators or have no desire to play them with a wheel as intended, yet still buying the games anyway and then shitting all over them.