rFactor 2 Might Live Up To The Hype

I last touched rFactor 2 in late 2013, when Chris of PRC.net would throw up a GT3 room for us and our extended family. We’d always inflate the online player count by 300% (I can count the number of outsiders who joined the room one one hand), and after a few hours of making laps at Sebring, we’d call it quits for the night. Yeah, the RealRoad technology where the track dynamically rubbered in worked as it should, and the weather effects kicked all kinds of ass, but the game constantly ran like shit, installing mods (most of which were shoddy rF1 conversions) were unnecessarily complicated compared to the original game, and the smeared pastel graphics palette really drove the point home that rFactor 2 wasn’t going to be touched any time soon. Assetto Corsa came out a few months later to put the nail in the coffin.

Yet despite other games completely blowing the doors off of rFactor 2 in terms of popularity, a very vocal, autistic minority will spend every waking moment claiming that rFactor 2 is the best sim available on the market, and has several features that other titles don’t have. Assetto Corsa has, in my opinion, the best feeling driving model and force feedback available, but lack several features required for league racing and offline racing. Game Stock Car Extreme pushes the original rFactor to it’s limits, but the Brazilian-centric content makes it hard for all but the most dedicated of sim racers to jump in and familiarize themselves with tracks and cars they’ve never heard of before. Race Room Racing Experience’s content and track list is second to none, but the pricing model is beyond confusing, and as Sector 3 spends time re-doing all of the gMotor engine’s features to their liking, some stuff is inevitably missing. And for those on consoles, Project CARS is bugged to shit and you’ll be banned from the official forums if you dare to bring up any issues with the game.

So does rFactor 2 live up to the rabid fanboys preposterous claims?

It might.

rFactor2 2015-07-09 18-22-52-52Installing this game is a fucking pain. I stuck with the Lite installer and just downloaded the relevant IndyCar friendly content from the game’s official site, and found a nice 2014 Skin Pack on RaceDepartment. Unlike the original game, where mods are extracted into the main directory and that’s literally the only step, rFactor 2 forces you to use a mod manager of sorts. You get these huge RFCMP files, you drop them into the appropriate folder inside My Documents, boot up the mod manager, and click install on everything you want injected into your game.

iicsNow because I didn’t want the track selection cluttered with the short layouts of Silverstone or Sepang, nor did I want the ugly fictional liveries the default Dallara DW12 download comes with to shit up the car selection screen, I had to use the MAS2 tool to basically create my own custom mod. This is all totally optional, but as most people’s rFactor and rF2 installs inevitably balloon with entire carsets and trackpacks for specific series, it’s more shit you need to learn how to do, and it isn’t very user friendly. Not to mention, your own personal mod filter creates mismatches online, and opens up a whole other can of worms that you have to learn how to work around. The inclusion of a mod manager was never needed to begin with, as rFactor’s file structure was idiot proof. I don’t know why ISI took this route.

whyAnyways, you boot the game up, and the main menu looks like this:

rFactor2 2015-07-09 18-25-49-30Now call me retarded but I didn’t know you had to click the little cloud icon beside session settings to open up a hugely detailed menu, and my first 20 minutes or so with the game was spent finding out where ISI have hidden familiar options. Yet once you learn where everything is, this interface is about a thousand times easier on the eyes than the god awful orange crush of rF1, and reminds me a lot of DiRT Rally. The hybrid between traditional and metro is really nice, and the car selection screen is significantly less clunky than rF1. It too, has received a really nice upgrade.

rFactor2 2015-07-09 19-03-00-51The best thing about the revised menus is that they allow you to watch practice at all times, no matter what screen you’re on. Even as you’re tweaking your setup or adjusting your force feedback, a portion of the screen is always dedicated to what’s happening on track. The setup menu has been split into multiple pages and is a simple list of options instead of laid out alongside a picture of a car, but I for one welcome this change. I sorta get Grand Prix Legends vibes from the whole thing now.

rFactor2 2015-07-09 19-09-25-94Obviously I gotta move on to talking about the physics and how it drives, because that’s the whole purpose of a racing sim.

rFactor2 2015-07-09 19-20-53-56At first, I took the IndyCars to the Historic version of Monaco, something that you’re really not supposed to do as time travel hasn’t been invented yet. This unrealistic, highly implausible combination was actually a lot of fun and only slightly more dangerous than the Baltimore Grand Prix. The car was really lively over all the bumps and the Force Feedback gave me a clear indication as to how the car was handling the circuit. We’re at a point where it’s not going to get much better for the next three or four years until a major leap in consumer steering wheels is made, or direct drive wheels become affordable.

rFactor2 2015-07-09 19-20-18-24The Force Feedback effects have been improved in all the right places. While I feel Assetto Corsa does a much better job of Force Feedback overall, the FFB in rF2 is still really good; a notch under what the Kunos guys have done with their sim, and a notch above the most recent modern sims such as Game Stock Car Extreme and R3E. Assetto Corsa really nails each specific type of murmur a steering wheel exhibits and gives you an indication what’s happening at all times, even in a straight line, while rF2 is more in line with the sims of a previous generation. It will feel exactly like Game Stock Car Extreme or R3E for the 80% pace moments, but there’s a lot more depth to the severe jolts and bumps that occur when you’re pushing the car to knock tenths off your PB. Overall, AC still does it better, but switching between both games won’t be the huge culture shock it was during the previous generation of driving games.

rFactor2 2015-07-09 19-14-43-18

Tire behavior, on the other hand, is pretty damn awesome. rFactor’s big new feature was the RealRoad dynamic track surface, and coupled with what ISI have done with the tire model, oh man it’s good. On cold tires, the car understeers, but you can clearly tell it’s because the tires aren’t sticky enough yet, and not because you fucked up the setup. Once the tires get heated up, the understeer from cold tires gradually wears off, and when the track rubbers in, it becomes increasingly easier to push harder and get as much as you can out of the car. It’s fun, fresh, innovative, and a feature that works every bit as well as it should.

But that’s on the road side. rFactor traditionally hasn’t done oval racing all that well. There was no better way to check out the improvements by taking the 2014 IndyCar to totally not Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s kind of like Texas, right?

rFactor2 2015-07-09 18-24-42-13I was really happy that the game gave me a great default setup out of the box, requiring only two wing adjustments, a small change to sixth gear, and stiffening up the right rear spring. But Goddamn the AI was shit to begin with, and a lot of tinkering was required to get them up to speed.  At first they seemed timid around me, routinely backed off when they shouldn’t have, and didn’t utilize the draft effectively. Similar to Project CARS, which also uses gMotor under the hood, unless I treated the AI like special needs children who needed a personal space bubble several times what you’d give even your best mate in an online brawl, they were woefully incompetent at basic oval racing manners. I think I had them up to 110 strength and turned a new AI buffer setting completely off to get them on pace with me.

rFactor2 2015-07-09 18-15-23-80When we got up to speed though, this shit was awesome. Far too many racing sims make IndyCars on an oval out to be NASCAR for idiots with a death wish, with an abundance of grip that prevents even the most brain dead n00b from looping the car. rFactor 2 instead cloesly resembles what I’d seen from onboard footage since the DW12 was introduced – it’s kind of sketchy over bumps, and there are a lot of bumps. With a combination of really good force feedback, a good baseline setup, and a sim car designed by a group who had access to proper data and knew what they were doing, it was incredibly fun to click off laps either alone or in traffic.

The biggest test was to put the car along the high line and see if I could get proper runs on the AI, who had been programmed to run the low line and only the low line. It was hella sketchy at first, the car understeering and sliding oh so close to the retaining wall, but as the tires heated up and the groove I’d been running rubbered in, all I could think was “damn, it sucks my online subscription has expired and there’s like nobody who plays this online.”

rFactor2 2015-07-09 18-20-02-22On cold tires, without any rubber up by the wall, you had to roll the throttle on entry and really wheel the car to keep it from knocking the wall down. When the tires gained heat, you still had to roll onto the throttle to maintain a trajectory that wouldn’t scrape off the right side of the car, but the understeer evaporated in favor of a neutral handling car that was a bit twitchy on exit. After I laid down a patch of rubber, it was all about nailing the line without lifting, and I could get these huge runs on the 28 car that you see above. This was awesome with the shitty rFactor AI that has never been able to handle oval racing properly, so I’d imagine it only gets better alongside actual people.

rFactor2 2015-07-09 18-20-31-07It still costs too much, though. The online subscription, a by-product of the EA Sports titles with online passes, has no place in a genre where you’re lucky if there are a few hundred people playing the game at any given time. The graphics, save for one or two really nice screenshots above, have gone from smeared pastels to washed out PS4 game, and the game’s default HUD options are dreadful, leading me to once again venture over to RaceDepartment and find a really simple third party HUD that would get the job done. Assetto Corsa is objectively better in how it feels to make laps, but rF2 is the most feature-complete game on the market right now, and I could see myself signing up for a league provided they stick with the default content. The version of not Charlotte and other tracks ISI have put out are so far ahead of what modders are currently able to do, running older rF1 conversions to flesh out the track roster would nullify the point of upgrading to the new platform at all.

Little things like this keep rFactor 2 from fully living up to the hype, but for all twenty seven people who still have it installed, it’s a killer sim that improves on the original in all the right areas.

rFactor2 2015-07-09 19-19-25-08


33 thoughts on “rFactor 2 Might Live Up To The Hype

  1. So if I have it installed and still play does that make me the “1 percenters” of sim racing? I do feel kinda bad a*se playing Rf2, so would fit.


      1. The AI has had many improvements since then and rF2 went out of beta since early 2013. Before that it was called beta.
        And according to the following recent review, the AI is the best around. http://www.racedepartment.com/threads/rfactor-2-review-keeping-up-with-the-times.108202/

        “”RF2’s main selling points are online and endurance racing. However, the game’s online focus doesn’t detract from the AI, which is quite simply the best around. While titles like Stock Car Extreme and Raceroom feature very good CPU-controlled opponents, this winds it up a notch. I’ve seen AI cars battle at the Monaco hairpin, exchanging clean passes and blocking, and it was absolutely brilliant.””


      2. “according to the following recent review, the AI is the best around”

        That’s great. Do you have your own opinion?

        Personally I think rF2’s AI is just rF1’s AI polished up a bit. They’re still too easy to pass, and they constantly divebomb you while cutting the track and just clipping your rear. This has happened constantly since beta/final/whatever.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “Personally I think rF2’s AI is just rF1’s AI polished up a bit. They’re still too easy to pass, and they constantly divebomb you while cutting the track and just clipping your rear. This has happened constantly since beta/final/whatever.”

        You think, huh? Well you think wrong. rF2 AI is miles ahead of rF1, can’t really be compared, actually. Almost perfect spatial awareness, tough and fair, fast and responsible.


  2. Good read as ever on this site. Just nice to see passionate drivers talking about the sims and their hobby, rather than news sites posting bullshit vid comparisons.

    I find the mod manager works well with stock stuff, it makes it a bunch easier to control the install of the sim. I remember having multiple versions of GTR2 to deal with different mods and tweaks. A clean one for normal online, one with F1 cars, drift cars, etc. Plus dragging and dropping files into a folder makes it an arse of a job to remove said files. Picking through the folders and removing each different section relating to the mod.
    Again, I’ve never had to go into that MAS program and I’m probably not as indepth as some people, but installing, driving and removing of normal mods seems fine.

    I hope they suss out a way to deal with skinpacks though, like some kind of priority order, and if you load a mod skinpack, it uses those as the “defaults”. Stockcars are coming, we know there are 3 models of car (funnily enough) so I’m sure we’ll see the real skins pronto.

    I’m picking that like in AC and pCars, the AI always needs tweaks and fixes. I find with the ovals though, a setting of 80% on aggression works out much better, they are much happier to stick close and attack. Circuits I usually go back to 30%, don’t want them being too human and divebombing lol.

    This was posted yonks ago, but it still makes me laugh. Pretty much seen the same behavior in league races XD


  3. Are you forcing Oval defaults on AI cars on Indy? I think they run road by default so will struggle big time if not,its in the upgrades of cars and has “force setup” at top.


  4. Article reminded me that I have not tested rf2 Monaco for a very long time. I need to do that. It was mostly just the track with lots of missing/un-optimized assets.

    The track itself felt pretty good, even then.

    The online subscription is pretty annoying, though I’m I think they will successfully extract the 12.95 USD or whatever it is from me to renew in the near future.

    Honestly, I think they need to ‘renew’ the initial free pass to everyone that currently owns rf2, simply to get the online community a bit more active. Maybe a free 6 month pass even.

    Haha, maybe Associator just wants people to race with in rf2, eh? That would actually be a somewhat reasonable explanation for his behavior.


    1. Also, I think the default FFB smoothing setting is squashing some of the detail. I don’t recall it being set so high by default previously.

      The lack of any appreciable straight-line detail was something I noticed with the NSX particularly.

      Hoping I will get a chance to experiment with the FFB settings later today.


      1. Smoothing should be set to 0 in every sim Ive found anyway for my setup, if your wheels to strong “rough” wiithout it your FFB itself is set to strong IMO, biggest issue I see with guys setting up wheel , they feel the wheel should have strong feedback to the point they struggle turning the wheel.


  5. i just don’t think making people pay for online is a really good move, especially right now with so many alternatives.
    if iracing came out today it would struggle like mad. the only reason is has a large playerbase is because of how long it’s been around, and people not wanting to leave, because that would make all the money spent a waste.
    RRE with it’s pay model is also unpopular.
    PC players want to pay for the game, and that be the end of it. maybe, MAYBE occasional paid DLC that has valid new manafacturer licensed and sourced cars and laser scanned track.
    RF2 will never get anywhere with it’s price model. they can make all the improvements they want, but if no one is playing to see them…


    1. I think most of sim devs are old men making dinosaur decision making..they need woMEN n young guys in there..here is iR steam info 8,580 ± 2,260(iRweb migration) owners,88 player 24h peak,176 all-time peak
      6 months ago.


  6. The thing is rFactor is relatively popular, but the number of players online in rFactor that actually paid for the game are probably shockingly low.


  7. so during a week, how many people are mostly racing online? including leagues. Or it it just exclusively league racing and open servers don’t have any one?

    btw James, please put Disqus 🙂 With this system I can’t reply because the thread nesting doesn’t give the reply option for nesting bigger than 1.


      1. Mmm yeah, not too keen on disqus itself, either.

        Might be able to find a bit more robust comment plugin though. I have to dick around with WP instances more often than I would like, so I might be able to eliminate some of the ‘options’ right off the bat.

        I’ll see if there’s something decent on offer for free that doesn’t break this particular theme and actually works properly without hiding important features behind paywalls. I miss the days of mostly free plugins 😦


      2. okay, but if you guys can, please change a bit the website interface, so that we don’t have to scroll so much to check if there are new comments to the article (not necessarily replied to us, cause we get alerts for that). I know there are categories on the right, but we can’t really see more than a couple articles, and still don’t see if more people posted on it.


  8. I test Dallara road at Sepamg..the car understeer it wont turn on tight corners even at 40kph..Sigh..it was fine at oval though…when the fixed something in the new patch it broke something else..


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