The past several months have been extremely frustrating as a sim racer. It seems as if whenever I’m not writing about a broken game, I’m playing a broken game, leading to an endless cycle of negativity surrounding a hobby many of us once enjoyed. As a consumer, it’s getting old. Colossal hype is now almost always followed by buyers remorse, and the inevitable rabid fanboys rushing to try and convince me that I should feel sorry for developers pushing out broken, unfinished products.
I wish I could chalk my negativity up to absurd expectations, and my extreme pessimism to external issues. I wish I could sit here and say I uninstalled NASCAR 15 because Jeff Gordon’s car is the wrong shade of red. I wish I could say Project CARS pissed me off because they didn’t get the license to Suzuka, and it totally ruined any sense of immersion. It would be almost comforting in a way to know I’m just some kid with an irrational vendetta against a hobby I love, fueled by outside factors.
But that’s not the reality of the situation. We’ve been sold some truly awful racing games this year, and there seems to be no end to this madness. In the past seven months, six new titles have been utter embarrassments to the genre, while another five continue to string sim racers along with promises that will most likely never be fulfilled.
From early 2011 until May of this year, the most recent line of officially licensed NASCAR titles were developed by a small studio in Europe. A bad idea on paper was even worse in execution; this was a developer team who’s most prominent release was 2003’s Street Racing Syndicate – a budget priced arcade racer designed to cash in on the popularity of the Fast and Furious films.
The first game in the series, NASCAR 2011, shipped with an abhorrent list of bugs that made the game unplayable. These were not minor inconveniences, like the sun being in the wrong spot at Martinsville, or the blue on Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet being too bright… Oh hell no, this was shovelware at its finest. Online racing saw cars routinely spawn inside of each other, leading to incredible netcode shunts ruining everybody’s race in the immediate vicinity thanks to flying cars, or disconnect from the race altogether for no reason. Throughout five titles, the game’s muddy controls made driving high downforce stock cars an utter chore, and the artificial intelligence suffered from a bug on most tracks that saw every computer opponent in the entire field jam on the brakes at the exact same spot. Too financially compromised to make any real improvements to the game year after year, or even fix nagging bugs that prevented anyone from actually enjoying the game, Eutechnyx opted to simply change minor HUD elements and repackage the game over and over again with the appropriate livery updates for each team.
America’s most popular form of auto racing got the Chinese knockoff treatment not once, but five years in a row, and nobody in charge of merchandising at NASCAR understood video games well enough to realize how much damage this kind of abysmal product was doing to the brand.
- The Community Assisted Review of Project CARS
- The Official List of Project CARS glitches is mind-boggling
- The Complete Coverage of Ian Bell’s Canada Day Meltdown
- Project CARS Still Sending Prototypes to Jesus
Impossible to summarize in two paragraphs, Project CARS was a massive crowdfunding experiment that quickly spiraled out of control once Slightly Mad Studios promised a return on investment for those who provided financial backing. Originally designed to be a title intended to steal a bit of thunder away from heavy hitters like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, those who contributed to the development of the game instead set their sights on the almighty dollar. Thousands of community members were turned into yes men overnight, and raced across message boards to spread the gospel of Project CARS in a mass display of intrusive viral marketing.
Delayed three times in six months, the game shipped in a state comparable to Bethesda titles like Skyrim and Fallout. Le Mans Prototypes were seen exploding hundreds of feet into the sky, cars spawned inside of each other on the starting grid in multiplayer races, users were disqualified from races at random, save game data became corrupt if the user viewed too many saved replays, the artificial intelligence stopped dead on the track, and in some cases the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions suffered from severe framerate issues. The more people who bought Project CARS, the more videos went up on YouTube displaying a game Slightly Mad Studios eventually admitted in a forum post shouldn’t have been released in its current state.
But due to the sheer number of financial backers genuinely believing they would get rich off sim racing, hundreds of Slightly Mad Studios apologists fell back on technicalities. The apologists attempted to convince people the massive amount of technical issues were due to personal vendettas individuals had against the game developers, or unrealistic expectations from such a small operation. Technically, the game indeed generated a profit for investors. Technically, the game DID boot up when placed inside a console, and for a short time you could race cars around a track in a realistic format. However, the fanboys, shills, and investors were forced to bend over backwards to pull excuses out of their asses when the amount of YouTube videos, bug reports, and forum tirades from the head of studio Ian Bell outnumbered the amount of people actually enjoying the game. While the official forums for the game are a pleasant read, message boards not owned or operated by Slightly Mad Studios staff are bursting with folks unsatisfied with the game, occasionally dropping words like scam into the conversation.
Nine patches and six premium DLC packs (with more on the way) failed to rectify most issues that affected basic gameplay, and the majority of sim racers have already given up on the title.
- iRacing’s EULA and Sporting Code Wouldn’t Hold Up in front of a Judge
- Qualification Rounds for iRacing’s Blancpain Series Ruined by Exploits
- iRacing has a vendetta against me, and they don’t even know who I am!
iRacing is difficult title to have a concrete opinion on, thanks to how frequently the game’s core mechanics are updated. Four times each year, on a set schedule, iRacing releases a massive build overhaul that always changes fundamental aspects of the game’s controversial driving physics. How iRacing felt in May of 2015 was entirely different compared to how iRacing felt in September of 2011, and this regularly forces some hardcore sim racers to periodically abandon the title and wait out the next patch.
But this creates a problem unto itself; buried deep within iRacing’s lengthy legal documents and rules outlining what is allowed in the world they’ve created, criticism is a concept iRacing deems to be a bannable offense. Given the bipolarity of numerous tire model and surface model updates pushed on the users each year, those who are too vocal about issues or exploits they’ve encountered are promptly silenced on the forums or removed entirely by staff members with no real experience handling large groups of people. A negative review of the introductory oval racing class on iRacing landed myself a permanent ban from the service less than 24 hours after the review was published, and my German friend with an FIA racing license was blacklisted four months before he tried to sign up for the game himself – just because iRacing found out we were friends on Teamspeak. When he inquired for himself about iRacing’s reluctance to let him register at all, iRacing stopped responding to his emails.
While currently iRacing is the best it’s ever been in almost half a decade, and the online structure is light years ahead of the competition, the varying quality of updates over the years could make that all change one day out of the blue, and talking too much about it could lead to a permanent ban. All that money you’ve spent on cars and tracks? Don’t count on seeing it any time soon.
- Locomotiva Emozionante – Your Racing Simulator
- You can’t sell a product like this in 2015 – Assetto Corsa 1.3.3 Impressions
- Payware Mods for Assetto Corsa are Out of Control
A prime example of Steam’s Early Access program allowing developers to blur the line when it comes to defining what’s considered a finished video game, the expectations sim racers had for Assetto Corsa were far too high for what Kunos Simulazioni could realistically produce. Originally launching as an expanded tech demo, with multiple cars and tracks available to run laps in isolation, rudimentary single player artificial intelligence and multiplayer components were shoe-horned in throughout 2014. Still lacking features seen in games such as Gran Turismo and Forza, games the hardcore sim community sees as “beneath PC driving sims”, the title was officially released in late 2014.
The sim racing community was split down the middle regarding Assetto Corsa. Kunos received unanimous praise for the game’s raw vehicle physics, yet many struggled to find a use for Assetto Corsa in their library of racing sims. You couldn’t race at night. You couldn’t race in the rain. You couldn’t jump the start. You couldn’t run a pace lap. You couldn’t send a setup to your buddies in a multiplayer session. Flag rules didn’t actually enforce anything. Despite being a fantastic modding platform, the majority of mods were quickly ripped from other games, with no effort being made to enhance them for the newer graphics engine. An abundance of ripped payware mods exploited uninformed users. Hell, you couldn’t even pick the color of your car online, and if too many people already picked the car you wanted, well, you were stuck driving something else. It had the physics of a purpose-built racing simulator, but the depth of a smartphone game.
Instead of rectifying these glaring omissions and making an effort to flesh out the rest of the game surrounding the superb driving model, Kunos and their army of fanboys dismissed anyone who spoke out about Assetto Corsa as entitled whiners. A console release was announced for 2016, to be published by a company notorious for dealing with shovelware, and three premium DLC packs were pushed on PC owners.
Assetto Corsa apologists flew into a frenzy when videos and screenshots of the game’s artificial intelligence making abhorrently bad decisions behind the wheel began to circulate, and slowly, the optimism surrounding Assetto Corsa turned into feelings of doubt. Like Project CARS a few months earlier, a YouTube video showcasing extreme glitches and bugs existed for every Kunos fanboy who bent over backwards to make excuses for the game’s unfinished state. Updates to the sim never addressed the several broken elements documented in hilarious YouTube videos, but instead displayed a constant obsession over rectifying insignificant tire behavior in cars people didn’t even drive.
Assetto Corsa has transcended what it means to be a video game, and crossed into eternal science project territory.
- Y’all remember you helped crowdfund some stuff, and it got released, right?
- A Change of Plans for Reiza Studios
Reiza Studios have made a career out of re-releasing ISI’s rFactor, originally appearing on store shelves in 2005. Game Stock Car, Formula Truck, and Game Stock Car
2013 Extreme are all the exact same game. Reiza took rFactor, injected the third party RealFeel plugin with their own custom parameters, optimized the executable file for computers with more than 4GB of ram, and implemented a set of custom shaders no different than what high profile rFactor mod teams do with noteworthy mod releases. Then, they released it as their own title, three times in a row.
Over the summer of 2015, Stock Car Extreme developed a cult following, and Reiza Studios began a crowdfunding campaign to help bring more International content into the primarily South American racing sim. Raising over $100,000 throughout July, the first piece of additional content spawned from this massive campaign was the 2014 Holden Commodore as seen on the Australian V8 Supercars circuit. Despite the mass celebration across multiple websites when the crowdfunding campaign ended, within two weeks the online servers were once again a ghost town, and most sim racers had deemed the Holden Commodore too difficult to drive. The same people who willingly gave Reiza a six figure paycheck were reluctant to touch the very game they helped fund.
Believing the outright lack of people playing their game was due to an unrecognizable name and series tie-in with Stock Car Brasil, Reiza will be using some of the $100,000 gathered from the community to release rFactor for a fourth time, bundling all present and future content found in Stock Car Extreme into an identical game with a different name. The people who gave the thumbs up to this idea are the same people who spent a bunch of money on a Brazilian developer to feel good about themselves, and then didn’t play the game when the new content came out a few weeks later.
After a stellar release in F1 2013, and sub-par rehash in F1 2014, Codemasters attempted to bring their modern F1 series to next generation consoles this year. Leaked reports indicated Codemasters struggled to optimize the game for modern hardware, and by the time people finally got their hands on the game, all hell broke loose. The game scored an average of 39 on Metacritic, and was loathed by the surprisingly large YouTube commentary surrounding Codemasters F1 games.
Modding support had been thrown out the window. Career mode was cut entirely. Frame rate issues, graphical bugs (above), AI woes, and online instability highlighted a pretty substantial list of reasons to avoid F1 2015. Adding insult to injury, Codemasters recycled the same mode twice in the same game, creating a separate Hardcore Season mode featuring full length races, no heads up display, and a forced helmet cam view in an effort to trick customers into thinking there was somehow more to do within the virtual world of F1 2015.
Gone were the historic cars of the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Safety Car was mysteriously missing, and Co-Op championship mode also got the boot. Everywhere you looked, the team found something to remove. Alan from TeamVVV recorded his frustrations with the game in a ten minute YouTube video that’s a pretty nice summary of what you can expect from F1 2015, and I spent less than two hours with the game myself before I promptly asked Steam support services for a refund.
- Somebody should probably tell the FIA that WRC 5 is brutal
- The Russian guy shilling for WRC 5 has captured our hearts
The team behind a series of Yoga Fitness Instruction tapes for the Xbox 360 was tasked with developing the official game for the FIA World Rally Championship in 2015. WRC 5 is every bit as bad as your brain will allow you to visualize that horrid scenario, and even compared to titles released a decade ago, still doesn’t stack up to the competition. A game with no redeeming qualities; dated physics, poorly designed stages, inattentive co-driver, and a shader model masking graphics stuck in 2005, WRC 5 is another Chinese knock-off tasked with being the official representative of a prominent world-wide auto racing championship.
The game shipped with minimal steering wheel support; quite an odd omission for a racing game considering the plethora of low, mid, and high-end steering wheels available on the market today. During my time with the game, crashes and random swaps to windowed mode weren’t uncommon, as were random off-track penalties, resets, and an AI that seemed hard-wired to be two tenths slower than me as long as I kept the car on the track.
Turn the fancy shaders off, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t just re-install Colin McRae Rally 2005.
To make things even more absurd, a lone Russian user on the Steam forums named Ivan began to aggressively defend WRC 5 when several users pointed out how poor the effort by Kylotonn Games had been when delivering an official WRC game. Those who disagreed with Ivan’s lengthy ramblings suspiciously had their posts removed, leading some to believe he was a viral marketer for a developer team who couldn’t quite figure out how to manage public relations properly.
A game I admittedly don’t know much about, the virtual dirt bike scene appears to have a fairly sizable community residing on YouTube, with multiple personalities frequently facing off against each other, each with their own fanbase. Supercross Encore is a port of MX vs. ATV Supercross, a title released last year for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Bundled with all previous DLC, the game entered Steam’s Early Access program at some point last year to gather player feedback and spot performance issues when making the jump to the PC and next generation consoles.
Virtual Dirt Bike enthusiast ThatWhiteGuy posted a ten minute review on launch day for Supercross Encore, highlighting Arkham Knight-like bugs that basically destroyed any chance people had of playing the game for more than a few minutes at a time. Dropping into single-digit framerate values, running races against a field of AI competitors simply wasn’t going to happen, and bizarre physics oddities let you drift on a bike. WhiteGuy lauded the Early Access program, essentially saying Rainbow Studios and Nordic Games had scammed gamers into believing their feedback was valued, instead releasing a game that flat-out didn’t work.
- It’s Time for Sector 3 to Move On from RaceRoom
- How to purchase content in R3E without getting ripped off
At its core, RaceRoom Racing Experience is an extremely solid game. Built with the help of both Bruno Spengler and Kelvin Van Der Linde, Sector 3 have managed to create a driving model that is punishing like Grand Prix Legends, but rewards smooth, consistent driving for those who can brave the ludicrous pay wall. Several modern and historic series are available, the tracks are all built to the same graphical standard, and as a whole, you won’t get a selection of race cars this diverse anywhere else.
But holy shit, the pay wall is retarded.
A pricing model pushed by higher-ups at K&W Suspensions, the owners of the RaceRoom brand, the decision was made at the game’s inception to experiment with the Free-To-Play format, locking every single car and track behind two separate micro-transactions; one to convert your money into the game’s funny money, and another to actually buy the car or track you want in your collection. Obviously, this causes problems similar to the Microsoft Points currency we all remember fondly from Xbox Live’s glory days. Converting your local currency into the game’s funny money doesn’t always work out in your favor, and content is priced in a way to encourage users to plan out their future purchases. When people at RaceDepartment are having to write legitimate guides on how to buy a video game, there’s a pretty big fucking problem. We’re now at the point where we need an instruction manual to buy a video game; simply taking the box off the shelf and walking to the cashier at the front of the store wasn’t cutting it, I guess.
The game’s Multiplayer mode is given the official title of Multiplayer Alpha, yet over $90 of expansion packs exist for a game that has been available to the public since January of 2013. This isn’t cool. It’s either done, or it’s not. Pick one. Due to the absurd pricing structure and segregation between groups of content owners, online is almost completely dead aside from the usual group of European racers jumping on for a few short blasts every Saturday and Sunday evening.
It’s entirely possible that after doing your research on what to buy, and when to buy it, you may finally boot up RaceRoom for the first time to realize you have nobody to play with, and the AI is more or less equal to what you’ve come to expect from rFactor or Stock Car Extreme – games you’ve most likely already bought and formed an opinion on.
- Initial Feedback from the Full Version of Need for Speed is not good
- Need for Speed’s Online-Only Format Causes Predictable Problems
- Need for Speed 2015 is a disappointment.
- FailRace’s 40 Minute Review of Need for Speed
Leaked info late last year revealed Electronic Arts forced Need for Speed developers Ghost Games to spend an extra year working on Underground 3, as the franchise had been on it’s last legs for quite a few years, suffering from an identity crisis in which time and maturity was not the enemy, but a catalyst. Promising a return to the roots of Need for Speed by reviving the seventh title in a series that first debuted in 1994 (think about this), the hype train quickly picked up speed as longtime Need for Speed fans believed this would establish the franchise as a serious player once again.
Impressions from the beta version of the game were anything but promising, turning the official Need for Speed subreddit into a slow-motion train derailment. Users began pointing out the lack of car customization features compared to the Underground games seen on Sony’s Playstation 2, the insane rubber-banding AI frustrated beta participants as computer opponents were allowed to cheat the laws of physics with improbable speeds, and the game’s controversial handling model often overrode any controller inputs the game deemed unwanted. None of these glaring issues were fixed for the retail release of the game, much to the dismay of those who took the time to participate in the closed beta and provide pages upon pages of feedback to representatives of Ghost Games.
Issues regarding the online-only format of the title, problems first brought to light with the Sim City fiasco of 2013, reared their ugly heads once again, and even editors from mainstream gaming media outlets reported on framerate troubles that plagued the review process, with Giant Bomb’s Jeff Gerstmann giving the game a troubling score of 40, lacing his review with sarcastic screenshot captions.
Yet nothing comes close to capturing the sheer mediocrity of the Underground reboot quite like FailRace’s 40 minute YouTube review of the title, demonstrating every single issue during a live commentary of the game.
Part of the blame for such a poor showing by Ghost Games is the forced reliance upon the Frostbyte 3 engine created by Digital Illusions and Electronic Arts. Intended to be EA’s own in-house answer to engines such as Unity and Source, the engine that powers Need for Speed was primarily developed for first person shooters such as Battlefield and Medal of Honor. Obviously, it didn’t work out too well when applied to a racing game, as the most glaring problem customers are currently having with the title relates to the sloppy handling physics that frequently takes control of the car away from the player for no particular reason.
The X-Plane of modern racing sims, rFactor 2 was designed to be a modding platform first and foremost, built with ISI’s complete devotion to creating a highly advanced third party modding paradise. While it shines as a private training tool, commercial playground, and advanced vehicle dynamics simulator, at the end of the day rFactor 2 is still sold as a home video game – an aspect it sometimes doesn’t deliver on.
While Image Space Incorporated introduced much-needed features that were lacking in the original rFactor – the inclusion of a dynamic track surface and variable weather to name a few – the team inadvertently shot themselves in the foot. Originally, rFactor 2 struggled to perform well on anything but a top-of-the-line PC, and ISI were slow to implement updates to rectify the situation. Revisions to the tire model and overall modding parameters increased the overall difficulty of creating third party mods for all but the most experienced of mod teams, severely limiting the amount of content available compared to the original game.
In 2015, this has made rFactor 2 difficult to recommend. ISI has indeed pushed for a more diverse list of content by releasing third party affiliate tracks, but the range of content still isn’t anywhere near enough to compete with rival racing sims, ones that are suffering from their own individual sets of flaws listed above.
But nothing is more boneheaded about rFactor 2 than the inclusion of an Online Season Pass, a practice temporarily used by Electronic Arts to generate additional revenue off the sales of used video games. The base install of rFactor 2 retails for $40, a fair price for a modern racing sim, but to have indefinite access to the online server browser, a menu that’s free to click on in all other racing sims, is an additional $40. Given the lack of mods, and that most sim racers have already found their game of choice, it’s entirely possible to spend $98 CDN on rFactor 2, only to have zero people to race against.
Image Space Incorporated attempted to re-release rFactor 2 on Valve’s popular Steam platform a few short days ago, and this only served to further complicate the matter. The new Steam audience couldn’t understand what the purpose of the online pass was to begin with, the Steam version of rFactor 2 frequently crashed on users with no rhyme or reason, and the game automatically downloaded content that some users didn’t actually want installed. It’s as if nobody thought any of this through.
We’re at a point where eleven modern racing games each have their own individual groups of users who choose to spend their time writing lengthy forum essays explaining why the new game they just bought is a complete let down. Even worse, the majority of the time, they “whiners” actually have a point – the games indeed are as bad as the forum autists say they are. You’re supposed to play video games, not write a college paper begging developers to stop releasing broken and/or unfinished pieces of shit. Do I have to become a trans-continental motivational speaker to breathe new life into racing game developers around the world? Because right now, eleven separate dev teams appear to have lost all sense of direction, wreaking havoc on the consumers in the process, and I haven’t been on a plane in a while.