The onslaught of Automobilista press coverage has begun, marking the end of Reiza Studio’s Stock Car Extreme era, and ushering in the next phase of the Brazilian developer’s sim racing efforts. Set to be released within the first quarter of 2016, Automobilista is a natural continuation of the Game Stock Car series that turned Reiza Studios into a household name within the sim racing community, though the upcoming title will offer a more diverse roster of vehicles and locations. Many sim racers – myself included – are looking forward to Automobilista due to the quality of Reiza’s previous efforts, and the fact that many of us will receive the game free of charge thanks to a special promotion, but the elephant in the room is now proceeding to knock around the chairs. We’re getting excited to buy rFactor, all over again.
As other video game genres advance into new territory to take advantage of recent technological innovations, sim racing has remained incredibly stagnant. Image Space Incorporated have no issues licensing their critically acclaimed isiMotor engine to any developer that can write a six-figure check, and as a result many hardcore racing sims look, drive, and feel the same. While many developer teams attempt to revitalize the isiMotor engine in their own unique ways, Reiza Studios have released three identical titles in Game Stock Car, Formula Truck, and
Game Stock Car 2012 2013 Extreme. After a crowdfunding campaign that raised over $100,000, most sim racers didn’t want the same exact sim to be sold to them a fourth time. And despite the near-unanimous praise Stock Car Extreme receives on various sim racing message boards, virtually nobody is playing it compared to other modern driving games.
Unfortunately, private message board screenshots confirm that Reiza’s upcoming sim, Automobilista, will push more of the same on the already small sim racing community. When asked about the behavior of the Artificial Intelligence – an aspect of isiMotor titles that is commonly cited as an area that needs drastic improvements – Reiza Studios developer Renato Simioni has stated that the AI code has not been touched beyond the extent required for new features. In this case, he’s referencing the dynamic track surface. The AI needs to accommodate both lower and higher grip levels, but owners of Automobilista will still be subjected to the same basic AI problems that have plagued isiMotor sims since 2005.
Reputable sim racing content creator Patrik Marek – whose cars have been featured under the fictional Marek prototype team in Project CARS – has chimed in on a recent VirtualR article regarding the graphics of the upcoming release. Marek is not impressed, as even though he praises the physics, he notes that both Reiza releases look similar aside from minor texture details on the racing surface. Some of these texture improvements, which are primarily centered around the racing line, won’t even be noticed by your average sim racer at speed.
Virtual auto racing enthusiasts over at BSimRacing also echo these sentiments, with some pushing the discussion past the visual quality of the title, and slamming Reiza’s previous release, Stock Car Extreme, for feeling “last gen” and “like an rFactor 1 mod”.
I’ll put that comment to the test, and the readers of PRC.net will be free to draw their own conclusions. First up is a video with some clever editing featuring three Formula One greats in a qualifying battle at the San Marino Grand Prix.
Next is a video of a Suzuka demo race using the CTDP 2005 F1 mod to demonstrate what the current build of Stock Car Extreme looks like under normal gameplay.
Lastly, we’ve got the official preview video from Reiza Studios, showcasing their unlicensed 2005 Formula One entry making solo laps around a version of Suzuka revamped for Automobilista.
It’s truly staggering to see how little the world of sim racing has progressed since 2005. As a disclaimer, I’m sure I will enjoy Automobilista and dedicate many of my weekends to competitive online league racing in Reiza’s new platform, but I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with buying the exact same game over and over again since middle school. Maybe there just aren’t enough “old guys” around from the mid-2000’s to remember when all of this stuff was brand new and just starting to gain traction, but as someone who’s been around the block so many times he knows the only parking spot that’s free, this is extremely disappointing. A six-figure crowdfunding campaign warranted a game that’s virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor, and even the developers are slowly beginning to leak information that they didn’t even bother polishing the parts that needed polishing.