A revitalized isiMotor physics engine and additional vanilla content have done little to help Brazilian Developer Reiza Studios burst into the sim racing spotlight. What originally began life as a crowdfunded expansion pack for Stock Car Extreme grew into an entirely separate title, and the team from South America believed the best way to continue their increasingly similar line of games was to re-brand their attempt at a modern racing simulator in an effort to attract sim racers to an otherwise niche product. Automobilista was the big push by Reiza Studios to compete with other mainstream titles such as Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, and RaceRoom Racing Experience – focusing on a diverse list of content rather than putting the real world Stock Car Brasil series front and center.
It’s no surprise that the Stock Car series of games failed to catch on with the greater sim racing community. Previously, the sims were little more than a love letter to Brazil in terms of the content offered, and while the cars and tracks available were meticulously detailed and thoroughly enjoyed by those who took the time to learn their nuances, the majority of sim racers were turned off by such an obscure content selection. The reality is that many sim racers are still struggling to learn the basic racing line around Laguna Seca or Hockenheim – the last thing they want to do is shift gears completely and be thrown an entirely different set of foreign tracks with little reference material. It didn’t matter to them how well Reiza had polished the ancient isiMotor engine; the majority didn’t want to be racing around in a flat Brazilian farmer’s field.
Automobilista was essentially Reiza Studios outright acknowledging the main reason many sim racers refused to care about Stock Car Extreme, promising a more enticing list of vanilla content that appealed to sim racers across the globe.
However, after some time spent with Automobilista, the plan for Reiza Studios to focus on content not based out of South America still seems to have been an afterthought – basically undermining the entire point of Automobilista’s existence. There are V8 Supercars, but no Australian tracks. There are numerous historical and modern Formula One cars, but only a handful of Formula One circuits – with the historic San Marino Grand Prix layout actually removed from Automobilista to be included in a future DLC package. There’s an extremely accurate Rallycross variant of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, but only two Rallycross circuits. And when it comes to the Stadium Trucks, again we’re revisiting the same obscure with anywhere from three to five steel ramps placed randomly on pre-existing layouts. After Reiza Studios pushed Automobilista as this all-encompassing racing simulator with tons of different cars and tracks to drive, it feels like I’m watching an old cartoon episode of Scooby Doo. At the end of each session, it’s as if I’ve pulled Automobilista’s mask off to reveal Stock Car Extreme with two new cars and three new tracks.
And sim racers appear to feel the same way I do. Despite Reiza Studios giving away a fully-featured game to every single person who owned Stock Car Extreme prior to January 5th of this year – which a lot of people did because at some point they bought Stock Car Extreme out of curiosity – the game has been dead on arrival.
Again, it’s probably due to the content. While Automobilista offers many small improvements that greatly increase the fidelity of the isiMotor engine compared to something like rFactor or Reiza’s own Stock Car Extreme, the reality is that we’re still running laps in empty Brazilian fields. Even more shocking, only 38% of those who received Automobilista for free have even bothered to install the game.
Yet there remains a glimmer of hope. RaceDepartment user Patrick Giranthon has been steadily pumping out a platter of well-known European road courses for Automobilista, add-on tracks which have been polished up to be graphically on-par with the default selection of circuits available within Automobilista. Currently, Patrick and his small group of friends have released three extremely popular circuits: Monza, Spa, and Germany’s Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit, all of which compliment the extensive selection of Formula One entries available that otherwise don’t have very many options to be driven in their natural habitat.
Given how well these tracks compare alongside the highly detailed list of obscure vanilla content, I would not be surprised if Reiza Studios themselves have been helping Patrick complete these projects in such a timely manner. This approach would allow Reiza to circumvent various licensing loopholes and put many more recognizable tracks into Automobilista, without the hefty fee of an official license. As the numbers for Automobilista are already extremely poor less than a week into the game’s lifespan – Early Access or not – Patrick’s work may be integral to the long-term survival of Reiza’s newest racing sim.