Not only was it underwhelming, it somehow made things worse. The resurgence of rFactor 2 back into the sim racing community spotlight was set to begin early this morning, as Studio 397 rolled out the first open beta of DirectX 11 support for rFactor 2 – marking the initial phase of a comprehensive re-working of the software since wrangling away the project from notorious slackers Image Space Incorporated. Unfortunately, things have not gone anywhere near according to plan, and sim racers for the most part have been left scratching their heads after months upon months of blog posts proclaimed that this would somehow be the absolute final boost rFactor 2 needed to become a worthwhile product. We can’t completely write things off as of yet considering the build’s open beta status, but watching this unfold from a third party standpoint, I can’t help but think it’s just better to let the software die. This isn’t funny anymore.
So let’s get it over with.
The primary focus of today’s open beta build was to improve the visual fidelity and overall performance of rFactor 2, finally taking advantage of the DirectX 11 platform. Studio 397 have been posting an abundance of high resolution screenshots on their social media accounts (such as the one at the top of this article) that depict rFactor 2 in a very attractive manner, sporting a similar visual style to Assetto Corsa compared to the drab, faded art style we’ve come to know and loathe from rFactor 2 over the past four years. However, upon prominent YouTube personality DigiProst getting ahold of the DirectX 11 build himself and conducting a proper DX9 versus DX11 comparison as it would appear from an end-user standpoint, I can’t help but think Studio 397 called on the magic of Photoshop for their promotional pictures.
Simply put, there’s been no tangible step up in visual fidelity; rFactor 2 still looks brutal, albeit now there’s an aqua-colored filter placed over the whole environment, shadows are darker, and panes of glass are now covered in an ugly blue film like we’re in some sort of comic book from the 1970’s. It’s arguably even worse to look at than it was before, and when compared to something like Automobilista sporting a generic post processing filter, the differences are virtually negligible – or equally shit, depending on your choice of words.
Though the rFactor 2 fanboys will undoubtedly fill up message boards far and wide with praise towards Studio 397, the reality is these guys spent months getting rFactor 2 to look like a game based on software from 2006 – and Automobilista certainly isn’t winning any awards for its graphics. This is just horrendous to see a developer dedicate so much time to improving the game’s visual prowess, only for the end result to be so exponentially underwhelming. rFactor 2 still looks appalling, but now there’s a light blue filter over everything instead of a light brown/grey haze. I’m sorry, but it’s no better or worse than the previous build, and that’s unacceptable when you’ve been telling people it’ll be a vast improvement.
So of course, we get to the part of the article that centers around performance. Up until today, rFactor 2 was fairly easy to run on pretty much any modern PC, as the game was – to put it kindly – released many, many years ago. However, today’s build was bundled with crippling performance issues, meaning those who could once run the software at triple digit framerate counts, were now experiencing frame drops so severe it was the equivalent of trying to play Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit on mom’s work computer back in the late 1990’s. Reports of rFactor 2 unable to achieve even 30 FPS are spread across both RaceDepartment and the official Studio 397 forums, a situation made even more comical by the fact that some of these users are sporting literal supercomputers built with the best hardware money can buy. If you have a graphics card that retails for almost four digits at launch, and you’re still unable to run a title from 2013 at 30 FPS, let alone 60, 90, or 120, when the previous build was locked at 150, something is very, very wrong.
Now, being an open beta, people will undoubtedly scream at me that this is not the final product, it’s an optional download, and of course there will be problems. Here is my issue: open betas are held when a product is 95% done and doesn’t exhibit any major warts, but simply needs a bit of fine tuning here and there. The Gran Turismo Sport beta was a perfect example; the game is more or less done, Polyphony just needed feedback on tire behavior and vehicle balance. I wasn’t a fan of it, but there weren’t any technical problems – the software worked.
An aqua-colored smear over the screen, and in many cases a triple digit drop in performance, is much more than a little niggle. If you as a company are comfortable in putting something like this out to the general public, you’re making a statement that the product is functional, playable, and near-completion. What I’m seeing above is not even close to near-completion; it’s a bad joke, and goes against basically everything Studio 397 have been saying in their blog posts over the past few months. You’ve neutered the performance so severely that nobody can play the game, and a major selling point of the update – the new DirectX 11 support and enhanced visual fidelity you’ve advertised via carefully crafted screenshots – is now up for question, as the raw comparison videos are horrid.
I’m sorry guys, this is a telling sign after months of hype; it’s only a matter of time before the rabid fanboys also get off the bandwagon and move on to something else. No consumer should be waiting around for a competent product over the span of four years, only to have simple things taken away from them such as steady software performance after they’ve been told not to worry, and that the game will receive a massive boost of support from a brand new team.