An Exclusive Mode You Shouldn’t Care About

dirt_rally_psvr_announce_screen_6It’s certainly been a while since we’ve talked about DiRT Rally here at PRC.net, but it’s for a good reason. Despite winning our inaugural game of the year award back in 2015 – which admittedly doesn’t mean much to the outside world – the hardcore Codemasters rally simulator certainly hasn’t aged well, offering a limited selection of stages and an underlying hand of God stability assist which has certainly sterilized the raw driving experience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic off-road point-to-point racer if you can pick it up at a reduced price, but many of us have simply moved on from DiRT Rally because we’ve seen all there is to do within the title Codemasters surprised us with during the spring of 2015.

To capitalize on the Virtual Reality craze that has rocked the gaming world as of late, the PlayStation 4 rendition of DiRT Rally will soon be graced with a hefty update that adds compatibility for Sony’s own PSVR headset. Yes, PlayStation 4 owners will unfortunately be forced to pay extra for the additional in-game functionality, but the key thing is there’s now a practical use for the PSVR headset on Sony’s flagship console. Being able to physically look through difficult corner combinations and focus on specific apexes while flying through Swedish back roads at triple the posted speed limit is a welcome addition to the PlayStation 4, compared to the relatively underwhelming inclusion of Virtual Reality in Evolution’s DriveClub. In fact, DriveClub’s VR spinoff actually made people sick.

But not everyone’s happy with the recent DiRT Rally VR announcement, as Codemasters have promised owners of the Virtual Reality-enabled version exclusive content that’s not available in the vanilla game. DiRT Rally VR will ship with an additional Co-Driver mode, where you’re placed in the passenger seat and tasked with reading out pace notes – presumably for a friend online to act as a sort of quasi co-op mode. Responding to an inquiry from Twitter user Captain Slow, Codemasters have confirmed this additional game mode will be exclusive to the PSVR release of DiRT Rally, and will not be implemented in any other version of the game.

Some are a bit choked about the DiRT Rally experience not remaining uniform across all three renditions of the game, but I’m here to say this isn’t the time to give Codemasters hell. Yes, I’m aware I’ve shit on Kunos Simulazioni for creating a vastly different version of Assetto Corsa for current generation consoles compared to what’s available for PC sim racers to purchase via Steam, but an additional co-driver mode for DiRT Rally on the PlayStation 4 is completely useless no matter how you spin it.

5rxjiv0Though the back of the box claims DiRT Rally features over 70 stages across six different countries, the number in reality is just twelve. Each country features two main routes that take approximately seven minutes for a proficient sim racer to complete, and the stage count is inflated by chopping these primary routes into halves, then quarters, and doubling that number by running each route in reverse. In theory, the entire game can be seen in just under an hour of driving. This became a legitimate problem during the game’s Early Access phase on Steam, as routine monthly updates featuring new sets of cars, or the introduction of a single country, could be played to exhaustion by the end of the evening – only for the game to be shelved for weeks at a time.

DiRT Rally was originally released for the PlayStation 4 in April of 2016, meaning the vast majority of people who possess even a remote interest in rally racing have already seen everything DiRT Rally has to offer – and then some. Even if their driving skills aren’t at the point where they can recite every corner of Sweet Lamb over a bowl of Cheerios at five in the morning, the majority of DiRT Rally owners could probably outright mute the co-driver and still post respectable stage times on some of the higher difficulties. With so few stages in the simulator to begin with, and DiRT Rally’s campaign mode artificially lengthening each rally on higher difficulties by running the exact same stage numerous times, it’s genuinely hard to imagine a scenario where the Co-Driver DLC would even warrant a shakedown run.

Unless you’ve literally just gotten into sim racing this year, or have ignored DiRT Rally for whatever God forsaken reason – which most haven’t – Co-Driver mode is one hundred percent pointless. I’m all for feature parity between multi-platform titles, and it’s great to see users taking the initiative and pushing for parity, but in this specific situation you really aren’t missing out on anything noteworthy. There are only twelve tracks in the game, you’ve probably learned them all by now, and so have your friends.

ps-vr-polo-greece

Reader Submission #128 – The F1 2016 Tire Wear Scandal

f1_2016_hungary_32It appears as if there’s a bit of a PRC Curse floating around the world of sim racing. After praising Stock Car Extreme and trying to host our own league with the generic V8 Supercar Reiza Studios had built for their customers as a free piece of bonus content, the team had their newest title taken off of the Steam Marketplace for a short time due to skirting dangerously close to the official Formula One brand. Upon partnering with Race2Play as our lone official sponsor and publishing an article stating the financial status of the company – including revealing a potential deal which would have seen them pocket a six-figure paycheck from SimRaceway – the online racing hub is instead set to close up shop at the end of the 2016 year. We deemed DiRT Rally our Game of the Year for 2015, but afterwards discovered a set of physics oddities that essentially let you fling your WRC-spec Fiesta around each of the game’s twelve stages with reckless abandon; highly against the spirit of a hardcore racing simulator. And now, the curse has affected Formula One 2016, a game I singled out as the benchmark for the future of racing simulators.

There’s a lot to like about Formula One 2016, so I’ll spare you the details of the full quasi-review published earlier this year and offer a brief summary: the game Formula One fans had been wishing Codemasters could ship since they acquired the license in 2009, finally materialized. It’s not the most accurate simulator, but it damn well gets the job done, and surrounds the core driving model with an impressive career mode that’s much more than just progressing through the current F1 schedule, season after season.

But today’s Reader Submission blows everything wide open. There are fundamental problems with how tire wear is calculated by the EGO Engine powering the Codemasters F1 series, an exploit so horrendous it’s basically broken the competitive element of the game – and Codemasters haven’t addressed the community at all for months.


f1_2016_silverstone_15Hey PRC, I’ve sent in a few submissions about F1 2016 before, and again I want to stay anonymous because of how controversial this glitch is. I’d prefer if people didn’t know I cheated my way to a bunch of wins thanks to an exploit Codemasters seem to have no intentions of patching.

Basically, there is a game-breaking glitch in F1 2016 first discovered by the community in mid-October, and the glitch revolves around a major part of the racing strategy in modern Formula One – tire wear. People have found that the tire wear in Formula One 2016 is determined by the compound you’re starting the race on. If you start on the softest available compound, your tire wear will be through the roof – almost impossible to adequately manage – but if you begin the race on the hardest compound you’re allowed to select from for that particular event, every single tire at your disposal will hardly wear, and you can more or less push at maximum attack for the duration of the race.

What this means is that in league racing, all drivers who start outside the top ten and receive the free tire choice, as per F1 rules, are favorites to win the race, because they can pit one or even two stops less than the front runners, whom are forced to start on the softer compounds. This glitch completely ruins every competitive league in F1 2016, and the fact that Codemasters haven’t bothered to do anything against it in over two months demonstrates that their promise of taking a different approach to F1 games and listening to the community has gone out the window.

forumsThe thread discussing this problem on the official forums is huge, with almost everybody agreeing that it is indeed a major issue that desperately needs to be patched, and many are reporting it has already affected the outcome of their private leagues. You simply cannot play this game competitively anymore. One of the top F1 2016 players on the Xbox One platform, Seiyariu, has created a nice video to demonstrate all of this stuff in action, and his accompanying description is a sign that Codemasters desperately need to intervene to save the F1 2016 community.

As a beta tester for Formula One 2016 myself, and someone who is really involved in the F1 community, I’m quite shocked to be honest. Codemasters rolled out seven patches for the PS4 version in quick succession, and really tackled the problems which would pop up each week just from people sinking so much time into the game and accidentally running into stuff. But for some reason, as you can see from the community manager’s post history, they’ve gone completely silent from October onward. I know that they’re most likely shifting the focus to F1 2017 behind the scenes, but this type of glitch turns a really solid racing game into a bad experience, because I cannot contend for a victory fairly on the highest possible level, knowing my online competitors have basically half the tire wear I’m subjected to.

infoI think the average player might not even notice this glitch, but if you race against some of the best players in the world via private leagues, and victories are stolen from you because someone exploited a flaw in the game to receive substantially less tire wear, then it’s a massive piss off.


ss_2bef4823dbe3cde1d644e806c050a8cbd9eb62c0-1920x1080Thanks for sending this in. I really like these kinds of pieces because they highlight just how passionate some sim racers are to be digging apart a game they otherwise love, and it also sheds light on some of the little tricks that top online racers use – which usually have little to do with the racing itself. I’m sure a lot of F1 2016 owners will be breathing a heavy sign of relief after getting raped in an online league and not being entirely sure why.

My assumptions about why this issue came to be, is that the EGO engine doesn’t natively support tire wear. Remember, when this new game engine first came about, Codemasters had been working on the original DiRT and GRID titles for the Xbox 360 – both of which were games light on simulation value, and instead looked to capitalize on the weird middle ground between Forza and Need for Speed, where people wanted the race cars found in Forza but couldn’t commit to any sort of serious physics engine. I don’t recall DiRT nor GRID featuring tire wear, as most of the races were designed to last around five minutes or so, leading to the theory that the concept of rubber degradation was tacked on after the fact for the F1 games, and they’ve re-written the coding for it every few iterations.

I’m not trying to make excuses for Codemasters, because for it to affect the results of a race in this fashion is exactly as you described it – game breaking – but it’s a starting point to explain how a bug so severe could manifest in the first place. Remember, even DiRT Rally – a so-called hardcore simulator – doesn’t have the ability to adjust tire pressures in the garage menu, or monitor tire wear in each service area; it’s grouped into the all-encompassing “wheels” category. So I’m under the impression that tire wear and the behavior of different compounds is something Codemasters injected into the EGO Engine they use for all their games, and they simply did it in a fashion that royally fucks up the online playing field.

So I guess you might not ever see a fix for this, but I do indeed advise you to continue pestering them on the official forums, because this is like, pretty fucking bad if people are running the exact same compounds, setups, and as close to a conservative driving style as they can, yet receiving drastically different tire readouts. I mean, people are banned from rFactor leagues for using third party ram hacks to accomplish what appears to be baked into F1 2016 by default, so hopefully Codemasters shows up and rectifies everything.

 

DiRT 3 is Now Steam’s Most Popular Racing Game

dirt-3So the online distributor known as Humble Bundle – a company in which a portion of the sales of Steam keys are donated to various charities – decided to give away the Complete Edition of DiRT 3 for absolutely no cost last night. The results? Nothing short of staggering. Almost 40,000 people are currently messing around in the 2011 Codemasters offering, establishing DiRT 3 as the most popular racing game ever to be released on Steam.

dirt3_game-2016-11-12-11-15-37-58It honestly couldn’t happen to a better title. While hardcore sim racers may turn their collective noses up at the increased presence of energy drink brands, the relatively new motorsport discipline of gymkhana, and a single player campaign mode aimed at mass market audiences, DiRT 3 is still a seriously good off-road racing game with virtually no tangible faults. Though the deal to pick up the game at no cost is now officially over as of ten minutes ago, the massive surge in online activity means buying a copy for the standard Steam asking price guarantees you’ll be getting a ridiculous amount of playtime out of the title.

For those who are just discovering DiRT 3 for the first time, or need an extra competitive edge against the abundance of people flocking to the game’s online servers, this is the setup I’ve been using since the game’s release in 2011, and it works across every single car on the vehicle roster.

dirt3_game-2016-11-12-11-16-31-68Now given DiRT 3 is obviously a Codemasters game from an era where they were hoping to cater to a mass-market audience, what’s going to happen for some of you who boot up the game after either trying it on consoles back in the day or coming into it with a wheel you didn’t own in 2011, is you’ll discover the default force feedback settings are absolutely atrocious. I personally have turned most of the sliders down to their bare minimum values, and the result is a game that drives quite nice – albeit a bit simplified.

dirt3_game-2016-11-12-12-15-12-04If for some reason you have passed over DiRT 3 completely thanks to your own arrogance towards decidedly simcade offerings, there is no better time to jump into DiRT 3. No other racing came currently on the market can boast a bigger userbase, and the Complete Edition bundles an excessive amount of content – all post-release DLC packs as well as exclusive pre-order bundles that never been previously made available – into a rally game eerily reminiscent of Microsoft’s own Rallisport Challenge 2. You will unfortunately have to deal with an art style revolving around a strange obsession with triangles, and a bit too much of Ken Block for anybody’s liking, but the sheer amount of stuff to do in DiRT 3 for your $30 is more than enough to offset any perceived negative aspects.

DiRT Rally’s Sideforce has No Simulation Value

sweden_i20_2_rEver since we established DiRT Rally as the greatest racing simulation of 2015 here on PRC.net, a small yet extremely vocal crop of sim racers have cried foul. Despite our gushing review of the title in the fall of 2015 – which indicated you needed to run out and purchase this game if you hadn’t already – certain hardcore sim racers were simply not sold on the potential this game had to dethrone Richard Burns Rally as the greatest point-to-point off road experience of all time. For a while, I believed these anonymous users were nothing more than obsessive trolls, desperate to extend the lifespan of a simulator that they had grown emotionally attached to, rather than move forward into something new.

Make no mistake, DiRT Rally is a phenomenal rally game. The combination of impressive visuals and authentic physics is something the sub-genre desperately needed, especially considering front-runner Richard Burns Rally had been conceived during the height of the PlayStation 2 era and most certainly wasn’t easy on the eyes. However, when it comes down to comparing the two titles in terms of accuracy in the raw driving model, dedicated DiRT Rally players have accidentally stumbled into the lone element keeping DiRT Rally planted firmly on the simcade side of the fence.

Downforce is the process of large quantities of air being displaced over top of a race car while at speed, which plants the car to the ground and increases the vertical force on the tires – producing an increased level of grip. Sideforce, on the other hand, is the process of airflow catching the side of the car while the vehicle’s angle of attack is not directly facing forward; in simpler terms, air hits the side of the car while cornering and also generates downforce. The reason you’ll see World of Outlaws Sprint Cars run such mammoth asymmetrical wings, and retain ludicrous speeds through the center of the corner, is to generate insane levels of sideforce and drive the whole track almost wide open.

006af168e164a3fbfae4e67764d90823There have been a group of sim racers claiming DiRT Rally’s tire model has been heavily simplified for mass market appeal – it’s a Codemasters game after all – but to everyone’s collective surprise, this isn’t actually the case. The main problem with DiRT Rally’s physics, as displayed in the video uploaded by Ethan Dean above, is the ridiculous levels of sideforce generated by every car in the game. Dean can be seen throwing a variety of rally cars off of the biggest natural jump in the game, and they are literally curving in the air like a cheeky baseball pitch. The Peugeot Group B entry, which was literally just a hatchback with an absurdly powerful engine stuffed in the boot, takes off from the far side of the screen in the very end of the video, and curves so rapidly mid-air it actually goes into the spectator section with what appears to be forward propulsion.

side3Technical terms aside, DiRT Rally’s physics engine, and the underlying values governing each car, have been written in a way where there is a literal hand of God catching the car in the center of the corner and stabilizing it far beyond what would ever occur in real life. This is what’s allowing some of the Aliens on YouTube to post ludicrous world record times while seemingly throwing the car around like it’s an Xbox game from a decade ago. Codemasters have given econoboxes with no aerodynamic pieces whatsoever, the aerodynamic properties of a Sprint Car when cornering.

The delicate act of balancing the car on the edge that has become a stable of Richard Burns Rally’s grueling difficulty level, is simply not present in DiRT Rally. You have a giant invisible wing guiding the car when you’re even the least bit sideways.

Reader Submission #117 – F1 2016 Has an Ugly Mole

13765960_10153745897737060_1304009333394529532_o-1It wasn’t all that long ago here on PRC.net that I posted a rather glowing semi-review of Formula One 2016. Now while Codemasters have traditionally shit the bed when it comes to their annual big-time open wheel release, and y’all have every right to be skeptical about the quality of the product, this is the first time in seven iterations that the European team have pushed out a Formula One title that’s actually worth every dollar spent. That doesn’t mean there aren’t hilarious glitches or bugs found deep within the title, but F1 2016 is a game you can fire up after work for a few hours, and nine out of ten times thoroughly enjoy the time spent with it.

But in the pursuit of fairness, it’s only right for us to discuss some of the technical issues that have been discovered by avid Formula One fans over the past few weeks since the title’s launch. Longtime reader Ruben Galvez Lopez has sent in a nice piece to us, outlining what he describes as an ugly mole in an otherwise fairly solid product.


01Hi James! It’s been a while!

This time, I’m writing to you in regards to Formula One 2016. After reading so much positive stuff about it, I decided to give it a chance. Overall I am very happy with it, last time I’d played one of these was in 2013 and I was fed up with the series. It was always the same story, year after year – small steps forward in the handling side, but the same huge problems lurking in the shadows: track limit abuse and exploit setups. The AI wasn’t especially good either, so you couldn’t enjoy yourself properly in single player modes, and the other two problems I mentioned made a mockery of online multiplayer.

Now it wasn’t as bad as that video they sent you about Forza Leagues where people were plowing through tire barriers, but it was still bad enough to cause a fuss on the forums. The ideal racing line in the game had nothing to do with the line the real cars were running; you were always using the grass and the turf to cut or extend the track, and if you didn’t do it, you were giving away precious space on the track.

I have to start by saying that I’m enjoying the game; it has plenty of improvements over the last Formula One release I played: the damage sensitivity is much higher – so you can’t go around tapping walls, and you must avoid contact with other cars. Also, most of the setup exploits where you would always be faster with extreme values are gone. There are also manual starts, virtual safety cars, the car development feature… The list is very long, but Codemasters did a very good job cramming everything we wanted into F1 2016.

But I can’t avoid being disappointed about one particular detail, and that’s how the game treats track limits. The cars don’t react at all to curbs unless it’s on a heavy traction zone, and that means the fairness of the races depends entirely on the corner cutting detection feature. I’m not a fan of this, physics should be enough in most cases to police the track. These are single seaters; they are very stiff, very low, and these traits will keep you on the track by themselves most of the time. This isn’t the BTCC.

unnamedIf you are a fan of the real series, you can see the shitstorm that is created every time a corner is modified and the runoff area offers the chance to be used. You get discussions about what to do: placing sensors, monitoring how many times each driver goes off, letting them drive as they like… these corners create absurd situations for the stewards and fans alike.

In this game, thanks to the lack of proper reactions to curbs, every corner is “that corner.” The track limits become blurry and you are constantly driving in places where a real F1 car could never drive. I don’t know how much this bothers players that are not too fussed about the real thing, but I for one cringe each time I see a car going up Eau Rouge with two wheels on the grass, or riding these huge sausage curbs they use in some slow turns as if they were not there at all.

To display how much of a difference this makes, I created this video above, where in the second half, I compare the real racing line and the ideal one in this game. To be as fair as possible, I did it on a track where the chances to cut are average; there are circuits where it’s much worse, and there are circuits that won’t allow so much bullshit.

I can understand this is not a hardcore driving simulator or anything, and I don’t mind if the physics aren’t 100% accurate, but I don’t think this stuff has a place in a Formula One game. It’s as if you released a NASCAR game with decent handling and features, but the fastest way around the track was grinding the outside wall at full power. Fans of the real thing would probably be fuming.


f1-2016-trailer-201629218_1I have to say you’re correct. During my career mode races at Melbourne, Montreal, and Monaco, I felt I could get away with a lot of track limit violations that would have otherwise warranted pretty severe post-race penalties if I’d tried them in various online racing leagues. I don’t think they affect offline racing all that much, as the AI cars will always run their line, and it’s up to you whether you want to use certain exploits to catch a car or pull away from the field, but obviously it becomes a problem when you take the show online. Personally I don’t understand why developers are struggling with track limit implementations as of late. Both Project CARS and Forza Motorsport 6 had this problem as well; I’m hoping it boils down to a bad line of code than putting a literal idiot in charge of out of bounds rules. Otherwise, we’ve got major problems behind the scenes. I mean, at least F1 2016 doesn’t let you plow through tire barriers, so there’s that, but thinking back to how I was allowed to take turn one at Monaco without the game penalizing me, it was basically the same thing.

I think the theme of your submission, or at least the title of it, allows us to talk about Formula One 2016 in a much more critical manner, so I guess I’ll sort of transition into that topic. Don’t get me wrong, this game truly is fantastic, but over the past couple of days I’ve been hit with a few Emails outlining various problems with this game, and it’s important to round them all up for our readers.

At the fifteen minute mark in this video, when the safety car is deployed, the AI proceed to crash into each other before coming ghost cars. It’s a scene fairly reminiscent of Assetto Corsa, though the cars don’t fully retire from the race.

Then, there are the executable crashes. According to another tidbit I received not too long ago, all owners of F1 2016 regardless of the platform are struggling with an abundance of instability issues. This is something I personally haven’t come across; the game crashed once in seventeen hours of gameplay, but PRC.net reader John C. writes that the problem is so widespread Codemasters are actually reluctant to acknowledge it, aside from mentioning that if the next patch does not fix the stability woes, Codemasters will require people to send in crash reports to them. This obviously isn’t a good thing, nobody wants to pay to be a beta tester, they paid for a finished product.

crashes2Again, this isn’t stuff I’ve experienced – in fact, the game has performed quite well for me aside from occasional stuttering in claustrophobic big crash situations – so it’s hard for me to launch into a tirade over F1 2016’s quality. However, that doesn’t mean these issues don’t exist. While F1 2016 is easily the best open wheel racing game ever made by Codemasters, there are numerous reports of hiccups here and there that serve to detract from the overall racing experience.