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.

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A Strong, Independent Viral Marketer

introYou knew this one was coming.

I think a whole bunch of our critics here at PRC.net have been eagerly anticipating an article on this subject – or personality, rather – because they just know I’m undoubtedly going to unleash my far-right rhetoric in a profoundly embarrassing manner, establishing myself as little more than basement-dwelling man-child who’s just mad he hasn’t scored a date in a while. And while I fully acknowledge there will be some people who deem this post the final straw  in a long list of questionable articles, and vow to never visit PRC again, I can assure you there’s a legitimate point I’m trying to make here – and it’s not my fault if your inner white knight prevents you from seeing things how they really are.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way; I don’t hold female gamers in particularly high regard. While I’ve had the honor of battling the one and only Monica Clara Brand in many iRacing IndyCar events back when she was still an active user on the service, and looking back on that period of time can say with absolute certainty she’s one of the most enjoyable sim racers I’ve ever driven against, unfortunately her formidable talent and friendly demeanor was an exception to the gamer girl stereotype, not the norm. Between Twitch streamers who blatantly abuse the site’s Terms of Service – whipping their tits out and broadcasting fake dinner dates rather than playing video games – all the way to iRacing team owners having a kid with one of their drivers, and the former host of sim racing’s most popular YouTube show appearing on a Sugar Daddy website, it’s hard for me to not feel as if women are incapable of chilling out and being “one of the guys” in a male-dominated hobby. There’s almost always some sort of intrusive, unnecessary storyline that comes along with them, and it’s very frustrating to deal with if you just want to hang out and play some video games with your buddies.

I’d always like to be proven wrong, as a down-to-earth female presence within the community prevents us from venturing too far off the beaten path and opening up about their secret obsession with Paul Menard erotica, but unfortunately we’ve got another personality to add to the list of women who enter the world of sim racing with an ulterior motive.

02-virtual-rVirtualR.net describes SimRacingGirl as a “promising new sim racing YouTuber” who aims to be an alternative of sorts to personalities such as Shaun Cole and Matt Orr – veteran virtual drivers whom on top of registering a hell of a lot of time within their simulator of choice, also manage popular YouTube channels that focus on both hardware reviews, as well as in-game commentary. As a presenter and a budding personality, she’s honestly not bad. The soft-spoken Dutch hobbyist known simply as Sinem to her friends takes a very traditional approach to her presentations, combining the delivery and tone of an ESL morning news anchor, with outfits that do not detract attention away from the subject at hand in any manner whatsoever – unlike a personality many will undoubtedly draw comparisons to. There will certainly be no yellow dress episodes, online dating discoveries, or secret pregnancies here; just a woman who appears to be as passionate about the hobby as everyone else within the community. And I can’t really knock that.

Of course, the socially stunted among us sim racers are still fawning over her as if they’ve yet to discover the magic of PornHub, but at this point it’s merely an additional supplement of free entertainment that only the strange world of sim racing can provide. I have learned to sit back and laugh at these pathetic comments, knowing they are the precise answers people are looking for when some question why the genre isn’t growing as it should.

03-beta-commentsBut behind the embarrassing comments left by lonely sim racers on her YouTube videos, and reviews of Fanatec hardware that were otherwise uninteresting to me – but seemed to be highly appreciated by a whole bunch of sim racers – I started to become a bit perplexed by what was occurring in front of me. Look, a few months ago, I caught wind of some Instagram account named SimRacingGirl, and joked to the other guys on TeamSpeak that we should get someone like Sev to start a similar account called SimRacingBoy, where he poses with shitty PS3 racing games in UGG boots, aviators, and a leather jacket. Yet with virtually nobody knowing who in the fuck Senim Temur was, it seemed like overnight, she landed on the front page of VirtualR.

Now let me explain why I was caught off guard. This community is small enough as a whole, where if someone starts their own website, or they start writing for a website, or whatever – Will Marsh of SimRacingPaddock, for example – most people know their background, their history, and just generally who they are in the world of sim racing. When Will started SimRacingPaddock, I knew him as a guy who was a long-time iRacer that also did some background work for Inside Sim Racing, and he was one of the many people whom Darin got pissy at and told off. And it’s the same with myself – a lot of you came to PRC because you thought it would be hilarious to read a bunch of elaborate ramblings from the guy who was banned from iRacing. Maybe you liked some of my reviews at RaceDepartment, others may have raced me in private leagues… The point I’m trying to make, is that it’s very rare to start up an operation as a complete nobody, and suddenly receive coverage from major sim racing outlets.

Even rarer, is to just sort of show up in the community completely unannounced, and land endorsement after endorsement from major players in the industry, to the point where your living room is basically full of stuff that most of us have to be on a private mailing list to receive. Bored out of my mind at work, I scrolled through SimRacingGirl’s Facebook fan page, and for a span of about two months, it’s nothing but “look what came in the mail today.”  Brands such as Fanatec, Thrustmaster, and Vesaro all basically shower her with elaborate sim gear the majority of those as new to the genre as her couldn’t possibly afford or even contemplate purchasing, and most established personalities could only dream of receiving for free. It would be completely understandable if she had an audience in the tens or even hundreds of thousands – as Inside Sim Racing managed to achieve during their prime – but we’re looking at someone who was lucky if she got ten likes on an Instagram picture, or more than five comments on a YouTube video. This supposedly warranted many hardware manufacturers literally throwing brand new sim gear at her.

People this new to the scene, with virtually no following and (at the time) four YouTube videos, simply do not receive shipment upon shipment of expensive Fanatec and Vesaro gear. The process of merely acquiring a review copy for an upcoming game is a pain in the ass, and that’s not just from a PRC standpoint, that’s from people who actually run respected outlets who don’t shit on games for making Jimmie Johnson’s car the wrong shade of blue. Personalities this new and relatively unheard of also do not receive lucrative sponsorship opportunities despite an objectively minuscule audience. Call me jealous all you want, this is nothing short of suspicious, and y’all know it.

I think it would be understandable if the name Senim Temur was synonymous with three-time iRacing champion, and she was overcoming her social anxiety by branching out to YouTube videos, but neither myself nor the guys tasked with lurking the various sim racing forums know who the hell she is, and more important why several hardware companies are burying this random girl in top of the line sim gear.

04-spoiledNow I could stop there and let you all take in the sheer absurdity of what you see above – sim gear manufacturers delivering a constant stream of pricey hardware to the apartment of a random YouTuber nobody’s ever heard of – but I can actually take things a step further.

Combing through the several YouTube comments just to see how SimRacingGirl is perceived by the community she’s suddenly found herself at the center of, a few odd users suggest for her to enter the world of PC sim racing, as in her earlier videos she’s strictly a PlayStation 4 owner, with titles such as Project CARS, Assetto Corsa, and F1 2016 powering her hobby. Despite virtually no audience, no ad revenue coming in through her YouTube videos (it’s one dollar per thousand views), and barely any real following to speak of whatsoever aside from numerous high profile endorsements from reputable hardware brands, she suddenly acquires a top-of-the-line gaming PC to boot. Again, nobody really knows who this girl is, and at the time her YouTube channel hadn’t exactly taken off by any means, but she’s able to land several major sponsorship deals in a row, and swims in expensive sim gear that’s quite frankly beyond comprehension for someone this new to the hobby.

05-we-pc-gamer-nowAll of this is of course a total coincidence; acquiring sponsorship upon sponsorship for your quirky, unknown sim racing YouTube channel is perfectly normal in this hobby, and everyone from Joe Nathan and Will Marsh to Empty Box and GTSpeedster have entire spare bedrooms full of unused, pristine sim gear that retails for hundreds upon hundreds of dollars. This is just par for the course in sim racing, it’s the reason everyone starts a YouTube channel with videos of their shitty third split iRacing races, and not suspicious in the slightest.

Or it’s a very elaborate viral marketing scheme, and someone did a relatively poor job of covering their tracks.

vsYou don’t need to be any sort of part-time detective to figure out where this is heading. Upon heading to the official Vesaro YouTube page – a company who specializes in constructing unique high quality consumer or commercial simulation rigs, as defined by the customer – you can see SimRacingGirl sporting a Vesaro shirt and acting as a booth professional for the company; the sim racing equivalent of the models you see at car shows paid to supervise the product and regurgitate facts you can probably read yourself from the specifications sheet. In the video, they try and make her out to be this up-and-coming YouTube personality, but let’s be real here – if 500 views on a video of you playing Assetto Corsa qualifies you as a YouTube personality, I’m motherfucking Anderson Cooper. This girl is employed by Vesaro.

For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Vesaro is a sim racing brand which allows you to visit their website and build your own cockpit from a list of preset designs and pieces of hardware – such as wheels and pedals – before bundling everything together and shipping it to you in one package. Their prices are astronomical, and they have no explicit ties to one company or another, so you can just as easily request them to ship you a Logitech wheel with your Vesaro rig, as you can with a wheel from Fanatec. They are, effectively, a middle man of sorts, tremendously jacking up the cost of building a sim rig by several hundred euros. Their pricier designs are simply insane, with an advanced level option coming in at over five thousand euros.

06-reviewTheir newest venture, based on my assumptions from the information I’ve been able to display above, is to take some sim racer’s girlfriend or wife, shower the couple with boxes upon boxes of pricey sim hardware, place her in front of a video camera, instruct her to record positive reviews of products from companies Vesaro is partnered with while basically regurgitating the product specifications, and pass off this blatant exercise in viral marketing by pretending she’s some sort of sim racing YouTube personality – using the whole minority figure in sim racing angle to keep the masses reluctant to ask questions due to the pretty face on screen. Capping off the long list of hilarious potential FTC violations is the fact that her newest review is of a product that has been on store shelves for four goddam yearsthe Fanatec Formula Wheel rim – which demonstrates that she probably isn’t even aware herself that this wheel has already been evaluated many times over. Combined with the sudden abundance of top tier sim racing equipment appearing in her pad, VirtualR’s insistence on promoting her content despite practically no tangible following, and the complete lack of anybody within the scene knowing who in the hell this girl is to begin with, it’s fairly safe to assume Vesaro have been caught in the act.

Now, as much as I’d like to thank the guys at Vesaro for luring the beta sim racers among us out of hiding, and giving them the perfect platform to post a whole shitload of embarrassing comments that demonstrate their complete lack of skills with the ladies, I’m more disappointed in Senim than anyone else.

In a form of entertainment that has already struggled with several prolific women attempting to exploit the scene for their own personal gains rather than “hang with the guys”, and in an extremely niche genre where genuine critical feedback is commonly tainted by sponsorship dollars, it’s extremely dishonest to show up posing as a hardcore member of the community who appears to be acting in the best interests of sim racers, only for it to come out that you’ve been bought and paid for since day one. For a genre that already has a difficult time accepting women due to minority iRacing team owners getting knocked up by their drivers, or hosts of YouTube review shows moonlighting as sugar babies, all this does is legitimize the concerns of people like myself that a lot of female gamers aren’t here to just chill out and play video games.

There is nothing wrong with showing up with a modest rig, and making a few YouTube videos proclaiming your love for what’s otherwise a male-dominated hobby. That’s fine. What’s clearly over the line, however, is partnering with a company mere days after creating your social media accounts clearly intended to capitalize on little more than girl power, and proceeding to upload positive reviews of products from companies your sponsor is partnered with, under the guise of being some quirky new YouTube personality who just happened to discover sim racing, all while your Facebook page is loaded with pictures of you showing off the thousands of dollars in gear that was handed to you. That’s dishonest as fuck.

But there’s a silver lining to all of this, and I think it’s really important to mention it as the article comes to a close: the average sim racer is tired of this shit.

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The Money Mart Express *UPDATE*

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Story Update: A full-length video detailing JJacoby88’s sim racing history has been inserted at the bottom of the article.

An impressive piece of engineering, or the definitive example displaying sim racers have lost touch with reality? That’s the question we’ve been left contemplating here at PRC.net, as sim racing Twitch personality JJacoby88 has crammed a life-size stock car chassis into his room; a sim rig unlike any other. Sporting a certified containment seat from Hendrick Motorsports, and a legitimate chassis built by late model team Kirk May Racing, what you’re looking at above is a comprehensive hardcore sim racing setup that simply won’t be eclipsed by anyone else for quite some time – if ever. Though the outlandish configuration is far beyond what any sane person would require to enjoy a modern racing simulator from the comfort of their own home, credit must be given where credit is due; the rig is a sheer work of art; and every square inch of the faux cockpit has been hand-crafted to perfectly replicate what you might see within the roll cage of a 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series participant.

This is not just a SEGA arcade cabinet from the 1990’s, but a professionally sculpted race car interior created by those who work within the auto racing industry on a full-time basis. Every last insignificant detail – from the overall sheet metal fabrication, to the aftermarket control surfaces – have been fine-tuned to enhance the illusion of sitting in a real life professional race car cockpit and cooperate with the Microsoft Windows operating system, a truly magnificent display of craftsmanship. 

Sadly, the one-off project which could have been celebrated by the community as a milestone in sim racing immersion, is instead tainted by the story behind it.

Sporting a custom Domino’s Pizza fire suit, the full array of appropriate safety gear, multiple on-board cameras, an Oculus Rift, and a slew of Domino’s Pizza advertisements plastered over the broadcast, JJacoby88 takes the role-playing element of his Twitch streams to the absolute limit, regularly pausing his on-track monologue to discuss Domino’s Pizza menu items and other random facts about the popular Pizza chain during live Twitch broadcasts. Now while it’s not exactly uncommon by any means for Twitch personalities to receive some form of sponsorship, upon a brief investigation into the matter, JJacoby88 is merely employed by Domino’s as a delivery driver. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my first full-time job as well, but ordering a $400 custom fire suit to wear while playing iRacing and telling others in the room about the flat screen televisions on sale at our store that week is a thought that never once entered my mind.

twitch-shotAt this point, you’re most likely wondering how in the hell a random young adult from Georgia was able to afford such an elaborate sim racing setup, and the answer is quite simple: He couldn’t. A few weeks back I actually had the pleasure of jumping into one of JJacoby88’s Twitch broadcasts, and I was able to ask Jason himself how he managed to secure funding for what was obviously a colossal undertaking on many levels. To every viewer’s surprise, we learned no less than three credit cards and an undisclosed number of cash advances were used in the making of his custom, one of a kind, sim racing cockpit.

Yes, you read that right. Someone on this planet put themselves in an advanced state of financial ruin, just to play iRacing.

Combined with the act of pretending to be some sort of real life race car driver that he can’t seem to drop, what we’re looking at here is honestly quite frightening. We often joke around here at PRC.net about iRacing users who take the online racing simulator a bit too seriously at times, but rarely do we expect our attempts to provoke the iRacing members among us to actually manifest into something so profoundly asinine. We thought we couldn’t descend any lower than iRacing Peak Anti-Freeze Series drivers passing out hero cards of their virtual race cars in an attempt to land an ARCA Re/Max Series ride, but we’ve clearly been shown someone can always come along and set the bar infinitely higher than we ever thought was previously possible.

As a human though, what bothers me about this story is just how many fellow sim racers had the very real chance to stop JJacoby88 from impending financial ruin, yet instead chose to enable and encourage him to pursue this venture, even supporting the cringe-worthy NASCAR driver act. Payday loans and Credit Cards are not to be fucked around with – we learn this in high school from mandatory life management courses – yet the reception to this project so far has been unanimous praise; not one person appears to have bothered to ask the tough questions concerning how this all came to be. How no lone adult within the sim racing community jumped on Teamspeak one night and said “bro, don’t fuck around with Master Card or Money Mart” is extremely concerning, and speaks volumes about the overall sim racing community’s collective mentality. Sure, it’s an admittedly cool setup which will win a lot of sim rig dick waving contests on various message boards until basically the end of time, but knowing what went into it certainly casts a dark shadow over the whole thing.

Many sim racing outlets will eventually catch wind of JJacoby88’s setup and proceed to publish a string of showcase pieces demonstrating the rig in action, but as a sim racer, I’d prefer they didn’t. Unfortunately, to an outsider we have already established ourselves as a group of uber-obsessed man-children living out their inner race car driver fantasies to embarrassing lengths, and it takes a great deal of work to distance ourselves from that stereotype. Running the name of a local sim racing cafe on my personal race car’s windshield throughout the 2016 racing season, it took a lot of genuine work to slowly introduce what sim racing as a hobby is to our local auto racing scene, and I found via personal experience that sim racing is still largely seen as an activity for computer nerds. For every individual like myself, Xfinity Series driver Josh Berry, Monster Jam pilot Coty Saucier, Texas late model phenom Ryan Luza, and 2016 NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps, who go out and educate people on what sim racing is, a guy on Twitch nearly ruining his financial future to play iRacing in a cockpit beyond what’s necessary to use the software in its intended format serves to undo all the positive impressions we’ve made as a collective unit.

Like it or not, we’re not at the milestone Flight Simulator aficionados have achieved, where basically every real airline pilot – including the man behind the missing Malaysian Airlines 370 – goes hard on Prepar3D, Flight Simulator X, or X-Plane in their spare time.We’re still in a transitional period where away from the iRacing forums, hardcore sim racers role-playing the act of a real race car driver are mocked by their real-world counterparts as mere computer nerds lost in their own delusions. Having stuff like this come out – a hardcore iRacer who I can personally attest to being a competent driver financing a rig with a trio of maxed credit cards and an undisclosed number of payday loans – merely confirms that the mockery of our hobby from outsiders is one hundred percent justified.

And that’s not cool.

Update #1: A full-length video discussing the backstory of the build has been uploaded, discussing JJacoby88’s sim racing career, and his intentions to use his iRacing accomplishments as a way to enter the real world of motorsports.

Logitech, We Need to Talk: A Review of the G29

logitech-g29-g920Taking advantage of a 24-hour sale at Memory Express and finally upgrading to a toy steering wheel that’s a bit more… shall we say… relevant… I’m still not entirely sold on the Logitech G29. While both aesthetically pleasing and functionally sound, Logitech’s newest consumer racing wheel for the PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One (depending on the sub-model you choose to purchase) simply isn’t worth the $499 USD asking price. There is not enough in the box to warrant such an enormous price hike compared to previous Logitech offerings, and those looking to upgrade from an older Logitech product in an effort to future-proof their simulator setups may come away extremely disappointed from the package. I personally am kind of satisfied with my purchase, but objectively, many people won’t be. And it’s time to talk about that.

Now before we begin, many of you have undoubtedly heard the horror stories surrounding the G29, and some are most likely wondering why in God’s name I willingly went out and bought this relatively new product from Logitech despite the overwhelming number of negative customer reviews. It all boils down to a trio of key reasons, and I’ll outline them to give y’all an indication of why I pushed aside my trusty Driving Force GT with Logitech G27 pedals for an expensive side-grade.

  • Many lazy developers are failing to add support for multiple USB devices. On no less than three separate occasions this year, I purchased a game I could not play. WRC 6, NASCAR Heat, and Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo all required me to dig out my Xbox 360 pad, as the three applications did not include functionality for multiple inputs when configuring your controller. If I buy something that’s intended for a hardcore racing game audience, I fully expect it to accommodate the needs of said hardcore audience – and part of that is allowing people to use their fancy third party handbrake, H-Shifter, and even pedal attachments. With my current setup, I was left waiting for either a community mod or a patch from the developers themselves, immediately after booting up the game’s executable for the first time. With a Logitech G29, I wouldn’t have that problem.
  • I own a backwards compatible PlayStation 3, and basically every racing game under the sun. I’ve spent entire nights blasting through Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2, Gran Turismo 6, or NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup with the default plastic pedals that come bundled with the Driving Force GT. Despite having to wrap a bungee cord around the brake pedal to provide artificial resistance, these games are phenomenal with a wheel, and I wanted a PlayStation 3-compatible wheel that came with a solid set of pedals from the get-go because the amount of time I invested into these older titles warranted a decent wheel for them, not Fischer Price plastic under my feet.
  • I will eventually purchase a PlayStation 4. Yes, I’m missing my Madden and NHL fix, but with DriveClub turning into a somewhat competent arcade racer, Project CARS dropping in price and bundling all of the DLC together in a Game of the Year Edition, as well as Gran Turismo Sport and Project CARS 2 appearing on the horizon, the PlayStation 4 is actually turning into a decent platform for racing games of all sub-genres, and that’s only going to continue in the future.

I can’t recall the last time I’ve done a hardware review, if ever, so lets dig into what the Logitech G29 does, and doesn’t have to offer.

g29-racing-wheelIt’s a Beautiful Thing.

The overall build quality and design of the Logitech G29 is really phenomenal – this is a gorgeous looking wheel compared to the G27 that’s been in basically everybody’s homes since it was first introduced. It feels nice in your hands, it’s quiet under normal gameplay circumstances, and the abundance of buttons is exactly what I was looking for after using the Driving Force GT for a solid four and a half years. When it comes to configuring the controller, most of the buttons actually remain in the same location as the Driving Force GT had them laid out in, meaning it took almost no time at all to map the new layout – I could literally take my DFGT settings, change three buttons, re-do the pedals, and hit save.

This increase in quality extends to the profiler, which has seen a much-needed facelift – though some sliders have actually been removed. Personally, I’m digging the change, though some will miss the ability to adjust the springs and dampers. If those options are in the profiler, I haven’t seen them yet.

untitled-4Regarding the pedals, the Logitech G29 essentially uses the exact same model of pedals found in the G27, with the only change coming in the form of the brake pedal – which has been modified into acting like a load cell. In short, you push the brake to about 40% of what would normally be full input on the G27, and it instead stops unexpectedly – requiring you to physically put additional pressure on the pedal for the rest of the input range. In my opinion, it’s given me an added level of control over my car and I’ve taken to the new approach required for braking quite quickly, but I can see the rubber piece acting as a load cell failing in the hands of someone who’s hard on their equipment. I can’t imagine the part is very robust with the way it feels under my foot. The brake is also too sensitive by default, and I found myself turning the sensitivity slider down to about 25%, because the original setting of 50% was insane.

Depending on how often you rely on an H-Shifter for historic cars, the outright omission of the stick from the base Logitech G29 package can be a deal breaker. I personally haven’t used an H-Shifter for years because it’s slower in a competitive format – no questions asked – but those who hold immersion as more important than online results will be choked to discover that the price hike saw less stuff fall out of the box when you tipped it upside down. I don’t care for the lack of an H-Shifter, but many will.

ams-2016-10-25-23-03-21-51PC Simulators

It took around two nights to get fully accustomed to driving with the Logitech G29. While it may be using a portion of the same underlying hardware as the G27 to power the wheel, it certainly feels much smoother and more refined than the G27 – and it’s really the first time I’ve driven Automobilista where the cars felt comfortable to whip around the various circuits available. The G29 does not shake or rattle around in your hands – the biggest complaints of the G27 by far – but instead matches the aesthetic improvements by offering a driving experience where you can gently place the car where you want it to go; wheeling it when necessary. It’s the exact kind of improvements owners of the G27 have been asking for, but unless your G27 is literally falling apart in your hands, it’s hard to justify binning your G27 for a G29.

nr2003-2016-10-30-15-20-05-96The biggest difference, as mentioned above, is how the brake pedal operates under racing conditions. Rather than memorizing how far you have to push the pedal in each corner on a specific track, you can ride the pedal on entry – as you would in real life – and give a quick stab of the brake as you approach the apex to help the car rotate. Dustin and I have been shaking down the Aero88 mod in NASCAR Racing 2003 Season for… reasons… and it was truly impressive how dynamic your driving style becomes with a load cell-like contraption such as the one Logitech have implemented into the G29.

Gran Turismo 6

PlayStation Games

Here’s where things get upsetting. Gran Turismo 6 with the Logitech G29 is a fantastic experience; I’m really glad I’ve finally gotten to try this game with a properly built wheel, as it confirms my original findings when I gave the controversial car collecting title an equally controversial shakedown earlier in the year. However, when I took the plunge on some of my favorite PlayStation 2 games – fully compatible with the Logitech Driving Force GT as well as the G27 – the Logitech G29 absolutely shit the bed. I mean, the wheel didn’t work at all.

I loaded up NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup – quite a wonderful game with my Driving Force GT – and the wheel pulled hard left immediately after receiving control of the car from the CPU when leaving pit road. The wheel simply wasn’t recognized in Enthusia Professional Racing – my car remaining stagnant on the grid with the wheel turned all the way to the left – and lastly, I couldn’t even navigate the menus in Need for Speed Underground; the “Start” button having been mapped to one of the D-Pad directions. Despite the G29 powered largely by the same firmware as the Logitech G27 and Driving Force GT, which can be used on basically every older PlayStation title known to man so long as you’re playing it on a Sony Console, this compatibility has mysteriously been revoked for the Logitech G29. That’s not cool.

The trade-off for the lack of compatibility with PlayStation 2 titles is most likely PlayStation 4 compatibility, though the risk of future proofing your setup for titles that aren’t even on the shelves yet is a bit of a gamble. I know Gran Turismo 4 is an awesome game, and I’d love to play it with a wheel. What we don’t know, is what Gran Turismo Sport will look like when it’s sitting on the shelves for $60. I know Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 is the best racing game ever released for the PlayStation 2, and I’d love to play it with a wheel. What we don’t know, is how Project CARS 2 or DiRT 4 will look.

I don’t understand why Logitech suddenly abandoned compatibility with PlayStation 2 games on the fat-model PlayStation 3, when it’s available in other wheels running similar firmware.

dolphin-2016-10-30-16-04-23-24

Emulators

It’s a bit out of left field, but the popular Nintendo home console emulator Dolphin actually includes steering wheel support, allowing you to bust out a single input device such as the Logitech G29 for use in one of the few hardcore racing games released for either the GameCube or Wii. I was able to dial in the G29 to such an extent, I was slaughtering the AI on Legend difficulty in NASCAR Thunder 2003, to the point where any thought I had of playing through the games’ extensive career mode went out the window once I compared my practice times to the lap at the top of the board in qualifying. While not a direct testament to the quality of the G29, this goes to show the kind of additional gaming options you have when purchasing a single-input device, compared to the standard mix-and-match configurations that most sim racers opt for.

ams-2016-10-25-23-03-53-81Value

Here’s where the issue with the Logitech G29 arises: the cost. Without factoring in flash sales or special discounts, the MSRP is an astounding $500 USD, a full $200 more than the G27’s launch price of $300 USD all the way back in 2009. You do not receive an H-Shifter in the base package – as you would with the G27 – and the reduced compatibility now prohibits you from playing games that were once fully compatible with previous Logitech wheels you may still have hooked up to your PC or PS3. The abundance of buttons on the face of the wheel, while extremely useful for hardcore PC sim racers compared to the shitty layout of the G27 which placed half of them on the shifter, were already seen on the Driving Force GT – a wheel which retailed for $110 USD at launch. It is absolutely insane for a company to charge upwards of $500 (including taxes) for a product that isn’t a demonstrable upgrade in every single aspect from their previous releases. It’s got less functionality, doesn’t come with an H-Shifter, features a button layout that Logitech themselves admitted doesn’t cost a whole lot to implement based on the price of the DFGT, yet retails for $200 more. It’s astounding this MSRP got past the drawing board, and was actually approved by multiple suits at Logitech.

You are essentially paying an extra $200 to future-proof your PlayStation 4, and that’s bullshit for one very distinct reason: Many racing games on the PlayStation 4, aside from DriveClub and Gran Turismo Sport (which hasn’t even come out yet), are multi-platform releases. Unless you plan on picking up a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One in the near future and know you’ll dive into Gran Turismo or Forza alongside Call of Duty or Madden – as the Logitech G920 is the exact same product for Microsoft’s current console – you can completely avoid this wheel. Provided you aren’t running one of those budget Ferrari Thrustmaster offerings, whatever you’ve got in front of you right now is more than adequate for your needs.

In Memory of Nintendo

nintendoswitch_hardware-0-0My, Nintendo, how you’ve changed. The Japanese entertainment giant once spent almost a decade on top of the console gaming industry by following up the legendary Nintendo 64 with an equally impressive system in the Nintendo GameCube, but it appears the brand as many of us 90’s kids knew it no longer exists. Riddled with batshit insane decisions which saw the prolific video game company ship not one, but two misguided attempts at a modern home console by pushing gimmicks over gameplay, the new Nintendo Switchunveiled yesterday – is the pinnacle of poor choices which serves to highlight Nintendo’s fall from grace. This is a very different company than the one which helped propel Mario Kart 64 into the living rooms of basically anyone under the age of twenty five, and I can’t imagine these guys will be around for much longer.

Sure, the under-powered Wii sold a metric tonne of units after it was first introduced on store shelves back in the fall of 2006 – capitalizing on casual-oriented titles such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit to reel in a new audience at the expense of loyal fans –  but an incorrect assessment of market trends saw Microsoft and Sony utterly destroy Nintendo’s offering once the masses indicated Call of Duty was here to stay. Essentially, most people did rush out to buy a Wii, only to realize there wasn’t much substance behind the experimental controller, and permanently went back to the other console they owned within less than a month. Playing catch-up for five straight years, Nintendo partially attempted to rectify the obvious gap in performance and capabilities compared to their competitors by releasing the Nintendo Wii U, but once again, a reliance upon gimmicks that nobody really cared for in the first place relegated the system to the status of an expensive paperweight. Hell, aside from Lego City Undercover, and Need for Speed Most Wanted, there weren’t any racing games on the damned thing.

Rather than build  a traditional gaming experience to directly compete with what Microsoft and Sony currently offer, Nintendo is set to push out their third gimmick in ten years, completely failing to realize that the market doesn’t give a shit about this stuff anymore. Nintendo’s stock dropped 6.5 percent on the day of the Switch’s reveal, with market analysts downright confused at Nintendo’s business decisions. Simply put, Nintendo is finished.

errorsAnd that’s a shame. The company which single-handedly revived the video game industry in America after the 1983 crash is now hardwired to self destruct; the indisputable greatness of their four most prominent consoles now relegated to the pages of history books and Wikipedia articles. Sure, we’d been given a not-so-subtle warning beforehand that things at Nintendo had gone haywire – such as their public relations manager moonlighting as an escort – but physically seeing the string of bad decisions manifest into something so utterly useless as the Nintendo Switch is a sight to behold.

rappThe controller looks uncomfortable and clunky, nobody in North America wants a spontaneous game of Madden on a tiny screen in a dingy park when everyone’s been in a competition with their friends to build the most luxurious entertainment center, and given that Nintendo hasn’t actively tried to compete with Sony and Microsoft in terms of performance since 2001, it’s too risky to buy a console that could potentially be less powerful that what you already own and have sunk money into. For those three primary reasons, the Nintendo Switch will be a failure of which the likes we’ve never seen before. It’s going to kill the company. In a world where Grand Theft Auto V earned a billion dollars in revenue within the first 72 hours of the game arriving on shelves, you simply cannot stick your fingers in your ears and instead build something so preposterously nonsensical.

It’s certainly strange to be talking about Nintendo in this manner, as the twenty year period spanning from 1985 to 2005 were basically dominated by Mario’s home system. Yes, you can make an argument that the PlayStation 2 sold more units, or that the Microsoft Xbox was the most powerful console in terms of hardware, but Nintendo systems traditionally featured the highest concentration of games you wanted to play. While Sony’s original PlayStation struggled to maintain 30 FPS in all but a handful of games, busting out the N64 on a mid-range TV was gaming on an entirely different level. And there’s a reason people are still playing Super Mario 64 and Luigi’s Mansion on modern PC emulators, while Crash Bandicoot is relegated to being an obscure relic from a bygone era – Nintendo games were worth every penny of the retail price.

Nintendo systems were also a safe way to enter the world of console gaming without really knowing exactly what you wanted from your gaming experience. Nintendo paid close attention to the types of products arriving on their consoles, meaning the library of games available were never too graphic or too obscure for the general public. The best part of owning a Nintendo console during the final ten years of their dominance, was outright sucking at first-person shooters, yet knowing you could take a chance on something like Metroid Prime at random and still come away totally satisfied with the experience. If you couldn’t deal with the super-serious tone of FIFA 07, whether it was because you were too young at the time, or needed a simple multiplayer co-op sports game for your buddies, Super Mario Strikers was a valid alternative. Each game for all four of Nintendo’s golden systems, regardless of whether it was developed by Nintendo, or an unrelated third party entity, just seemed right for the console it was released on.

So for today, what I’d like to do here on PretendRaceCars.net is to take a look at the five best racing games for Nintendo systems which capture the spirit of Nintendo’s classic consoles – driving games that you could recommend to someone who doesn’t give two shits about race cars or motorcycles in the slightest, yet they could sit down for a day with the title, and at the end of their session say “I get it now, this shit is awesome, I want more.”

I’m aware that F-Zero GX is the greatest racing game released for the Nintendo GameCube, but let’s be real here – it’s too ridiculously difficult for the common gamer. And given our hardcore background, I’d love to write yet another article praising NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona for all that it managed to accomplish as an oval racing simulator almost fifteen years ago, but I won’t. Kart racers also need not apply, as their lessons in socialism lead to a scenario where skill simply doesn’t apply on the track.

So in our farewell piece to Nintendo, let’s talk about five racing games that fully understood what a Nintendo console was all about.

freekstyle#5 – Freekstyle

The introduction of the Sony PlayStation 2 onto the market saw Electronic Arts in a bit of a bind. Traditional sports games like Madden and FIFA had become infinitely more complex than the developer had ever anticipated, turning off several early PlayStation 2 adopters who were overwhelmed by the in-depth control schemes. The solution was to create an offshoot brand that took a more lighthearted approach to the flagship franchises, resulting in the creation of EA Sports BIG. You’re most likely aware of these guys thanks to the astounding popularity of the SSX franchise, yet the brand covered an impressive array of both traditional sports and auto racing disciplines, including soccer, basketball, football, snowmobile racing, rallycross, and even freestyle motocross.

Freekstyle was EA’s spin on the growing popularity of freestyle motocross, which has only expanded since the death of the EA Big brand with the likes of Nitro Circus and Red Bull X-Fighters becoming household names. While motocross games already existed on the Nintendo GameCube platform from developers such as THQ and Acclaim, Freekstyle didn’t require any knowledge of the sport to enjoy the title; opting for extremely simple tracks with ludicrous jumps allowing you to execute hyperbolic tricks in exchange for copious amounts of boost, much like the SSX franchise a few years earlier. Rather than including a cast of fictional characters playing up on motocross culture stereotypes, Freekstyle opted to include real world riders such as Brian Deegan and Mike Metzger to flesh out the personality of the fictional game environment, a move which turned Freekstyle into this really wild rust-filtered post-apocalyptic motocross carnival.

The end result was a phenomenal arcade racing game which draws heavily from the SSX franchise without appearing to be a straight rip-off. The simple gameplay that didn’t ask users to perfectly time jumps or plan their lines through a corner, mixed with radical track designs and a cohesive art direction, was a welcome addition to the GameCube’s vibrant library.

54284-the-simpsons-hit-run-windows-screenshot-guess-what-s-in-the#4 – The Simpsons: Hit & Run

Nintendo has traditionally been extremely weary of adult-themed games appearing on their platforms (despite their old PR lady turning tricks on the side), meaning that GameCube owners in the fall of 2003 were shit out of luck when Grand Theft Auto: Vice City took the world by storm. While older gamers primarily used the playground Rockstar Games had created to act out their inner psychopathic fantasies and challenge themselves to outrun a never-ending supply of SWAT team members, a key element to remember is that open-world driving games were still relatively new at the time, and many flocked to the 3D Grand Theft Auto offerings to merely test drive a massive variety of vehicles and explore a fully-rendered world at their own pace.

The Simpsons: Hit & Run offered a solution to the distinct lack of Grand Theft Auto’s presence on the Nintendo GameCube. While not a racing game in the traditional sense, as virtually everyone who’s heard about this game is well aware that it’s a straight up copy of Grand Theft Auto, Hit & Run centers largely around the driving aspect of open world crime sandboxes thanks to the complete eradication of any actual violence. If you strip out everything except the vehicle based missions from Grand Theft Auto V, and insert the absolute best writers that have ever worked on an episode of The Simpsons, you receive a surprisingly competent product in Hit & Run.

With a campaign mode that featured an abundance of memorable missions, an overall plot that was as deep and interesting as some of the show’s best twenty-two minute episodes, and a structurally sound open world package, Hit & Run was a seriously solid interactive version of Springfield that you could explore at your own free will. Given how popular The Simpsons had been as a television show in 2003, picking this one up was a no-brainer and fit in perfectly with the theme of licensed GameCube games.

nfs-underground#3 – Need for Speed: Underground

Yes, there were indeed a string of Need for Speed titles released for the Nintendo GameCube, but what most people don’t tell you is that many of them suffered from design flaws or massive performance issues. Hot Pursuit 2, released a year earlier, was developed by EA Seattle and paled in comparison to the superior PS2 offering, while Underground’s sequel included arguably more content at the cost of mammoth framerate problems which saw the title’s score slide heavily on Gamespot.com. Future Need for Speed iterations on Nintendo’s small purple box were met with a drastic decline in texture quality to maintain a base level of performance standards, meaning that 2003’s Need for Speed: Underground is really the only entry in the NFS franchise that could be experienced in its full glory on the Nintendo GameCube.

Underground had been released at a time when the popularity and general absurdity of the Fast & the Furious franchise had skyrocketed to instant cult classic status, and the import tuner scene had been thrust into the spotlight. While not an officially licensed tie-in with the movies that inspired it, Underground was seen as the unofficial video game counterpart – and basically everybody knew why Need for Speed had suddenly dropped Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s for Honda Civics and a robust customization feature.

However, as someone who’s played through the game three times over the past thirteen years, it’s not just the comprehensive customization element which catapults Underground into the number three spot. From a raw driving physics standpoint, Underground’s controls are incredibly tight, and the track layouts were all somewhat memorable thanks to a reliance upon dedicated levels rather than the open world seen in the sequel. Despite appearing to be spontaneous street circuits, Black Box had crafted the circuit layouts in Underground by hand to ensure they were not a series of random corners, but flowed in a way which were enjoyable to drive, meaning you rarely had to rely on checking the map or smashing head-on into a wall to learn a circuit. Whether you were on the track, or in the garage menu, Underground was a solid game, and the simplicity of the racing element combined with the expansive car customization meta-game which capitalized on a new and exciting pop culture trend made for an easy purchase for Nintendo fans. Pretty much everybody with a GameCube owned, or at least tried, Need for Speed Underground.

burnout-2#2 – Burnout 2: Point of Impact

Many credit Electronic Arts for helping to thrust the Burnout franchise into the limelight, but it’s important to remember the series was once under the guidance of Acclaim Entertainment, and Criterion Games had been seen as underdogs tasked with pushing a relatively obscure racing game into a market dominated by Electronic Arts and the aforementioned Need for Speed franchise. While the yearly renditions of Need for Speed on the Nintendo GameCube obviously sold more copies, Burnout 2: Point of Impact was by far the better game. After a lukewarm reception to the original title – which attempted to experiment with cinematic car crashes when the player fucked up – Criterion jacked up the special effects and sense of speed for Burnout 2, creating a game that was both notoriously difficult to get right, and incredibly hilarious when you got it wrong.

Criterion knew people would intentionally want to see their revitalized damage model in all its glory for Burnout 2, so the team included a special Crash Mode in the sequel to their completely average arcade racer, allowing players to fling their sports car at an intersection full of traffic in an effort to cause the most damage possible. What was intended to be an otherwise goofy diversion from the main campaign mode turned into an extremely strategic high-speed chess match, captivating fans who had taken a risk on Burnout 2. As a result, word quickly spread that this was the best racing game for the Nintendo GameCube, and Criterion were eventually picked up by Electronic Arts once Acclaim Entertainment went bankrupt a few years later.

The quintessential high-speed arcade racer, which drew upon the sloppy handling of Daytona USA as inspiration while inserting an endless wave of commuter and commercial traffic to navigate through, Burnout 2’s frantic battles, iconic knock-off vehicles, and vastly superior level design compared to the original, all contributed to the game being incredibly well-received by those looking for some kind of pick-up-and-play arcade racer that couldn’t keep up with the pace of F-Zero GX. Burnout 2 was absolutely fucking crazy, and it’s exactly what the Nintendo GameCube platform needed after it was clear Mario Kart Double Dash wouldn’t have the lasting appeal of Mario Kart 64. You could give this game to virtually anyone, and a big smile would stretch across their faces the very first time they hopelessly smashed into a bus at 150 mph. It was that kind of game, and Criterion continued to make more of them for the next five years.

hot-wheels-turbo-racing-05#1 – Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing

It’s extremely difficult to gauge the quality of a Nintendo 64 game in 2016, as most of our collective opinions have been tinted by the fanciest set of nostalgia goggles imaginable. I’m one of those guys who continues to maintain a set of fifth generation emulators on my PC to revisit games that used to kick my ass when I was younger, and unfortunately I’m slowly starting to realize that a vast majority of titles on both the Nintendo 64, as well as Sony’s original PlayStation, simply aren’t as good as I remember them to be. Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing, is not one of those games. In fact, it’s the one ROM worth re-installing Project64 for.

With the Nintendo 64 not adequately equipped to handle the performance requirements of a Need for Speed entry, and the audience far too broad for the market to support a traditional Cops vs. Racers approach, Electronic Arts changed their ideology when creating products for the Nintendo 64, opting to push well-made family-oriented driving games rather than an orgy of 90’s supercars. Beetle Adventure Racing was a bit of a mixed bag, but Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing resonated with the audience, offering what’s undoubtedly one of the best arcade racing experiences ever created for a Nintendo console. The vehicle roster was diverse and drew heavily from the fictional line of Hot Wheels toys rather than flavor-of-the-week replicas, locations were fine-tuned to include mammoth jumps and alternate shortcuts to capitalize on the unique capabilities of each specific car, and the physics engine actually made you wheel the damn thing.

Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing succeeded because the game used the Mattel license to reel people in, but was a ridiculous challenge once you hit the track and forced you to be a better driver. Each car had a very different set of handling characteristics, meaning a big, burly tow truck or jet semi required a significantly different driving style than an open wheel grand prix car or futuristic twin-engine monstrosity. Locations didn’t cater to any specific vehicle on the roster, forcing players to make trade-offs and carefully plan their route around the circuit each lap, otherwise the AI would simply decimate them. Last, but most certainly not least, the game’s basic physics engine allowed you to perform flips, rolls, and spins while flying through the air, rewarding a successful landing with brief shots of turbo – which was necessary to even remain competitive on the higher difficulties. Turbo Racing was an arcade racer at heart, but it didn’t let you win in the way most arcade racers would. The packaging indicates Turbo Racing is a kids game, but make no mistake – it continuously tries to kick your ass.

And that’s what Nintendo games used to be about. Not this shit.

Rest in piece, Nintendo. You were pretty cool at one point.