Milestone Presents “eSports”

Well this is certainly awkward.

After praising Milestone’s efforts in both releasing a competent motocross racer – MXGP 3 – as well as their recent acquisition of the rights to an officially licensed Monster Energy AMA Supercross game in the near future, it appears to be two steps forward and one step back for the other Italian developer team whose products most customers approach with the utmost of  caution. MotoGP ’17 released just a few short weeks back, no longer bearing the namesake of Valentino Rossi but bringing with it a robust single player career mode, yet the online element has come under fire from the hardcore motorcycle userbase as of late for a laughably poor implementation of competitive head-to-head multiplayer action.

And as you can probably guess from the title of this article, dubbing this kind of gameplay experience to be “eSports” only rubs salt on an open wound. Devoid of any authentic MotoGP action, the eSports realm of MotoGP ’17 is more or less a pristine example of what happens when developers are completely apathetic towards what actually constitutes as some sort of competitive eSports environment; instead using it as a lazy buzzword to mask on-track action that is no more structured than motorcycle racing in Grand Theft Auto V.

Uploaded by two wheel enthusiast One Racer, the eight minute footage below displays everything wrong with MotoGP ’17’s eSports realm. There are quite simply no rules or penalties in effect, with the on-track product resembling a metaphorical wild west; riders cut the chicanes at Le Mans as they see fit, pile-drive each other into corners, and generally have zero intentions of putting on any sort of clean. respectful race – save for the creator of the video. Had this been a private lobby with a bunch of kids screwing around, there’s really nothing to write home about – it’s kids being kids – but this is instead what Milestone are actively advertising as some sort of hardcore eSports functionality. As a developer of strictly racing games dating back to the mid 1990’s, I’m not sure how Milestone had the balls to release an eSports feature set without any enforced rules or general mandated ettiquette whatsoever. How do you host a competition and offer an array of prizes knowing full well people can just ignore entire sections of the circuit they’re competing on?

It’s all kind of retarded, but you’ll have to see it for yourself in the video.

However, I don’t want to place the blame solely on Milestone for this abomination; I instead want to explore how this blatant example of a developer half-assing the eSports element can be used as a warningfor what’s to come. Obviously with the whole eSports craze still going strong, it’s only natural for developers to try and cash in on the festivities by any means necessary. A full year from now, I’m almost expecting every racing title on the market to feature some sort of tacked-on eSports spin-off mode, with each of them just as pointless as what Milestone have created in MotoGP ’17. And can you blame them? Well no, it’s a pretty simple way to attain sales; move the Ranked Play option to a different sub-menu and call it eSports. Done. Zero effort. Now you have guys who otherwise wouldn’t care about MotoGP buying the title out of curiosity because there’s some prize at the end, and it’ll somehow justify all the time they’ve spent in-game.

The problem which arises, is that continuing to half-ass this stuff is actually going to backfire long-term. The more developers that shamelessly try to tack on eSports implementation when they clearly don’t have the interest in making it a proper competitive format, the faster that particular portion of their audience interested in eSports stuff will turn away from these games altogether, and therefore losing customers – leading to this era of sim racing being dubbed “that awkward eSports period.” Nobody wants an entire selection of games bundled with a feature set little make use of, solely because it’s a waste of time. If you want a good example of this occurring with a previous feature implementation inside the world of sim racing, just look at what happened with Need for Speed’s Autolog feature from a few years back. The dynamic leaderboards were a focal part of the franchise for several iterations on the Xbox 360, but did anyone actually make use of them to the fullest extent, or did they have enough friends who also owned Need for Speed to the point wher leaderboard battles were remotely compelling? No, not by a long shot.

Now the Autolog system has been reduced to an awkward intrusion for those who fire up past Need for Speed titles.The lack of any depth to an eSports element – in some cases – can also act as a shit test for certain developers. If a team such as Milestone push out such a horrid ranked racing environment, it gives customers a reason to believe that other aspects of the game – or entirely separate products of theirs – also suffer from the same lack of vision, cohesion, structure, and compelling aspects, further reducing sales from multiple titles, because the customers were so put-off by the developer’s inability to capitalize on a wave of popularity when it mattered the most. Buzzwords and colorful language aside, it plain and simple indicates the developer team don’t care about being truly innovative with their product, and are mindlessly throwing random shit onto the game disc to see if it works or not.

And if that’s a team’s plan of action, they unfortunately reap what they sow. If their plan is to merely half-ass things and hope people are okay with it, they have no right to complain about “toxic” sim racers slamming the product in reviews and on forums, as that’s the kind of reception you’re going to receive if it’s blatantly obvious you’re just nicking stuff that’s popular in other genres to throw in your game, whether they actually contribute to the experience or not.

Either do it right, or save us the frustration and don’t do it at all.

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Introducing Milestone’s AMA Supercross

The surprising leap in quality exhibited by Milestone’s most recent release, MXGP 3, was only just the start of a golden age of dirt bike games.

Flying under the radar in a behind-the-scenes documentary shot by Barn Pro’s Racing earlier this season, rider Chris Alldredge and his teammates can be shown posing for several 3D modelling photos for what the subtitles claim is an unannounced, upcoming “2018 official supercross video game.” Though many will be quick to believe this is the work of THQ Nordic, who recently released a comprehensive downloadable content package featuring all layouts of the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross season – albeit without the proper stadium names and models – a small piece of paper attached to a table in the background clearly displays that it’s actually Milestone behind the project, naming the portable workstation “Milestone video game photos.”

The only logical conclusion one can make, is that we’ll be playing Milestone’s AMA Supercross 2018 sometime near the end of 2017, or right when the real Monster Energy Supercross season kicks off in January.

Had this project been announced a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have gotten too excited. The first two MXGP games honestly weren’t very good, brought down by clunky riding physics, obscure content, and a poor overall atmosphere making the games a literal chore to play. However, given the substantial improvements Milestone managed to implement across the board with MXGP 3, and the subsequent widespread acclaim it acquired from the hardcore motocross gaming community as a valid, simcade alternative to the ultra-demanding indie title MX Simulator, sim racers have every reason to be ecstatic over an officially licensed AMA Supercross game from Milestone. With the real life series itself being the second most-watched form of auto racing in North America, an official dirt bike video game of this quality will most likely have the same effects of what the NASCAR Thunder series of titles from EA Sports were able to achieve for stock car racing in the early 2000’s – it’s going to bring in droves of new fans, and it’s going to encourage people to hit up their local circuit, whether it be as a spectator or rider.

Those interested in seeing what a Milestone AMA Supercross game might look and play like, can already experience a trial run of the discipline within MXGP 3. The game’s practice compound features a generic supercross layout that’s very far removed from the rest of the outdoor content in the game, and just yesterday the team pushed out a four dollar Supercross Riders’ Cup downloadable content package, adding a special indoor event in Germany that’s very similar to what you’d see from Supercross events in Canada and the United States. It’s certainly a bit pricey at four dollars for just one track, but given how the market isn’t over-saturated with motocross games – each with their own platter of downloadable content – those who enjoy the sport will certainly hand over their money without question.

After years of mediocrity from THQ, North American dirt bike fans will finally have their wishes fulfilled. An AMA Supercross title from Milestone is on the horizon, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Finally getting their act together and pushing out a glorious motocross game, Milestone have dug themselves out of dark times and are seemingly in the middle of a resurgence, almost guaranteeing AMA Supercross ’18 to be a title on everybody’s wishlist whether you’re a fan of supercross or not.

MXGP3: Milestone’s Finest Hour?

Though they once managed to team up with Electronic Arts and push out the magnificent motorcycle simulator Superbike 2001 to near unanimous praise, a title that came after establishing themselves as a very competent developer team in the late 1990’s with Screamer Rally, the Milestone we know now is unfortunately very different than the Milestone of old. Pushing out game after game sporting a surprisingly large variety of official licenses most of us aren’t quite sure how they managed to obtain in the first place, four World Rally Championship releases and a collection of decidedly average MotoGP titles lucky to receive more than a single patch gave Milestone a justifiably poor reputation within our favorite genre. Boasting more ambition than technical prowess, racers like Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, the original Ride, and Valentino Rossi: The Game were discussed in sim communities not for their willingness to innovate on what’s a very rigid and concrete brand of games, but for widespread technical & performance issues, the developer’s inability to support the titles after launch, and the feeling that Milestone were doing just enough to have a minimum viable product out on store shelves.

Because of this, it was exceptionally hard to get excited over MXGP3 when select websites started to talk about it, and the announcement that we’d see Milestone’s officially licensed motocross racer move over to Unreal Engine 4 didn’t give a lot of people faith that this time, things would be different. Known for the challenges in getting the software to achieve a stable framerate, Rally Evo struggled to maintain 30 FPS on Sony’s PlayStation 4 in clear, daylight conditions, so it was hard to see the other team from Italy getting a firm grasp on the newest iteration of the Unreal Engine, not to mention building a semi-competent game around it – especially as the prior two MXGP releases were stiff, lifeless dirt bike simulators that were incredibly hard to stomach.

Yet now that the game is out in the wild, by some act of God, Milestone have actually gone out and pulled it off; the results being nothing short of spectacular. Their absolute finest hour as a developer, MXGP3 is easily the all-around best dirt bike game that has ever been made for modern video game consoles. Though the subject matter of focusing on a predominantly European motocross series may make things difficult for those who are unfamiliar with any kind of two-wheeled off-road racing aside from the Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship, sim racers who brave the initial unfamiliarity will find a motocross game with virtually no show-stopping flaws; uncharacteristically competent for Milestone. The final product is enjoyable not just because Milestone have seemingly gotten their act together after years of mediocrity and it’s a nice story to see them knock one out of the park, but also due to the fact that there’s just so much shit to do in-game, and everything is complimented by a physics model that balances realism with accessibility.

The biggest problem motocross games have traditionally exhibited over the years, is the unwillingness of developers to see the sport of motorcycle racing in anything other than black and white as it pertains to the overall riding physics. You’re either leaping over barns or canyons in a single bound, running flat-out around even the most treacherous of circuit layouts – think the MX vs. ATV Series – or just staying on the bike for more than a few corners is an exercise in frustration – as seen in the ultra-hardcore MX Simulator. There has never been a happy medium that implies motocross is just like any other form of motorsport; yes, you’re making these huge leaps five, six, maybe even seven times per lap, but there’s also multiple corner lines, braking points, and – wait for it – even throttle management.

MXGP3 introduces us to that happy medium. There is no rider balance mechanism as seen in MX Simulator – so the hardcore guys might be a bit put off – but the separated bike and rider controls first perfected in MX vs. ATV Reflex return here, along with buttons for both front and rear brakes, giving you a pretty diverse level of control over your virtual avatar and his steel horse. With a rather convincing set of physics powering the whole thing – a change that’s highly appreciated compared to the stiff physics of the first two iterations – bikes feel nimble yet weighty, and you’ll find yourself experimenting with a combination of braking styles and pedal inputs to free the bike up on corner entry.

Corner exit, however, is where MXGP3 shines, as throttle management is absolutely necessary to contain wheel spin in the 450’s and generate the most amount of rear end grip; the back tire wandering around under your avatar’s ass and your speed clearly being affected if you get it wrong. Jumping physics no longer feel like there’s a child’s hand grabbing your bike and carrying it through the air as they did in the last game; there’s now some satisfaction in getting a massive run at a ramp and setting off on a nice arc through the air, though track layouts encourage rolling jumps with partial throttle and landing the bike perfectly on the downward portion of the ramp to maximize your time on the ground. If you’re used to the MX vs. ATV series and ripping around at top speed, it’s a vastly different experience that takes some practice and skill building, but once you understand what MXGP3 wants from you, it’ll be very hard to go back.

But it’s in the weather effects and terrain deformation where MXGP3 kicks all sorts of ass, and it really serves to complete the experience.

We’ve been subjected to dynamic dirt for about ten years now, starting with Sega Rally Revo in 2007 before arriving in the aforementioned MX/ATV series (with even iRacing and PiBoSo getting into the fray), but like with Milestone’s new riding physics, MXGP3 strikes another happy medium when it comes to how the tracks get torn up with each passing lap. The moment bikes start to turn laps under practice, qualifying, or race conditions, a hunt for grip begins; riders slip and slide all over the place through the center of the corner, and I found part of the fun in MXGP3 to be wandering around in corners looking for that key rut to turn the bike, and when a corner had been completely beaten to shit, letting the bike wander around in the mess to see where it naturally stabilized. It’s not over-exaggerated like the MX/ATV series, where giant canyons would form in the corners, nor is it a visual gimmick like in Sega Rally ’07; to me it both looks and feels a lot like Sprint Car racing, just on two wheels. You’re always keeping your eyes on the dirt and moving around to discover for any extra bit of traction.

And of course, the viscosity and general characteristics of the dirt are subject to change, all thanks to Milestone’s stellar implementation of dynamic weather. While I felt the first season of career mode featured just a few too many wet-weather events to show off what they’ve done to their environments, at the end of the day the riding experience is so enjoyable in adverse conditions I found it hard to consider a negative aspect. MXGP3 is a blast in the rain, with the dirt being just slick enough to generate slightly longer braking points and require careful use of the throttle, but never to the extent where it’s actively trying to kill you or is somehow exponentially more difficult than riding on a dry race track – which is what happens in most tarmac racing games. Milestone’s weather can also change over the course of a race, with an overcast event producing a sudden downpour as you click off the laps met with an equally tangible change in the level of grip, but sim racers need not worry – the underlying riding experience is so fun and intuitive, you certainly don’t dread storm clouds by any stretch of the imagination.

Thankfully, the solid riding experience has been paired with an equally competent roster of AI competitors, though I’d like there to be a touch more consistency in their performance. The AI on Realistic difficulty in MXGP3 are formidable opponents, blasting around the track without any external assistance or bullshit tweaks on the part of Milestone to make them on-par with the player’s skill level, but it seems as if their capabilities only rise to the occasion every second or third event. I’ve played through two complete seasons in career mode (one in both classes), and while some events would provide me with absolutely fantastic races that came down to the final jump (literally), others I would sweep the Grand Prix weekend totally uncontested once I took the lead. I also found that the AI put up a much better fight in the GP1 category compared to GP2, meaning the first season in career mode might turn into a bit of a grind for avid motocross fans who pick up the riding controls rather quickly.

But when they’re on, dear God they’re amazing to battle with. I’m hoping Milestone choose to support this title with more than just a single patch, as I’d like this experience to carry across every race, not just one in every three races.

Tying this all together for some sense of purpose and progression within MXGP3 would be the game’s career mode. Though I refuse to label what Milestone have built as expansive – considering you’re just playing through seasons while earning cash in various ways – the mode is surprisingly detailed in how you’re allowed to conquer the MXGP calendar as you see fit. After a handful of preseason exhibition races, you’re given a cash allowance and a starter bike of your choice to tackle your first season in the 250cc support class, gaining XP and cash with every race, which either allows you to upgrade your current bike, purchase a new ride, acquire sponsors for your independent team (generating a hefty XP bonus for campaigning under your own operation) or sign with any of the teams in either MXGP class – which rewards you with a factory bike and complimentary team jersey. As you can probably guess, the more assists you disable in the career options menu, in combination with winning a fair bit, and it becomes pretty easy to rocket up the ladder and have the likes of Red Bull KTM or Monster Kawasaki offering you a spot in the premier series provided you’re not shit at pretend dirt bikes.

It’s very simple in theory, but what MXGP3 gets right about this is in the way the game issues team objectives and calculates your rider XP. Initially, it’s very easy to earn XP with any of the entry level independent sponsors or riding for a backmarker team, as you’re basically expected to score points and not make a complete ass of yourself out on the race track. However, after becoming a championship threat, XP is only handed out – and in some cases subtracted from your rider level for failing to meet the requirements – if you sweep the race weekend; meaning it’s actually possible to lose your spot on the team. This is partially why I advocate for Milestone to bump up the AI difficulty a notch or two, as the dynamic of team owners steadily increasing their demands, combined with reputation being able to decline after a string of bad performances, would create an environment where you would float from team to team in a natural career arc of a real rider.

As you’d expect, bike and rider customization play some kind of prominent role in MXGP3’s career mode, with your independent entry boasting a pretty solid array of both visual and performance upgrades to help create something that’s unique to you and your team. While the variety of upgrades is pretty spectacular, personally I found that the customization options were far too inexpensive for the amount of prize money the game would toss you after each race, and it was to the point where I had several hundred thousand in my account just sort of sitting there after two championships in career mode, with not a lot to spend it on despite building a pair of fully upgrade bikes in both classes. You end up reaching an end-game point very quickly.

This is partially due to the fact that a stock bike with no performance upgrades is capable of winning races on the highest difficulty (and of course, if you sign with a team, you’re riding something even faster) so your prize money just sort of pools until you’re bored enough to customize some bikes. Again, Milestone patching the game to feature slightly faster AI would mean you wouldn’t be winning as many races, therefore not reeling in as much cash, not acquiring top level sponsors within just a single season, and as a result there would be some importance to financial management, but unfortunately that all relies on Milestone patching the game more than once – which they’re not exactly great at doing.

There are also some odd limitations placed on the user in the customization menus; jersey names are limited to just six characters (I was forced to roleplay as Kyle Larson), while jersey numbers are placed on a slider, forcing you to sit there and manually scroll for ages if you want something in the 400’s or 500’s.

Yet for all it gets oh so very right, the trademark Milestone slip-ups are still present; the sign of a development team shooting for the moon and landing somewhere in the Nevada desert. At the moment, selecting any event type in career mode other than the basic two race weekend sans qualifying ends up skipping to the next race weekend after the qualifying or practice sessions have concluding, glitching the absolute shit out of the game. I’ve ran into a bug in an online session where the camera remains locked at the starting gate (above), even as the gate drops and your bike rockets off the grid – and I think it affected more than just myself as another user in the room also seemed to wander aimlessly in the background as my own rider had been doing. Your online experience will definitely vary, as my first win was acquired not by beating a guy fair and square, but merely running within a few bike widths of someone and handing them a vicious netcode shunt, though in viewing YouTube streams from the MX gaming community it appears a smooth online session is certainly possible. There’s also the horrible generic dubstep polluting the menus, and a V-Sync option that cripples the performance of the game, so here’s a little tip: turn it off.

Oh, and rear wheels visually don’t spin at the proper speed. It’s kind of a mindfuck when you first notice it.

But for these slip ups, there are also signs Milestone genuinely wanted to push out something spectacular year. There’s a testing compound for you to ride at your leisure, including a mock Supercross layout that may possibly hint at Milestone acquiring the official Monster Energy AMA Supercross license for a future release, and in turning laps, I’d be more than pleased to have these riding physics – and the good performances of the AI – in a selection of content I’m much more familiar with. There’s a set of riding tutorials, a special nations championship that’s separate from the main career mode, some kind of basic photo mode, and generic bike setup functionality – though what comes with the bikes by default is certainly more than enough to go all the way in career mode.

The biggest hurdle to overcome with MXGP3, is simply the content offered. If you live in North America and are looking for a modern motocross game after several years of MX vs. ATV withdrawals, nothing within MXGP3 is recognizable save for the season-ending events at Charlotte, Assen, & Glen Helen, sponsors, and of course, the bike manufacturers themselves. The physics obviously make learning the tracks fairly enjoyable, but you’re still looking at sixteen circuits you’ve never heard of before – many of which are hard to fall in love with; the MXGP calendar visits many empty fields in Mexico, Argentina, and Thailand – a far cry from iconic locations such as the Daytona Speedway infield, Washougal, or Red Bud.

But unlike most Milestone products, those willing to brave the vast unfamiliarity will find a very solid motocross racer in MXGP3; an occasional lapse in the AI’s otherwise blistering pace pace, and one glitch in career mode that can be avoided by skipping qualifying sessions, are not nearly enough to derail what’s otherwise a fantastic package with no major faults. I would certainly prefer Milestone to bring things stateside and acquire the AMA license, but even with the obscure content placed front and center MXGP3, the overall pretend dirt bike experience is extremely difficult to find any substantial issues with. This is easily the best motocross game that has been released in quite some time, and provided Milestone can properly support MXGP3 – both with patches and additional downloadable content – we’re looking at a definite turning point in the two wheeled portion of our genre. It’s really good, and easily Milestone’s best work in the history of the company.

 

Milestone’s New IP is Basically a Portion of Forza Horizon 3

gravel_pacific_island_05Trophy Trucks, Dune Buggies, and miscellaneous rally cars? Check. Wide-open, brightly-colored, easy-going circuits surrounded by colorful banners and some sort of fictional automotive festival sharing the name of the software itself? Check. An emphasis on a simcade driving model to try and reel in the largest number of customers possible? Check. If this sounds like Turn 10’s Forza Horizon 3, you’re unfortunately mistaken – it’s actually Milestone’s new intellectual property, operating under a name that’s just as much of a knock-off of superior titles as the gameplay itself – Gravel.

comp-2The Italian developer, known for their officially licensed MotoGP and MXGP releases, as well as Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo and a string of WRC games on the Xbox 360, have now basically taken a portion of Forza Horizon 3 without changing much of anything – most notably the trackside objects indicating a large, fictional automotive festival is taking place & the random array of off-road vehicles competing on semi-closed circuits and point to point events in an open world – and shamelessly built an entire game around it. Don’t get me wrong, I love trophy truck racing, and I definitely miss those late 90’s off-road titles such as Monster Truck Madness 2, which turned you loose on these elaborate fictional courses that were unlike anything the world of sim racing has to offer, but I also like variety. Initial footage of Milestone’s Gravel is almost indistinguishable from Forza Horizon 3, to the point where I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if the team ran into legal problems, and the game fails to see the light of day when all is said and done.

There’s a difference between many sim developers all including the Nurburgring Nordschleife and the McLaren 650s in their flagship racing titles, versus what Milestone have done with Gravel – creating a new franchise with the exact same style, theme, and content of a product already on the market, and just sort of hoping people don’t notice. Even the skill points have been carried over from Forza Horizon 3, which rewards drivers for power-sliding around corners and destroying trackside objects. It’s really absurd the title got this far in development without a single person at Milestone’s studios saying “hey boss, what we’ve been making kind of looks identical to this other game… so what would make people buy our game over theirs?”

forza-horizon-compariosnGravel will boast around fifty vehicles and a number of diverse environments, offering a simplistic approach to off-road racing, reminiscent of old-school arcade racers such as RallyCross for Sony’s first PlayStation console. There won’t be a lot of thinking or practicing required with this one; it’s designed to be a game you can jump into and have fun when you’re tired of trying to extract that extra tenth out of your favorite car in Assetto Corsa. I obviously dig a good simcade title, as evidenced by recent articles on PRC.net, but here’s the thing – out of the box, Gravel simply looks boring. There’s nothing to this game that sets it aside from the aforementioned Forza Horizon 3, the Motorstorm series, or its most direct rival: BAJA: Edge of Control HD, which was announced yesterday by THQ Nordic.

The biggest problem I’ve found after examining some of the YouTube videos depicting Gravel in a semi-completed state, is that as a cohesive game, it appears to be extremely bland. Nothing about the reveal makes me excited for the game – it’s like a half-assed attempt was made to bring back something with the depth of Sega Rally Revo, when the market has already voted by and large with their wallets that it simply doesn’t work, and you need significantly more than just “cars on a track.” Not to mention, the AI are ridiculously slow and reduce their speed to a crawl for gentle bends in the racing surface, while the track layout previewed in the above footage doesn’t appear to be challenging in the slightest – any semi-competent driver would be wide open for the entire duration of the lap, and that’s not a compelling experience for anybody who likes racing games. Vehicle selection screens on display near the end of the video promise a diverse array of trucks, sport utility vehicles, and rally cars, though customization options are most likely related to just alternate liveries according to options listed on the menu.

forza_horizon_3_off_road_racingMilestone also don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to pushing out competent pieces of software, so it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Gravel runs well. Though the team have acquired the rights to MotoGP and MXGP, and pushed out officially licensed WRC titles for several years, none of them were all that stable. Most recently, the PlayStation 4 version of Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo has a framerate issue on certain stages that renders the game completely unplayable, where you can physically feel the force feedback de-sync from the picture on screen. All of their games are traditionally left in this state, receiving only a single patch before the team moves on to the next project. It’s pissed a lot of customers off, to put it bluntly.

So like many others who have purchased their products and been burned by the lack of polish, I would prefer Milestone to get their current stable of games right, before expanding to new ones – and a blatant rip-off such as Gravel doesn’t give me hope that there are many creative minds left in the studio.

Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo is Finally Worth Buying

slrx64-2016-10-21-23-35-58-63All the way back in January of this year, I had the misfortune of wasting $100 CDN on Milestone’s Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo for the PC. While on paper the game looked to be a phenomenal alternative to the already brilliant DiRT Rally, I noted that the game suffered from an abundance of technical issues – as well as a bewildering lack of support for multiple USB inputs – that held it back from being a serious contender in the fight for the right to call itself the best rally simulator since 2004’s Richard Burns Rally. Now even though it was a Milestone product, and most people believed it should have been discarded after an hour of gameplay, at the time I forced myself to dive deep into career mode armed with little more than an Xbox 360 pad, and was delighted to discover that this had the potential to be a really fucking good game once all the bugs were ironed out. It’s got more cars than DiRT Rally, ridiculously difficult stages, and two separate single player campaign modes – both of which are unique in their own right.

It was destined to eat up a lot of my time if Milestone ever released a patch for the damned thing.

Michael Wieczorek of PC Master Race Reality Check begins the above video by stating that “Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo is a pain in the ass on PC”, but over the course of four minutes discovers that there are indeed certain settings you can select via the external launcher which can iron out most of the performance problems before you even boot the application. Milestone finally got off their asses and released a patch to rectify many of the PC performance issues plauging a whole host of users, and I’m happy to report that my game stays locked at a buttery smooth 60 FPS aside from inclement weather stages, though I’ll chalk that up to my own hardware. In short, yes, Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo is no longer a stuttering pile of shit, and if you own the game on Steam yet haven’t touched it in months for this very reason, it’s now safe to do so.

safeAnother element which prevented many PC sim racers from fully diving into what Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo had to offer was the lack of multiple input support. Now I dislike treading over concepts I’ve already explained a thousand times over, but in case you haven’t noticed, a whole bunch of us hardcore guys love to mix and match wheels and pedals for their sim racing setups, meaning it’s more than one USB cable we’re plugging into our PC’s. Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo doesn’t natively support that, and it still doesn’t – ToCA Edit released an easy-to-use plugin for SLRE as a work around that allows multiple input sim racers to bypass the limitations of the application. This release flew well under the radar during Easter Weekend 2016 due to Rally Evo’s horrible initial reception, but given the performance issues found in the retail version have been ironed out, it’s definitely time for us to let you know about this.

slre-fixI’ve dedicated my Friday afternoon to playing through the Loeb Experience portion of the game, and I’m extremely pleased to report that Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo lives up to the initial review I posted back in January. If you’ve played the ever-loving shit out of DiRT Rally, yet shelved the title because you’re tired of running the same eight stages over and over again, Rally Evo should certainly be your next stop. I don’t want to mislead anybody and claim it features a stunning physics engine or a comprehensive mechanical damage system, but as a complete package I have no problem saying it certainly gives DiRT Rally a run for its money, and finally provides a satisfactory experience without the presence of ominous technical issues.