CART 88 Enters Pre-Season Testing

rfactor-2017-03-04-18-39-20-70Classic open wheel seasons have been a staple of rFactor’s third party modification scene since the title’s initial release in the summer of 2006, and that trend is set to continue well over a decade later with the Historic Sim Racing Organization’s upcoming project, centered around the 1988 PPG CART World Series. Turning back the clock to Danny Sullivan’s championship season, and a calendar which saw 270 km/h purpose-built race cars hit the streets of New Jersey, Long Beach, Toronto, and even Tamiami Park, the mod aims to be an extremely comprehensive package – every single car that took the green flag at each of the fifteen stops on the schedule will be included in the mod, allowing the most hardcore of sim racers to replicate the very same performance improvements and equipment changes made by each team throughout the season.

rfactor-2017-03-04-18-45-51-85Though the mod’s primary use is to serve as the platform for HSO’s own online series, which will mirror the real-world 1988 schedule as closely as possible and be contested over full-length races from March 26th to December 10th, there are rumors that CART 88 will also be brought over to Reiza Studios’ Automobilista platform in some manner, showing off to the greater sim racing community what the hole-in-the-wall website can produce after years spent refining their craft. Typically keeping their releases constrained to the original rFactor title, the HSO group are extremely proud of what they’ve created with CART 88, and are looking to push this one out to as many people as possible.

rfactor-2017-03-04-18-47-53-85We’ve been privileged enough to blast around in a preseason testing version of the mod intended for league members to become acquainted with, select a car for the upcoming season, as well as report any minor bugs, and all of us are blown away by the quality of HSO’s work. It’s incredible to see major sim developers completely miss the mark with their tire models or liberal interpretations of classic open wheel cars, only for a passionate group of modders existing on their own corner of the internet to get it so bloody right, immediately out of the box. These cars are absolutely insane at the limit, often exhibiting bipolar tendencies which glue them to the track in one section with the precision of a modern race car, yet throwing you into the barrier just a few seconds later to remind you this is all still late 1980’s technology.

CART 88 will launch for ISI’s original rFactor in roughly a week, while the Automobilista version is said to come later down the line.

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Reader Submission #131 – Illumimoblilsta

ams-2017-01-18-19-49-34-30Picking up a product from Reiza Studios is almost seen as a rite of passage within the greater sim racing community. Offering an all-around fantastic driving model that stretches the tried and true isiMotor engine to its absolute limit, both Automobilistaas well as its older brother Stock Car Extreme – provide a rock solid, no-nonsense sim racing experience free from many of the pitfalls currently affecting the genre. There aren’t any power tripping developers attacking their customers, overzealous fanboys defending the product at any cost, or delusional community members passing out fictional hero cards in Reiza’s neck of the woods; Reiza products are typically satisfactory racing simulators whose biggest flaws center around the fact that the technology powering them is tad bit outdated.

However, taking the plunge into what Automobilista has to offer isn’t for every sim racer. Though Reiza have made an admirable effort to flesh out the selection of content within their flagship racing simulator to appeal to international enthusiasts, the team have ensured the core focus of their software is essentially a love letter to the history of auto racing in Brazil. For every unlicensed Formula One machine that just barely skirts around copyright rules, or popular Grand Prix circuit operating under a fictional moniker, there’s an entire Brazilian series full of cars you’ve most likely never heard of, and every single obscure track on the schedule to go along with it. Yes, you can take an off-brand Holden Commodore around well-known locations such as Suzuka or Montreal, but a large portion of Automobilista’s content is intended to satisfy Brazilian motorsports fans first and foremost. Reiza took aim at a very specific niche market within an already niche genre, and merely allowed the game to speak for itself when curious international sim racers caught wind of it. Reiza didn’t necessarily care if people outside of Brazil liked the game, much in the same way EA Sports didn’t care if Europeans were gobbling up copies of the NASCAR Thunder series – it wasn’t built for them, anyway.

But has this approach paid off? Though Reiza have created an impressive racing simulator primarily for South American auto racing geeks – with a bone finally thrown to overseas hobbyists – today’s Reader Submission from Daniel Miquelluti paints a drastically different picture. Though Automobilista was created by a Brazilian developer and loaded with Brazilian content catering specifically to their fellow countrymen, in reality Brazilian sim racers are largely apathetic towards the title. Oops.


ams-2017-01-18-19-48-40-80Hey James (as well of the rest of PRC), greetings from Brazil! I want to talk for a little bit about the sim racing culture down here in South America, as I’ve noticed something that goes against what a lot of people probably assume about us. Here in Brazil, when some local YouTube personalities say they’re making the jump to a more serious simulator from either Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo, many of them go out and choose either Assetto Corsa or Project CARS. Automobilista, the simulator a lot of you probably expect to be popular down here, has almost never seen the light of day in Brazilian YouTube.

In Brazil, a simple wheel like the Logitech G27 costs upwards of $190 USD used, to $313 USD as a brand new package. Minimum wage, again converting to American currency so your readers have a better understanding, is $281 USD per paycheck. That should make things pretty clear as to why sim racing in Brazil isn’t the most popular activity – a steering wheel is not even on the radar for many people. Just to be clear, more than half of our population earns less than minimum wage. So, if you’re lucky enough to have money to buy a PC, Xbox One , or PlayStation 4 ($470) along with a compatible wheel, only then are you entitled to enter the sim racing world.

Now, let’s enter the problem of how much each title costs. A regular AAA game costs between $30 USD and $59 USD on Steam. At the moment, purchasing Automobilista with the complete season pass converts to $43 USD. By comparison, Assetto Corsa and Project CARS routinely go on sale for much less, to the point where I’ve seen Assetto Corsa retail as low as $17 USD – a very good price that obviously attracts a lot of people, because most Brazilians are forced to shop smart when purchasing entertainment. It’s not financially feasible for us to buy a game which supposedly embraces our national pride and appeals to us directly, because Reiza have priced Automobilista out of reach of their own target audience. So aside from the hardcore guys, which every country has their own small group of, Automobilista hasn’t actually caught on with us. We then factor in the stereotypical sub-par Brazilian workmanship we’re known for – don’t worry, we’re not blind to our own shortcomings – so a lot of sim racers here see a Brazilian simulator on the market and immediately ignore it, because the general consensus is that products from North America, Europe, Asia, or Oceania are far more competent, because that’s usually the truth.

This should explain why Automobilista is not the most popular title by any means in its home country. The sim racers who do play the game absolutely love it, which can be seen in Brazilian reviews of the game from the avid fans, but according to Steam, Automobilista has only sold 5,000 copies here. By comparison so we have some proper metrics, Project CARS sold 13,500 on the PC alone – and that’s with a failing economy, where most can barely afford a nice PC or game console. So to summarize, very rarely can Brazilians afford a fancy wheel, Automobilista isn’t all that affordable compared to other racing games, and most of us believe international goods to be of a higher quality than what we ourselves can produce. Yes, I’m aware there are a few good private Brazilian communities. But by and large, Automobilista is nowhere near as popular down here as sim racers think.

czbfzbnuoaeiv8l-jpg-largeI’d also like to address another topic that I’ve seen brought up on PRC – the cultural problem, to be specific. Each new generation has an increasingly bigger problem with manners than the one before it. Some of the “rich kids” who can afford to sim race think they can do whatever they want, and when they go on the internet, it’s nothing more than an elaborate toy for them. It’s the perfect place for them to go wild and laugh at the expense of others. Sadly, a part of our online community is actually proud of the HUEHUEBRBR reputation, and play up on it for comedic effect – which doesn’t work well in sim racing, because most of these games require a base level of sportsmanship that our countrymen don’t always possess. In fact, the impunity culture seems ingrained within the country as a whole; you can rob or kill anyone and leave jail almost instantly in some situations.Yes, there are nice parts of Brazil, but the bad parts are very bad.  It’s why many people understandably protested our Olympic games this past summer.

Though I will say, if you get to know some of the hardcore guys, you’ll find some great people just trying to race clean and respect others drivers.

Thanks for giving me this platform to speak today.


superv8_automobilista_1Thanks for writing to us, Daniel. I’m very intrigued to see you’ve actually confirmed something I’ve written about in the past – the lack of any sort of tangible userbase for Reiza’s products. Automobilista’s Steam numbers are absolutely horrid given how many contributed to the crowdfunding campaign in 2015, and the abundance of people claiming to sink countless hours into the simulator on Reddit’s sim racing section.

amsWhen I’ve pointed this out in previous articles spanning PRC’s two-year history, some of our readers claimed there was this hidden group of Reiza supporters that simply hadn’t redeemed their copy of any Reiza game on Steam, but were rather operating on a traditional DVD they placed inside their disc drive – meaning they weren’t counted in the metrics – to the point where I began joking that sim racers were intentionally disconnecting from the internet and treating their love of Stock Car Extreme as some Illuminati-like club nobody was allowed to know about. It’s fantastic to know, straight from someone that’s involved in the Brazilian sim racing community, that I wasn’t missing out on top secret Illumimoblilsta meetings – even Brazilians by and large don’t care much for a game built specifically for them. Sure, there are private leagues like you said, but a group of fifty guys from one website all traveling from simulator to simulator over the years is just that – fifty guys.

Which is really shitty, because now we’ve had an additional level of confirmation stating a developer invested a solid chunk of their money and time into helping improve the state of sim racing, only for it to basically go to waste. Call me salty all you want, but I will never forget the absolute frenzy sim racers went into after Reiza unveiled the Holden Commodore V8 Supercar for Stock Car Extreme, only for three consecutive online leagues (two on Race2Play, one on RaceDepartment) to fold because nobody actually wanted to play Stock Car Extreme, and those who did could barely keep the vehicle under control. Throwing money at Reiza during their crowdfunding campaign was like this extreme hipster status icon in the sim racing community, because it turns out nobody’s actually playing their game in the end.

grab_158I also appreciate the explanation behind why Brazilian online culture as a whole has become so toxic. If the internet is only a toy for rich kids and wealthy families, I can understand how it’s essentially become a virtual high class suburb instead of a means of communication everybody uses for work and/or play. There simply aren’t enough people “logging on” (to bust out a term from the 90’s) for others to wise up and say “being a jackass is only funny in moderation, stop spamming HUEHUEHUE BRBRBR in the chat you fucktard.”

Though I will say, however, some of you motherfuckers are fast. It’s just shitty that an equal number of you wind up in EmptyBox videos as comedic relief.

The Review of Automobilista You’ve Been Waiting For

ams-2016-11-08-16-55-38-10I’ve given the boys at Reiza Studios more than enough time to evolve their newest product from just another rFactor spinoff into something with a bit of individuality, but there comes a point where a stream of premium downloadable content packs serves to indicate the development process has been placed firmly in the rear view mirror.

Despite Reiza’s heavy push to establish a unique identity for their flagship racing simulator in Automobilista, I can safely say the end result is a product whose source material – a simulator most of us purchased exactly a decade ago – oozes through the cracks left by hastily implemented third party plugins, and less than stellar repackaging efforts. While I personally enjoy what Automobilista has to offer regardless of its many faults – the underlying physics engine is what I believe to be the best representation of race car dynamics on the market – I’m not in the mood to sugarcoat things and project my personal bias onto our readers given how many have genuine questions about this game: Automobilista is a severely dated product, and does not reflect where sim racing should be as a genre in 2016.

During certain sporadic moments, Automobilista indeed fires on all cylinders and provides a captivating hardcore auto racing simulator experience for those who feel mainstream entries into the genre like Assetto Corsa didn’t scratch that particular itch well enough. Within three or four corners, however, Reiza Studios can transport the player back to 2007; a time when the sim racing climate was dominated by freeware rFactor mods that didn’t always work as intended. Unless you’ve grown accustomed to racing simulators operating, feeling, and playing a bit like X-Plane over the years – pieces of software who sacrifice absolutely everything in the name of a robust physics model – Automobilista is an extremely tough sell on pretty much anyone even remotely interested in the genre. The carefully crafted image meant to indirectly compete with Project CARS and Assetto Corsa as some sort of name among the resurgence of modern racing simulators is too easily revealed to be what’s basically a payware mod for a game released an entire generation ago.

Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

ams-2016-03-11-20-40-17-08Automobilista as an idea really came about through the repeated attempts by Reiza Studios to break into the racing simulator market, with little to no success. Despite pushing out a chain of highly regarded niche motorsports titles centered around the Stock Car Brasil touring car series – South America’s incredibly popular version of NASCAR – Reiza failed to earn any substantial share of the market due to a selection of vanilla content that was virtually unrecognizable to those outside of Brazil. Sure, those who braved the steep learning curve of adapting to entirely new types of race cars – such as the Dallara-built V8 Chevrolet Sonic – sang the praises of Reiza’s relatively unknown simulator thanks to the team’s time spent fine-tuning and repackaging the default rFactor experience with their own licensed content, but Reiza’s work simply didn’t catch on with the greater sim racing community. People talked about it on various discussion boards as some sort of hidden gem, but they sure as hell weren’t flocking to it as they were with Assetto Corsa.

After a somewhat successful crowdfunding campaign which capitalized on their loyal group of core followers to support the South American studio financially, Reiza decided to essentially re-brand their flagship racing simulator with an all-encompassing name to distinguish it from previous offerings, and make a tangible effort to balance the abundance of South American content with cars and tracks the common auto racing fan would actually be interested in. Given that Project CARS and Assetto Corsa weren’t being especially well received among the hardcore sim racing community as those titles began to mature, Reiza took aim at this market and believed they could play ball with the big moneymakers by merely offering a more competent and complete product, for less. After six months spent in Steam’s Early Access program during the first half of 2016, numerous post release updates, and one batch of downloadable content, Automobilista is considered “finished.”

Is it a technically sound offering? Yes. Is it the most complete auto racing simulator you can purchase in 2016? Yes. I don’t want to mislead anybody on those aspects; you very well can purchase Automobilista and occasionally receive an experience that justifies the $40 you paid for it. However, Automobilista highlights why we need games like Project CARS and Assetto Corsa to come out of nowhere and attempt to push the genre forward. Once you get past the initial new game syndrome that comes with wandering through Reiza’s newest simulator for the first few hours, very little sets it apart from the original rFactor by Image Space Incorporated. And this scenario begs the question:

At what point will the act of regurgitating rFactor no longer be necessary?

ams-2016-11-08-16-49-00-95How It Drives

 After a grim-sounding introduction, some of you who haven’t invested a whole bunch of time into learning about Automobilista may be wondering why sim racers would be compelled to purchase what’s essentially a glorified rFactor mod compilation, with every nook and cranny of the sim racing landscaped scanned for valuable plugins and code alterations assembled into one complete package. Thankfully, the answer is quite simple, though it’s really only an element which takes aim at a sliver of the sim racing community; the physics engine has received a refresh rate boost.

Underneath the hood of any racing simulator on the market, you’re looking at a piece of software which performs thousands of calculations every single second to faithfully replicate what happens as your virtual race car moves around a highly detailed circuit. One of Automobilista’s main selling points among the hardcore sim racing crowd, and I’m being 100% serious here – this is actually listed on Steam as the primary new feature – is the increased physics refresh rate compared to the original isiMotor engine. In short, there are more suspension, tire model, and overall performance calculations going on within the application than there are in games such as rFactor, NASCAR 09, and GTR Evolution – and as a user, this means the authenticity of the driving model has taken a few steps closer to reality.

Personally, I notice the difference.

ams-2016-10-25-16-02-39-80The isiMotor engine, which has powered games like rFactor and GTR Evolution isn’t inherently bad, but you do reach a point where you can tell it’s software from a bygone era of sim racing. The increased physics refresh rate in Automobilista sounds like a case of diminishing returns at first, but as someone who’s constantly pushing for that extra tenth of a second in dick-waving competitions with his friends, you indeed feel the extra layer of fidelity that Reiza have allowed for.

The first major change is how the tires behave. The way the outside rear tire bites, loses grip, and proceeds to bite again as you roll onto the throttle on corner exit is simply second to none in Automobilista, and I’ve found some complex sections are now significantly easier to navigate than they were in previous titles using the base version of the isiMotor power plant. Cars that reside on the high end of the horsepower spectrum are extremely satisfying to power out of a technical corner, whereas the original rFactor required a bit of guesswork and muscle memory. I feel like I can get up on the edge of the tire more consistently than I could in Stock Car Extreme, and it allows me to push much harder than I’ve ever pushed before in a racing simulator thanks to the high-fidelity physics engine. You can really wheel these fucking cars.

Second, there’s been a definite change in how your race car soaks up bumps, and on high-speed straights it’s almost as if you’re playing Assetto Corsa within the rFactor engine. The cars dance and bobble around in a much more lively fashion, moving away from the canned pot-holes you’d be subjected to in the original rFactor. Obviously, the graphics snap you back to the reality of what you’re playing, but for a brief moment, the brilliance of how Assetto Corsa simulates weight transfer, load shift, and other gravitational effects are replicated in Automobilista almost perfectly. Some cars are better than others, but when you’re in your favorite vehicle turning laps on a track you’re comfortable with, the dance which so many Assetto Corsa fanboys jerk themselves off over also manages to pop up here.

The only problem with the work Reiza have done on the underlying physics engine for Automobilista, is that it’s not as front and center as it should be; the refined refresh rate is only apparent in select situations. As an experienced sim racer, the nuances of Automobilista really only shine when pushing the car as hard as you can for a personal best lap. or wheeling your car in an effort to catch the race leader. In nine out of the eleven corners on a given circuit, it’s almost indistinguishable compared to a really good third party mod for the original rFactor, or maybe even Race 07’s default content.

ams-2016-10-15-10-26-18-07So because of this, I definitely struggle to understand how so many sim racers out there are claiming Automobilista to be this giant leap from the source material it’s been constructed from. If I go out and run a few laps at 80% attack – the speed your average sim racer can compete at without wrecking – it honestly becomes extremely difficult to determine what Automobilista does better compared to the vanilla rFactor experienced we were blessed with a decade ago. Maybe I’m just being difficult for the sake of injecting a bit of controversy into my review, but to most people who pick this game up, I can confirm the increased physics engine fidelity won’t even be noticeable.

Does that mean I personally will go out and delete this game from my Steam in a moment of anger? No. I’m of the belief that the isiMotor engine is the greatest consumer vehicle simulator ever created, and for my own experience, what Reiza have built with Automobilista is exactly I want out of the driving experience it offers – rFactor, but brought up to 2016 specifications. To the masses who aren’t as quick on the virtual circuit, you guys will be hard pressed to discover any tangible difference between the two pieces of software while turning laps. Make of that what you will.

ams-2016-11-08-16-25-09-98It’s Not rFactor, We Promise!

For many months, I’ve taken quite a few jabs at Reiza Studios for essentially packaging up as many of the best community rFactor modifications they could find, and selling their compilation in a Limited Edition bundle on Steam for $40 as a completely new racing game. It would be nice to pretend like I was intentionally trying to stir up the few Reiza fanboys who frequent PRC.net, but the reality is that I was right on the money. The more you continue to dig into what Automobilista has to offer, the more you become aware the product as a whole is a bit sloppy. I don’t mind this, as building a new rFactor install from scratch just for a mod or two is a genuine pain in the ass, and I’m okay with giving someone $40 to do it all for me, but I didn’t think it was too much to ask for Reiza to polish up some of the ugly bits that traditionally come with obsessively downloading and extracting mods; some of which might not work perfectly with one another.

ams-2016-09-19-16-32-36-82Let’s talk about dynamic tracks for a bit. The biggest revolution in sim racing right now is the implementation of some form of real road technology, where the track accumulates rubber build up, marbles, and generates heat for extra grip (or lack thereof). Listen, I think it’s great that Reiza have put something like this into Automobilista, as it helps the game remain relevant alongside titles such as rFactor 2 and iRacing, where this stuff is really changing how races play out. However, the way the dynamic surface operates in Automobilista isn’t anything to write home about – and as you can see above, it looks awful in comparison.

Rather than gaining grip from driving on the racing line, the racing surface, at least from how it feels when I turn laps, is set somewhere at a value below what the engine considers “normal”, and then progressively gains grip until what would be considered the normal level of grip found in the original rFactor is achieved. And this is made apparent when you venture from the proper line in an effort to pass someone or simply make a mistake; it feels like a switch has been flipped, and you’re suddenly driving on ice. It’s not done very well, and reeks of a third party plugin that has seen much better days.

ams-2016-03-01-19-04-03-60Reiza have also bundled a proper heads up display into Automobilista, marking a drastic shift away from the classic minimalist layout that traditionally occupies the bottom of the screen in the original rFactor. However, problems quickly arise with this new implementation, as often times you’ll run into situations where the speedometer stops functioning altogether, or portions of the interface – such as the tire read-outs – are all over the fucking screen with no rhyme or reason. During the end of your Qualifying session, the trademark iRacing delta bar – which has thankfully found its way into Automobilista – will suddenly disappear when the session ends, and there is currently no way to fix this. Turning the heads up display off via keyboard short-cuts in an effort to revert back to the in-engine display bundled standard with every isiMotor release physically causes the game to exhibit major stuttering issues for a few seconds, and as a whole it’s just really fucking sloppy.

On the plus side, you can actually configure the new HUD to your liking and receive something relatively reasonable once you drastically reorganize the default layout, but unless you physically dig into the core Automobilista folder and venture through several sub-folders on a quest to find it, you won’t even learn about the shitty little program’s existence or how to use it. I know I’ve joked about Reiza bundling a bunch of rFactor plugins and selling it as a new game, but that’s where the reality of the situation starts to hit home. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Next, let’s talk about the spotter. A recent update for Automobilista has introduced some sort of crew chief into the game’s audio engine, who makes simple calls throughout your time on track in an effort to warn you of competitors cars, or any relevant danger. This guy is horrible, and I’m not talking about the voice acting. I’ve never seen a spotter make such phenomenally poor calls in my life, and this comes from someone who has invested ridiculous amounts of time into American Stock Car simulators. I’ll hear “car left” as a rival car is physically in front of me, while the guy will clear me despite a vehicle being right at my door. No, the audio isn’t messed up; he’s extremely inaccurate, and therefore totally useless.

ams-2016-11-08-16-10-42-33Menus awkwardly float around without any sort of proper aesthetic formatting, tire identities have occasionally cited real world brands that aren’t licensed to be in the game, and even the RealFeel force feedback plugin – a common INI file fans of the original rFactor have downloaded to enhance their experience with modern steering wheels – can be found chilling out in the base Automobilista directory. It’s as if Reiza Studios did as much as they could to re-design every last menu found in their 2016 offering, but didn’t really bother to hide how Automobilista was created. Regardless of whether they’ve acquired the rights to use all of these third party additions or not, it’s one of those deals where the curtain is pulled back to reveal something of significantly lesser value than the retail asking price. It’s rFactor with a lot of hastily-injected mods.

ams-2016-03-17-16-00-20-63Content Selection

The biggest complaint with previous Reiza offerings was how much emphasis had been put on the Stock Car Brasil family of racing series. While there was no denying each individual car was a work of art, diving into Stock Car Extreme or Game Stock Car 2012 as a sim racing fan living outside of South America was an extremely tough task. You were forced to memorize a whole bunch of unfamiliar – and quite frankly bland – racing circuits, the cars were mostly unlike anything you’d driven before, and the games made no effort to outline where you might want to get your feet wet as an introduction to this strange world we aren’t all that familiar with.

For the most part, Automobilista fixes this. Along with the complete set of all major South American racing leagues, the history of Formula One is represented almost entirely, Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Truck Series makes an appearance, the rising popularity of RallyCross gives way to an off-road variant of the Mitsubishi Lancer, Australia’s V8 Supercars tour is represented with the Holden Commodore, and there’s even an off-brand Porsche included for good measure. While European Sports car fans may scoff at the lack of Prototypes or high-end GT entries, concessions have been made to throw in a couple of lesser known modern roadsters to fill the gaps left by the omission of Radical as a brand. It’s a good mix, with promises of even more coming in the way of DLC, but those looking for marquee brands simply won’t find what they’re looking for – almost everything is a fictional representation, complete with the obligatory generic two-tone liveries.

Tracks, however, are where Automobilista still falls a bit flat. While what’s included makes impressive use of a dated engine, you can’t help but notice the list of locations prominently favors South America – almost to a fault. You’re lucky to receive Interlagos, Montreal, the Red Bull Ring, Suzuka, and a cool off-shoot in Kyalami circa 1979, but odd-ball facilities like Campo Grande, Guapore, and Cascavel still dominate the roster. A wise sim racer would immediately flock to the additional content produced by Patrick Giranthon over on RaceDepartment – as his work helps turns the track list into something much more varied and complete – but this still doesn’t mask where the roots of Reiza rest; firmly in Brazil.

One thing I’d like to make note of, before we explore the downsides of what’s included in Automobilista, is that Reiza have gone the extra mile to accommodate the set of Stadium Super Trucks with an abundance of series-specific layouts. These trucks were not added in as an afterthought; if you saw these trucks in the previews and thought they look awesome as hell, congratulations, this can be used as a Stadium Super Truck game, and you’ll never have to touch anything else. I appreciate Reiza going the extra mile to make these unique vehicles feel at home in Automobilista.

ams-2016-03-01-19-33-49-19However, with the added selection of globalized content, comes an unseen downside – many of these cars will reel people in to checking out what Automobilista has to offer, but sim racers will be immediately turned off at how difficult they are to drive. It’s awesome that a developer basically went out and made a hardcore racing simulator that chronicles the history of Formula One, but you bet your ass you’re putting every last one of them into the fence. Seeing Australia’s premiere racing series finally make it into a racing simulator is extremely satisfying, but these 600 horsepower sedans are not for the faint of heart – they’ll punish you for even the slightest of mistakes. What I foresee happening with Automobilista, is that the average sim racer will flock to these marquee cars, immediately become discouraged that they’re a lot more difficult to drive than first anticipated, and eventually they’ll be herded into checking out the South American content – which isn’t all that captivating unless you’re a dedicated pretend race car driver. Had a driving school mode been included akin to what we saw in GTR 2, this wouldn’t be much of an issue thanks to players naturally discovering their skill ceiling and settling into a car that’s right for them, but Automobilista just sort of boots up and presents you with everything, all at once.

ams-2016-11-08-16-47-24-77On the plus side, mods created for Stock Car Extreme can literally be copied into the Automobilista folder and converted for use in Reiza’s current game by altering the extension of one text file – meaning some of the glorious stuff that’s been churned out by the community for rFactor or Stock Car Extreme over the past decade can be utilized immediately in Automobilista. I’m really enjoying the ability to wheel the old school Group 5 DRM cars around the superb historic locations such as Kyalami and the Osterreichring, along with a proper flock of GT3 entries at the repaved version of Interlagos.

ams-2016-11-09-17-50-08-00The Art of Racing

While some sim racers merely enjoy the act of participating in closed track days with their car of choice, those who want to dive into a hardcore racing simulator for its intended use – competing against other virtual race cars over a set time or distance – will unfortunately discover Automobilista once again does not stray far from the source material it has been constructed upon. Both the act of configuring a race weekend to meet your own personal needs, as well as the art of racing itself, have been severely compromised by what’s now looking more and more like a piece of software that’s been designed for work rather than play.

The main menu looks beautiful, displaying all of the series included within the game – each with their respective tastefully designed icons – but once you plan on hitting the track, you’re thrown far too much in far too little space. Automobilista quickly becomes the X-Plane of the pretend race car world, throwing you an ugly, dated menu with a ridiculous amount of text options that may confuse a portion of the audience – especially as most of these are just sort of sitting there as if you already know what to do with them. Personally, I can navigate my way around the race configuration screen without much difficulty because I’ve been messing with racing simulators for a substantial portion of my life, but dear God is it a mess, offering no less than twenty different variables to tweak within a space that’s 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall. For a game that’s looking to capitalize on the Assetto Corsa or Project CARS crowd – the latter suffering from its own set of claustrophobic menus – Reiza have done no favors to their customers.

I dig the Black & Red modernized art style, though. It does look slick when there’s much less on-screen action.

ams-2016-11-08-16-10-33-51Age-old grievances from the source material still remain, as some AI cars fail to turn a lap during open qualifying sessions, and simulating to the end of the session after a lap you know you can’t improve upon results in AI cars producing laps much quicker than what’s theoretically possible at any given race track; a bummer given the ten year time span amateur modders and professional developers like Reiza have been granted to rectify these issues. Again, the theme of Automobilista looking like an upgrade, but playing much like the software it has been inspired by, rears its ugly head at a moment where you believed your money went towards something a bit more polished.

ams-2016-11-08-16-58-09-92Can the artificial intelligence produce a captivating offline singleplayer experience? That’s a tough question to answer, partially because the AI cars in Automobilista are beyond bipolar or any other previously discovered mental illness; you never know if you’ll receive a lineup populated entirely by your wife’s son’s kindergarten class, or a grid of semi-respectable amateur race car drivers.

It’s difficult to dial in an AI difficulty setting that precisely matches your speed, and when you do, it certainly won’t work for another circuit. There are many different AI aggression levels to select from, but even on Low they have a tendency to drive right into you and lack any sort of spatial awareness unless you physically pull alongside them for a moment and have your girlfriend or equivalent anime body pillow flash her tits at them as a peace offering. The AI in Automobilista are simply not intelligent in the slightest; instead circling the race track as bots or cannon fodder  for you to pick off, one by one. And when you do manage to sneak in front of an opposing driver, they immediately lose all of their composure, opting to hang their virtual heads in shame and reluctantly watch you speed off into the horizon.

ams-2016-11-08-16-56-34-57Can you have captivating offline races? Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to sit through some enjoyable affairs with third party content copied straight from my Stock Car Extreme folder, meaning that there are indeed situations that can produce good, clean competitions with the bots which populate Automobilista. Are they rare? Yes, and that’s going to be a problem with some people. Despite making it through an event at Spa unscathed (above), there were several moments where the AI basically disregarded my presence or outright door-slammed me when I thought I’d made it clear I was occupying that current spot on the race track. You are indeed forced to learn how to cooperate with the AI in many situations, but once you figure it out, your offline races will become significantly cleaner. PRC.net cynic Joe Nathan has outlined this situation quite well in a YouTube video he’s uploaded recently, where one of the bots physically runs him off the road despite Joe cleary taking the inside line.

This is considered a “good” race in Automobilista.

Do I enjoy approaching each spontaneous offline event with the goal of intentionally staying out of the way of AI cars? No, I’d rather have a game that works out of the box; one where I’m not forced to treat the AI like hyper aggressive special needs children who occasionally nail complex corner chains with relative ease, but Reiza simply haven’t gotten Automobilista to that point.

ams-2016-10-30-19-50-15-07In fact, it can just as easily go the opposite direction. I took UnitedRacingDesign’s DTM payware mod to a street circuit I’m quite fond of, and the end result was total chaos that eventually was chronicled in a full length article on PRC.net. More than half of the AI cars could not complete the outlap during Qualifying, instead opting to smash into every wall in sight, or perform some extremely daunting acrobatics that would most certainly earn them a place in Ken Block’s next Gymkhaha film. Sure, many readers will be quick to dismiss my findings as the result of modded cars not properly configured by Reiza themselves, but an overarching theme of my time spent with Automobilista throughout the title’s entire lifespan is the complete inability for the artificial intelligence to navigate most race tracks featured in the game with any sort of basic driving skills.

ams-2016-03-11-23-38-16-53At their best, the AI are bots are fairly competent pace-wise, but pay no respect to your presence on the racing surface whatsoever. At their worst, they are unable to complete a lap. You can have races some would deem to be acceptable, but you can just as easily earn a front row seat to show-stopping issues that would simply not be accepted in other games with a larger, less sympathetic audience.

ams-2016-11-09-18-29-15-64As for online racing, I’d like to ask what online racing? Automobilista is one of the least-played modern racing simulators ever to be released on Steam. Time trial leaderboards are lucky to list any times at all aside from obvious combinations – such as a modern Formula One car at Interlagos – and most online servers are intended for private leagues rather than public lapping sessions; a quick snapshot of the list right now, and it’s downright embarrassing. You won’t be playing this game online anytime soon. I can confirm that upon testing the server tool with a friend, everything works as intended, and there are no major technical issues to report of based on the few times I joined a room populated by other drivers, but online racing in Automobilista doesn’t happen outside of dedicated leagues, and in the English-speaking communities I’m aware of, this game hasn’t caught on at all. I wouldn’t even know where to look, aside from the European Endurance Center – who actually demand everyone to comply with their monopoly on the GT3 online scene in an effort to have large turnouts every race night.

ams-2016-08-08-21-12-07-85Conclusion

Somewhat technically sound aside from classic gremlins that are a carry-over from the original rFactor days, Automobilista is the most complete racing simulator money can buy as we look towards 2017, but it’s also the most bland and uninspiring. Doing absolutely nothing to progress the genre forward in any meaningful fashion aside from merely regurgitating a simulator many enjoyed with the implementation of additional components most will be too lazy to look for, it’s honestly a bit sad sim racing is in such a state where a title like this is a legitimate option. Sure, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has received a high definition remaster, but the key difference is that Modern Warfare was a fantastic game that started a massive shift in the gaming landscape; fully justifying some sort of re-release almost a decade later. By comparison, the original rFactor was a quirky racing simulator intended for the most hardcore of computer nerds who also happened to love auto racing – and remastering rFactor – warts and all – meant putting a magnifying glass on elements of the game that your average user won’t be so eager to tolerate.

I personally don’t mind paying Reiza $40 to assemble all of the best third party injections into a customized rFactor install, with a significantly better art style and higher physics refresh rate, but a lot of people won’t – especially considering you can tell everything has been pieced together like a LEGO set without instructions, and new features such as the dynamic heads up display or live spotter, frequently fail more often than they function.

ams-2016-03-30-20-51-50-54I feel the pros of Automobilista outweigh the cons, and it’s why I’ve spent the most time with it out of all other simulators I’ve currently got installed on my PC. For what I use it for – screwing around with car setups in an open practice session, and the occasional bot race – I find it to be adequate for my own personal needs. However, from an objective standpoint, it’s hardly the killer app or hidden gem some members of the sim racing community have made it out to be. It’s X-Plane on a race track; a hardcore simulator intended for a fraction of a fraction of an already small audience with extremely specific tastes. Given what Reiza hoped to accomplish with Automobilista – a viable alternative to something like Assetto Corsa or Project CARS – I can’t say the team have met their goal with 100% certainty.

Remember When Imola Wasn’t DLC?

automobilista-imola-1988Oh Reiza, what have you done now?

For those who haven’t been following the post-release content plans for Automobilista, a piece of news we’ve been expecting for several months now was officially unveiled Saturday afternoon on RaceDepartment in the team’s October development update. The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari – otherwise known as the San Marino Grand Prix Circuit or Imola – is set arrive in Automobilista as paid downloadable content. Reiza plan to include four different layouts of the prominent Italian auto racing facility, accommodating the multitude of both classic and modern totally not Formula One cars available for use in the simulator. Imola will join Interlagos, the Red Bull Ring, Jacarepagua, and Montreal as the fifth circuit to be given the evolution treatment by Reiza Studios; in which several iterations are offered to players to increase the number of era-specific complexes for the numerous old-school cars available in Automobilista.

As a sim racer, I genuinely enjoy Imola and I’m happy to see the circuit receive some much-needed love in modern simulators after it was dropped from the Formula One schedule in the mid-2000’s. The course layout relies heavily on elevation changes and natural rhythm sections, which combine to produce compelling on-track action in a wide variety of race cars regardless of the discipline selected.

But the inclusion isn’t without valid complaints.

automobilista-imola-2001Stock Car Extreme, Reiza’s previous title before embarking on the project now known as Automobilista, featured an unlicensed (but still extremely accurate) version of Imola circa 1988 – operating under the name Bologna – built into the game’s vanilla list of content. If you bought Stock Car Extreme seven or eight months ago when there was a fairly substantial buzz surrounding the sim within the  community, Imola was one of the many tracks you received by default. It wasn’t called Imola, but let’s not kid ourselves here – it was Imola.

gsc-2015-12-04-21-24-03-58There was nothing wrong or inaccurate with what was offered in Stock Car Extreme under the pseudonym of Bologna, and given that nobody seemed to give a shit about the alternate alias used to circumvent licensing agreements, Reiza would have had no problem whipping up a few more variants of the track – dubbing them Bologna Grand Prix and Bologna Historic, as they’ve done with Suzuka – and including them in the base Automobilista purchase. However, Reiza have instead yanked a piece of content found in the base Stock Car Extreme title, given the facility the proper name, and sold it back to customers as DLC for the new game. Developers from other video game genres are crucified for these practices, but once again the sim racing community has turned a blind eye to these acts because of lame excuses such as “the team is small” and I want to support sim racing.”

gsc-2015-12-04-21-07-54-61Had Automobilista been a significantly different title compared to Stock Car Extreme, and the track requiring serious re-working for the new platform, I could at least understand why it was necessary to yank vanilla content from one game and sell it back to sim racers at an additional cost. However, as I dive deeper into Automobilista during my own spare time, I’m coming across rather enlightening discoveries, such as mods from Stock Car Extreme flawlessly integrating into Automobilista by merely changing the extension of one text file. In theory, you can essentially make your own piece of Automobilista DLC and save yourself $5 by copying the Bologna track files from Stock Car Extreme, into your Automobilista folder.

Sim racers are more or less paying Reiza Studios extra to change the name of a track they already had, and given the abundance of unlicensed tracks already in Automobilista, was it even necessary to pursue the Imola license in the first place? Sim racers really didn’t seem to care that old versions of the Red Bull Ring are called the Spielberg Historic instead of the Osterreichring, so why did they feel the need to do so with Imola?

 

Still Looking for the Hidden Jewel

ams-2016-10-30-19-34-38-29A Steam user review by an account going under the name of RWB Rodders claims Automobilista is a “hidden jewel” in the land of sim racing – and on the outset, you’d have every reason to believe him. With over 180 hours in the simulator since it’s launch on Steam’s Early Access platform in the spring of 2016, it’s not wrong to assume this guy knows what he’s talking about. While other games may boast a huge cult following among the sim racing community, or tout massive sales numbers aided partially by a marketing campaign traditionally seen with mainstream AAA titles, Automobilista on paper should be the superior simulator you finally discover after exhausting all other options.

And I was part of the crowd who advocated for Automobilista as well. Building upon a solid base in the widely used isiMotor engine, Reiza Studios upped the physics engine refresh rate and tweaked other behind-the-scenes elements to essentially build the ultimate rFactor package money could buy; quite literally, I might add. When you examine the simple element of how Automobilista interprets the relationship between four racing slicks and the tarmac, no consumer simulator does it better.

But then you actually try and play the game.

ams-2016-10-30-19-44-18-55The team over at UnitedRacingDesign released their totally not DTM payware mod earlier this evening, and as someone who’s a fan of their work, I had no problem handing them $8 CDN to download their fictional pair of German Touring Car championship seasons. After a few testing sessions at various tracks, in which I dialed in the setup and genuinely felt as if my disposable income went towards a quality piece of content for Automobilista, I figured it was time to participate in a short offline racing event.

I chose the 2012 rendition of the Ribeirao Preto circut found in the vanilla list of content; a temporary street course some 4Chan users affectionately refer to as the Brazilian Death GP for it’s tendency to punish you for even the smallest of mistakes. With lap times coming in at just over a minute in length, and several extremely technical sections really testing your driving skills, I thought it would be the absolute best place to run the light, nimble, and extremely powerful 2013 DTM cars for a 12 lap session.

We didn’t make it through Qualifying.

ams-2016-10-30-19-42-16-04Straight up, I don’t know how artificial intelligence this poor made it into a consumer product, especially after what was essentially an open beta period where people were paying pretty substantial amounts to test the sim ahead of schedule. The AI was simply unable to string a lap together without trashing their respective vehicles, and the problems never boiled down to a single corner. If they weren’t helplessly smashing into barriers, they were taking lines that were beyond nonsensical – such as this guy in the BMW knockoff monster trucking over the hairpin berm.

ams-2016-10-30-19-40-09-66The most challenging part of setting an acceptable qualifying time wasn’t ensuring I ran a clean line while maximizing my time on the throttle; I was constantly forced to avoid completely absurd wrecks that I was virtually unable to predict. Every AI driver in the field trashed their car on multiple occasions.
ams-2016-10-30-19-37-18-57I mean, it was seriously incredible. You’d check the delta bar at the top of the screen, hyped to be on a killer lap that was a couple tenths ahead of your previous effort, and suddenly there would d be a guy driving backwards on the circuit, grinding the wall in the process.

ams-2016-10-30-19-45-38-43Or, you’d catch up to an AI car in the third sector, only to see him channel his inner Ken Block and drag the side of the car along the tarmac after literally jumping over the final corner. It looked as if I’d traveled back in time to 2007 and had been downloading sketchy Russian conversions for rFactor – only this time I had the credit card receipt to prove I’d given $40 to Reiza Studios for what was transpiring on my screen.

ams-2016-10-30-19-50-15-07Analyzing the replay became a game unto itself; capture every last qualifying incident for use in an article on PRC.net, as there was no way I was actually going to finish the event in a satisfactory manner at this rate. In a hardcore racing simulator aimed at a fraction of a fraction of an already small audience, there was arguably more chaos than Destruction Derby 2 on the original Sony PlayStation.

ams-2016-10-30-19-41-07-82AI cars were jumping over kerbs, completely disregarding the concrete walls which lined the circuit, and going all-out Saudi Arabian stunting – which made for some neat screenshots given the expressions of certain 2D fans plastered throughout the facility.ams-2016-10-30-19-52-14-94Damaged cars parked on the side of the circuit were decimated by other AI cars arriving on the scene. Very rarely were there more than five cars on track at any given time, as circuit activity cycled through sets of cars every 45 seconds or so; the first wave of five would go out, wreck, and warp back to the pits, allowing the next set of five cars to do the exact same. We basically repeated this process for the entirety of the eight minute qualifying session.

ams-2016-10-30-19-53-21-51It was hard to watch, especially knowing the reception Automobilista receives among the sim racing community as the aforementioned hidden jewel for those that don’t feel games like iRacing, Assetto Corsa, or Project CARS have met their own personal needs. What was occuring on my monitor was nothing short of complete incompetence, and as you’ve seen with both Project CARS and Assetto Corsa on current generation consoles, a game displaying this kind of ineptitude from the so-called artificial intelligence would receive a public flogging.

ams-2016-10-30-19-38-29-27We ended the session with only five of the fourteen entrants completing a single timed lap within the eight minute period. Let me explain this to you in terms which you can understand; at a track where laps are just over a minute long, and most drivers will be able to click off five or six in that time frame, more than half of the AI bots on the grid – despite having more than enough track to work with, could not complete the out lap without destroying themselves.

ams-2016-10-30-19-15-20-70This is what you get for your $40 USD when purchasing Automobilista in its current state. From a raw physics standpoint, I believe this is the best simulator currently available on the market, but you can’t actually play the game without the AI having some sort of colossal meltdown. Reiza Studios are extremely lucky this game does not have a mass market following, because very few gamers would be willing to accept the atrocious experience outlined above.