Death Race 2000: The Leading Simulator’s Lack of Realism

indycar-daytonaFor a service that advertises such a realistic online racing experience to outsiders; one which demands customers to hand over their credit card for each individual car and track after already paying a hefty base subscription fee compared to other games in the hopes of receiving something leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, iRacing’s weekly track selection certainly serves to contradict the entire purpose of the simulator – and I’m surprised this issue hasn’t received more coverage.

So let’s talk about it.

Those of you who haven’t bitten the bullet and adamantly refuse to sign up for the mammoth online sim racing entity known as iRacing for any number of reasons may be unaware of a problem hidden away from the public eye, though for dedicated sim racers who place realism above all else, it’s certainly been a difficult pill to swallow during their time subscribed to iRacing. While there are indeed a plethora of relevant laser-scanned auto racing facilities available on the iRacing service for both North American stock cars, as well as traditional circuit-based cars, the manner in which the service operates doesn’t adequately make use of the entire circuit roster.

iRacing itself runs as a massive virtual sanctioning body which conducts twelve-week service-wide championships that anybody with a subscription can participate, in which every race for a given week is held at one specific track, which in theory leads to a situation where you can compete in just a single event, or as many as you want based on how much free time you have, in an effort to increase the number of points you come away with at the end of the week. It’s like flex scheduling on an enormous scale, partially aided by the fact that there’s an alleged userbase of 60,000 members spread across the multiple series. So even if you can’t race with your Tuesday night regulars that you’ve come to recognize over the past month because your kid has some shitty dance recital, you can pop on Wednesday morning, run a race at the same track, and still score points for the championship – or just for fun, if you don’t give a fuck about the overall standings.

Now most of the time, this format works as intended; sim racers are given a whopping seven days to learn a track and participate in multiple thrilling races with a field of opponents who also have come to learn the circuit over several sessions of sim racing. Yet because the iRacing userbase itself has seen a tangible shift over a number of years from hardcore drivers who want the utmost of realism from the software, to an all-encompassing “big driving game feel” as if it were the PC’s answer to a mass-market title such as Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo, the iRacing staff have adjusted the schedule accordingly.

untitled-3What this means, is that for seven straight days, iRacing have sent the Dallara DW12 IndyCar to Daytona International Speedway, a track in which neither the Verizon IndyCar Series, nor any other major American open wheel racing championship in the history of the country, have ever held a race at. Official, ranked races that count towards the service-wide IndyCar championship on iRacing and are part of the vanilla competitive experience all IndyCar fans are forced to partake in if they desire to drive the Dallara DW12 within the service against live human opponents, are currently being held at a track that would simultaneously kill multiple drivers in real life were an accident to occur at race speeds, and causes nothing but carnage and frustration within iRacing’s servers.

This is supposedly the ultra-hardcore experience you receive when paying an arm and a leg for iRacing.

And it’s been going on for far too long. Looking back several years to the spring of 2013, iRacing experimented with sending the Dallara IW05 to Talladega Superspeedway – an even more absurd circuit than tackling Daytona in these cars – and the results were obviously disastarous. Everyone voiced unanimous disapproval over seeing this circuit on the schedule, and the racing was insufferable. Not only has the Verizon IndyCar Series never once mentioned trips to Daytona or Talladega were in the preliminary planning stages because these cars obviously weren’t designed for superspeedways of this nature, the racing itself saw cars run in tight packs, only for 85% of the field to be completely decimated less than three laps into each race.

Regardless, iRacing kept putting these events on the schedule, totally contradicting the hardcore mentality fueling the simulator.

Now, it’s one thing for a league organizer in any simulator to put an odd-ball track on the schedule to keep drivers on their toes, as it’s the beauty of sim racing – you can go out and do shit that wouldn’t be possible in real life thanks to scheduling conflicts and miscellaneous organization problems. However, iRacing have promoted themselves since their inception as this ultra-realistic racing simulator with heavy penalties for crashing or even basic contact, and for several years they’ve held ranked events that aren’t just frustrating for the end user due to how much carnage follows after the green flag is dropped, they’re completely unrealistic and don’t even appeal to IndyCar fans. They’re wide open crash-fests designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator – the same Xbox Live kids people signed up for iRacing to avoid.

iRacing’s bipolar approach to realism isn’t just specific to the handful of different virtual IndyCar Series operating within the service, either. When the simulator first introduced the highly prestigious Monza circuit to customers for purchase, the unused Monza Oval – which hasn’t been maintained nor seen any competition action in around fifty years and is obviously unsafe for any kind of meaningful modern auto racing event – was thrown into the package as a bonus layout – which is fine, I’m personally not against developers throwing bullshit goodies into the mix.

However, the retired Monza oval was promptly placed on the schedule for all major oval racing series available in iRacing, which lead to a complete clusterfuck when people actually tried to race on it competitively; TeamRitter’s video below showcases a field of trucks unable to complete a single lap before the horrid racing surface mixed with a lack of concrete barriers detonated a tactical nuke within the middle of the field. Some have speculated Monza was haphazardly placed on all prominent iRacing oval calendars to try and shake even more money out of a crowd who otherwise wouldn’t care for a road racing circuit release by forcing them to buy it just to race for the week, and in this instance, I tend to agree. No reasonable sim racer wanting an enjoyable, hardcore experience from their software of choice would send NASCAR trucks to an oval that hasn’t been raced nor maintained in fifty years.

So for a game to sit there and proclaim they’re this ultimate be-all end-all solution for sim racing, only to treat paying customers expecting a hardcore experience as if they’re on Xbox Live and messing around with stupid car/track combinations in ToCA Race Driver 3, it really speaks volumes about the direction iRacing is heading in. It’s as if they used the hardcore crowd to get the brand off the ground, but years later have no problem catering to the lowest common denominator by essentially conducting races you’re forced to take part in if you want to play iRacing at fantasy combinations that don’t even occur in real life… Which sort of defeats the whole point of the simulator aspect they’ve been pushing for several years.

And I could stop there, but I won’t.

nick4You’ll often hear of iRacing conducting these marquee events that bring the entire service together for a weekend of racing outside the traditional roster of races you can enter each day, such as the 24 Hours of Daytona or 24 Hours of Le Mans, but what isn’t so front and center are the technological shortcomings that make these races a bit goofy to participate in when you’ve actually hit the track.

And I’m not talking about the constant server outages.

First, and probably the most hilarious aspect of these endurance racing events, is that iRacing does not feature any sort of 24 hour weather or lighting cycle, meaning those who enter these events are subjected to running the entire 24 hour event in either daylight or midnight conditions. While a large challenge of endurance racing in real life is watching the track transform from a vibrant auto racing circuit to a mystifying battle against treacherous shadows and lack of visibility, this element simply doesn’t exist in iRacing. There are no moments where you’re at Sebring, Le Mans, or Daytona taking in some sort of virtual sunset or sunrise, nor are you discussing among your teammates who happens to be the best driver in a low visibility environment. You’re driving in a horrendously static environment, one which iRacing themselves, as well as their broadcast partners, are careful not to mention.

Codemasters’ Race Driver: GRID, released in 2007 and designed to be this goofy little arcade racer with licensed cars and tracks, featured a full day/night cycle for the Le Mans 24 Hours event in the game’s career mode, but a hardcore auto racing simulator can’t do the same? Oh please.

cwrhes2weaaqozzThe service also dictates the cars you’re allowed to drive as well. While iRacing features a serviceable roster of GT3 machinery, the game’s hard-coded five car model limit means sim racers who have fallen in love with a particular race car may not even have that vehicle at their disposal during these races. The underlying software has been written to accept no more than five unique car models in-game, which while fine for oval racing – as not once in the past two decades has NASCAR featured more than four distinct manufacturers on track – obviously causes problems when it comes to multi-class sports car endurance racing. iRacers who had paid money for either the Ford or RUF GT3 entries found themselves shit out of luck and forced to buy yet another GT3 car just to participate in the event, simply because of iRacing’s shortcomings.

drivethruThe last element I’d like to touch on this evening would be iRacing’s complete inability to conduct even a semi-realistic pit stop procedure within their simulator. Executing a successful pitstop is one of the most challenging parts of modern auto racing, as you’re tasked with maintaining a very specific speed while navigating through an entire pack of cars bobbing and weaving between their respective crew members, who are busy scurrying around each car with a surprising amount of athleticism and precision. It’s fucking nuts to watch both on TV and in person, as one wrong move by any individual occupying pit road during a round of stops can lead to someone being sent to the hospital, or even under the most ideal of circumstances, has the potential to drastically change the outcome of a race.

This challenge is non-existent in iRacing. Upon entering pit road, everybody’s collision detection is temporarily turned off, meaning you’re free to roam the strip of asphalt as you’d please, driving through as many cars as you’d like both en route to your stall, as well as during the exit process. Basically what this means is that upon your virtual crew ripping out the jack from underneath the car, iRacers can just mat the throttle and drive straight through the cars ahead of them as if they don’t exist. So while you can at least drive your car onto pit road manually, and skid into the stall like the real deal, you’re not even asked to avoid the 39 other cars on pit road – which is like, the entire challenge of pit stops in the first place.

pits-lolololThis is pretty embarrassing when it occurs on top iRacing broadcasts, as the hosts will dedicate painfully out-of-place monologues to shill for how realistic the simulator is, only for all the participants to drive through each other during the first round of pit stops. I’ve noticed that in certain Peak Anti-Freeze Series broadcasts, cameras were strategically placed by the crew to avoid actually seeing this goofiness play out on screen, but in doing so, it just makes iRacing look extremely dishonest more than anything. Here you’re advertising this hardcore simulator that’s officially sanctioned by NASCAR, but the cars are literally driving inside of each other during pit stops, and with the ability to fly anywhere on the race track for a shot, you’re instead intentionally obfuscating an entire stretch of asphalt so the audience – as well as potential customers – don’t see this.

You’d think this would be down to technological limitations, but the last piece of software released by the team at iRacing prior to embarking on their mythical online only journey – NASCAR Racing 2003 Season – had contact between cars enabled on pit road, and you were just supposed to deal with it like a normal driver would.

Fourteen years and several million dollars later, this strategic element is now missing entirely from iRacing, and the team actively try to hide it on important broadcasts with “artistic” pit entry/exit cameras that curiously omit the entire pitstop process.

nr2003-2016-03-13-11-38-17-004Obviously I think a lot of iRacers will be quick to jump to the game’s defense, again labelling me as some irrational autist who started PretendRaceCars.net solely to rip on iRacing, but you can’t really deny what’s being presented here. You’ve got this company going out and charging people exponentially more than any other simulator on the market and justifying it by saying it’s the most advanced racing sim in the world, but then forcing customers to drive in ridiculous events which aren’t even close to being realistic, such as sending the trucks to Monza or IndyCars to Talladega, conducting 24 hour races without a 24 hour day/night cycle, and allowing people to drive through each other on pit road despite their last game doing the exact opposite.

Okay, if iRacing was like, a $60 game, a lot of this can be forgiven. DiRT 2 let you take hill climb cars to rally cross tracks, in the Eutechnyx games, you can’t even control your own car on pit road; the game does it for you, and Forza Motorsport 6 doesn’t have time progression either; like iRacing, you just sort of pick whether you want to race during the day, or at night. It’s fine, it’s $60, and the three aforementioned games aren’t trying to do anything special.

But this is iRacing, a game where just existing on the service for a month is something like $12 USD, and each and every piece of content is another $11.95 USD, meaning just to compete for twelve weeks in one class of car (of which there are MANY), it starts getting pretty fucking retarded from a financial standpoint if you want to explore what the video game has to offer. And they justify this by saying it’s this elusive hardcore experience, an option for when you’ve exhausted what all other simulators offer. And that’s fine for them to do that, it’s their marketing campaign after all, but as you can see above, they’re not actually delivering on that front. Hardcore sim racing isn’t sending the trucks to Monza of all places for twenty laps, nor is it throwing modern IndyCars on Daytona and letting everyone wreck the shit out of each other. This sounds like something you’d do with your buddies on Xbox Live at the end of the night for a laugh. And hardcore certainly isn’t locking people out of their favorite car because the software can’t handle it, nor is it allowing people to drive through each other during pit stops – that’s just laziness.

So for a service that advertises itself as the most hardcore sim racing experience available, why does all of the evidence point to the contrary?

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Running on (Vaporware) Fumes

42A wonderful, feature-length interview conducted by Paul Jeffrey of RaceDepartment with Chris and Allan Speed of Sector 3 Studios and SimBin UK respectively has warranted significantly more questions than answers in what was originally meant to be a very celebratory article. Announcing to the world of sim racing that the highly anticipated follow-up to GTR 2 is in development yet again, and giving virtual sports car enthusiasts a rough online as to what they should expect when the multi-platform simulator launches in 2018, there’s actually been a bit of confusion over the exact information revealed in the piece at RaceDepartment, which went live earlier this morning. There is supposedly a game in the works, but contradictory responses from the Speed brothers have already revealed a bit of troublesome insight into GTR 3’s ongoing development hell, which has been a focal point of sim racing coverage dating back to its first publicly unveiled iteration in late 2011.

Don’t get me wrong, I personally want to see GTR 3 happen, as I’m fed up with smorgasbord games that offer a vast array of cars and tracks to explore, but rarely manage to string together a cohesive experience in the end product. GTR 3 represents a throwback to a time when video games shipped as finished, feature complete simulators, and I desperately want that mentality back in the genre of sim racing, represented by a stellar package that captivates a large portion of the community. However, some of the answers given by Chris and Allan Speed make it hard to believe as an outsider that this game is even coming at all, or there must be a complete disconnect between what’s being discussed in the interview, and what’s actually happening at SimBin UK.

It’s not appropriate to call these guys liars because they’re obviously still very early in the alleged development cycle, so realistically there isn’t much of anything for them to show potential customers who are incredibly enthusiastic about GTR3, but there are an absurd number of red flags popping up for a title that was literally just announced, and already has this grassroots campaign behind it.

gtr3-1First, the early material released under the GTR 3 tag had no relation to the actual GTR 3 game in development – it was a selection of vehicles and locations from RaceRoom Racing Experience, thrown into the Unreal 4 Engine. As an end customer who will obviously be following development of the game very closely, because I want to know if it’s worth picking up come launch day, I find it odd for a new team to announce an entirely new game by using heavily manipulated artwork that by their own admission has nothing to do with the game they just announced. This would be like if Kunos Simulazioni had announced Assetto Corsa with photoshopped screenshots of netKar Pro assets thrown into Unity. This sounds asinine on paper, so I’d like to know what purpose this serves with SimBin?

Yes, I understand SimBin UK have labeled these “proof of concept” shots, but if there’s this brand new game being worked on we should get excited about, why can’t you show us relevant material relating to this game? I really don’t care about seeing RaceRoom Racing Experience assets in the Unreal 4 engine; Sector 3 did this already in the spring of 2016. Why can’t we see GTR 3 during a major announcement and interview for GTR 3?

That’s red flag number one.

umRed flag number two is when Chris Speed mentions SimBin UK are yet to decide on how they’re going to fund the GTR 3 project, also adding they’re still in the process of hiring people. I would like to know what company begins working on a major multi-platform release without knowing how they’re going to afford it in the first place, and to the best of my knowledge don’t even have a solid foundation of staff members to help bang out the project because they’re talking about hiring staff members – you know, something basic to get the company  functioning as a legitimate game studio  – for the next two months.

That’s a lot of variables, intangibles, and “eithers” for a project that is supposedly “100% coming.” This would be like if I’d gone out and announced that my rock band were set to put out our first full EP in late 2017, but we had no idea how we would pay for studio time to record the album, and we were still in search of a lead guitarist, drummer, and bass player.

untitled-2The third red flag pops up when Chris is asked about potential licenses for the upcoming simulator. Rather than drop subtle hints and imply we should get ready for a big surprise in the near future, Speed talks in “aims” and “goals” – their “aim” is to have an official series license, and they’ve been in “talks” with a few partners, but nothing has been confirmed or even hinted at as of yet. Isn’t this something you secure before you start work on a game?

fourOur fourth and final red flag boils down to a portion of the interview I can see many racers skipping over because it doesn’t have any of the exciting, colorful details you’d want to hear about GTR 3, but instead boils down to staff member logistics and the state of the gaming industry in the United Kingdom.

Allan Speed claims there is “not much happening in the UK at the moment”, which is one of the most absurd statements from a developer I’ve ever heard given the context of his comments. Yes, Evolution Studios were shut down as a company, but a majority of the team were absolved by Codemasters, and they have promised a new IP in the future, along with announcing the long-awaited DiRT 4, set for a June 2017 release. There obviously is a lot going on in the UK, so I don’t understand how the head of a video game studio with direct ties to the industry itself could be this far out of the loop when this stuff was headline news and genuinely got people excited over the future of Codemasters and therefore racing games out of the UK.

Allan also mentions SimBin UK consists of just four people at the moment, with three more set to join sometime in February or March. By comparison, Kunos Simulazioni – the masterminds behind Assetto Corsa – clocked in at around twenty individuals, with coding wizard Stefano Casillo being a fundamental key in how the team were able to operate as such a small outlet, because like him or not, let’s give some credit where credit is due, the guy is an absolute genius when it comes to coding. So you’re looking at a team that’s less than half the size of Kunos Simulazioni, with no Stefano equivalent to pick up the bulk of the work, claiming to be well on their way to churning out GTR 3 for a multi-platform release complete with all the bells and whistles of a feature-complete product, something Kunos Simulazioni were unable to do with double the people, as the recent 1.12 update for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One renditions of Assetto Corsa have still failed to include things like leaderboards and custom lobbies.

Um… Yeah, no.

p45_01So to recap, we have a team announcing GTR 3, but releasing screenshots of a totally different game’s assets placed within the Unreal engine. They are unsure how they will fund this new project, the current team as of this writing only consists of four staff members, and they have not announced the acquisition of any licenses that would actually attract people to buy the game, but are willing to go on public record with a sim racing outlet as large as RaceDepartment to say this game is 100% coming, there will be an internal demo in six months, and the end product will boast an experience similar to what people can expect from the mass-market Formula One games developed by Codemasters.

I can’t be the only one who finds this all incredibly sketchy.

gearbox-ceo-teases-duke-nukem-announcement-next-week_x9qf

RaceDepartment to Revive GTR 2?

rd-leagueThought it hasn’t been officially announced on the parent website – only mentioned casually on the brand’s Facebook page – the gang at RaceDepartment appear to be working on putting together one last grand finale for GTR 2 – the critically acclaimed FIA GT simulator which marked the end of sim racing’s golden age, in which developers pushed out incredible feature-complete packages focused around one specific auto racing series. Details are obviously scant at the moment, but RaceDepartment rarely tease these things without following through to completion, so it appears we will soon see a lot of sim racers dust off their copy of GTR 2 – or nick it from the Steam marketplace for a mere $8 USD to avoid obvious Starforce bullshit – to partake in a throwback series of sorts.

In my opinion, it’s a great move for the website to host such a championship, as many modern sim racers we see currently clogging up the message boards were simply not around during the title’s original heyday in the late 2000’s, or were just too young at the time to become heavily involved in the competitive side of the GTR 2 community. Rather than telling these sim racers how things used to be in the world of sim racing and hoping they’ll understand the rants of veteran sim racers dissatisfied with the current crop of eternal science projects, they’ll be shown what a complete racing simulator offered in a setting where these elements are made use of, such as a 24 hour day/night cycle, fully animated pit stops, and even wet-weather racing. While it’s an extremely bold move for any website to start an online championship with such an old product, there are certainly enough people chilling out on RaceDepartment on a daily basis to guarantee a large field of cars for the first event on the schedule.

243552-gtr-2-fia-gt-racing-game-windows-screenshot-time-to-admireHowever, as with every older simulator running on modern hardware and operating system combinations, there are of course mammoth potential problems that could dismantle the whole thing before it even starts. Facebook user Jim D. notes that he had tried to administrate an online league for himself and his acquaintances using the excellent Power & Glory mod for GTR 2 – a package focusing on historic GT vehicles from the 1960’s and 1970’s – but was eventually forced to give up due to the massive amounts of technical issues relating to mismatches. This is something RaceDepartment will have to figure out long before initial qualifying rounds begin, as the website traditionally only allows paying premium members to enter in multi-race championships.

Also throwing a dastardly curve ball into the mix would be the Prodrive-backed Ferrari F550 GTC – which drastically altered the online playing field when GTR 2 was once a prominent player in the sim racing landscape. While Slightly Mad Studios had done their absolute best to faithfully re-create every single vehicle entered in the FIA GT Championship, as well as some of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa entry list, the Ferrari F550 GTC as constructed by Prodrive exhibited Mercedes-like dominance throughout the 2003 and 2004 campaigns, with this ridiculous performance accurately being reflected in GTR 2’s virtual counterpart. If RaceDepartment don’t attempt to neuter the F550 GTC for league play, 95% of the grid will be running this car, defeating the purpose of the very diverse vehicle roster.

maxresdefaultAs RaceDepartment are known to have somewhat close ties with Sector 3 Studios and the SimBin operation as a whole, my own personal speculation is that drivers who finish well at the end of the GTR 2 RaceDepartment championship will receive some sort of advanced access to the allegedly upcoming GTR 3, provided the recent announcement is set to materialize in the distant future and not what appears to be a subtle attempt at securing funds for the project behind the scenes. As the CEO of SimBin, Chris Speed, has revealed in a prior interview with RaceDepartment, they intend to have a rough draft of the game ready in only six months time, so I can see a GTR 2 league on none other than RaceDepartment contested throughout the spring being the perfect pre-game meal into an onslaught of promotional material.

We hope to see a more official announcement about this online championship in the coming days.

Embarrassing Beyond Reason: The 2017 Update for NASCAR Heat Evolution

c4ghvcowyaalply-jpg-largeWith a HANS device on the shelf behind me, a collection of trophies sporting the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series emblem within arms reach, and two very different stock cars to bear my name above the driver’s side window in 2017, I feel I’m qualified to talk about the disaster that was DMR’s NASCAR Heat Evolution for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, as well as the upcoming 2017 Roster Update that will soon launch on the appropriate online marketplaces for $9.99 USD. Regardless of whether you enjoy the sport of stock car racing or simply love to jump head first into each comments section just to pick fights with stereotypical inbred redneck NASCAR fans, it’s not cool when a video game company makes such absurdly poor decisions that result in customers receiving a product drastically inferior to what they could purchase over a decade ago.

After years spent suffering through no less than five officially licensed NASCAR shovelware titles from a European company known as Eutechnyx – who were rumored to have been treating the titles as a complete joke and openly mocking the subject matter during developmentMonster Games, the team heralded by NASCAR fans across North America as the masterminds behind the 2002 cult classic, NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona, re-acquired the license to America’s largest auto racing series for a nostalgia trip of sorts. Tasked with re-igniting some of the passion that saw NASCAR titles of the early 2000’s shoot to the top of the charts with both stellar critical ratings and sales numbers, DMR and Monster Games promised that with the help of Penske Racing drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, NASCAR fans would have a compelling product to call their own in September of 2016.

nascarheatevolution-2016-09-12-17-43-55-86The end result was a complete and utter disaster, which you can read about in our full review of NASCAR Heat Evolution from last fall. Plagued by performance issues on both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the title, which despite being locked at 30 frames-per-second would routinely dip into the mid-teen’s during frantic periods of on-track activity, Heat Evolution was clearly a rush job in every sense of the word. As someone who owns all previous NASCAR Heat titles released by Monster Games, and can also fire them up at a moments notice thanks to a backwards compatible PlayStation 3 sitting at my feet, beyond the ridiculously slow artificial intelligence and crude career mode liveries that appear to have been designed in five minutes by someone’s teenage nephew trying out Photoshop for the first time, it appeared as if Monster Games merely injected new car models and high fidelity tracks onto a base game yanked straight from the year 2000, without changing anything at all under the hood despite advertising a somewhat authentic 2016 NASCAR experience. The cars exhibited basic performance attributes such as top speed,  overall grip, and setup adjustments consistent with those of a Winston Cup car circa 2000 found in the very first NASCAR Heat, while the overall sound quality was unanimously panned for being identical to the first game in the series, released for Windows 98 operating systems.

It was like if Image Space Incorporated were to snatch away the rights to Formula One from the almighty Codemasters and release F1 Challenge 2014 – 2016 after months of anticipation, but upon booting up the application, fans discovered Nico Rosberg’s 2016 Mercedes only had seven gears and drove inconspicuously like Michael Schumacher’s 2002 Ferrari.

Oh, and it used the same sound effects, too.

While the online netcode was surprisingly competent, Heat Evolution failed to include flag rules or even support for custom setups in online racing, meaning wheel users could not race online against each other, as steering lock was considered part of the car’s setup, and by default was configured for gamepad users. DMR and Monster Games then hastily recruited iRacing YouTube personality Jeff Favignano to demonstrate the game to a broader audience, who spent most of his livestreams dedicated to the game calling those with valid complaints “haters” who “just wanted to ruin other people’s fun.”

DMR and Monster Games believed the best way to address the situation was to push out almost $75 CDN worth of downloadable content – most of it being additional liveries and alternate audio packs for your in-car crew chief that do nothing to improve the very lackluster on-track product Heat Evolution offered loyal NASCAR fans, who had already sat through five years of shovelware from an European company who didn’t give a shit.

dlcHeat Evolution has been seen as a gigantic mess by loyal NASCAR fans who have religiously purchased anything bearing the NASCAR logo, though on the game’s official subreddit – as well as within select social media outlets – there are still some who believe the title has been a step in the right direction, continuing to call other NASCAR fans “haters for daring to question why DMR and Monster Games pushed out such an incomprehensibly bad product despite their critically acclaimed NASCAR titles .

hatersThese individuals might be re-thinking their stance after today’s announcement. For an additional $9.99 USD, Monster Games have revealed the 2017 Season Update for NASCAR Heat Evolution. The gentlemen at Game Informer note you will not be able to use the new cars online against your friends, meaning there’s barely any incentive to purchase this DLC in the first place, as most Heat Evolution owners agree the AI is atrocious. There will also be no additional single player challenge scenarios to take part in. There are no plans to insert rule changes that will split each race into segments, as NASCAR will be doing in 2017 for all points-scoring events. And the drastic shake up of the points system NASCAR and Monster revealed only a few short weeks ago? Nope, nothing. All of the changes NASCAR has introduced for the 2017 season and would obviously be welcome in some sort of paid 2017 season update for the software, are instead completely absent, save for the liveries themselves.

giIt’s yet another piece of downloadable content for a modern video game that desperately still needs to get the fundamentals correct, and that’s appalling with just how much Heat Evolution got wrong on launch day, and still remains unattended to by Monster Games. Yes, some of you reading PRC may hate NASCAR, and that’s okay, it certainly isn’t for everyone, and I’ve indeed turned off a few races prematurely because the guys in Daytona Beach calling the shots seriously need to figure out if they want a legitimate auto racing championship, or are merely trying to create a circle track version of Vince McMahon’s WWE.

However, at the end of the day, this is a racing game that shipped in a very poor state for $60, and rather than address all of the problems that bored modders have almost entirely fixed with the original NASCAR Heat, DMR and Monster Games have given their customers a giant middle finger and have resorted to churning out paid livery packs en mass, while cuckolded middle-aged men trained to feel excitement over the removal of a chastity belt act like we should just be happy we got to sniff our mistresses toes any game at all.

The whole thing is just embarrassing for NASCAR, as NBC Sports embarked on a very heavy advertisement campaign for Heat Evolution in the weeks leading up to its release, only for NASCAR fans to be subjected to a very incomplete and disappointing product that happily regurgitated software elements from when Bill Clinton was the leader of the free world.

Information on Project CARS 2 They AREN’T Sharing

pconly-jpgWhile the usual list of sim racing outlets are adhering to a strict collection of officially released media from Slightly Mad Studios when it comes to covering their upcoming racing simulator, Project CARS 2, hardcore sim racers found deep within the semi-private forums of both Kunos Simulazioni and Sector 3 Studios are sharing an abundance of yet-to-be-revealed information with fellow community members about the title. Dancing carefully around treacherous non-disclosure agreements and other unmentioned contractual obligations, rogue virtual auto racing enthusiasts are doing their best to bring unbiased info about the simulator to an audience who will not fall for vanilla marketing tactics accompanied by generic promotional material.

And that means it’s our turn to shine a spotlight on these revelations. Images of the built-in online league functionality found inside the online portion of Project CARS 2 have surfaced on the official Assetto Corsa forum of all places, indicating sim racers should expect a very streamlined experience that will see the software itself handle the heavy lifting of running an online league – a fantastic change in pace compared to how previous simulators traditionally required the work of a few dedicated individuals just to open a private lobby for the series itself. All of the inane, time-consuming bullshit of running a private rFactor or Automobilista league will now be contained completely within the application itself in a very Madden or FIFA-like sub-menu, allowing users to focus primarily on the racing element while the game handles the important bits automatically.

As someone who has spent several years running in private leagues on a number of different isiMotor platforms, the biggest hurdle for any new sim racer to overcome is simply learning how the process of joining an online league works; from registering for obscure message boards and ensuring you’re on the entry list, to downloading several tracks, making sure you have the most recent livery pack, and tracking race-by-race statistics in an external spreadsheet that doesn’t always get updated until a league administrator sets aside the free time to do so, it’s all a bit overwhelming unless you’re absolutely dedicated to the hobby of sim racing.

Slightly Mad Studios have set out to exponentially speed up this process, and it’s very important to give credit where credit is due – this looks phenomenal. Now the only thing required to start a series will be to merely advertise your league on places like Reddit and 4Chan, instead of sitting down and basically building a private community from the ground up, full of individuals dedicated to tracking stats, paying for servers, organizing a livery pack, and all of the external bullshit modern simulators are traditionally known for.

oc-admina_origHowever, none of this matters if the on-track experience isn’t up to par with the rest of the game built around it, and Sector 3 Studios forum member sbtm has answered several questions regarding the actual driving portion of Project CARS 2 for his RaceRoom Racing Experience comrades. His feedback on the simulator is brutally honest, but what may come as a surprise to those who are vehemently against the work of Slightly Mad Studios, is that not everything sbtm has to say about Project CARS 2 is negative. The user notes the Force Feedback menu has been greatly simplified from it’s disastrous first rendition, and on cars deemed to be nearly complete by the team at Slightly Mad Studios in private WMD contributor builds, it’s an entirely different game compared to the original Project CARS – which was blasted by the hardcore community upon its release in 2015 for a very confusing and unpredictable set of physics.

However, there are still some obvious warts given the game is still far from release, as the artificial intelligence are deemed to be “very reckless”, and the vehicles seemingly gluing themselves together upon contact – a problem dating back to the team’s 2009 release with Need for Speed: Shift – is still present. While some of these problems can easily be written off as understandable niggles that will undoubtedly arise during development, the length of their existence draws into question if they’ll ever be fixed in time for the release of Project CARS 2.

pcars-1After further inquiry, sbtm then goes on to describe how he was genuinely surprised (in a good way) by both the driving model and force feedback effects, instructing readers to “forget Project CARS 1”, as the second iteration of the series drives like an entirely new simulator, believing it to be on par with Assetto Corsa and RaceRoom Racing Experience in what the on-track experience offers the end user. Yet while he’s quick to praise the title for its strengths, he believes the team at Slightly Mad Studios still have a monumental amount of polishing to do before release, as certain elements of the title feel vastly unfinished compared to others. Upon release of the first game in the franchise, many sim racers noted that Project CARS as a retail product felt like it could have used a bit more time in development, so it appears Slightly Mad Studios – at least to our eyes – have once again built a game with so much content, there’s just too much of it to keep to a uniform standard.

pcars-2For the oval racing fans among us – a big topic of discussion considering oval racing was intentionally left out of the first game due to the inability for Slightly Mad Studios to make the AI drivers perform in an acceptable manner – there is indeed oval racing within Project CARS 2, though sbtm describes it as “a minimal amount to satisfy the needs of North American buyers”, so by this I assume we’re looking at just two or three oval circuits on the roster. Ice racing, which has been heavily advertised in initial previews filmed at the Mercedes-Benz press event, is said to be a gimmick, with sbtm saying the game is so incomprehensibly big and tries to include so many different cars, he doesn’t believe it’ll feel like a cohesive product in the end.

ovalsI won’t analyze all of his comments, you’re obviously free to develop your own conclusions from the posts I’ve taken screenshots of, but it appears there are genuine reasons to be cautiously optimistic about Project CARS 2. Boasting an objectively superior driving model, dynamic weather & track surface elements seen in other simulators, a significantly larger roster of content, and built-in league support, it seems as if Slightly Mad Studios have simply tried to build the rFactor 2 that everybody wanted, but Image Space Incorporated and Studio 397 failed to deliver. However, at this point in time, subtle bugs and grievances that have been a stable of products released by Slightly Mad Studios dating back to their days spent working with Electronic Arts on a pair of Need for Speed games also seem to be prevalent, so as a sim racer, it’ll probably boil down to how much you’re willing to put up with.