For my 15 minutes Saturday physical “challenge”, I decided to revisit the superb looking “Project Cars 2”, probably the second best racing simulator available to PC gamers, only lacking in the realism of its car handling experience, relatively to the reference “rFactor 2”.
Months ago, I had started my “career” in LMP3 Pan Asia Championship, winning all the races until the Fuji GP.
Today I returned to this game, but the time away charged its price, and a drying but slippery track at the Fuji circuit was enough for me to crash out of the race, with just 2 minutes remaining (2 laps to go), when leading.
I started on pole and did quite well on the rain, during qualifying. That made me overconfident for race day on a drying track; I did not change the car setup, other than switching to “soft” tires.
Even before race start, a very small contact with “Max Throttle”, awarded both of us a 5 seconds penalty. Showing yet again unjustified confidence, I did not worry. As the race progressed, I started feeling Max’s pressure, which came as a surprise. While trying to gain a 5 seconds advantage, I could not avoid wide trajectories. The tires were theoretically in good-to-perfect condition, but the handling was loose, with the rear sliding and finally breaking out of my control, with a couple of minutes left. I quit, but enjoyed it.
One RF2 lap around the Nogaro circuit, France, driving Alain Prost’s 1986 McLaren. Two mistakes of mine and one accident of others easily cost 2 seconds, which means this 01:20:5xx lap could have been a 01:18:xxx lap. Notice that the 2019 Indycar machines lap this circuit in the 01:16:xxx. In other words: 30+ years ago, these turbo powered F1 cars were nearly at the level of performance of modern Indycars, at least believing RF2.
The video includes a “TV” view and, after that, the in-car camera.
If there is one gaming genre that can be unfair to those really pushing ahead, it is the “racing” genre. Regular gamers are used to absurdly unrealistic software, where vehicles respond like they’ve done since the ZX Spectrum days, meaning like indestructible spaceships that make good use of the surrounding structures to stay on course. The average gamer can’t be bothered to learn about precision driving and delicate handling, using proper input devices. Surprisingly, professional game critics usually adhere to the same shallow standards: the “F1” series from CodeMasters is a very good example of how ridiculously deceiving ratings and scores can be. The “F1” games score high in most specialized publications and have been celebrated in BAFTA events (!), but they are less interactive than playing with a toy train in rails.
CodeMasters’ “F1” looks wonderful, but plays horribly, tricking the user to think that he/she is in control, when in fact, the player’s freedom is severely limited; it is literally like driving on rails with narrow margins for anything creative. It is disgusting because for casual racers and other outsiders it appears a worthy experience. It is not a worthy experience, and it is unfair that the true racing simulators must flourish in niches, under the shadow of such miserable titles.
From my experience, one of the “true” simulators available today is “rFactor 2” (RF2). RF2 is fun, demanding and reasonably realistic. If you ever drove a competition car, you’ll probably notice the extra care: for example, tires start cold, then get warmer; tires will get flat spots if you lock them under braking; and the car will get damaged, and respond accordingly, even if in very subtle ways, if & when you hit obstacles.
RF2 tires’ physics is unique. I am not writing about different temperatures for each tire – I am writing about different temperatures across different regions of every tire! It feels “organic”, it feels true! The vehicles are responsive and the pedals truly analogue. It is literally a physical exercise to put consistent fast laps against 100% strong computer opponents: in fact, you’ll probably sweat and burn a significant amount of calories. For real!