It seems the SimRacing “scene” consists of 4 big players right now :
Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, rFactor2 and iRacing.
Some might argue that SimBin is still a part of the big league, but I disagree. Their latest offering(s) RaceRoom Racing Experience and the “spin-off” DTM Experience are simply not up to speed, compared with the 4 others mentioned. I sincerely hope that SimBin will surprise us all, and deliver a stunning product, but as of now it doesn’t look like they will.
First off, iRacing!
In my mind this is still the king of sims, not so much because of the physics (although I find them very good) but simply because of the eco-system iRacing provides. The racing series, the weekly battles against the same guys for points, the iRating and Safety Rating system, the scheduled races. It all just adds up to an exceptional simracing experience, that are miles above what any of the competitors are offering.
Furthermore, iRacing’s concept of NOT being a boxed product, but instead being an ever evolving sim is just another advantage.
Ok, rFactor 2?
I was absolutely thrilled when the beta was opened for pre-purchase (or whatever the term was) a couple of years ago, and was even more disappointed when I actually got it downloaded and tried out. Every time a new build was released, I had my hopes high, and put myself through the stupid hassle of upgrading, downloading packages and all kinds of stuff I know nothing about, only to be even more disappointed when it finally worked.
To be honest, I have almost lost all faith that rFactor 2 will ever become the awesome sim I really wanted it to be. I have not updated my installation for at least 4 or 5 months, and at this point, I can’t be arsed, really.
Countless times have I been mislead by ISI and random forum-posts about “the new build is awesome” and tried updating, only to find the performance is still staggeringly bad, and to get an even playable (a fair bit off “enjoyable” that is) experience, I’ve had to turn my settings down to a point where it looks MUCH worse than rFactor 1 ever did.
I think I will wait for this title to be released “for real”, and then I might give it a try again.
Project CARS, you say?
As the optimistic and overly enthusiastic person I am, of course I bought my way into pCars very early (not sure how early exactly, but my UserID on their leaderboards was number 50)
At the time I found the title very promising, and I kept turning laps here and there as it evolved, and became better and better. At some point though, it seemed that the development of the physics somehow stagnated, and things were left in unfinished states all over the game. Some cars had great force feedback, but suffered from other weird issues, and so on. I never really found “that one car” that would be a pleasure to just drive.
Performance was always a big issue with this title though. Admittedly, it looks absolutely stunning on higher settings, but the performance hit to get those stunning visuals, were simply too much for my trusty old 6970. To get playable performance, I had to turn down the eye-candy quite a bit, which in turn left me frustrated about the poor AA when driving. “You can’t have it both ways” some will say, but I beg to differ. iRacing and Asetto Corsa both offer stunning visuals AND a stutter-free experience, so we know it can be done.
To piss me off further, some months ago they changed the interface completely around. This took out my last bit of enthusiasm for the title, I must admit. This new interface is so annoying and un-intuitive, that I have completely abandoned pCars for now.
Assetto Corsa, the new king?
Recently, Kunos released the much anticipated title Assetto Corsa on Steam’s early access. Just how anticipated this game was, was clearly showing when it topped the list of Steam’s best-selling games for a couple of days, I think.
The sim delivers a fair amount of cars and tracks, with updates and more content coming every 2 weeks.
The spectacular thing about this title, is that they managed to pull some really “heavy” licenses in. There are 6 or 7 Ferraris confirmed for the final game, with 3 of them already in the current “early version”. Add a laserscanned Nordschleife coming next year, a bunch of BMW’s, Zondas, Lotuses and many more (a Mercedes SLS GT3 is also coming, if I’m not mistaken)
When you match great content like that, with one of the absolutely most astonishing physics-engines ever made, and putting it all on display via some stunning dx11-graphics engine, I am sold!!!!
Assetto Corsa is (for me) the best sim out there at the moment, when it comes to pure driving pleasure. I find myself just driving around the tracks, without even noticing laptimes. I just drive because it’s fun, and it makes me smile. No other sim does that!
The “early access” have no multiplayer capability yet, and no AI either. Where Assetto Corsa will end up in the big scheme of things, is very dependent on those factors working extremely well (especially the multiplayer part) so it still remains to be seen.
This year will be a great year to be a simracer in, thats for sure.
With all these titles out there or nearing completion, we have more options than ever. And good ones!
For now, I’m sticking with Assetto Corsa for hotlapping, iRacing for the more “serious” racing, and the good old Race07 for some league-racing.