Thursday, 23 April 2009

So you wanna be a virtual racing driver?

Anyone who knows me will know that as much as I enjoy real racing, I am a sucker for a good racing game, be it console or PC. They're practically all I play on my 360 and if I see a simulator at a show or race event, I just have to have a go and prove my worth. Either way, if there's a racing game and it looks good, then I'll play it. Although I have to admit I am longing to become a regular PC sim racer in the future. I just don't have the equipment necessary or up to standard - yet.

It is a plan of mine to have a proper desk in my room with a decent spec desktop PC with a bigger processor and good graphics card to get started. In terms of controls, I have a Logitech Chillstream joypad which is pretty much an 360 controller with an internal cooling fan that keeps your hands cool and sweat free. Why can't all controllers carry that? It is such a small feature, yet so useful. It's not uncommon for some gamers' hands to get a little clammy in the heat of battle. I for one can testify to that, as unpleasant as it sounds. I did have a wheel, a Logitech Driving Force Pro which was originally made for the PS2 game Gran Turismo 4 but is still a decent starter wheel and dead cheap to pick up now, but...well...let's just say it broke.

The wheel I've been so desperate for for a long time now is the Logitech (see a pattern here?) G25, which has a clutch pedal and a seperate shifter with the option of switching from a sequential to a H-pattern setup. There are of course paddles on the wheel but I like the fact that it covers all the bases in terms of how you want to shift gears. Trivial, I know, but that shows just how popular the wheel is. I've only tried the wheel once, at the Autosport Show on a sim racing pod that had RACE 07 running. I can still remember the car and circuit - a Caterham on the Brands Hatch GP layout. I did 3 laps and had a very big moment on one corner which somehow I was able to save.

Racing with a wheel is obviously a lot more realistic than doing so with a controller, but in my mind the G25 is the best one out there at the moment. Apprently they're already working on the successor, the G27, news of which I read on, so just what changes there are from the 25 will be interesting to see. In terms of games, rFactor stands out as the premier racing sim for me more than the others. There may be others that claim to have better physics and be more realistic, such as Live For Speed, but I like rFactor because of the sandbox nature of it. It's pretty much a base for modders to basically create what they want. That's what I love about it. You get F1 mods, touring cars, rally, sportscars, GT, road cars, single seaters, NASCAR - you name it and it's probably available as a mod for rFactor. Image Space Incorporated, the game's developers, are already well underway and screenshots are coming through every week it seems. Graphics-wise, it looks great and I'm following them on Twitter, so any updates will come through there and on VirtualR.

There's an online racing series I've been following for a while called Formula Sim Racing. Right now, it's run using rFactor and the CTDP F1 2006 mod this season (I think - the cars look like they're from that mod). They run a rather nifty 7-tier system which allows drivers to progress from Amateur, with races at 50% of the length of the real race, all the way up to the World Championship with full length races and some of the best sim racers on the planet. Looking at some race replays and broadcasts on PSRTV, it looks really competitive and my kind of racing. I would love to race in that series and take part in the hard slog to progress up the ranks to the WC. It will take a lot of work but I'd really appreciate the shot at running at least one race. Hopefully I can do that sometime in the future. If you fancy having a look or finding out more, then visit

For now the 360 is my hub for racing games, with GRID and Race Pro dominating my racing gameplay. The latter received an update from Atari and Simbin which went online yesterday and fixes some online and offline gameplay issues, bugs and glitches. It's been long awaited but at last it's out and players can run online without any problems. Well, I probably wouldn't say every bug has been fixed, but the most noticeable ones I assume have been sorted out. Nevertheless it's the most realistic racing sim I've played on a console physics-wise. Sure the graphics aren't as good as GRID's for example but I've not played a racer on the console that feels better or more true to real life. Plus when you get a decent field of 12 players online, the racing can be simply brilliant. You do get some idiotic French and Germans, I've found, but I'm a member of RaceDepartment, a sim racing community that prides itself on clean, fun and professional sim racing.

So my advice? Well if you're a PC racer, get something like rFactor, GTR2, GTR Evolution, GT Legends or Live For Speed. All are great sims and all have thriving online communities. It only takes a bit of effort to find them. As for consoles, the new F1 game is coming, but not to the 360 or PS3 until next year, but the PSP and Wii will get one based on this season later on this year. Apart from that, GRID and Race Pro are great as is Forza Motorsport 2, which I haven't played for a whie but is still a golden oldie for the 360. Project Gotham Racing 4 is also fun if you don't want a racing game that's too simulated but too arcade. It's a nice balance and has half-decent graphics to boot. But to get started, get yourself a PC or laptop that has a good processor and graphics card. You can get gaming laptops and desktop systems which are pricey but give you what you want and more. But don't go mad and spend a fortune!

So who knows - get into it properly and I may be sat on the virtual grid next to you one day ;)


R.G said...

Hey Scott.

You know me as someone who likes to watch FSR like yourself. Now I've never seen you race yourself. But looking at the Ama series I think if your really any good being quick and avoiding trouble, you can really do well to progress.

Also helps to get a good connection, I've seen people's races ruined when they looked almost unstoppable at time cos of disconnction

Jackie said...

Wow, I'm suitably impressed by your level of game geekiness. Me? I can just about manage a game of Pacman or ye old ping pong on the PC.

Seriously though, I hadn't realised how much effort is involved in being a gamemeister but your enthusiasm shows through your writing. Well done!

Woodwiss_F1 said...

Thanks Jackie, much appreciated :)