I’ve been spending time just driving practice laps and it’s never been so much fun.
I’ll be the first to admit that racing games can get a little tedious in much the same way as any other simulation genre. Once you put the word ‘simulation’ in the title people immediately assume that there going to be a focus on realism over fun game play, a huge learning curve and ultimately something that for all it’s good intentions only highlights the jarring gaps between real life and the simulation brought about by technical limitations, development costs and processing power.
However, now that gap has been narrowing. It’s pretty unlikely I would have ended up in a racing sim. Previously I’ve been tempted during Steam sales or shop specials. I’ve purchased and regretted Need For Speed (Hot Pursuit blah blah), Grid 2 is very disappointing, I can’t get along with Dirt 3. You can start to see why driving games were getting a bad reputation with me.
So how did it all change? Well I’m a sucker for fun sims and as unlikely as it seems I’ve have almost 100 hours in Euro Truck Simulator 2. It’s a guilty pleasure that comes and goes but the game mechanics of running virtual business, despite it’s simplicity, works well. After dozens of hours driving around using my joystick to drive I got sick of the non linear steering that swerves dangerously around moderate turns and picked up a Logitech G27 steering wheel.
You can see that it has an H-Shifter, clutch and features a 900 degree rotation. I play with 3Dvision and Track-IR head tracking and the immersion is fantastic. Simulators, whether they are space sims, driving sims or flight sims will benefit immensely from the new interest in Virtual Reality. At this point I’m pretty much set on getting an Occulus Rift when they are released. My only concern now is whether the resolution will be high enough to make text and gauges readable.
Having this steering wheel seems like a bit of a waste to only drive big slow trucks, no matter how cathartic it is, so I went through my catalog of driving games. Unfortunately my previous buys didn’t really fit the bill. Here’s a short list of things that I look for in a driving game:
- In car view, I hate hate hate driving in 3rd person
- Based on believable premise, if it’s zooming along collecting coins and doing back flips in a monster truck I’m probably not interested
- Good physics, okay I’m not a racing driving and wouldn’t really know the first thing about how a super car handles but if a game is based around holding the accelerator down and ‘drifting’ around every corner and the more you drift the more turbo boost you earn, it’ll loose my interest. The old saying of ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ goes a long way.
- Enough of a sandbox to be playable how I want, I played a Colin McRae: Dirt game for a short while but found that it kept featuring off-road truck racing when all I wanted to do was drive rally cars.
So after a recent 50% off steam sale I picked up Ansetto Corsa. A pre-release title that looked like it had what I was looking for.
I’m not going to review Ansetto Corsa so much as type a little of my first impressions.
The first thing I noticed about Ansetto Corsa is that it features some pretty comprehensive configurations to allow me to use all my devices as I need. There’s nothing worse than getting a title to find out that there’s no in car view, “don’t worry just look at the bonnet”. Or that the steering wheel isn’t properly supported. Everything was nice and easy to setup. As a bonus the Nvidia on screen display pop up with: ‘3Dvision Ready.’ A glorious sight that is not often seen, meaning that I can play in 3D without annoying or game breaking glitches.
Why is 3D important? Well consider how you judge distance for cornering and braking, depth perception makes this much more natural. In 2D the immersion is much lower. Add to this the sense that you really are in a cabin with the dash, steering wheel right in front of you and the world outside the windows off in the distance. It’s glorious compared to the old flat view. As a bonus, Track-IR just works so you can look into corners with a slight turn of the head.
First stop, options. All the driver aids went off. I drive with full damage, tyre wear, fuel consumption and no traction or braking helpers on at all. That approach might not be for everyone.
What surprised me initially was how incredibly difficult some of the cars are to drive. At first you’re left with the impression that the engineers spent all their time getting more and more horse power out of the car while giving it shopping trolley wheels. I found myself yawing out of control a lot, more than I’d care to admit. But learning the proper technique has in itself become the ‘game.’ It’s more a matter of not knowing how to race, than the cars being at fault. If you do drive a race car though they handle much better than a sports car.
Rev matching with heel and toe technique was something I quickly learnt was necessary to avoid torque-induced-spins-of-death when down-shifting. There’s fun to be had there. I’ve also managed to yaw off the track out of a corner like possessed demon from the slightest of touches on the accelerator.
I’ve yet to actually race. I’ve been spending my time loading up a track, loading up a car and doing practice laps. Learning the track is very important, just as much as learning a car. I don’t have an on screen mini-map or a co-driver coaching me.
The graphics modelling and sound is amazing but it all pales compared to the physics. In 7.1 I can hear a particular tyre start to lose traction which sounds great, but combined with the lurch and jolt and shimmy that the car endures, it’s enough to keep you driving in circles for hours perfecting the whole process. The ear and eye candy sucks you in, but it’s the physics that hold you there.
Across the range of sports and racing cars there’s normal clutch with H-shifter models and sequential clutch-less gearboxes. As the G27 features flappy paddles as well I can use both realistically. I prefer the former as it’s a good way to learn on the more difficult cars. I have twice so far accidentally put it into 3rd gear instead of 5th and smoked the engine instantly.
In general the sim looks very impressive, I can’t speak for the range of cars or tracks as I’ve barely scratched the surface. The campaign mode is there and I’ll get into when I’m confident enough to jump in.