Can A Real-World Car Lover Truly Dig Driving Games?

I like games. I like driving. But driving games? Not so much. Not since I could actually drive, at least. But in the name of natural science and fortnightly deadlines, I’m having another crack at it. As is my remit, I’m going heavy with the hardware. With the Laird Gaming Dungeon™ now operational, a top-notch driving-sim setup should provide for empirical exposition. Before that, however, please allow me to bother you with a broader theory of games that explains why driving sims have failed to fire my pleasure neurons in adulthood…

First, the usual disclosure and disclaimers. When it comes to real-world cars and driving I am two things. The first is deeply afflicted with an unhealthy obsession with fossil-fuelled cars of a certain kind. I apologise.

The second is pathologically particular about these things. Just for starters, if it ain’t manual and naturally aspirated, forget it. Really, it also needs to be rear-wheel drive and have hydraulic rather than electric steering assist. And preferably have a flat six.

I suspect for a fair few of you, that won’t mean much. But here’s the point. If I gag on the synthetic, sanitised driving experience of most modern cars, if it’s the mind-meld of man and machine that I most prize, what are the chances I’m going to enjoy driving a virtual car in a videogame? Put another way, as the title says: can a real-world car lover truly dig driving games?

Thrustmaster’s TX is wheely good. At least it might be. I won’t know until I’ve got something to bolt it to

Then there’s the broader theory of games when it comes to driving sims. Surely an awful lot of what makes games fun is escapism. Doing things that are off the menu in real life. Like explore alien planets. Ride a dragon. Command a Roman legion. Cast a spell. Beat a zombie senseless with a stick. You get the point.

And driving? I can actually do driving. Of course, you could counter that there’s driving in games that I can’t do in the real world. Like punting a Formula One car around the streets of Monaco. That’s true. But up to now I’ve always thought driving a crap real car was a lot more fun than driving a virtual something-fancy car.

Hmmm, not ideally spaced for heel-and-toe (Disclaimer: Library photo, not to scale, footwear chosen exclusively in the interests of pedal feel, other footwear labels and pedal box vendors are available)

If you don’t drive or you’re not entirely following my thinking, try this. Whether you are a hobbyist murderer or a normal, well-adjusted soul, I dare say beating anyone senseless, much less a zombie, with a stick in real life is very likely substantially more, er, visceral than any high-tech shower of 3D-rendered violence. To the point where most of us wouldn’t want to do it at all.

That’s a cheap, tabloid example, to be sure. But it gets across the difference between doing something on some level in real life and the virtual version, no matter how spectacular. At least, that’s true with today’s technology. Let’s not go down the philosophical rabbit hole of simulations that may one day be indistinguishable from reality. Whatever reality is or, rather, will be in that context.

Bitmapped brilliance and the music of MIDI: It can only be Out Run

I should also point out that when I ask if driving games are any good, I’m not querying the realism of the simulation models. That’s an interesting issue that may well inform the outcome, not my core question.

So, that’s the background to this particular yarn. As for the motivation, it’s mostly frustration. Frustration that is, with my driving game apathy in adulthood. Before I could actually drive, I simply couldn’t get enough of them. Especially sit-down arcade driving games.

The thrill of playing Out Run as a seven or eight year old is something that I’ve probably yet to emulate as an adult. For those of a certain age, I fancy, driving games feature strongly in their mental back catalogue of arcade favourites. If even a few percentage points of that sunny, carefree fun can be recaptured, count me in.

Gaming dungeon is good to go…

With all that in mind, I’m trying to do this right. The right hardware. The right games. On the hardware side, that means a massive, immersive screen and big sounds. Cue projector-powered gaming dungeon. To that, let’s add proper driving-sim accoutrements in the form of a wheel and pedal box fitted to a driving-sim pod with a bucket seat.

Thanks to the gaming dungeon coming online and the loan of a Thrustmaster TX wheel and pedal box I’m now most of the way there. The seat pod, however, is currently proving problematical. At first I was pleasantly surprised by the relatively accessible prices. You can get something that looks decent with a proper bucket seat and support for most wheels and pedal boxes for about £250. Not pocket change, but doable if one is serious about driving games. And one hell of a lot cheaper than most aspects of real driving.

Just need a driving-sim seat…

However, it’s thus far proven tricky going on impossible to achieve the loan of a sim seat and generally my attempts to do so have not been a terribly edifying experience. But I’ll revisit this particular subject once the dust has settled and in the mean time if there are any relevant PR reps in the audience who love RPS and its readers enough to help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

All of which just leaves the minor matter of the actual games I should be playing. I fancy a mix ranging from boyhood arcade thrills to the accessible end of the hardcore simulation spectrum.

Then again, if I can drive to the Alps, IRL…

I have several titles in mind. A spot of rFactor, some Project Cars, iRacing for some online action, maybe Dirt Rally or a Grid game for cheap thrills. But I’ve written off driving games for so long, if there’s one good thing to come out of the seat-pod sourcing saga, it’s an opportunity for you fine fellows to shove some suggestions down below along with any other observations.

It would be interesting to hear from driving game fans of all persuasions – those that do drive for fun in real life and those that don’t. I wonder if there’s a difference in terms of the kinds of driving games each group prefers?

Or do a lap of the Nurburgring for 20 Euros…

I’ll also be interested to see whether it’s arcadism or realism that scores highest for me. I can see it going either way. Maybe arcade-style larks will give me that escapism while the hardcore sims will just have me hankering for the real thing. Or perhaps more realism will be the key to unlocking that suspension of disbelief.

While you ponder all that, I’ll peruse the comments, beg borrow or steal a sim seat on pain of death and report back at an unspecified future date. In the meantime, I cannot help but note the Thrustmaster pedal box is not properly spaced for heel and toe. This has me slightly worried – about both my car-related personality disorder and the simulated driving to come. To be continued.

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115 Comments

  1. FLoJ says:

    I think the joy of crashing in a game is vastly superior to the joy of crashing in real life.

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      yhancik says:

      I wonder what J. G. Ballard would have to say about that ;)

    • rb207 says:

      The title of this article has annoyed me so much I have registered just so I can write a comment.
      Of course a real driver can enjoy racing games. 90% of the people racing online are over 17 and drive real cars, many have driven on track. See Iracing, race2play, raceConnect, Race department.

      Otherwise I am interested in the article. I think there are different kinds of drivers. Those who like wheel to wheel action and hotlappers who are artisans of speed. Some dont care what they are racing and focus on winning. Others enjoy the feel of the car and testing themselves to find their limits, if the feel isnt right they wont enjoy it.

      Either way its great you are writing the article but I wish you hadnt put such a clumsy title.

      • rb207 says:

        The photos in the article appear to be a Porsche Boxter.

      • noodlecake says:

        I think he came up with that title knowing full well that lots of people who can drive love driving games. I think that was sort of the joke.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I’d say it depends.

  2. Premium User Badge

    yhancik says:

    Now I’d like to read Alan Partridge’s opinion on the matter

  3. victoryimminent says:

    Those pedals can be moved closer together with a simple allen key. Just remove the pedals and reattach them closer to one another. There are multiple bolt holes in the pedals themselves for that reason.

    Should make it much easier to achieve that heel-toe goodness you are looking for.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Flimgoblin says:

    Does FUEL still run? Did rather like the rather large terrain of that one, but can’t recall if it had any stupid online DRM nonsense or not.

    • Nice Save says:

      It has GFWL, but you can get through it with a bit of a headache, by creating some sort of access key from your Microsoft account. I don’t remember the details, it’s a while since I’ve had it installed, but I think the key’s meant to be a way to link a windows phone to the account or something. Once you’ve done that once it’ll remember it though.

      • Ross Angus says:

        I think the last couple of times I played FUEL you could create a local account for the game, which lets you play the single player without an internet connection (I have the disk version of the game). But perhaps Flimgoblin is asking about multi-player.

  5. trueGamer says:

    The only thing I raced in real life was karts and rFactor 2 came closest to what I felt on the real track. The Ai is fantastic too if you prefer offline races.

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    PoulWrist says:

    I want to know what brand it is you are so particular about :-P

    Maybe some day I can reasonably afford that Lotus Elise, late 90s model, I’ve been in love with since it was first in a Need for Speed game.

    Till then, driving for fun takes place on the PC, but without any of the expensive accessories… The wheel just takes up so much space. Which reduces the amount of ‘racing’ I get round to. It’s just not as fun with a controller when you’ve tried the wheel and pedal setup.
    Though for arcade racers I would not bother with the wheel, they don’t seem a good mix in my experience. That being mainly a xbox 360 and the Microsoft wheel, because Forza seems to be the best driving game series around.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Forza with a better wheel works, but it’s a mixed bag the kind of “advantage” you can get. It’s mostly down to pleasure, as usual.

      Also, Forza is on a seriously thin sweetspot when it comes to arcade/simulation, but take anything even slightly more arcade than that and a wheel might actually turn into an hindrance or even a disadvantage.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Also, DX12, Microsoft yadda yadda gaming bla bla bla, porting more titles etc etc, next Forza on PC please.

  7. Alistair says:

    What the heck is that screen?

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      90-something inch diagonal slab of MDF painted with Homebase brilliant white matte emulsion. Oh and a projector, of course!

  8. snesbeck says:

    Sounds like you don’t enjoy simulation games in general. I like driving sims because I can instantly drive a plethora of cars with different personalities on tracks all over the world I would never be able to in real life. They also make a great training tool where you can push your limits without worrying about crashing. Assetto Corsa is currently the best sim for physics and the feedback is top notch. iRacing, the best for competition. Dirt Rally, the best rally game. Only wish we had Forza on PC for the modifications, tuning, and completeness of the game. As for arcade racers, Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed Underground 2 were the last greats. Haven’t had a good one in a long time. As someone else mentioned, arcade racers should be played with a controller instead of wheel. Grid wasn’t terrible but probably too much of a sim for you’re liking. If I lived in the alps and had the Nurburgring in my backyard I would prob spend more time driving than playing the sims, too, though they still have their place until gas(petrol) prices become near non existent and I gain the superpower of not crashing (again). link to youtu.be

    • LacSlyer says:

      There are rumors of Forza coming to PC, so we can only hope. Even without it though there are plenty of titles to satiate whichever sort of driving you prefer, as long as you include the modders that the lesser known but vastly superior titles tend to rely upon (rFactor, GSCE).

      Forza will fill the customization and career progression that these other games lack though.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yeah I think it’s career progression that I miss in a lot of driving sims, I love the Gran Tourismo experience of starting off in an average road car, racing that, then building up to better and better stuff.
        Most racing sims throw you straight into a car that you have no hope of handling in real life and you spend the first dozen hours learning how not to spin off at 150+ mph.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Other games could replicate that progression though, what i feel is something that others haven’t yet achieved is the amount of tuning options that actually make sense.

          Take Forza in particular, which is a title that often gets accused of drifting ( hah! ) too far into non-sim range. What they did was trying to create a coherent baseline simulation that would respond sort of decently to anything between a Fiat 500 and a 900 horsepower racing prototype, while also accounting for myriads of combinations of upgraded turbochargers with their different lag, weight reductions and so on. Even the engine tuning alone offers you various possibilities of not simply adding power, but to dramatically change the distribution curve of it.

          I think this is mostly why no other games like that are happening. It’s really a pain to develop them and hard to make them work. At the end of the day other sims have an easier life when they simply have to balance an handful of cars that can mostly differ in setup alone.

  9. Holden McGroin says:

    a driving seat, oculus rift and a buttkicker very much changed driving games for me.

    get the driving seat. borrow an oculus. Play assetto corsa.
    then go online and race living people, bots won’t help with the feeling of realism.

    of course, it is very nice to just hotlap alone also.

    a video of me in a F1 concept car with oculus rift and playseat
    link to youtube.com

    alternativly if you prefer “normal” cars.
    a video of a BMW M3 GT2

    • Holden McGroin says:

      can’t edit :S forgot the link all hastily it seems..

    • Zantium says:

      I agree completely, for realism in looks and feel with a mix of road and race cars, Assetto Corsa is where you need to be looking.

      The TX wheel is probably ok for a test, but you might find yourself wanting something like a T300 GTE and some decent pedals before too long.

      iRacing is obviously a good place for decent simulation and built in leagues etc but there are places like revs-simracing.co.uk for friendly AC league racing.

    • kael13 says:

      I agree. I recently bought a Logitech G29 at half price in anticipation of the arrival of my Oculus Rift and have been practising in Project Cars. I have a racing seat office chair but it doesn’t quite cut the mustard when you rotate from side to side when you’re getting into the experience. It took rather a lot of fiddling with settings and downloading force feedback files for each individual car before it felt ‘right’. Although being a bit on the young side, or at least not someone who sold a company for a billion dollars, I can’t quite afford a Porsche just yet for comparison. I will say that it seems I’m now more of a harder driver in general, and no longer afraid of going over 4k revs before switching up a gear in my Polo.

      As for other suggestions, I recommend Assetto Corsa if you like Italian supercars.

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      Eleven says:

      The latest Codemaster’s Dirt game is a real thrill in VR too.

      Driving games play to VR’s strengths: The sensation of speed, the ability to precisely locate yourself in a 3D space, and a huge field-of-view with headtracking. I wonder how I played driving games without being able to look into a turn…

    • zarthrag says:

      This.

      Though I personally thought racing playseats were too expensive, for what they were. I went to LKQ (a local junkyard) and pulled an 8-way driver’s chair with adjustable lumbar from a wrecked dodge neon srt – for a whopping $40. Home depot has wood, and carpeting for a nice base to attach the seat and pedals, spent about $60 there. A 12VDC brick was all I needed to get the seat controls working.

      Now I have a VR setup that ALLOWS ME TO ADJUST MY SEAT! (the seat movement translates into VR, since you’re actually moving).

      Later on, I added a pair of bass shakers and a car amplifier to drive them. Simvibe $90, cost almost as much as my chair :-/ But the effect/realism was WELL worth it.

      If I were to do it again, I’d make the base a bit smaller – but I absolutely recommend DIY if you plan to play much. MANY hours spent in Dirt2,3 (those don’t support VR directly, but vorpx works a treat), Pcars, and AC. I’ve yet to spend much time in Dirt Rally – (I fly, more than drive)

      VR+seat+project cars kart racing = mind blowing realism. Just add a fan to push air onto your face.

  10. Person of Interest says:

    I love driving games. I love arcade-y ones where you dodge oncoming traffic like you’re playing 3D Flappy Bird. And I love sim-y ones which make you consider corner apexes, torque curves, and tire (sorry, tyre) grip.

    I bet I would love racing actual cars, but I avoid doing so because A) I would likely get addicted to it, B) I feel it’s irresponsible to participate in recreation that has such a large environmental footprint, and C) it would probably ruin driving sims for me. Also, since I can’t pass on this alliteration opportunity: D) for dangerous and E) for expensive.

    It’s probably like riding a roller coaster, versus watching a GoPro recording taken by someone on a roller coaster.

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      Grizzly says:

      It should be noted that an entire F1 season burns less fuel then a jet flight from Amsterdam to New York. The enviromental impact of motor-recreation and motorsport is neglible by the sheer volume of motoring we do in our everyday lives.

      Although I do enjoy that more and more motorsports are going down the electric route: Those electronic engines are actually really cool.

      • Person of Interest says:

        Yes, it’s my understanding that the fuel and engine restrictions of modern racecars have made them far more efficient in recent years. However, I’m thinking of the total impact of my participation in amateur motorsports. For example, either I would have to own a second car for the track, or use my inefficient sportscar for daily driving. Auto racing also chews through tyres and auto parts, not just fuel.

        Getting more speculative: I suspect the combustion cleanliness of typical sportscars goes down the toilet when the car is pushed. I think this report from 1998 (its age primary serving to highlight that VW’s emissions cheating has many historical precedents) shows how auto manufacturers try to have it both ways: bad emissions when running near their peak advertised power output, and a totally different emissions profile when running under “normal driving” loads.

        Sorry for going so off-topic…

      • mynicksaretaken says:

        It should be noted that an entire F1 season burns less fuel then a jet flight from Amsterdam to New York.

        What a useless comparison. Even if F1 drivers could magically teleport their cars from one circuit to the next, fuel/distance ration per person would still be much worse than that of a modern commercial airliner.

        • iainl says:

          The real footprint of an F1 race isn’t the cars going round the track. It’s not even the flying race teams from country to country all summer. A whole bunch of studies show that 90-something percent of the impact is over a hundred thousand spectators turning up, and the travel they do to get there.

          This goes for pretty much all events of this size, and whether the crowd’s there to watch some people drive things quickly, play instruments through enormous speaker systems or move a ball about doesn’t really make much difference to the final number.

          • jrodman says:

            Interesting, but I suspect it works out somewhat differently as a hobby.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Plus most of the footprint is made by those who are still not switching their 10 year old car.

        Sure, some don’t have the money, but some are also stubborn and and the governments are not helping either, instead focusing on electric cars that are destroying everything with all the material needed for their huge batteries and the non existent care in salvaging the old ones.

        Hydrogen is the only answer, but the old coot with it’s trusty 90’s Fiat Panda is doing what 50 modern cars combined can’t.

        Ironically you’d have less crap like VW trying to cheat if the regulations weren’t so stringent for the new products but extremely punishing instead for the old ones. It’s more important to help people get rid of the old crap anyway.

        • trashbat says:

          It’s a bit of a contradiction to in one breath blame the people with older cars for not modernising, and then in the next say that electric cars are no good because of all the energy used in constructing them.

          What about all the energy that would be expended building new replacement cars of any kind? That would eclipse any of those incremental environmental gains for a very long time.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Battery powered cars are no good because they are not modernising enough for what they are worth, hydrogen is.

            Replacements are needed no matter the drawbacks of constructing them in the first place, if you don’t believe that you’re simply seriously underestimating the delta between a modern car and an old crapster which is orders of magnitude dirtier even assuming it is perfectly revisioned, which of course most of the time isn’t the case, so you can add another huge multiplier.

          • trashbat says:

            Look up the difference for yourself. Since you mention it, the last of the original Fiat Pandas in the 1990s – wanting for things like safety and comfort, but lightweight as a result – returned about the same fuel economy as a contemporary one. Of course, CO2 and other nasty stuff would have been significantly worse, but it is what it is.

            I could replace my 11 year old petrol-driven car that returns 30 mpg in the real world with a roughly equivalent brand new one that apparently returns 32. Such progress! In terms of CO2 they knocked off about a third, FWIW.

            Then bear in mind I drive about 8,000 miles a year.

            So now you know how much fuel I could save, how much energy and carbon emissions do you think it would cost to build that new car, and how long to return a benefit in any meaningful terms?

          • Person of Interest says:

            CO2 should be more-or-less equivalent for cars with the same fuel efficiency. It’s the CO’s, NOx’s, SO’s, and particulates that can be potentially orders of magnitude worse on old or un-tuned cars, and those emissions can be much more potent greenhouse gases or health hazards.

            It’s difficult to compare the total environmental impact of battery production/disposal, old car emissions, and the production/disposal of additional new cars. I’d be interested to read any comprehensive reports.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Exactly what the above said, with extra exclamation marks when it comes to the “un-tuned” part.

            I’m really not discounting in any way the issues that arise with increased production, but i’m absolutely sure the long term results are absolutely a huge thing that is more than worth it.

            Plus, we’re approaching different routes aswell, it’s not all about new vs old petrol cars. I also think you hastily read my post as i wasn’t blaming everything on people, i actually think they should get more economic help but i also don’t like that most incentives now focus on batteries, that’s all.

  11. BlackMageSK says:

    I also have a large 106′ projector screen, but VR actually makes for a better driving sim experience despite the low resolution of the current dev kits. Dirt Rally is quite a lot of fun with the full wheels/pedals/chair/VR setup and it is the kind of driving experience most people can’t actually experience. Just going to the Nurburgring is still a better experience for track driving if it is nearby, I need to take an airplane to get there though.

    • Zantium says:

      Indeed, VR (even with the limitations of current dev kits) completes the experience.

    • LacSlyer says:

      Even though I’d say that VR is definitely a subjective thing (I personally hate it compared to a triple screen setup, as 3 screens provide far more field of view, which I feel is more important), I will agree that practically no other form of gaming will benefit from it in the way sim racing/flight could. In 3-5 years when it’s more affordable, further advanced technologically and more widely supported it will definitely be a big part of the sim racing/flight market.

      That’s what kind of drives me crazy about the advertising for these VR devices in a way. There’s no real support from serious games yet, and won’t be for some time now, but where it could seriously blow up the market in sim racing/flight sims they ignore marketing to.

      • Cerzi says:

        There are ton of racing sim games that are already available for the Rift. Sim games in general, in fact.

        But yeah, there’ll be a lot of buzz about it in the coming years.

      • BlackMageSK says:

        Most of the recent racing/flight sims have all had support for DK1/DK2 fairly quickly. Even the obscure Live for Speed came back to life briefly just for a VR update.

        I find the FOV doesn’t bother me at all for racing compared to the first person shooters, I can see the driver side rear view mirror and the center rear view mirror without rotating my head which is pretty much as far in the peripheral I need. Everything else you can just turn and look at directly. If anything it doesn’t feel all that different from wearing a helmet.

      • LacSlyer says:

        Allow me to clarify. I’m aware of the support these games have for the VR hardware, my phrasing was just poor. I was more mentioning how I feel that the developers of the VR hardware are seriously missing out by not specifically trying to market toward the sim racing/flight sim market in their advertising. Working with a few of the sim racing developers to maximize its potential would go further than waiting 3-5 years for the gaming market to catch on in creating games that utilize VR when it’s finally at a more affordable price for the average consumer.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yeah, I think VR is probably the way to go for this, just like combat flight/space sims. You can swivel your head to see who is next to you, or coming up behind. Big screens don’t do that well. You can fake it with TrackIR, but VR puts you *there* in the cockpit.

      As for car sims… well, I’m an old fart who has managed to drive some fairly hot cars in real life, culminating with a nice late model Porsche around 10 years ago. So I’ve done that. Now I’m back to safe and slow geezer transport in my geezerdom… a Subaru compact SUV and full-size pickup truck. I’ve never wanted to do this on a computer. Flight/space sims, yeah. That’s something I haven’t ever done in real life.

  12. Husa says:

    I can finally contribute.

    First some background, been driving sims since Grand Prix 2, still drive them. I also drive hard IRL, I’ve done trackdays and I have a whopping 2 laps of nords (that’s not much :D) in the swift.

    I learned to drive with sims, so I’d say some stuff carries through. And when it comes to driving fast at the track it really helps you understand driving lines and track position. IMO basic handling skills also apply if the sim is good enough. I learned how to fool around in LFS and once I got my license it was baffling how easy it was to drive IRL in the snow.

    For real life racing, I’d say iRacing gives the most if you have never raced IRL. You’ll get to race real people who are mostly decent drivers + you’ll get to know what to avoid while racing early on. I’d love to use sims for driver training early on.

    Like you I also love the mechanic feel of IRL driving and I don’t like the trend of going drive-by-wire because it detaches some feel of the road. I like it as raw and simple as possible.

    But how can I enjoy sims? It let’s me try the harder stuff, beasts and let’s me go all out without fearing any liabilities or financial troubles when I fail. It let’s me RACE against real people, which I’d love to do IRL too just don’t have the funding due to personal fuck-ups.

    My only gripes with arcade games are that if it doesn’t feel like driving IRL so I don’t enjoy it enough. Sims make do, even though I’d love to feel the forces and sounds and smells.

    Worst thing about sims is that it demands more from you, just like flight sims. You have to go all-out to get any enjoyment and until you learn how to drive in them you just won’t get any enjoyment. But once you do you can hop into anything and have fun pretty much instantly. Be it offroad vehicles, open wheelers or nascar.

    And now the suggestions for enjoying sims or more arcadey games.

    – Get a good firm seat/table/bucket seat/whatever.
    – A big fast screen, or three.
    – Try everything to see what you like
    – Get a good wheel and imo forget about shoes. (sounds weird, but pedalfeel is so loose you’ll like it more without) Good wheels that I’ve tried: G25/27/29, T500, TX, T300
    – Try rFactor(s), RBR, Dirt, Live For Speed, iRacing, Assetto Corsa and Game Stock Car/automobilista and take care to check FOV/setup guides for the games.
    – Try the newest console games. Forza 6 seemed pretty good, I’d buy it insta on pc if it was available and not capped at 60fps.

    p.s. Try not to hate any games for X or Y. IMO there isn’t a single good sim :D They all suck at something. And if this seems like a babble.. It is.

  13. Jerkzilla says:

    I also drive occasionally, and while my experience with racing games has mostly been occasional flirting with the NFS series, I’ve recently gotten into Grid: Autosport.

    And holy shit, what a difference it is! Even playing on a controller, there’s all these things I have to keep track of, the concept of understeer, oversteer, grip, racing lines, knowing exactly when to brake, turn and floor it, timing overtakes were mostly alien to me in NFS. Even the usual trip with the car has almost nothing in common with what more realistic racing games have me do.

    So I don’t think it’s really fair to say that the usual driving experience you have in real life makes racing sims redundant. Or my technical curiosity makes me predisposed to like simulations.

  14. EBRKEK says:

    My suggestion to you, would be The Crew, from ubisoft. I know everything that’s been said on this game and I can’t argue with it. Bad story, glitchy physics, poor multiplayer design (for an MMO), you name it…But I just keep going back to that game. Just going behind the wheel, and driving for hours with an ever changing landscape fills up my thrill gauge. It has good steering wheel settings, a nice first person camera, and a pretty sweet selection of cars. But that’s just my 2 cents.

  15. richard says:

    Inviting sim racers et al to say which games are best? That is basically trolling the comment thread. I’ll bite. I only know (or care) about sims though.

    Something you didn’t distinguish between, which I think is important, is driving and racing. There are plenty of good racing sims that do driving well. I can’t think of any good driving sims that aren’t centred around competition. Maybe someone else can. Anyway, the message is that whatever you pick up is going to focus on beating the other guys, rather than expertly navigating your whip along a scenic and exciting road for the fun of it, at 90% instead of 100%.

    The joy of just driving, that purity of man + machine + road, is something you can definitely capture in sims (to some extent), but it isn’t there in every game or every time. Its not the same as really feeling a mid-engined car squat into a cambered bend, or the cute kick as the rears regain traction, but some of the other driving feelings are still there: the feeling of being in the zone, the thrill of getting the yaw and line just right through a turn. The challenge I see for you is that it takes such a long time to learn the language of the sim (sorry, I can’t think of a non douche way to put that) and how that relates back to your understanding of the motion of a car. Until you ‘get’ what you’re doing, it could be a pretty dry experience. And even after many years tinkering with sims I find those moments of proper driving escapism are fairly rare and impossible to recreate on cue.

    Are you a motorsport fan? I think it is going to be easier to get to grips with a sim if you are concentrating on beating other cars rather than trying to force your RL motoring mind/body to recognise and enjoy the more esoteric rewards of driving sims.

    Anyway, you asked for suggestions so here are mine. I mostly race offline nowadays, taking turns with a friend against AI, so factor that in…
    Assetto Corsa has a great driving model that felt immediately familiar to me when I first tried it. AI not great though, but probably still getting better. Has a few straight 6s too.
    Project Cars also feels really good and familiar, variable by car though, and by patch (omg), and the racing AI can be brilliant if you respect them like a human opponent, but again it is variable by track.
    The older sims rFactor, GTR2, etc are still great for the mods, but otherwise not worth investing time in now.
    I’m not a fan of iRacing… never ‘felt’ the car and both the driving and the racing structure felt very cold and unfun to me. In terms of good quality online ‘pub’ races it is superb though.
    You asks for opinions, you gets opinions. THanks for doing this though, I’m really interested to hear what you make of sims coming from a car journo background.

    • LacSlyer says:

      I disagree about rFactor. It along with GSCE (now Automobilista) are two of the best sims on the market for serious sim racers and are widely used by racing leagues for events. Those two games provide the best overall experience when it comes to physics and feel of the cars. Ask around the various sim forums/sites and these two are always highly suggested across the board. Easily the highest regarded sims from the sim community as a whole.

      iRacing is hands down the best for non-league racing though, and it’s getting some significant improvements this year that should push the people who are on the fence about it. It’s not my personal favorite, but it’s a highly recommended option for those interested in getting into competing with other racers.

      pCARS however I will say is a catastrophe and something people tend to avoid when it comes to serious racing. I’ll grant it that it’s definitely opened the door for the more casual racers to be introduced to the more serious racing, but the game itself is highly questionable in various areas and the developers have constantly let the community down to the point where they simply can’t be trusted.

      Assetto Corsa has its flaws, primarily in lacking overall features, but it’s probably the closest to rFactor and Automobilista to feel of the car. People tend to use it for either hot lapping, or league events, but it should be stated that public servers have become better due to third party mods regulating driver quality.

      • Premium User Badge

        Risingson says:

        I love the oxymoron in “serious sims”. As if you did not play these games. For fun.

        • LacSlyer says:

          Let me clarify. There is definitely a vivid gap between people who play sim racing games more casually and people who take them more seriously. Not just in time spent playing these games, but the hardware spent to enjoy them. Hence why I used the term.

          Obviously people play them for enjoyment, but there’s considerable differences in those that take it more seriously, unlike most other genres of gaming.

  16. Smoky_the_Bear says:

    I think with me, I like a certain type of driving game, that’s the pseudo-sim. Games like Gran Tourismo sit better with me than other games. As someone who enjoys driving IRL, I don’t like stuff like Need for Speed because it is just way too unrealistic and doesn’t feel like driving an actual car. “Proper” sims like RaceRoom and IRacing are just too in-depth, I don’t have the skill to drive a racing car around a track without going spinning off, so I don’t have the desire to understand everything needed to do that properly in a game either. I mean I can have a go but the hours required to “git good” at those games just loses my interest before I get anywhere.
    Stuff like GT however, that lets me speed around tracks in expensive road cars fairly competently without needing a degree in race car engineering. It’s a nice middle ground. Sadly, there just isn’t a game like this on PC, otherwise I would play a bunch of it.
    Project Cars is ok but still too “race car” focused. I much prefer the fantasy of driving high powered road cars around tracks and street circuits. PC doesn’t give us a great option for this currently or I would be investing in a wheel etc.

    TLDR
    I’m not good enough to actually race cars fast around a track, but I like it when games let me THINK I’m actually racing cars fast around a track.

  17. celticdr says:

    The best thing about driving games is the thrill of actually thinking you could be a real life rally/race car driver if only your parents had started you karting at the age of 6.

    Exhibit A: Dirt Rally.

    Exhibit B: Codemasters F1 series.

    So rather than think of driving games as pure gaming escapism I like to think that I’m learning something as well – I now feel like I could replicate a Scandinavian flick in a real car without dying a horrible death in a firey wreak thanks to Dirt Rally – I never would have attempted that in a real car (due to the firey death stuff).

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Codemasters F1 games are horrible to play IMHO. Twitchy, fake physics and too much button pressing, not enough driving. Mind you, they might also be highly accurate simulations of real F1 based on that.

      • celticdr says:

        I’m a bit of an F1 fan and there’s little in the way of decent licenced options in regards to gaming – but I did find F1 2011 a basic approximation of the handling with all the driving aids turned off.

        • iainl says:

          I can’t remember which one I’ve got, probably F1 2012, but I did find it far too twitchy on my wheel, and the feel just wasn’t there somehow. The open wheel cars in Assetto Corsa felt a lot more natural to me. In the end I resorted to the pad for the Codemasters games, and just accepted they were rather fun arcade things.

  18. steves says:

    I can (legally) drive, but I don’t much enjoy it.

    Totally see why people would though. It’s the same reason I enjoy downhill mountain biking and snowboarding.

    Which is the huge scary rush from massive g-force/acceleration that is sort of mostly (but not quite) under my control, and conveyed by a whole ton of complex tactile feedback that a game will never come close to.

    And why I have no interest in games that would claim to ‘simulate’ either of those pastimes, if such games even exist.

    Get back to me when there’s full-body haptics and a sense of acceleration in VR. Can’t see how that’s going to happen short of direct neural interface fuckery though…

    • snesbeck says:

      Throw on a Vive or Rift and you have yourself a fairly convincing experience.

  19. King_Rocket says:

    I hate to say it but as a PC gamer with a full racing frame wheel etc. the best “driving” game (not racing) was Gran Turismo. Large due to the exhaustive car selection. No other game has bothered to put in so many standard road vehicles.

    • iainl says:

      I used to think that, but I picked up a PS3 and GT6, and it didn’t hold me that long. I’ve been spoiled with the PC games, and now I’d rather have a dozen cars implemented really well than rough approximations of 600 of them, 550 of which I’ll never even drive once.

  20. It's not me it's you says:

    I’ve got a pretty nice straight 6 (twin turbo though, so I guess you’d hate it!) which taught me (relatively late in life) that driving can, in fact, be a lot of fun!

    That said, I’d probably still take a similar car (I have since become a bit obsessed with trying to find this make and model in any racing sim) onto the virtual track rather than risking footing the bill of anything at all going wrong with it in real life.

  21. Badman says:

    The question “Can A Real-World Car Lover Truly Dig Driving Games?”, and then further musings on “boyhood arcade thrills to the accessible end of the hardcore simulation spectrum” seem in direct conflict to me.

    Stick Raceroom Racing Experience up on that bad-boy … you won’t be disappointed. Pick a track and a car you love, then FOCUS!! The sounds alone will blow your mind.

  22. Raoul Duke says:

    Ok, I have questions.

    First:

    if it ain’t manual and naturally aspirated, forget it. Really, it also needs to be rear-wheel drive and have hydraulic rather than electric steering assist. And preferably have a flat six.

    Ok, I’m thinking a BMW or Porche based on the rear wheel drive part of this? Have you perchance had the pleasure of taking a 4th gen Subaru Liberty 3.0r-b for a spin? It ticks just about all your boxes but it’s 4wd too (and therefore more awesome).

    Part 2, how on earth do you not have Assetto Corsa on your list? I am a bit like you (love real cars) and this game is what you need. Absolutely forget about Grid, which is horrible and has some of the worst AI of any racing game ever. My limited experience of rFactor/iRacing is that you require a degree in car setting-up to be any good at them. But AC understands: you want a visceral, realistic driving experience, but you don’t want to dick around for 5 hours pretending to set up a pretend car in a garage. It looks good and it has that undefinable ‘feel’ that is critical in a driving game.

    I also recommend Dirt 1 (but not 2 or 3), although Rally is meant to be the best in terms of fun. Less realistic than AC, but the long rally stages in Dirt 1 are superb. You can get into a sort of altered state playing them, as you should in a good rally game.

    And if you want a fun arcade-y driving game, you can’t go past Burnout Paradise. I actually think the driving in the Crew is quite nice too, and it does some interesting MMMMOOOORRPGRPG stuff to boot.

    • iainl says:

      Corsa’s my favourite PC driving game, but that’s entirely because it’s the one that feels best to drive; pCars can just about get there, if you’re prepared to spend hours faffing around with custom feedback settings for each individual car, but Corsa’s handling is better, easier. But it’s primarily a hotlap system – the AI’s not particularly great. GRID 2’s arcadey as hell, but it does provide a good feeling or racing against other vehicles.

      If this wasn’t a PC site, I’d now start rambling about how brilliant DriveClub is. But it is. (seriously though, DriveClub is the best console racer by miles, not GT or Forza)

      • Raoul Duke says:

        I’m intrigued. I have both a PS3 and PS4 and I found Driveclub to be very pretty but utterly dire in terms of the actual driving. GT5 is the pinnacle of console diving IMHO. I played it s few days ago and it holds up well.

        • iainl says:

          DriveClub’s handling is pretty similar to Project Gotham Racing, if you had that on the Xbox or 360. It’s a bit more arcadey than Gran Turismo, but not so much that it’s like GRID. But it does that really well, when GT6’s model falls apart the moment you push it in the wrong way, and obviously it’s even worse than Corsa at providing any other drivers to race.

          If you played DC when it launched, it’s changed utterly since. Handling, graphics and especially networking are vastly improved, and they’re adding a “hardcore” handling mode next month for wheel owners.

  23. batraz says:

    It’s same with Guitar hero/Rock band games : it’s probably more simple to play a real guitar, and certainly more enjoyable… driving games are for kids or people without a driving license

    • Badman says:

      Silliest comment I have ever read. Simulators are about getting the opportunity to drive / ride / fly vehicles etc that you would never be able to in “real-life”. If one limits themselves to the things purely “real” then the many worlds of immagination and minds-eye experiential phenomena would cease to exist, and that, would be bad.

    • Ragnar says:

      It’s absolutely far more complicated to play a real guitar (how can you possibly compare six strings and 22+ frets to 4 buttons?), and way more fun. But the drums in Rockband get pretty close to a real electronic set – especially if you as symbols and replace the plastic pedal with a real one – and the microphone is as real as it gets.

      And that’s ignoring the social aspect. I may be able to play guitar and drums, but Rockband let’s me hang out and play music with friends that can’t. It can give you the feel of being in a band, and actually inspired friends to get real instruments.

      But car racing is very different. Yes, the real thing is far more enjoyable, but also far more dangerous and expensive. Car games let me drive cars I can’t afford on tracks I can’t get to, with no risk of personal harm or property damage should I take a corner too fast. And if you do have the option of driving a car on a track, the games can teach and improve your skills between track days.

    • Premium User Badge

      Risingson says:

      “driving games are for kids”

      Oh God. High culture vs low culture. Science Fiction vs normal literature. Hardcore gaming vs casual gaming. Why, oh, why.

      • batraz says:

        Not at all, my friend, don’t rush to conclusions, I love sci-fi and low culture (and yes, as much as I love my bloody valentine, I believe it’s not the same scope as Beethoven but it’s not the point). My point, poorly expressed I admit, was : are games about the reflex mecanism or about the projection of yourself in a fantasized activity. (1 would be FIFA, 2, Mass effect for instance) ? They must be both things of course and that was my point about cars and guitar sims : the reflex game can be ok, but it’s a poor projection (except if you’re a kid) with a pleasure/skill ratio lower than corresponding real life activities. Killing aliens or exploring space, on the other hand..

  24. ikehaiku says:

    You know, I’m on the exact opposite of the spectrum than you, yet I love sim-racing.
    At 36, I still have to get my driving licence IRL, and I have absolutely no interest in cars as an object.

    But I love Motorsports. I love the racing part. When the Bathurst 12hrs or Le Mans are on, I’ll be in front of the TV, with live-timings running on another screen for the whole race…

    So I got my G27. Week in , week out, I probably spend a solid 10 hours in front of various sims, either solo or MP. Assetto, R3E, iRacing, mainly, depending on the mood.
    Give me a tight race with R3E’s Grp5 at Mid-Ohio, my week will be made.

  25. ephesus64 says:

    I have an older Logitech Driving Force GT (the one made for Gran Turismo 5), and it’s just enough to keep me interested. Project: Cars and Assetto Corsa have been grist for the mill, though the new Dirt Rally is on my wishlist. Of course it’s disappointing that even with force feedback from the wheel, there’s no way for a game to simulate how understeer or hard braking feels, only show you how it looks. That said, a large screen and perhaps good surround sound seems to make a big difference. I’ve had something similar to the “oh-crap-oh-crap-oh-crap” sensation which coming up fast on a turn gives you on a setup like that, and that’s enough for me.

    What does come along with good game physics is a better sense for braking points, turn-in, proper lines around corners, things like that. I’ve found great enjoyment polishing those skills a bit on racing sims and then replicating them at (fairly) legal speeds. I might be only going a 20 mph around a corner, but it feels good to know that I’ve gone around the corner well, with smooth braking, steering input, and acceleration, all that.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    My personal recommendation would be to check out Dirt Rally: Despite it having Dirt in the title it’s far more a spiritual succesor to the Colin Mcrae and Richard Burns Rally games. I also host an RPS Dirt Rally League because I love that game so much.

    I also can safely second the Automobilista recommendations: The much-better-named succesor to the very awkwardly named Game Stock Car, currently in Early Acces but very stable just the same: It’s Reiza’s attempt to punch up to Rfactor 2 and it’s working out well.
    It also has a Flat-4 formula car as well as soon-to-be-featuring a certain Boxer Cup car…

  27. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    I love driving, and my favourite game in this regard is Burnout Paradise, because though it’s far from what is real car handling, it is about driving, not stopping, and enjoying your surroundings.

    Anyway, we should not make the racing games reach the dead point where most combat simulators went, and do what we did in the 90s: let the games focus on one or two particular aspects. There are enough games for everybody.

  28. bit.bat says:

    I know this is a bit older but I played Grand Prix Legends for the first time recently and I think it is fantastic. The game is super hard, there is a constant feeling that you are on the brink of disaster and making it to the finish line in any place feels like an accomplishment. The sense of speed is pretty great and also, great engine sounds. Its still a game but it is as raw a driving game as I have ever played.

  29. dahools says:

    Ok Jeremy, those choices are nice but I think you need to think outside the box a little. You want the thrills of out run as an adult then picking realistic looking for simulation games is perhaps not the best direction.

    I know it’s not PC but if you want that fun of old while racing against friends it starts with Mario and ends with Kart.
    You can pick up a Wii, the game, *3 friends, 4 pads and 4 steering wheel accessories for the cost of that thrustmaster alone and it would be ace on that projector.

    (*Disclaimer: cost of friends may vary from county or state and check compliance with local laws)

    Also try Rocket League just because you drive you dont need to have a track set your clutch to boost or jump sit back and enjoy

    Brief reviews/experiences of the games you have tested above with your setup would be nice.

  30. trashbat says:

    I like real life road driving and I put a lot of effort into the skills element of it – went through IAM, for example (and no, I’m 31) – and outside of the realms polluted by the super rich, I’m quite into my cars too.

    I also have a G27 wheel and Assetto Corsa on my PC, and I enjoy that too. Stuff like the RSR plugin brings global lap times and enough stats to motivate you to try harder.

    I don’t draw much of a connection between the two though. I can’t afford to risk my car on a track, let alone afford to indulge in motorsport properly. And you certainly can’t wring ten tenths from a car on the public road, not that this is a complaint. Thus they’re two entirely different things for me. If you had a powerful car, possibly a flexible approach to the law and the resources to travel to indulge yourself, things might be different I guess.

    Actually the biggest problems I have with stuff like AC is that it’s hard, and that it’s physically & mentally exhausting, both of which are a big old credit to Kunos I suppose. Trying to wrestle a car around the Nordschleife in one piece is difficult, never mind doing so in a meaningfully competitive time.

  31. Ralek says:

    The Thrustmaster TX IS a good wheel-base. You can probably still do better with the likes of Fanatec or so, but for most it will be good enough by far, offering an excellent experience. I use it myself for Forza H2/5/6 on the X1.

    What you need to do though, is get yourself a decent set of pedals, for example the T3PA (with clutch, no plastic) come to mind, mount them in the GT-Style setup, install the rubber braking mod, and add to that TH8A shifter. I think for a reasonable amount of money, that gets pretty close to a “real” driving experience, certinaly an enjoyable one though.

    I was in the same boat for years as far as non-arcade racing games go – thought they were the most boring thing in the world frankly. By chance I stumbled upon the FH2 demo on the X1 store, and gave that a shot. To my surprise I did actually enjoy it (the “FFB”-triggers on the X1 controller are a real blessing btw, so is the level of “difficutly” costumization in Forza), but since then I got myself the aforementioned setup, and I LOVE it.

    It completely transforms the game. I’m not saying controls are bad with the controller, as the Forza games are well optimized in that regard, but it is sooooo much more intense when using a wheel. Playing with the wheel, the game actually makes me sweat at times. Working the FFB, the shifter and the pedals is … well, pretty exhausting at times ^^ Not kidding …

    Word of warning, I found it also much harder to deliver the same kind of performance when using the wheel – my lap times got worse at least for some time. Still, the otherworldly increase in immersion and pure joy makes up for that without fail.

    TL;DR: Get ride of the crappy stock pedals (you can actually buy the only the base, and then pick a wheel, pedals and shifter from the Thrustmaster “ecosystem”), mount them GT-Style, install the rubber-cone break-mod, and last but not least get the TH8A shifter (made a hell of a difference in “feeling” vis a vis the pedals for me, though you can still use them as well, if you are driving according in-game car, though I enjoy using the shifter more).

  32. Mabsface says:

    I have a dumb question about this. I currently am in love with Dirt Rally and would love to use a driving wheel but i’m paralised from the chest down, so peddels are abit hit or miss :D. Are there any good wheels that dont use foot plates? And/Or have pretty straightforward buttons on the wheel?
    thnx in advance!

    • richard says:

      I looked into this a while back. Apparently (according to Thrustmaster’s own marketing) the Thrustmaster RGT FFB Pro has a pair of analogue paddles on the wheel, as well as a pair of digital paddles. I haven’t tried it but this would seem ideal.

  33. Ethaor says:

    I’m surprised I didn’t the word “shifter” come up. Fora decent experience you’ll want a good shifter in the likes of the Thrustmaster TH8rs (or the new TH8A which is basically the exact same apart form it’s modular connectivity). You can easily find second hands for about 60£ I’d say.

    Being able to use the clutch pedal along with an H-pattern shifter, or sequential depending on the car is half the fun.

    I can’t justify Virtual Reality, but I bet it’s miles ahead of that man-cave’s big screen setup (as great as it looks!). It should beat even what most players have come to dream about at some point in their youth, playing on a big fat real movie theater screen.

    To keep things in the scope of most wallets and not go full hydrolic rig, I think that:

    -a good wheel and pedal with a shifter,
    -solidly attached on a decent bucket seat,
    -on which a buttkicker can buttkick in all the various vibrations,
    -preferably in a precise and authentic manner through softwares such as simXperience,
    -all of it coming together through virtual reality

    should be the pinacle of sim experience (not just racing) for a while.

    To get out of the racing department a bit, plenty of real truckers do love spending hours and hours on Euro Truck Sim 2, just like plenty of IRL pilot enjoy spending hours on end on DCS world or FSX/P3D/Xplane.

    I found what I crave the most in racing simulation is the sense of progression and career management. I’d love the fidelity of an Assetto Corsa coupled with a risk/reward system, reputation, ressource management and fund/sponsor hunting.

    Iracing has that in a way but it’s still far from enough imho.

  34. Yargh says:

    Ahh, pity the poor petrolheads, living the last few decades before the autonomous, communally owned vehicle takes over.

    Can you imagine the time to come when your only chance of manually driving a vehicle is on a track, after having to sign hundreds of waivers about one’s presumed sanity.

    • LionsPhil says:

      You missed “electric”, too.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Sounds like paradise.

      I hate having to drive manually.

      • LionsPhil says:

        It’s more paradise for if you hate other people driving around you manually.

        Which is basically the case, especially in a country with a childish inability to let go of manual transmissions coupled with being terrible at actually controlling them.

        • trashbat says:

          What? Who’s terrible at controlling them? And if the implication is that British driving standards are somehow poor in global terms – well, they’re not. Just look at fatality rates.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Yeah, people in the UK probably drives decently on average.

            If only they could learn to drive on the proper side of the road it would be even better. On a tangential note, one day they might even abandon imperial measurements, which is something they are already realizing in scientific applications thankfully. Baby steps.

  35. Unsheep says:

    Surely the enjoyment of the mechanics of a game is enough to justify playing it. Most gamers, critics and media folk would agree on this. Yet for some reason a fair number these people don’t extend this courtesy or respect unto fans of racing games and sports games. Instead its blanketed under some mystery as to why people actually play end enjoy these games.

    Its usually filed under such nonsense as ‘if I want drive a car I’ll do that in real life’ or ‘if I wanted play football I’d do that in real life’ and so on. Completely missing the point of what video games are all about, confusing them with reality.

    Racing games, as well as any other gaming genre, is largely about role-playing. Its about doing things you can’t do in real-life, a simulation if you will: a Pyromancer in Dark Souls, a war hero in Call of Duty, a commander in Total Annihilation, a rising star in NHL or FIFA, a survivalist in The Ark and so on.

    99% of car-lovers and fans of motorsport will never have the opportunity to drive around Nurburgring or Laguna Seca, drive an F1 car or a Bugatti Veyron, take on Valentino Rossi or Sebastien Loeb in a race, and so on. If you can’t do these things in real-life, a simulated experience is the next best thing.

    I’m a ‘A Real-World Car Lover’ as well, and I DO love racing games. In fact most sim racing gamers are also ‘real-world car lovers’, or at least fans of motorsport racing…but that usually translates into being the same thing.

    This is the only explanation for sim racing games even existing. The only people who would enjoy spending hundreds of hours playing games like Project Cars, Gran Turismo, F1, MotoGP and so on, are people who have an interest in cars and motorcycles.

    In fact the very existence of Project Cars depended on gamers/developers who were car-lovers and fans of motorsport.

  36. Rince Wind says:

    Most people here seem to focus on racing games so I’ll just throw Euro Truck Simulator 2 in the ring. I have no idea how that plays with proper peripherals, as I only have my mouse and keyboard (and a joystick, I might try that), but it certainly is another kind of driving game. And some straight 6 engines as well.

    • Jon Denton says:

      It plays very well, a decent gear stick is useful with manual though, though 12 gears do give you an achey clutch leg on long runs :)

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      Ha, very good. I wouldn’t kick a straight-six out of bed!

    • Holden McGroin says:

      this is a good idea actually. i played this in the rift with G27 and it was a really sweet experience, even more so when i turned on the radio stream.

  37. AMacdonald says:

    I’ve been driving for a long time (30+ years) and driving racing sims since the original Crammond GP. I doubt there’s a “serious” sim I haven’t put a lot of time into over the last 25 years. Almost all of my 30+ years RL driving has been in extremely dull cars but when my mid-life crisis license came I joined Jeremy in the Porsche club, although mine is a Boxster rather than a Cayman.

    Since then, my interest in driving sims has waned a lot – I get the excitement of driving in RL now. The one thing I can’t or won’t do in RL is compete – for that I keep iRacing handy.

    Other sims, like the Huey in DCS World, still grab me. Am I allowed a second mid-life crisis?

  38. Jaybone says:

    One thing that really strikes me odd that people find simulators harder to drive than arcade racers. To me it is completely other way around. Most arcade games have so wacky car handling that it is really hard to get hang off.

    I like to have friends over and have a few beers and do laps in Rfactor2 and Dirt Rally. Most of my friends first floor the gas and don’t even think of braking before corner and after they find themselves in the tire wall, or wrapped around a tree, they complain about the game being too difficult. Then after explaining to drive like you would in real life they slowly start to get hang of things. Hardest thing to learn might be the perception of speed, which often leads to coming into a corner way too fast. Once you learn to adapt yourself into the framework in which the gameworld runs in you can have really convincing experiences.

    I ran few seasons with a lively online community and the anticipation and tension in the starting grid was equal to what I’ve experienced on a real race track.

  39. mistery says:

    Arcade versus simulation is a debate worthy of at least 5000 words in itself both game styles providing strengths and weaknesses. Not all arcade OR simulation games are any good as driving games however. the Test Drive Unlimited series and The Crew for example provide great examples of fun arcade driving games where you can loose yourself in a virtual world driving all kinds of cars and feel like you are there. Burnout series on the other hand is a great arcade racing game, not a good driving game, however.
    Simulators fare the same way. I don’t imagine iRacing for example a great driving game. It’s a soso simulation that offers probably the best competitive multiplayer experience. But just get in and drive for the fun of the drive? You’d have to hit a couple of mod street tracks (Transfagarasan, Pikes Peak, La Mussara, Lake Louise etc etc) or a tourist server in Assetto Corsa for that. Here, you sometimes just enter for a drive and a laugh, not caring for laptimes, or competition. Driving here with 2-3 mates, respecting your lane, driving an exotic car like it was your own car driven on a real road is a euphoric experience which no arcade title can reproduce for me.

  40. DD says:

    I know you will probably be resistant to the idea of getting a VR headset due to what you already have setup, but there is no comparison. The sensation of presence and speed you get from it is just to good. If you want to go for the best, you need VR. Adding more or larger screens just feels like your looking out a more or larger windows.

  41. Premium User Badge

    hemmer says:

    My brother and most his friends are real car nuts and most games don’t do it for them either (which doesn’t stop them from playing them though). Even welded their own adjustable frame and put a seat from an actual Rallye car in it. (One of them is a Rallye school instructor or something)

    DTM Race Driver 3 was probably the last one all of them really loved. The first GRID was still enjoyed immensely was well.

    But I wager most of the fun for them comes not from the games, but from playing them as a group, mocking each other, besting each other, that kinda stuff. I sometimes join in but I don’t do the funny drifty thing, I’m more the person who takes an easily throttle-controlled car (wankell engine woooooo) and tries to do perfect runs. I’m not that popular with the petrol heads. :P

  42. Jon Denton says:

    Read some stuff on http://www.ravsim.com (It’s kind of a plug but I genuinely think some of it will be helpful) and by all means get in touch at jon.denton-at-ravsim.com and I can help you on your journey.

    Most of the serious simmers I know are keen drivers in real life, many are racers. I don’t think real world driving enthusiasts doing simracing on their PC’s is a rare thing at all, but it is true that most experienced drivers will be more picky on which sims they are prepared to use.

  43. vahnn says:

    My two favorite racing games that immediately come to mind are DiRT Rally and Need For Speed: Shift (1 and 2).

    It’s been a long, long time since there’s been a great rally game. Dirt Rally is a must-play if you’ve been a fan of or just intetested in rally.

    The Need For Speed: Shift series, while not the most incredibly detailed in terms of realism or simulation of physics, do one thing better any other racinggame I’ve ever played: making you feel like you’re behind the wheel of a high-powered, high-speed,roaring racing machine. It’s not quite as realistic in the physics department as, say, gran Turismo, Forza, Assetto Corsa, but it is far more so than Need For Speed games of yore. It’s the intense depiction of sitting in a stripe down, beefed up machine that sticks me in for hours.

  44. specialsymbol says:

    The problem on one hand surely is that car racing is plain boring. You could devise from racing a kart that it’s the same, only better because you got more HP – but it isn’t.
    I’ll never be like, say, motorcycle racing.
    So the thing is that a true simulator will be exactly that – boring. You expect something else, you expect something wild, something fun – but this isn’t car racing. It’s your idea of car racing which isn’t what car racing is.

    That being said, the game I think makes car racing feel just right, that is, not overly boring but somewhat creative yet with the correct physics to be believable (don’t ask me if it’s really as accurate as some real life racers claim) is RaceRoomRacing Experience.

    I’m baffled by how few people seem to know it. I’ve tried a few games and while others may be more accurate or better simulations, none of these felt just right. R3E does.

  45. bp_968 says:

    Hey now, don’t sell short the straight turbo 4 from the 80s! The Porsche 944T (1986) was my very first car I paid for myself (at age 18) and I have many fond memories of many illegal acts in that car! I’m honestly amazed I lived through it! Now days I stick with mostly AWD but even then its rear biased AWD (G35x). Because FWD is just awful. Tiny FWD econoboxes are almost as bad as public transportation.

  46. Premium User Badge

    Fitzmogwai says:

    Jeremy, get yourself a copy of Beetle Crazy Cup.

  47. Clippit says:

    I think my attitude to sim cars reflects my attitude to real cars: I like machines, I want to play with them and I’m curious about how they work. I don’t belong to any ‘church’. I like little ones with big engines and big ones with little engines. I don’t really care if it’s fast or slow or clever or dumb – as long as it’s interesting.

    I’ve spent lots of time playing Live For Speed and for me, that’s all about competitive online racing. Some people want a sim to give them ‘the’ ‘authentic’ experience of driving a particular real-world vehicle. Fortunately (for my wallet) I don’t care about that – I just want to compete. I look at Rocket League, Trackmania or Quake in the same way. I want hands-on mechanical depth.

    Just like there are different kinds of cars, there are different kinds of car sims. I appreciate all the ‘authentic’ details in something like Dirt Rally or Euro Truck Simulator. For me they’re more vehicle sims than racing sims. Gran Turismo probably fits in the same category – it’s more about pretend-driving real cars than real-driving pretend cars.

    I’m fortunate that my shopping/track car is fairly silly so I can get my boy-racer thrills that way. I have no desire to actually race though – partly because I’m afraid of crashing, and partly because it’s absurdly expensive.

    So, to the original question: For a revhead, yes, I think after driving some (real) naughty cars the shine does go off the authentic, licensed dashboards, but on the other hand, after paying for fuel, tyres and insurance, the idea of virtual racing starts to appeal.

  48. 44TZL says:

    While the physical experience isn’t there.. the intensity of a 15 minute race in the Automobilista sim to me is as gripping and demanding as trying to set a better laptime on a circuit in real life.

    And while I can afford 10-20 hotlaps from time to time, racing the real thing is a pretty costly affair. A sim doesn’t match the satisfaction from real racing or hotlapping, but it’s a good alternative. It also offers you to drive things you could never experience.. like driving a late 60s racecar around Spa in rfactor2 for example.

    That said.. if you want enjoy it make sure:
    – get a 144hz gsync/freesync monitor (stutter ‘kills’)
    – get a decent FFB wheel
    – try a real sim with proper physics, so if you do something that works in real life (weight transfer), it will work.
    – activate enough drivng aids so you’ll still enjoy it