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The Flare Path: Heads For The Hills

Simulation & wargame blather

The FP works outings are legendary. Every year on the first bank holiday in Spring I pull up outside the office in a hired Abarth 500. Hilde and Hereward, the Reading Room librarians, squeeze into the back seat, closely followed by Roman (Senior Foxer Setter) Kate (Senior Foxer Setter's Assistant) and Uncle George (Not Totally Certain What Uncle George Does). The hampers, rugs, and deck chairs are then carefully inserted, after which Michaela (Human Resources) Sean (Graphic Design), Oxo (Motion Capture), Lofty (Puns), Simeon (Guns) and Chelsea (Buns) usually threaten to resign unless I return the Abarth immediately and rent a more sensible vehicle.

Assetto Corsa's new Ferrari F40 wants to burn down your shed, hide your slippers and pee in your aquarium. After reading Jon Denton's electrifying account of the red ruffian over at RAVSim, I couldn't resist trying it for myself.

Predictably, I was eaten alive then projectile-vomited over the armco, but soon found solace in some of the sim's less ripsnorting rides.

Since its launch in November, the £30 early-access AC has been swollen by three hefty content injections. While there's still no multiplayer, career mode, detailed damage modelling, or AI opposition (except for drag strip racers) ten laser-scanned tracks, twenty expertly conveyed conveyances, plus exquisite tyre physics and a general air of polish and professionalism, mean it's highly unlikely you'll end up feeling like a bored beta-tester.

Most of the circuits are Italian and most of the cars are contemporary at present, but those of a nostalgic bent can hurl a skittish Sixties Lotus 49 and a babbling Eighties BMW M3 around two Silverstone configurations and a fictional drift track (on which sideways skills are assessed and scored).

Get sucked into the whirlpool that is PB paring and car set-up customisation (I can't remember ever seeing a larger or more baffling selection of sliders in a sim garage before) and evenings and weekends will melt away faster than ice-cream on mid-summer tarmac.

No disrespect to the vanilla venues, but currently I'm spending most of my time in Cornetto Assetto Corsa driving the sim's first mod track. Somewhat controversially, a Finnish fan has plucked the fantastic Joux Plane flake from Richard Burns Rally and pushed it deep into AC's yielding soft serve (Sorry. No idea where this sudden ice-cream fixation came from. Perhaps I'm pregnant.). Even without a terse Robert Reid at your side, the result is utterly spellbinding.

Bustling the terrier-like Abarth 500 through tightening bend after tightening bend, watching trees smudge and crash barriers and retaining walls unfurl, a tiny rally-deprived portion of my brain wants Kunos Simulazioni to abandon those achingly familiar autodromes, and head for the hills and forests.


Low Gear Now

As stable and sure-footed as the Abarth 500 unquestionably is, there comes a point in every serious highland ramble when it must be exchanged for something with a little more tread on its tyres, a bit more muscle under its bonnet, and - ideally - another foot or two of fresh air under its sump. In short, there comes a time in every upland adventure when Assetto Corsa must make way for the increasingly fabulous Spintires.

Successfully kickstarted last Summer and scheduled to arrive very soon, Oovee's mud-plastered marvel is presently being pushed in new directions by two distinct groups. On one hand, you've got the devs themselves who are busy doing things like implementing uncannily realistic logging cranes...

On the other, you've got a dedicated band of modders who, every day, are discovering new ways of adding wonders to the freely available dev version of the demo.

New squelching grounds are relatively thin on the ground right now (Guirbaden's ramshackle bridges and boulder-strewn desert are well worth trundling across). Additional vehicles arrive thicker and faster.

Effortlessly installed - simply window the game, and use the menu in the top-right of the screen to browse your way to the downloaded zips - even without cab views (sadly, there's no FP view in the dev demo) charismatic rut-carvers like the handsome Willys Jeep, hulking Dutra tractor, and the distinctly familiar Nissan Patrol make spiffing lunch-hour playthings.


Pike Food

There's a horribly mutilated corpse bobbing in the moat of RPS Towers at the moment. It's all that's left of the writer who forgot to include Ultimate General: Gettysburg in The Spectacular 2014 Preview Spectacular.

The poor sod promised to make amends by posting about the latest Game-Labs blog entry (Nick 'DarthMod' Thomadis has been talking encouragingly about the various AI personalities we'll encounter on the battlefield and the ways in which these personalities will attempt to exploit weak points and monopolise useful terrain) but I was so incensed I quickly silenced his pleas by releasing all 77 of the Senegalese Sinew Shrews.

Amazing creature, the Senegalese Sinew Shrew. So nimble, so single-minded, and always so insatiably hungry.



The Flare Path Foxer

Because unsolved foxers, like unexploded munitions and unstacked sugar cubes, make FP uneasy, today's collage-with-a-concealed-theme is closely related to Dec 27's collage-with-a-concealed-theme. Successfully de-fox one and you'll be in an excellent position to successfully de-fox the other.

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