Dakar Desert Rally released last year to a positive reception. But more recently, an update to BeamNG.Drive has caused the official game to lose its title of the best Dakar simulator.
Image Credit: BeamNG.Drive
In the real world, the Dakar rally taking place in Saudi Arabia has just come to an end. With the two week rally raid now over, fans of the event will look elsewhere for their fix. Within racing games, the obvious choice to get a dose of Dakar action would be Dakar Desert Rally. The title released last year and does a very good job of replicating the orienteering aspect of the event. In fact, players often complain about the game’s difficulty after getting lost in a vast landscape full of dunes.
Though after a recent update, there is a new kid on the block. In December, BeamNG.Drive received its most recent update, Conquer the Desert, introducing a new map. Called Johnson Valley, it’s essentially a large desert made up of dunes, thick sand and an expansive boulder field. Having tested the map out, I’d say this difficult to navigate terrain is set to give the official Dakar title a run for its money.
Players can tackle this 10km² location in a variety of new vehicles, many of which mysteriously resemble Dakar competitors. The SP Dunekicker is a powerful trophy truck seemingly at home on the large dunes, while the SP Rock Basher is a rock crawling specialist. Both of these models could be likened to the Dakar rally’s car class. On the other end of the spectrum sits the FPU Wydra which to all intents and purposes is a representation of the Dakar’s infamous truck category.
BeamNG perfectly Captures the Survival Aspect of Dakar
Sitting at just 10km², the Johnson Valley map is certainly not as expansive as Dakar Desert Rally‘s massive interpretation of the Saudi Arabian desert. Though full of obstacles such as solid plants, hidden rocks and large bumps in the road, it is just as treacherous. Not to mention the deep sand in which cars can easily get stuck.
Couple this dangerous environment with BeamNG‘s realistic damage model and you really do feel like any wrong move could end your run through the map. Take a jump at the wrong speed and you’ll break a damper. Nudge a rock at the wrong angle and your wheels will come out of alignement. Over-rev and the engine will soon start producing more smoke than ponies. Simply travelling a small distance is a challenge. You’ll need full focus to get across this map, just like in the real rally raid event.
A large part of Rally Raid is the length of stages, all coming together to make one immense event. In that respect, BeamNG certainly can’t be called the best Dakar simulator. Though with tricky terrain to tackle and a variety of surface types, one could be tricked into thinking a stage is longer than it is. Spend 30 minutes rock crawling your way up a mountain at 5 km/h and you’ll soon believe you’ve been racing for 3 hours.
For added variety, BeamNG also features a number of other maps, including another excellent desert environment, Utah. This map, mostly made up of canyons and cliffs may not be as densely packed as the new release. Though with plenty of gravel roads, it makes for faster stages requiring drivers to stay alert at high speed.
This pairing, along with any mods found online, are available to league admins to create epic rally raids. Place a dozen waypoints on a new route creation and have participants set their best time. This would look something like the Calamity Peak Sprint mission that Jimmy Broadbent struggled on on-stream for what seemed like an eternity.
Creating new routes and so-called ‘scenarios’ may be a long winded process at the moment. But I’d like to think it will become easier as the game develops. I long for the day when leagues can host new routes on a regular basis making up large-scale rallies where the slightest error leads to retirement. Because at the end of the day, the one thing simracing is missing is the jeopardy of severe damage.
Will you be experiencing the true Dakar life thank to BeamNG? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!