Virtual racing is our passion. Our editors love to think, talk and write about it. Yet, even for us it is not always sunshine and rainbows. So here are 6 things we hate in sim racing currently.
Things We Hate In Sim Racing #1: The Absence Of Good Career Modes
Timo Dick, Contributing Editor
When you ask ChatGPT what makes a good career mode in racing games, it says it was “a complex blend of progression, challenge, variety, immersion, customization, realism, rewards, updates, multiplayer integration, a learning curve, and community engagement” and that its primary goal was to “transport players into the high-stakes world of racing and make them feel like true racing champions.”
Sounds amazing, does it not? So if the ingredients are so clear and simple, why is there not a single game out there with a good career mode? Well, obiously because their “blends” are wrong. Their interpretation, combination and presentation of progression, challenge, variety, rewards, updates, and learning curve is too often synonymous with grind. ‘Beat that time’, ‘Reach at least position X’, ‘Finish a lap without any damage’ – da capo. Sorry, but I have enough pesky routines in my everday life! I refuse to do the same boring stuff over and over again in my free time in a video game. If at all, that is a challenge for the rational side of my brain. What about the emotional?
The Best Gameplay Mechanics Rely On Loops, And Avoid Grind.
The approach to Project Cars 2‘s career mode was actually cool: start in a junior series, earn your spurs, climb all the way to the top, and eventually become a legend as the winner of the Triple Crown (Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Monaco Grand Prix). Choose your path by competing in 29 motorsport classes, six performance levels and five unique disciplines.
What looked like an exciting, rewarding gameplay loop, sadly turned out to be just another grazing and ticking off of stages and (short) championships against an anonymous and occasionally dumb AI. Like in countless racing games before. I ended up playing through the career with controller on PS4. On the easiest difficulty using all the exploits I could find. Like a robot. Just to get the trophies. What I missed? Well, essentially everything that would have made it a valuable, memorable experience for me – presentation, orchestration, story, drama, emotion, meaning.
Being Motivated Means You Think You Are Doing Something Meaningful Or Rewarding.
How cool and motivating would it have been if Slightly Mad had packed my racing career into a rousing story? With different characters and an antagonist. With decisions, twists, ups and downs, and different endings. And with something at stake. Anything.
EA actually tried that with F1 2021 and their story mode “Braking Point”. Unfortunately, the linear story was over after just a few hours and got its (again short and linear) continuation only two years later in F1 23. Admittedly, even beyond “Braking Point”, EA’s F1 series probably still offers the most motivating career mode of all sim racing games. “MyTeam” at least also tries to tick the boxes “immersion”, “customization”, “rewards”, and that feeling of being a true racing champion. But for me that is still not enough.
There Is No Substitute For Creativity
Career modes in sim racing games are like TV daily soaps, simplistic, shallow, and repetitive. Episode 15 of “General Hospital” has the same narrative formula as episode 15,000 (which was indeed aired in 2022). An AI could write the script, and you would not notice. Wait … what did I just say?
For award-winning and praised screenplays such as “Green Book”, “Spotlight”, or “Interstellar” on the other hand, you need talented, creative writers, masters of their craft, who are also willing to do in-depth research and break new grounds. And you need a vision and courage.
Storytelling is not programming or coding but instead requires imagination and a deep understanding in creative writing. However, sim racing game developers are no storytellers. Their studios consist of experts in simulating vehicles for video games. So as long as the majority of their budget and resources is spent on cars, tracks and “the physics”, for me there is no sim racing game with an exciting, story-driven, multi-faceted single player career mode in sight. Video games such as Red Dead Redemption,The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, or The Last Of Us, on the other hand, have proven that it is possible to create a complex, yet captivating “blend” of mechanical progression and emotional involvement. Sim racing games still have that ahead of them.
Things We Hate in Sim Racing #2: Difficult Entry Point
Yannik Haustein, Lead Editor
When thinking of things I hate in sim racing, for me, two things stand out in particular, and one of them does not even have anything to do with being on the track. It is more about how to get there: the hurdle potential new sim racers have to clear is too high.
Sim racing is inevitably tied to video gaming, but it is much harder to just pick up than most other genres. At least if you want a proper experience that is not on a controller, that is. And this is what makes it almost impossible for some to try.
Multiple elements come into play in this regard, the most obvious one being money. Even low-end hardware is not exactly cheap, although it is seemingly getting better. The problem is that it could be easy to fall into the trap of spending too little, buying sub-par hardware because you do not know better, and not enjoy sim racing as a result. And used hardware may not be affordable for some, either.
Another factor is space. Of course, desk-mounted setups work well for beginners, but even these require some space – and a (usually makeshift) solution to keep the pedals from sliding about. Not to mention the relative footprints of wheel stands or rigs.
These two elements alone make it extremely hard to just try sim racing to see if it could be enjoyable. That is unless there is an event close by with simulators to try, or a friend already having a rig. The latter is probably the best option for most, as they could also ask for tips on hardware, which sim to get, driving techniques, and more.
Additionally, there is the factor of sims being, well, hard. Practice is extremely important, and that might put off some right out of the gate. Luckily, assists can mitigate this somewhat. Unfortunately, this is likely impossible to fully change. We try to have as many guides and tutorials as possible on OverTake to help newcomers find their feet. But the space issue can hardly be changed just due to how a proper seating position does need a certain amount of room – and the money issue may get better, but probably never disappear entirely.
Things We Hate in Sim Racing #3: Lack of Awareness
Moving on, my other entry to this list is the lack of awareness many sim racers have when racing online. Many racers are fast on the timing sheets, but an abundance of hot lap practice does not prepare them for racing with other cars around. Put simply, it should be one of the core things to focus on before taking things online.
The problem is that if you mess up because of poor awareness, it does not just potentially end your own race. Instead, one or more other racers who may have done nothing wrong at all could face DNFs as well. Racing works via responsibility towards each other when in close quarters. And a tough, but ultimately clean battle with another racer that is closely matched is some of the best fun you can get out there.
It should not even be hard to know what is going on around your own car these days. Sims like Assetto Corsa Competizione or Automobilista 2 come with built-in radars, others have them available as plugins. And having Crew Chief’s spotter calls in your ears help, too. And yet, some racers still push others that are very clearly alongside them off the track in the middle of a straight.
These sorts of incidents are entirely avoidable. The same goes for being rear-ended under braking because drivers use the same braking points they do when running alone. Seeing gaps where there are none is even worse – but that is another topic in itself.
Things We Hate in Sim Racing #4: Arcade Animosity
Angus Martin, Contributing Editor
In recent weeks, one thing about sim racing more than anything else has frustrated me. On 10 October, Turn 10 Studios finally released its latest addition to the Forza Motorsport franchise.
No, obviously the game itself is not what bothers me. What does irritate me however is the approach many racing fans have towards the game. In fact, here at OverTake our very own Champion Joe very much enjoyed his time with the title. However, many other media personalities despised FM for its lack of feel and poor simulation value.
What I will say to those ‘influencers’ is that perhaps they should approach the game with a different mindset. Throughout its history, the Forza franchise has been a console-focused title. This means that the majority of players take on the games with a controller. As a result, it does not handle like a perfect representation of the real life car on your sim rig made up of top-level equipment. Sometimes it is OK to treat a game like a fun arcade.
Arcade And Sim Merge Too Much
Here lies the problem I have with the racing game market as a whole. More and more are commonly arcade titles attempting to present themselves as hardcore simulators. The process started out with setups becoming ever-present in even games like Forza Horizon. Then, fans began dealing with tyre pressures and temperature.
Today, developers are branding their simcade titles as racing simulators. Whilst marketing terms are obviously meaningless, this branding puts thoughts in our heads. If sim racers see a game marketed as a simulator, they are bound to get their thousand-dollar sim rig out from under the desk and set up their triple screens.
That is simply not what developers mean. Titles designed to work mainly on console will of course hold a preference for controller racers because that is the primary audience. Sure, it can be fun to plug in a simple racing wheel. But one cannot expect perfect Force Feedback.
In fact, a game that puts a Corvette C8.R up against an Australian V8 Supercar in the same class clearly is not all about simulation. The same is true for Gran Turismo that sees Group C machinery, high-tech LMP1 cars and modern Hypercars go head-to-head competitively. Sure, these games can work on a wheel. But they are not designed to compete with sims.
With that in mind, the comments about confusing penalties and Force Feedback in Forza Motorsport are pointless in a game that is all about fun. The solution to this matter is a difficult one; developers and the community must work together to admit to one another that simulation is not the be-all and end-all of the racing game industry.
Something For Everyone
Whilst this merger of game genres does cause conflict on social media, there is no doubt that it is a good thing for racing games as a whole. It means that racing fans from all walks of life have access to the perfect level of simulation they desire.
Fancy stepping into a full rig and immersing yourself in motorsport? You can do so. Prefer the idea of kicking back to an easy-to-play arcade racer with a controller on the sofa? That is also possible. Want to pretend to race without the pressure of performance? There are also solutions for you.
But what we as a community must remember is, there is a difference between different titles. So going forward, let us not hold the likes of Grand Turismo and Forza to the same standard as iRacing or rFactor 2. They all simulate racing cars, but to different levels, and that is OK.
Things We Hate in Sim Racing #5: Rushed Content Releases
Connor Minniss, Contributing Editor
Looking back over the past few years, most of the simulators that were released have all been launched as unfinished, messy or unplayable concepts rather than ready-to-go simulators. Before you head straight to the comments and rip me to pieces, hear me out!
The perfect example of why rushing the release of a simulator always goes badly. Automobilista 2 launched back in June of 2020 with more problems than positives. Unfinished cars and tracks, missing promised content and a messy overall feeling. Over the years, the developers have managed to salvage the title into a playable sim, but it has taken years to get to that point.
If you have not yet seen what Automobilista 2 got wrong at release, here is a video from a few years ago to showcase the game’s intial state.
Assetto Corsa Competizione
Linking back to what Yannik had to say about the difficulties of getting good entry-level hardware, Assetto Corsa Competizione or ACC was released in an almost unplayable state. Sure, the graphics looked great, but if even the highest-level PC couldn’t process them without game crashes and unbearable lag, then what is the point of having any game at all?
ACC was rushed and released for full price + DLC with no care given to the fact that it was an unplayable mess with no real career mode or single-player interest. To the studio’s credit, ACC is a much more refined product nowadays. However, it has taken years to get to this point. So much so, that the release of Assetto Corsa 2 is now on the horizon and the player base will be moving over to that platform – just as ACC is starting to get it very right.
You may be asking, why does this matter at all? Developers make changes and improve games all the time. But there is one more big defining reason why it is such a huge problem in sim racing … time.
All of our beloved simulators are always on a clock of relevancy, and when studios are charging £40+ for the base game and hundreds and hundreds of pounds/dollars/euros for DLC to make the game even remotely playable, we know that by the time it is sorted, the next release will be on the horizon.
In a nutshell, this is the thing I hate most in sim racing: studios taking advantage of players who are willing to pay big money for AAA release titles, all for it to be a mess and a big letdown, is something that doesn’t get spoken enough about in the sim racing community. Support the sims you love and call out greed and laziness when you see it.
Things We Hate in Sim Racing #6: Elitism
Luca Munro, Contributing Editor
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self” – Ernest Hemingway.
One of my all time favourite quotes and something I always try to live by. I see that it applies in sim racing too!
Having only just gotten into PC sim racing this year, I spent quite a long time making do with my PlayStation and playing the F1 game, Gran Turismo and the port of ACC. So you can imagine all the “console peasant” comments I had seen over the years. Not everyone has over 2.5k going spare.
That is just one of the many ways of such a superiority complex.
Tying in to the console versus PC debate, yes it is no secret that a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X can not perform the same as a high-end PC. It also means the more advanced simulated games (yes, I said games, not sims) could not realistically come to console.
As a result, the likes of F1 23 and Gran Turismo 7 are the best that console players get. They may not be anywhere near as “realistic” as iRacing, but that hardly means they are sub-par products. Those two games for completely different reasons have big faults but nothing to do with them being on console.
Oh, and do not get me started on that aforementioned “it is not a game, it is a simulator” schtick.
But there are more ways that there is elitism in sim racing beyond shaming those for racing on a console, not using cockpit cam and not having the best monitor and rig setup. I am a huge fan of sim racing esports, probably one of the very few out there. However, even I understand the criticism laid against elite events.
When the Le Mans 24 Hours iRacing Special Event was canned because Motorsport Games got into an exclusivity deal with the ACO, an average joe doing Le Mans was off the table. Now to compete in the race, you had to be a member of an elite pro sim racing outfit.
Big community events like that are a beloved aspect of the sim racing community. Preventing any sim racing hobbyist from competing in these events is backward and goes against what sim racing should be. Hence the thing I hate most in sim racing is elitism.
It is infuriating that there exists these invite-only events, which I do consume and enjoy. But even I as the biggest sim racing esports fan in the world know that people watch real world racing and compete in sim racing.
Overall, sim racing should accommodate all, providing they do not try to actively ruin it for others. Virtual driving is for everyone, whether the wheel you have is a Logitech or an Asetek, the game you play is the F1 game or iRacing, or if you play for immersion or competitively.
What do you think of the items on our “Hate List”? Which ones are on yours? Discuss with or tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!