rFactor is billed as being the most accurate racing simulator of all time. We can't pass up that boast
The first thing to
strike you in rFactor, a racing simulator by Image Space Incorporated,
is how pretty everything looks. The cars are gorgeous, the tracks
lovingly rendered and even the backgrounds and scenery look great. The
second thing to strike you in rFactor is how amazingly hard this dang
game is to play. Unfortunately the importance of the second quickly
outweighs the first leaving you with a sense of frustration as you
painfully gain the experience needed to make this a fun game.
takes Customize, Control and Connect as the theme of the game. The
game is built to be very mod community friendly so it’s easy to import
new skins and tracks and even completely new physics models into the
game. There is a very active mod community on the internet for anyone
interested in searching for them. Beyond just the appearance of your
car and the raceway you are going to run on there are many selections
possible to customize the handling and performance of your car in the
garage. In fact there are so many that it’s a bewildering array of
choices for the novice racer. Experienced racers (or just those
obsessively into racing in general) will likely have no trouble
understanding the multiple options, but if you are new to the genre be
prepared to spend a lot of time learning about the various options
available. The game ships with no tutorial mode and a woefully short
section in the manual for beginners. The only way to learn is to dive
in and learn the hard way or search for lists of hints on the internet.
This game looks great!
Trying not to bump the other cars.
I played the game on a 2.33 GHz Intel core2 duo system with 2 GB of
ram using a Radeon x1800 with 1 GB video RAM. I was able to push the
game up to its highest resolution and this did give stunning visuals to
the game with gleaming chrome and excellent lighting and moving
shadows. My many crashes into the walls disappointed me because I
didn’t see obvious damage modeled to my car, although on subsequent
laps I could see my skid marks on both the track and walls and the
performance of my vehicle noticeably changed. However, I was never
able to break a car so badly that I couldn’t keep playing. Up close
the scenery on the sides of the track became unconvincing – they are
clearly modeled to be viewed peripherally as you zoom by and not face
to face as you spin helplessly across a field toward them. Internet
commentary shows that the game performs poorly on any systems less than
the recommended minimum on the box of a 1.4 GHz processer, 512 MB
system RAM and a video card with at least 128 MB of video RAM.
second theme is control. Controlling a simulation of a high
performance car is unbelievably hard. In fact don’t even bother to try
unless you have a joystick as a controller as the keyboard setup is
nearly impossible. The hardest thing I had ever done in a simulation
before was to try to learn how to land an F-16 in Falcon 4.0 back in
1998. That was until I tried to learn how to pull out of pit row in
rFactor. Driving the car without the ability to finesse the
acceleration and turning transforms the game into a physics
demonstration of how too much power to the tires makes a car spin
around and around. After giving up on the keyboard controls, and their
maddeningly mapped key defaults, I switched to using a joystick to play
the game. The ability to control my speeds and turns more subtly
turned the game from pure frustration into something playable.
Tweak your car for better performance.
I spent a lot of time going sideways.
still rFactor is very picky about the control inputs. It’s extremely
easy to spin the cars or overcorrect on any of the turns. Managing
speed and cornering is essential to mastering the game and expect to
put in many long hours becoming good at it. Even on the beginning
levels I frequently placed in the bottom of the pack as I learned how
to play. There are many raceway walls that now bear the imprint of the
side of my car. There are many driver helps like skid control and
antilock breaking that can be toggled to many different settings to
help you though. Be sure to turn off the assisted turning support
though, its help makes overcorrecting easy.
The final theme is
connect. The game has a built in game browser to allow you to connect
with other people for multiplayer matches. The browser isn’t very
intuitive but it does work and a little practice will allow you to find
races to join. If you are dedicated you can join one of the many
racing clubs who sponsor password protected racing servers and hold
regular events. The multiplayer aspect of this game appears to be its
primary appeal. Consider features like the recordable and shareable
movies. rFactor makes it very easy to record movies of your racing
prowess and export them as AVI files. While this feature is available
in both multi-player and single player it’s obviously much cooler to
share a video of you wasting your friends than it is to post a movie of
you schooling the AI. Multiplayer was smooth and free from lag for me
on a broadband connection – however it was hard to find races where I
wasn’t hopelessly out classed.
Not in last place! And pretty too.
But what do I do now?
My favorite feature of rFactor
was the audio. The high pitched rev of the engines sounds very
believable as you gain speed and the sounds of the engine as you shift
gears and accelerate is amazing. The dopplering of motor sounds both
in the instant replays and from inside the car as you pass, or are
passed, sounds just the way I imagine it should. The screeching of
tires around corners and the sound of hitting the walls at high speed
all seemed realistic to me. I was very glad to find that the
repetitive music tracks so common to other racing games is limited only
to the menus and once you start racing you are only treated to the
voice communications from your pit crew chief and the sounds of the
Top gaming moment:
The essence of rFactor is
that this is a game for hard core racing fans. Years ago playing
Falcon 4.0 I found people looking at me with glassy eyes as I tried to
explain the complexity of the game to them. As much as Falcon 4.0 was
as game for air combat fans, rFactor is a game for racing fans. And
only the serious racing fan need apply. To master this game you will
need hours and hours to dedicate to learning the tricks and tactics of
the game. Fans that have racing specific controllers are almost
certainly at an advantage over those using joysticks like me or anyone,
heaven help them, trying to drive with the keyboard. Once you have the
hardware and experience you too will be able to bring those who don’t
grok this game to drooling insensibility as you explain the nuances and
subtleties of the game.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Discovering the pit lane auto pilot so I didn’t have to embarrass myself leaving pit row any more.