THE dudes behind Donut Media – the ones who brought us the likes of the Ferrari-powered Toyota 86 – have turned their attention to another hot topic: the evolution of racing sims.
They’ve produced a six-minute video that runs through the evolution of sim racing games built for the arcades, personal computers and specialist gaming consoles throughout the years, kicking off with the 1980s-era F1-style sim, Chequered Flag.
Yeah, so we start with the world of blocky eight-bit graphics and piezo-inspired sound effects. From there, it only gets better.
My own love affair with sim racing dates back to 1994’s release of The Need for Speed, the game that spawned the game and movie franchise. What drew me in about the game was the cover: a sleek, red Ferrari Testarossa in sharp profile, chasing down a bewinged, jet black Lamborghini Jalpa, the background blurring into nothingness. It was a pure driving sim – before the game turned to today’s crash-and-bang silliness – and the first time I met, and fell in love with, the Jaguar XJ220.
It progressed from there, originally using a flight-sim controller before moving to a Thrustmaster, and beyond that series of Logitech wheels that would randomly brick themselves.
The games, too, went through their highs and lows, with the ecstasy of discovering the open-source, free, and very buggy TORCS driving sim that at the time offered the most realistic dynamics available, to the lows of dealing with V8 Challenge’s idiotic AI that would spear you off the track if you gave one of the computer-generated rivals even the lightest of taps – but it did have Mount Panorama. Its GT touring car-based successor was even worse.
Speed Race, Crazy Taxi Sega Rally and Daytona USA all swallowed pocket money at an alarming rate. Colin McRae’s Dirt honed snow-driving skills, and F1 2015 wowed with its advances in virtual reality. Mario Kart on the Wii filled in the gaps with the kids.
I’ve never raced in iRacing, but wish I had; it requires a standalone computer to run the software, and those who use it rave about the experience. But via the PlayStation network I have raced on Gran Turismo games, waking up in the small hours to race Brits and staying up late in the evenings to determine the pecking order among Aussie motoring hacks.
I now race sitting behind a homemade buck that sits in a corner of the lounge room, with the crowdsourced sim Project Cars my new vehicle of choice. I’ve eyed off Forza Horizon 3 for its unique Aussieness, and followed the development of Gran Turismo Sport, the successor to GT6, with interest even if I’m not part of the beta test program, but neither have the purity of driving I’m looking for.
It’s also why the end of this video brings a smile to my face: Project Cars is spawning a gen two that promises the cutting edge in physics and the environment you drive in, due late this year.
I can’t wait.