The past 12 months have been something of a rollercoaster ride for sim racing fans, with much activity having taken place within the industry that leaves the sim racing landscape in a much brighter place than was the case at the end of 2017, itself an excellent year for our niche hobby.
Over the course of the year just gone we’ve seen plenty of new titles enter the genre, some of which have come as something of a surprise, and others marking the impressive progression of long running game franchise and developments over a period of years.
Possibly the highest profile of the new games would be F1 2018 by Codemasters, the yearly official Formula One release becoming arguably one of the more impressive highlights of 2018, with Codemasters really seeming to finally hit the sweet spot of simulation vs arcade playability, producing one of the most rounded and complete Formula One games since taking the control of the official F1 licence back in 2010. Impressing many with the improved handling characteristics of the new release, F1 2018 proved to be a very solid game in its own right, even if it doesn’t quite stretch into the realms of a true simulation the likes of rFactor or Assetto Corsa.
Speaking of Assetto Corsa, 2018 would finally see development wrap on the impressive and well-rounded racing simulation as Kunos Simulazioni moved onto new pastures complete with the official Blancpain GT Series licence in their back pocket. Moving away from their own in house graphics engine, Kunos took the brave decision to develop a new and deeply feature rich racing simulation of the Blancpain GT3 series, using the powerful Unreal 4 game engine as they opted for an Early Access release of the new title via monthly updates released throughout the year. Although the end of 2018 will see the new sim at release stage 4, with several more updates scheduled into 2019, Assetto Corsa Competizione is already well on the path to becoming one of the most impressive racing sims available - without doubt presenting one of the main highlights of the sim racing year.
With ACC and F1 2018 well known within the community, and having received plenty of pre-launch hype, 2018 would also see a pretty major surprise in the form of the Early Access release for Black Delta’s PC kart racing title KartKraft. Having spent a troubled on and off again develop lifespan for several years, many expected the prospect of seeing a public release of this game as a far off prospect indeed, however Zach Griffin and his team pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat when a reasonably solid early access release dropped on Steam earlier this year, and what is more Black Delta appear to be on a very positive development path as they look to get the game in fit shape early into t2019. An impressive start, with plenty of potential, KartKraft could well become one of the surprise hit games of 2019.
Other highlights of 2018 for me are the continual and impressive developments undertaken by Studio 397 and Sector3 Studios with their rFactor 2 and RaceRoom Racing Experience simulations. Both games have been in development for several years, but 2018 appeared to be the watershed moment where development reached such a degree that both simulations appear to have taken a significant step forward in both content and features.
For RaceRoom Racing Experience a string of new and very impressive content appeared in 2018, not least of which was the official WTCR category – some of the best FWD cars in sim racing, but perhaps of more importance was the inclusion of several new and much desired features within the title. Multiclass offline racing is now possible with the game, improved h – pattern shifting for the older car content has been implemented with impressive results, performance improvements, interesting new content pieces and a whole range of further improvements have really gone a long way towards moving RaceRoom Racing Experience further forward that was thought possible with the original release back in the final days of the former SimBin Studios lifespan.
With so much happening in 2018 it is hard to really pinpoint the highlights, but one thing is for sure, if 2019 is half as good as the year just passed, we are surely in for one exceptionally exciting year ahead!