Sim Racing: The Big Mid Season Review - Part 5

Discussion in 'Other Racing Games' started by Paul Jeffrey, Sep 12, 2016.

  1. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    iRacing Review.jpg
    It's the fifth of our monster sim racing review articles. For this instalment we are turning our attentions to the delights of the online only multiplayer racing title, iRacing.

    Back by popular demand comes the educated insights of our very own commentator extraordinaire, Mr. Lorenzo Bonder. All the way from the country that brought us the Olympic Games in 2016, Lorenzo will once again be sharing his racing wisdom as he offers his insights on the hideously expensive (sorry, blatant attempt to promote comments interaction) iRacing,com. As always, big thanks to Mr. B for his help with this article :thumbsup::inlove:

    iR Review.jpg

    iRacing has been around for quite a while now, and the sim continues to gather strength both in depth of content and the numerous enhancements brought into the sim. Continual evolution of the tyre models, the recent announcement of loose surface simulation and dynamic track evolution to name but a few, iRacing shows no signs of slowing down as it continues at the head of the online sim racing table.

    Designed solely for online multiplayer racing, iRacing very much invented (and subsequently perfected) the idea of rating drivers for on track behaviour as one develops the skills and experience to work though their online career across many the different disciplines of racing.
    Top quality race streams are not unknown, and the sim continues to grow in popularity amongst sim racing fans. Big money prizes, television slots on channels such as Motors TV and boasting a host of professional racing drivers amongst its mega community of active members, love it or loath it iRacing is one of the best places a sim racer can go to find quality online racing events.

    Whilst the actual online element of the sim is pretty much spot on, iRacing has almost become a victim of its own success and can be a little daunting to those uninitiated in the ways of the software. Masses of information bombard the user when first loading up the game, and the slightly convoluted (in my opinion) race structure takes some getting used to. Regular updates to many of the cars in game can mean players need to download sizable patches for content they don't own, again possibly putting off those not already immersed in the world of the simulation.

    For all those issues and gripes however, once you steam into turn one with a full grid of little Mazda MX-5's jostling for position with you, all is forgiven.
    iRacing 2.jpg
    Content -
    iRacing, after all this time, contains an impressive list of content with continual additions added to the already large list of tracks and cars. Today, iRacing contains 59 cars from all kinds of racing classes, from Sprint Cars (small, yet fast and agile oval cars) to Open Wheelers and Grand Prix machines. All the cars are from real world manufactures, premium brands such as Ford, McLaren, Aston Martin, Audi and Mercedes-Benz appear in game. With regards to circuits, iRacing provides today 74 real world tracks the likes of Zandvoort, Silverstone, Daytona, Road America and many others. Also what makes iRacing somewhat unique is the fact that the game is the only title that currently contains the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity series track roster laserscanned. This is a key selling point for the all-important American marketplace.

    Another key strength of iRacing lays with the business decision to laserscan content. All cars and tracks within the sim are laserscanned to ensure maximum accuracy possible across all areas, whether it's the car minor details, curvatures, cockpit details, size or track bumps, repaved areas, undulations, kerbs and other track aspects. The high fidelity of the cars and attention to track details is simply outstanding. The modelling is also really well done considering the game engine has been in the racing game market for nearly ten years now. Another fidelity aspect iRacing holds over its rivals is how detailed and how big the tracks are compared to the likes of say, Assetto Corsa, RaceRoom Racing Experience or Project Cars. However it's really noticeable that tracks sometimes show their dated looks, but that's mainly due to the age of the engine compared more recent titles. DirectX 11 might iRacing a bit of boost down the line, I'll talk about DX 11 real soon...

    Each car nails down every detail right and their proper characteristics nicely as well. While not as beautiful as their counterparts, once again, due to the age on the game engine, but since iRacing has been around 2008, all models look pretty good all aboard. According to iRacing devs, the laserscan effect in the cars is to get all car model details right and combined with accurate details from racing teams to get all cars physics done right. While I'll talk about physics later as well, I'll be honest: while the car variety is good for the user, the content needs refreshing and I know the iRacing devs are doing that. One quick example would be Silverstone, which is still in the old layout in iRacing.

    The downside of iRacing and its unanimously debated is their somewhat controversial pricing model. While each track costs next to $15 and each car go around $12, people argue that the price is too steep and the subscription maintenance is high as well and I can agree with that up to a certain point. It's expensive if you're just an occasional driver, but iRacing actually rewards weekly regularity and those who are racing in a specific series during a Season or multiple racing series get $10 if you participate and finish in at least 8 races of an official iRacing Series, like the Formula Renault 2.0 Series. So if you're a regular, just finishing once will already count for the bonus. And it sure does help a lot down the line, getting more tracks and cars, cutting a lot the costs.

    Features -
    iRacing's bread and butter and M.O. is widely known. Provide the player the most realistic Motorsports simulation in the market, giving you a real sense of a driver's career, going from rookie based leagues to higher tier leagues and top level, like the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix or the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series. All is done through licenses, both for Road Series and Oval, from Rookie to Pro/WC. And in that regard, the game does that better than no other game in the market, I honestly don't see another game beating iRacing in this aspect.
    Another strong iRacing selling point is around the clock racing events. Sure, when you get to higher licenses, instead of around the clock is at least once a week or every two hours, but still you'll always will have something to do in iRacing, whether it's solo or online practice, time trials, hosted races or just the official races. Doing official races increases or decreases your iRating and Safety Rating and depending on how you progress you can upgrade mid-season to another class license or get demoted or even banned from the game from bad driving. While races with weaker strength of field (SOF, abbreviated and the SOF is sorted through an iRacing original algorithm) can have more wreckers, in strong SOF races, it gets more balanced and disputed.

    Also iRacing brings you professional major racing categories like the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series and the Blancpain GT Series, both of them homologated by NASCAR and SRO Group, owner of the Blancpain Series. While one is only for drivers with the PRO/WC license, the top notch of iRacing, the GT Series is more open to all, but only the top SOF race for money on a selection of tracks that are/were run in the real Series. So you get from Ovals to Open Wheelers and Endurance Series all around, race variation is plenty in iRacing.

    However, since iRacing is older than its more recent counterparts like Assetto Corsa or Project Cars, areas such as graphical fidelity or features like day to night transitions, existent in PC but not in AC are sadly missing. iR's engine isn't capable of day to night transitions and weather transitions due to being made in DirectX 9, since we're next to DX 12, the limitations are plenty in the current engine. That's where DX 11 comes in. And boy oh boy it's coming in the right time, like a white shining knight riding a white horse to save the damsel in distress.
    The DirectX 11 feature brings a whole new life to iRacing. While optional, this "optional" feature will become default pretty soon in the game as DX11 brings the possibility of the features mentioned above. While this is all currently WIP, the DX11 version does bring a graphical overhaul to the game, making giving much more stable FPS with better looking tracks and cars and who knows, further upgrades to the core engine, allowing better simulations and a better netcode, which is widely known to be the best netcode in the business.

    Physics -
    OK, how does iRacing compare to its sim racing competition? The game, I admit, has its ups and downs. Right off the bat let me state this... Since the core team is composed from former Papyrus developers, responsible for making two of the best racing games ever released: NASCAR Racing 2003 Season and Grand Prix Legends, the expectation of delivering a finely tuned driving experience with favourably accurate physics is high. That is where my opinion divides. Why? Let me explain...

    As said, we know iRacing is split between oval racing and road course events, so that's how I'll evaluate the car physics. The main aspect of the game with a shared approach is the damage model. So, let's first approach oval racing, which is an iRacing specialty. As stated earlier, most of the core team came from Papyrus, so they know how to get this kind of experience right. I don't drive ovals, but I've driven my fair share of laps on tracks like Daytona, Charlotte, Texas, Bristol and the smaller locations, driving plenty of different cars, so much so that I can really see why the majority of the racers in iRacing race on the oval content. iRacing does have an overwhelmingly North American user base where oval racing is a staple, but the driving experience is really good. If you have ever played NR 2003, iRacing offers a very similar driving experience but with much improved car handling. Added to this, being a multiplayer game of course, the netcode is really good, so you really get all aspects of Stock Car Racing right.

    On that same topic, one of the most significant factors for the driving improvement is the vastly improved tyre modelling from what I started playing in 2014. The difference from then and now is so big I cannot put it into words. Additionally, the damage model in oval Racing is very similar as to what you would see in the real world NASCAR races. Indycar and sprint car racing are a spectacle apart, but once you have turned some laps in these cars on a busy server in iRacing, you can’t help but get that feeling you've driven something real and shared the experience of the real world drivers. While in Indycars you can feel cars blowing by at top speeds of 220 mph+, you can feel the aero pull/drag/draft and the aero push, giving you immense loss of grip and car stability. In Sprint Cars you feel the power and lightness of the cars combined with frantic races in small ovals with not much space to make moves. And now that dirt tracks are coming to iRacing really soon (ETA is for October, when the next build comes out) so the Sprint Car mania will be complete.

    However oval racing has its side effects, sometimes cars feel much heavier than they already are, making turning difficult and the human body much weary than usual. Also, the netcode can become a nuisance as sometimes car contact, which is normal in these kind of races, can be more damaging than it looks and don't even realize it.

    OK too much on ovals? Road racing then! Let's talk about the recent tyre model, something that I feel has saved the road racing side of this sim. Now the car has a more traditional racing car behaviour, you now feel you have more control of the vehicle and if you overdrive your car in the turns the tyre responds in a more satisfactory and realistic fashion. While rFactor 2 arguably has the best tyre model in the business, both iRacing and Assetto Corsa are closing up with an aim to dispute that "title".

    Car handling? Ok here the discussion begins. A simple fact, iRacing is sim. But it does have its ups and downs. Some of the cars have really awkward handling, nearly unnatural. And that's considering the fact that iRacing devs use ample real data and the finest details... their words not mine, to get the handling just like you'd have if you're in the cockpit of one those cars. Vehicles like the V8 Supercar, the RUF 12R Track (aka GT3 version), Radical SR8 and the Ford Mustang FR500, even sometimes the Audi R8 LMS GT3 still offer an awkward driving experience.

    But others cars like the Lotus 79T, Formula Renault 2.0, Kia Optima, Mercedes AMG GT3, McLaren MP4-30 and many others are really good cars to have, they drive great and with tuning, even better. The 79T or the F-R 2.0 above all, what darn good cars to drive! Of all cars, the ones that shine the brightest are the open wheelers I've mentioned. The MP4-30, already has the ERS and MGU features, they are very well developed though I Assetto Corsa have redefined the standard with their recent Ferrari releases.

    The GT and Prototype cars are also good to drive, barring a few exceptions. The HPD-ARX 01c, the Vette Daytona Prototype and all GT3 cars standout above others. You really get a car feel in those cars, even though the 01c is no longer used in RL races after being replaced by an ORECA 03 chassis. The GT3 cars display their own traits and really come to life in the game. The AMG raw engine power, quickness and agility on corners, the Ford GT GT3 beast incarnate, unpredictability at its best. The Z4 "nimble feet", total mobility while keeping good pace, the RUF GT3 power slides and beast mode and the R8 all-around feel to it. The GT1 have good cars in the DB9 and C6.R GT1s, with their lack of cockpit tech, but their brutal engines, high torque, high speed + high difficulty of manoeuvrability makes them a challenge for drivers.

    If I have to rank the game car physics of all modern racing games out there right now it'd be simple. Oval cars: First, and don't you dare argue about that. Road cars: A close third, edging out RaceRoom Racing Experience. Assetto Corsa and Autombilista are first and second, in this order I just mentioned.

    OK, so my common topic, damage model. I feel this is where iRacing need a bit of work. Of course, in real life, even the slightest of touches can damage your car, but sometimes I feel the cars, especially the road cars, are oversensitive, with a "smooch" (basically a non-hit) is already eligible for you to lose mobility or something worse, provided that touch is the only thing you get. But of all things, I think this is the one aspect that needs some refining, I do believe their damage model is good, not great, just good. Unfortunately this is a trend in racing games in general where it's rare to see a really good damage model where you have to take care of your car. Yes, iRacing make you care about that, but it isn't a fully developed damage model. Even rFactor2, AC, PCars and Automobilista have really good damage models, so we can't go much into business, but the debate is always open.

    Sounds -
    This an area that iRacing delivers... kind of. The cars are a faithful replication of their real life counterparts, you can feel the car is alive and roaring in your virtual cockpit, however RaceRoom Racing Experience is still the game to beat with their car and ambient sounds. R3E sounds are, by light years, better than the rest of the competition. But back to iR, the game car sounds are great, even more with a 7.1 surround set or a 5.1. I have a Logitech G35 headset and the game sounds just beautiful.

    However ambient sounds are kind of a let-down in the game, you can barely hear any, if any exist at all. Well the engine limitation could be a factor here, but still, it's still hard to listen to the ambient around the track. It's feel non-existent, if we remove the cars, it's basically a ghost town. The spotter is however really reliable, that's a page taken from the NR 2003 game and very well done. You also have the option to have a human spotter of your own, given you have the same track and car as your friend does and the comms sound is good and it's fully editable.

    RD Score: 8.5 out of 10
    In the ever changing gaming world, regular updates and new builds are almost demanded by the paying public, and in racing games this is no different. But there's always the old dogs, the resistance, the fine old wines, iRacing fits this description. The sim has aged well, experiencing both highs and lows along the way, but still is the cream of the crop in Multiplayer racing by a considerable margin to its rivals, with no obvious sim lining up to beat it's online functionality anytime soon. Sometimes the physics and damage model can become much of an annoyance to players and wreckers as well. The lack of weather and day to night transitions can be seen as a problem if you like Endurance or long distance races, however I think that'll be changed soon...

    Thank you for taking some time out to read our review of We hope you enjoyed the read and welcome you to check out our previous summaries of Assetto Corsa and Automobilista here, DiRT Rally and American Truck Sim here, What's Upcoming here and Forza Motorsport 6 and Forza Motorsport Apex here.

    I would also like to take the opportunity to apologise for the long gap between articles. I'll try to do better with the next ones !

    Did you enjoy our review? Do you agree with the scores? Let us know in the comments section below!
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  2. learie


    Great in depth review, it was a good read! I noticed a couple of statements that look a bit out of date.
    You say "dirt tracks are coming to iRacing really soon (ETA is for October, when the next build comes out)", since the season 4 build was released last week its doubtful we will see dirt racing until late 2016 - early 2017....or should I rephrase that as "soon" :p
    Also the V8 Supercar had a major physics update one or two builds ago and the majority of drivers will tell you it was a massive improvement, the car feels much more realistic and you can actually ride the kerbs now.
  3. M D Gourley

    M D Gourley

    Another great read....bang on statement about R3E, the Sim to beat with audio...and I use the Asus Strix True 7.1 Surround Sound Headphones with Control Box and I am very impressed with the sound....this however will depend on your audio tastes.:)
    • Like Like x 2
  4. Boby Kim

    Boby Kim

    Had Iracing for a year. I did the time trials with the mazda. Had no clue how to start a rookie race. Posted several posts with questions which never been answered. Stopped racing as i just did not understand how to setup a race or join one. As far as i know there are no practice servers. So i stopped racing Iracing.
  5. Lorenzo Bonder

    Lorenzo Bonder
    Wah wah. Premium

    About being out of date, I wrote this way before this new build came out. The build changed the game a little bit and Le Mans is awesome.
  6. Fabian Biehne

    Fabian Biehne

    Agree that the UI is horrible for someone who is new to Iracing. Hope they’ll fix that soon.
    I was glad that a friend showed me all the important buttons.

    First of all you have to choose which series you want to race in. You’ll find that on the upper left under »Series«.
    On the top of the site in the upper right corner is a »Test« and a »Race now« button.
    In test mode you can try every car you own on every circuit you own. The »Race now« button brings you to open practice sessions (yes, there are practice servers), time trials and finally the official races.

    So…these are the most important buttons. :)
    The rest is more or less information overkill.
  7. Alex Townsend

    Alex Townsend
    Pro-Am racing driver... virtually Premium

    Awesome read and really wish I had the time and money to give this title a go.
    Shame they don't have a trial game to give you a taste. But even then the costs to upgrade and buy new cars and tracks is a little too expensive for me and the subscription side of things with my lack of time means I could not justify getting involved unfortunately...
  8. gkz


    I don t like the iracing physic at all and i think there are more diffrents than this review will tell. If i compare for example skip barber from rf2 with iracing that like a other world lol nothing is even one is a understeer party the other is weightbalance training.
  9. Paul Blythe

    Paul Blythe

    Fantastic review, and fully agree with what's been said :thumbsup:

    Only started with iRacing a few weeks ago, just last week started using the OR:CV1 also... I read the wise words form the guys at Inside Sim Racing. Treat it like a racing career, not a game... So far I've only bought content that will allow me to race my current class for the coming season, with my chosen vehicle.

    Got to say, switching to VR helped highlight just how good Assetto Corsa's FFB really is. iR's oval cars are very good indeed, but the track cars are a touch lacking...
    • Like Like x 1
  10. lothario


    Online side is OK, however the cars do not feel real.
  11. P*Funk


    When I had iRacing installed last I recall only needing to download the content I personally owned or planned to race meaning I didn't need to keep anything up to date unless I planned to be on track with it.

    They usually have cheap introductory offers here and there, like when I first tried it out I got 3 months for $5 which was more than sufficient to give the game a shakedown with its free content. The only proviso is that you need to understand the Rookie Street Stocks is kind of like Devil's Island. All the lunatics who can't go one race without wrecking are stuck there forever because their iRating never improves.

    That said I still managed to win 2 Street Stock races and nearly won 2 SRF races. Lots of fun to be had for that $5. If I had more disposable income I would have kept my sub up for longer. Eventually you get put off by the fact that you need to buy new tracks every week for your preferred series which is the biggest barrier to proper committed play, but as I said the complementary content that comes with the cheapo sub is more than enough to get a feel for the value of the service.
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  12. Juliusz Baczynski

    Juliusz Baczynski

    Practice servers are available, you probably did not know where to look. It a shame you had problems with it because it's a great sim Imo, no one makes lazer scanned tracks better than IRacing plus the direct connection trough the wheel down to the ground
  13. Graham Jarvis

    Graham Jarvis

    When is it coming to consoles:p
    • Haha Haha x 6
  14. AngeloBonito


    My Gosh Bob!! it is so easy! sorry but you are loosing a lot if you really like racing!! five minutes in any youtube tutorial
  15. Eric Bergeron

    Eric Bergeron

    Don't apologize ! Your articles are so good that we forget about the gap.
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  16. Brian Himmelman

    Brian Himmelman

    IR graphics in VR as now clean and crisp with AA ... Great job
  17. Tony

    APIA RACING Staff Premium

    you obviously have not driven AMS and RF2:)
    give ams a try if you want great FFB
    • Agree Agree x 2
  18. Icarus2007


    I bought iRacing a few years back and return now and then hoping for the sim it claims to be, but I am always disappointed. I spent $240 on content and can hardly find an official race because I don't have the right content for it. The physics and FFB are bottom of the pile for me, Raceroom, rfactor 2, PCARS and Assetto Corsa all being better. Given the ridiculous cost of iRacing this make it the least attractive sim out there today. You can get all of the other sims with all the content for cheaper than a season of iRacing, and they all feel better and more realistic to drive.
  19. billymitchell


    I've had iRacing for years, here are some of my thoughts to contribute:

    - Paul's take is mostly accurate

    - Where the sim really shines is when you're in a close battle with another driver. Dissecting his racing line, challenging track and apex control, and then holding the position once you get it without driving dirty...that's a regular experience with iRacing. Add in the attrition of tire degradation with lighter fuel loads, dodging other people's wrecks, and managing your own mistakes or close encounters with terminal damage, it really does deliver on a lot of real racing elements.

    - Popular series often break down into 2 or 3 simultaneous races and you'll be grouped into one based on your skill and safety. At the beginning you will know by your initial car number where you "rank" in the race by just skill. Examples 1: I will qualify as 3rd and ranked as 5th, so I need to be aggressive and defend my track position to maximize points. Example 2: I qualify 23rd and ranked 19th, so driving safe and surviving to the end is the objective amongst drivers that are much faster. I usually yield more points (skill and championship) in races where the field is faster than me because I try to race clean and make it to the checker, and I make gains through other driver retirements.

    - The car tuning user interface is dated and does little to help you learn how to tune a car. I had to create my own spreadsheet just to figure out the min/max values of each setting! The community is helpful but competitive, so you can download shared setups automatically with 3rd party apps and discuss in the forums, but people won't reveal all their secretes.

    - As a road racer, there is a lot of content! They've been introducing new laser scan tracks at a fast pace (Monza, Imola, Sarthe in the last year), and it's difficult for them to balance a seasons calendar with both new and old tracks. It now feels like other games with DLC: the most you'll race a new track is its first season, so you need it right away to get the most use/value out of it with official series.
  20. David Dominguez

    David Dominguez

    Sorry? You know perfectly the min/max limits like in every other sim... on top of this it has a message box that explains the effect of each parameter, and in the aero cars you can even see the aero balance and efficiency with the selected wings at whatever ride heights you put... actually iR car tuning pages are more informative than any other sim.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2016
    • Agree Agree x 2
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