Since it seems that Motorsport Games’ BTCC video game will never be, rFactor 2 (rF2) has been quick to receive BTCC content. This of course mounts a challenge to RaceRoom (R3E). The latter being the official simulator for the WTCR. 2 different touring car associations in 2 simulators. For me, 1 defining trait of touring cars is Front Wheel Drive (FWD), so for todays test:
Let’s find out who does FWD better? rFactor 2 or RaceRoom?
The Starting Point
First off, who competes in this test?
rFactor 2’s new BTCC Content entails 2 cars from the britisch touring car championship. The Toyota Corolla GR Sport and the Infiniti Q50. Those 2, however, are not both FWD. That honour belongs only to the Toyota. BTCC regulations allow for both FWD and RWD entries, as opposed to WTCR. The Infiniti, in this regard, is a RWD car. So rF2’s entry will be the Toyota Corolla GR Sport.
Up against this is RaceRoom, the official sim of the WTCR. Now R3E has a larger selection of up-to-date touring cars. Amongst are Lynk & Co 03, Honda Civic Type R or the Hyundai Elantra N. But my most used TCR is none of these. So I’m going to use RaceRoom’s Opel Astra TCR as comparison.
Now in case you didn’t know, both rF2 and R3E use the same game engine, the isiMotor engine. In case you didn’t know, this is what people mean, when talking about “game engines”:
This means that theoretically there should be lots of similarities in the physics and feels of the vehicles, right?
FWD SimRacing could NOT be much more different
Here’s the thing. These 2 simulators have vastly differing force feedback. Meaning if you race with a wheel, like I do, you are going to get different reactions from your steering device. The wheel will try to simulate different feelings like vehicle forces, ground impurities, kerbs and much more. This, of course, is all in the name of immersion.
And this is where the whole comparison becomes unfair.
It feels to me like RaceRoom and rFactor 2 have different goals in their force feedback approach. While rF2 tries (and does very well) to give the driver a realistic challenge, R3E seems more produced towards crowd appeal.
The TL;DR of my upcoming impressions is:
If you want to quickly race and have fun, go for RaceRoom’s WTCR. If you want to be competitive and challenged in your abilities, go for rFactor 2’s BTCC.
Now for the more in-depth analysis:
RaceRoom’s FWD: The WTCR
Now KW Studios has had quite the experience with FWD vehicles. In the past they have been known by Sector3 Studios, developers of RaceRoom Racing Experience (2013) and SimBin Studios AB, developers of Race – The WTCC Game (2006). But that history is a story for another day.
In this regard, FWD touring car action has always been an important part of the studio. Their focus on these kind of series may have led them astray from hardcore-simulation however.
The Opel Astra TCR feels . . . almost too easy. Yes, you are going to understeer. Yes, you are going to lock up your brakes (repeatedly). Or does it feel too hard? But you can just get in and be on a semi-competitive time almost instantly.
It just feels doesn’t feel right.
And that is a common thread throughout all of R3E’s touring cars. It feels stereotypical. It feels known. I know it. And I am able to replicate it with the different vehicles. It has become familiar.
Some parts of what makes the typical feel of the modern TCRs might still come from 2006. Now I don’t have access to RaceRoom’s or Race’s code, but I reckon the vehicle files might include very similar passages. Of course it will, it still is the same engine after all, just a bit updated. And while KW Studios might have developed the physics engine a bit to better suit their needs, it feels somewhat limited. Whether this is on purpose or not I do not know.
If they deliberately implemented this same-y feel for the accessibility, that would be a good move. For hardcore SimRacers however, it might not be enough. It might be time for an engine swap.
rFactor 2’s FWD: The BTCC
Now to get to the Toyota Corolla GR Sport. This is a brand new feeling for me. The impeccable force feedback and challenging controls are what lets my heart melt. Trust me, I instantly fell for it, driving on Donington Park against AI as my first outing.
From the onset of exiting the pits I realised I had to be careful. Cold tires and brakes really mattered. There was no grip. Getting into a rhythm however, and with over 20 cars rubbering the track in, times started getting better. And so did my feeling behind the wheel. It felt so lovely, throwing the car into corners at maximum possible speed. It just worked.
“How could these 2 simulators share an engine?”, I thought to myself. It was astonishing. Positively for rFactor 2, where Studio 397 seemed to nail the development of their physics on the head.
Let me be the first to admit. This might be a fad. This feeling might fade soon, after more racing. But for now, let me fly on cloud 9. Let me enjoy this moment in time. And let me enjoy this rekindled love for rF2.
Now this seems pretty one-sided on my end, right? Yes, but there is some information necessary for you still left.
RaceRoom feels much more accessible to me. Not only from the car-feels, but from a multiplayer perspective. Joining and enjoying online multiplayer in RaceRoom is much simpler. Also the required hardware is lower for RaceRoom. And to top that, you can start out RaceRoom for free.
R3E’s main selling point is not realism. It is not trying to be be-all-end-all racing simulator. It is trying, and succeeding, to be accessible. You can jump right in and have a grandios time. Online or offline (though I very much recommend online multiplayer).
rFactor 2 on the other hand is way more intimidating. I get the feeling if you join an online lobby and you screw something up it’s the end of you and your reputation immediately. Stakes are higher. The average level of driving is higher.
If you are just starting out with SimRacing, or Racing altogether, you should go for RaceRoom.
If you are looking for a challenge and are willing to put in the hours of practice necessary, go for rFactor 2.
So who does FWD better?
Nobody. Both succeed in their own way.