We’ve never been so spoiled for choice of racing simulation software as right now, and it’s never been harder to pick the right one to sink your teeth into, with multiple sims now costing north of £100 – Automobilista 2’s full DLC season pass recently joining iRacing and RaceRoom in the “expensive” bucket. Thankfully, that’s what this post is for – a (sort of) unbiased summary of what every sim has to offer you in exchange for your hard earned £*.
(*Other currencies are available)
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Yes, iRacing is expensive. As such, it’s not an ideal first foray into the world of sim racing, unless you’re rich or REALLY sure it’s what you want.
However, you unarguably get a lot for your money. The only sim with universally laser-scanned track and car models, and an impressive dedication to detail throughout. It additionally arguably has the best-optimised VR experience of any sim on the market.
The real draw to iRacing for many, however, is the online racing. It has by far the best matchmaking system – with transparent and tested structures for safety and ability that ensure everyone gets a good race – most of the time.
iRacing isn’t without its weaknesses however – the sound leaves a lot to be desired, and who hasn’t seen a video of a car being catapulted off into space?
The new kid on the block – and a serious contender.
A GT3 (and GT4 by DLC) only sim, so not one if you want a range of cars – or tracks, with only a handful – but it does do them well.
It has been praised by real-life GT series drivers such as Shinya Michimi for its handling and physics, and widely for its excellent graphics, audio and force feedback. Online racing is good compared to any non-iRacing title, boasting casual and competitive servers with safety rating that matters.
Really its only weaknesses stem from lack of variety – and being incredibly intense on hardware, with many users complaining that VR is impossible to run well even on the best consumer-grade hardware available, and a 2080Ti or close required to run 1440p triples effectively.
One of two sims (along with the original Assetto Corsa) with a plethora of mods to its name, good single-player AI, and widely considered to have the best force feedback in the business, rFactor is the grandfather of sims in many ways.
However, there are a good number of disadvantages, including some slightly dated graphics (depending on the content), nonexistent online play outside of leagues, a bad UI by anybody’s standards, and some difficulties getting it dialled in.
However, with the mods available, and the experience from a relatively small price point, it’s fair to say this should be in your Steam library if you can spare the time to dial in the FFB well.
Another oldie, and the largest array of mods available of any sim, the original Assetto Corsa is cheap as chips even with the DLC in 2020, and still stands up to scrutiny today.
Again, some of the visuals are a bit dated, but in every other way it’s just a solid all-rounder, and an excellent starting point. Mods ensure there’s something to drive for everyone, though the base content isn’t too shabby either, from Initial D’s tofu delivery AE86 to the Ferrari F2004, a good range of content is available.
Third party software Sim Racing System claims to have iRacing-style online, though I can’t claim to have experience of that – however, the AI is pretty good as sims go. Another one that should be in your Steam locker, and a go-to if you’re just starting in the sim world.
Graphics considered one of the best in all sims
Runs on both PlayStation and PC
Dedicated license system based on both speed and safety
GT Sport World Tour- Official GT Sport tournament
“Arcade” style physics, makes it easy to pick up, but also detracts from the realism
Lack of car/track diversity compared to previous generations
License system often inconsistent
Lack of real damage model
Runs on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC
Official video game of the 2020 Formula 1 and Formula 2 Championships
F1 Esports Championship, sim drivers recruited to represent official F1 teams
In depth career mode, up to 10 seasons long, featuring car development, driver transfers, etc.
Car handling/tire physics, easy to manipulate the handling model to find lap time. Not as realistic as other sim options on the market.
Bugs, glitches, etc. common throughout the F1 game franchise