How To Start Sim Racing Part 1 – Which Game to Start With?
Hey guys. This guide is the first of many, in our new “Getting started sim racing” series.
In this series of guides, I’m going to run through the complete process of starting sim racing. From the first baby steps in to sim racing games such as Assetto Corsa, through to a full comparison on racing wheels vs controllers.
Beyond these baby steps, I’m going to delve in to every facet of sim racing, showing which gear I’d recommend… Beginner and advanced driving techniques to improve your racing performance… And even talk about full seasons of iRacing and how much it costs to commit to sim racing across a whole year.
Which Sim Racing Game Should I Try First?
So let’s jump straight in with our first guide, and this one covers a question which I get asked a lot. Which sim racing game is best for beginners, and which sim racing game should I play first?
To answer this question, I’m going to go back to a time when I wasn’t a sim racer myself. Despite being a fan of motorsport since I was a kid, the closest I got (and the closest many gamers get) to sim racing growing up was playing Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport with a game pad.
These pseudo-sim games felt as real as I could imagine racing games being back in the day. They featured sim-cade physics, meaning they weren’t full on arcade and unrealistic. Instead they opted for a physics engine which offered some form of perceived car weight and slower, more realistic handling.
Games such as Forza and Gran Turismo are designed to fill the void that sits above out and out arcade racers. And they fill that space perfectly. They’re accessible, easy to play with a controller, feature races which are short and digestible, and give players a huge amount of freedom when it comes to car variety.
However, these games aren’t sim racers.
When you look for your first sim racing title, you have to start browsing the more niche, and less main stream racing games. Titles such as Assetto Corsa Competizione, and Project Cars 2. (Project Cars 3 is definitely not making this list, as it’s a terrible, terrible game!)
The Best Entry Level Sim Racing Games
Looking to buy your first sim racing game isn’t too hard on any console, thanks to the developers over at Kunos. Going back a few years it was very hard to find a good sim racing game on either PlayStation or Xbox console, as they were normally reserved for PC only. However Kunos have recently released their latest sim title, Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC).
Assetto Corsa Competizione
ACC is a sim racing game that replicates the official GT World Challenge Series, in a similar way that the Codemasters F1 games only include Formula 1 and Formula 2 racing series.
The GT World Challenge Series features a wide selection of GT3 cars, which are typically racier versions of regular supercars you can drive on the road. You’ll find cars such as the Ferrari 458, the Mercedes-AMG GT and Porsche 911’s in the GT World Challenge Series. Although all of these cars are track-only variants.
By focusing entirely around this GT3 platform, Assetto Corsa Competizione gives itself the chance to really nail the simulation physics. And it gives aspiring sim racers a good platform to drive one of the most popular types of sim racing car, the GT3 car.
Assetto Corsa Competizione does a lot of things right. And first and foremost is the driving physics. This game offers one of the most realistic driving physics engines around, and it is completely playable across all console platforms.
This ease of accessibility gives any console gamer the chance to pick up this title, and see what all the fuss is about with sim racing. And because of this ease of accessibility, ACC is one of the first games we recommend new sim racers play.
Project Cars 2 (Not Project Cars 3!)
Another game which tries to replicate a close to realistic motorsport simulation is Project Cars 2. This is a game which was developed entirely around console platforms, with the goal of bringing sim racing to the masses.
Unlike ACC above, Project Cars 2 features a wide variety of cars, more akin to Forza Motorsport. You’ll find your regular road cars, meaning you can jump in to a stock BMW M2 and blast it around a track such as Brands Hatch, just like you would on a track day.
But you’ll also find a wide variety of track-only cars. These include some of the GT3 cars that can be found in ACC, along with open wheel cars, all the way up to the fastest prototype endurance cars.
This variety of cars gives sim racers a distinctly different experience when compared to ACC. You can choose to hone your driving ability across a wide range of car styles, which can in some cases be better than sticking entirely to GT3 cars.
The wider array of cars in Project Cars 2 lets you find your own place within the sim racing world. It could be that you prefer open wheeled cars over traditional GT cars, or maybe even the beastly prototype cars.
Stepping away from the car roster for a moment. Project Cars 2 also does a fantastic job of providing a simulation physics platform for you to race one. Although it will feel different to the physics engine in ACC.
The developers over at Slightly Mad Studio, who created PCars 2, went for an ever so slightly toned down physics engine. Meaning it isn’t completely sim focused.
There are a few aspects to how each car behaves, which take away from the full simulation approach. And this decision goes back to the fact that this game was developed with console gamers heavily in mind.
To cater for gamers who would be playing with a controller, Slightly Mad Studios decided to make the game a little more forgive-able. This is designed to make controller gameplay a little easier.
This decision in my opinion is a good one. As it allows console gamers a nice stepping stone, from arcade racing games into an almost complete simulation environment. And for that reason, Project Cars 2 makes a fantastic first sim racing game.
If you’re a big motorsport fan, and a fan of open wheel racing such as Formula 1 and IndyCar, then the F1 2020 video game offers a great sim racing experience. The F1 game series is created by legendary racing game designer Codemasters, so has good pedigree to its name.
And being a Codemasters game it isn’t too much of a hardcore sim. Instead it balances between simulatio and arcade, and can be raced with both a controller or wheel with relative ease.
This allows the F1 2020 game to be a great game for those who are dipping their toe into sim racing. You can start out using a controller, with various levels of assists enabled. And as you improve, you can seamlessly progress on to a racig wheel.
There are enough assists in the game to allow players of all skill levels to race. And once you turn the assists off, the car does have a rather simulation-esque feel to it. It is easy to lose control of your car if you overstep the grip level, allowing racers to dial in a good feel for where the grip is.
F1 2020 is a game which is widely played across the sim racing community, and you will always be able to find an online race or league to test your skill levels. There are even competitive Esports leagues which race soley on F1 2020, meaning you’ll have good competition as you get faster yourself.
If you’re a PlayStation gamer, or have grown up playing Gran Turismo games like many of us. Then GT Sport would be a fantastic place to dip your toe in to sim racing. It’s a game which takes a distinctly different approach to normal Gran Turismo games, as this iteration is focused heavily around competitive online racing.
Gone are the hundreds of regular road cars that you normally find in Gran Turismo games. Instead you will find a selection of track cars and licensed race tracks. The concept with GT Sport is to race competitively online, increase your driver ranking, and ultimately compete with faster and faster drivers.
GT Sport does feature single player game modes such as a driving school to help you improve your techniques, and circuit experiences which help you learn the tracks. So you don’t need to be worried about jumping straight in to a competitive online experience. There is certainly scope for you to get to grips with the style of driving before hand.
Once you’ve completed these single player events, you should look to jump in to the online modes. The matchmaking is pretty good so you will be partnered with other drivers of a similar skill level. This approach allows you to grow and improve your driving each race.
Ultimately, GT Sport offers a well rounded experience, designed to help you improve and challenge yourself as you grow as a sim racer. And it makes for a great place to start your journey.
Best Advanced Level Sim Racing Games
When it comes to more advanced simulations, there are a couple of racing simulators which have really carved out their niche as the hardcore competitive racing platform. These are games where competing against other drivers to really test your skills is the goal.
We’ll start with iRacing, which is without a doubt the most popular online racing sim. It allows for some of the most competitive online racing you can find, and it boasts one of the most realistic physics engines.
iRacing is less of a game, and more of an actual hobby, where all of its users pay a monthly subscription to compete in online tournaments. Every racer participates in pre-arranged official competitions, or seasons, against the same drivers across a selection of tracks. These competitions all award points just like a real motorsport event with the racer with the most points at the end of the season coming away the champ.
Everything that happens on the road stays with you in the form of a license. As you battle for race wins and podiums, you’ll move up the license progressions, from D and C, through to A and Pro levels. And as you progress and improve, you’ll find yourself moving up through into higher tier seasons, up against better opposition.
If you have dabbled with other racing sims that we’ve spoken about, and you are in need for some serious competition. Then iRacing may be the right platform for you. I’ll discuss the full cost of iRacing in a future chapter of this series.
rFactor 2 is a sim in a very similar vein to iRacing. And it’s a game which has become renowned for its large modding community.
This is a simulation which isn’t membership based like iRacing is, but features some of the most advanced racing physics around. Making it many sim racers favourite race sim.
Where rFactor 2 differs from almost every game on this list is modding. It’s developers have been very open about how easy they have made it for the community to install mods.
And this has led to rFactor 2 being one of the most complete racing sims. You don’t necessarily need to pay for extra cars, tracks or content, as you can find a lot of it modded in by its avid fan base.
If you ever fancy trying a mod of a new car or a new track, rFactor 2 is without a doubt the best place to try it out.
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