By: Justin Hobley
rFactor 2 is a realistic racing simulator produced and published by Image Space, Inc. This simulator is the sequel to the original rFactor, which was released in 2005, and considers itself to be a modding platform, encouraging players to develop tracks and vehicles to extend the available content in rFactor 2. With that said, let’s grab the keys and get behind the wheel.
rFactor 2’s controls are tailored around gaming setups that include a steering wheel and pedals. I found that, on my initial attempt to play, doing so with an Xbox 360 controller was remarkably difficult due to how overly sensitive steering with the analog stick was. To complicate things further, mapping throttle and braking to the analog triggers of the Xbox 360’s controller at the same time isn’t possible. This isn’t to fault ISI: the way the controller is addressed by Windows causes this particular mapping issue.
Once I moved to an actual steering wheel setup (the SteelSeries SRW-S1) rFactor 2’s playability increased significantly. Being able to feather the throttle and brakes, mapping these to the analog triggers of the wheel, as well as having good access to the majority of the needed features for operating my vehicle of choice without needing to reach for the keyboard allowed me to focus more on the driving and less on trying to not spin out and kiss walls.
There’s a lot to take in when you’re behind the wheel in rFactor 2. You need to keep your eyes on the road, your competition, as well as various flags for road and racing conditions. In evening lighting, I found it hard to distinguish lights and flags on several courses without the presence of the additional HUD indicators.
Again, I can’t fault ISI’s aim for realism and hitting the target rather accurately, as the lighting reminded me of being behind the wheel of an actual car in the evening, the setting sun drowning everything in a fiery orange glow.
I was able to turn the graphics up to as high as the rendering engine would allow me to, and it did not have an adverse effect on playability. No stuttering, tearing, or blinking happened on the bundled tracks and vehicles.
The only thing that really stood out is for people with AMD Eyefinity setups, with rFactor 2 spread across multiple displays: While you’re in the game menus, nothing scales to fit the displays, leaving everything to swim in a sea of black at the center. Only when you’re in a car and ready to race does the view fill all of your displays in a rather glorious manner, allowing for an unfettered view of the car’s interior
There isn’t much to write home about with respect to audio. The sound of the lap time announcer is stiff and mechanical, but it’s relatively clear and easy to distinguish. No music is included, but rFactor 2 will use Steam’s music player and its available music when configured in options.
I had to adapt to the differences that an actual racing simulator brings to the table. The engine and tire models that the vehicles use closely match what you’d expect from an actual automobile and have a need for finer control, as opposed to just mashing the gas and expecting that going fast all the time is the winning solution like any arcade-style racer would lead you to believe.
The courses and vehicles that are available both as part of the default packaging as well as the downloadable Steam Workshop provide ample choices for play. I was able to go from a supercharged car that would be at home at Talladega, Jacksonville, or Palm Springs to a 125cc go-kart that fit right in on the Dallas Karting Complex, and even to an ATV that would be at home on the shorter courses.
Road conditions are faithfully emulated, with the expected perils of spinning out or smashing a wall when driving too quickly on a road bathed in heavy downpour being handled well by the physics engine, as well as extremely hot conditions leaving their mark on your road tires while you try to run courses like Sebring.
One of the annoyances I found during gameplay is based on the holiday vehicle release, the Boxmaster delivery truck: I was not able to run this truck in any event that starts in a garage as this truck would be wedged in due to its operating height exceeding the door height. This requires players to avoid practice laps or qualification runs on courses when using the vehicle, as there is no way to successfully start either of these.
rFactor 2 is a solid racing simulator that truly benefits from dedicated steering hardware for play — however, I would not feel right in recommending play if a steering wheel isn’t present, as using a keyboard or Xbox 360 controller takes away from the actual experience.
I’d love to see a larger community gathering behind rFactor 2 now that it has arrived on Steam, as the initial release of this simulator was done outside of the Steam distribution system as a way to welcome new drivers to the power of this simulator.