I must confess I haven’t been a huge fan of Automobilista 2 since it emerged onto the market in 2020. I found its physics and handling model like Project CARS 2, logical given both titles use Slightly Mad Studios’ proprietary MADNESS game engine.
However, it was Reiza Studios at the helm of its development this time, and I believed in its ability to make the most of the good parts of the engine (dynamic weather, track, VR capability and graphics) while turning the more divisive aspects around at the same time (mainly the driving feel).
After loving the rFactor-based Automobilista and Game Stockcar Extreme, as soon as I could, I shelled out for the deluxe early bird offer of Automobilista 2 (AMS2), plus all its planned DLC until 2022. It cost me around £80-90 – a decent wedge of cash – but I felt it would be worth it considering Reiza’s excellent track record.
But, ultimately, I was disappointed. AMS2 just didn’t have the ‘feels’ for me. Over time, I’ve dipped in and out of the sim, but it still failed to grab my attention, even after the huge amount of work Reiza has put into it.
The platform has a great variety of tracks and cars, tackling multiple racing disciplines including truck racing, Group C prototypes, touring cars and modern-day GTs. It’s almost in a league of its own in terms of official content. But it didn’t give me that ‘just one more lap’ itch to scratch, something that recalcitrant sims like Live for Speed can do so well.
And the additional downloadable content keeps on coming too, as v1.4.1 treats us to new tracks, cars and a continued focus on improving the whole AMS2 experience.
The question is, however, apart from the new content, does AMS2 feel closer to becoming the all-encompassing modern sim missing from today’s market?
World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR)
WWTR brings three new layouts to Automobilista 2: two road courses in short and long configurations, plus the oval as used in the IndyCar series. It looks great in AMS2 – perhaps even nicer than rFactor 2’s version.
I immediately jump in the Puma P052 to test out its new v1.4.1 damage model, and yep, it works as expected. After a few crash tests, I’m satisfied with the way its bonnet, wing and wheels can ping off after some car-on-wall action. AMS2’s damage modelling in the sim racing scene is perhaps only bettered by iRacing these days. More on that later…
Also known as Fontana, Autoclub Speedway hasn’t held a round of IndyCar since 2015, but it’s still used in NASCAR (handily the track is also owned by NASCAR). Owing to its IndyCar and Champ Car heyday, Autoclub Speedway is ideally suited to Reiza’s F-USA Gen 1, 2 and 3 cars.
And I got to grips with its walls very quickly…
Although not included in the USA’s premier open-wheel racing calendar, Daytona’s oval layout is a welcome addition to AMS2. In fact, with two confirmed NASCAR ovals now in the game, could this mean AMS2 is set to feature some American stock car content in a future update?
The latest version of Spa-Francorchamps also arrives with v1.41, and after last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix we can properly evaluate its accuracy in the sim.
For me, the newly added gravel traps took a little time to get used to. We’ve been spoiled by recent configurations of Spa, and their copious amounts of asphalt run-off, so to drive to the newest track limits was a real shock to the system.
It provides better racing though, as opponents who overcook their corner entry must lift off or face the time-sapping powers of gravel. Keeping your right foot planted as you touch the dirt risks an embarrassing spin, though… As I shall now ably demonstrate:
- Mercedes AMG GT4
- Vulkan Truck and Mini Cooper 1965
- Ginetta G55 GT3
- F-USA oval configurations
The headline car from AMS2’s latest update is undoubtedly the Mercedes AMG GT4. Already present in Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC) and iRacing, in AMS2 its external sounds are brutally gnarly. I was left a little cold by the feeling of it, however, as the area around the centre of my wheel was devoid of tactile feedback (I used the default Fanatec CSL DD FFB profile in-game).
In fact, I get similar feelings from a lot of AMS2’s GT cars. On the subject of GT racing, Reiza has managed to better balance the turbo and normally aspirated GT cars in v1.4, as it was found turbo power had a huge advantage at higher altitude tracks. Air density is thinner at higher altitudes, which is simulated in AMS2, albeit in an unbalanced fashion. That’s tremendous attention to detail right there.
Of the other new cars, the Mini is a blast to chuck around, while the Formula USA (Gens 1-3) feature their own default oval set-ups. I found them a little oversteery, but then again I’m not such a big oval driver (although I’m getting more oval-shaped as I grow older), so it’s likely down to inexperience.
The Ginetta G55 GT3 features the new real-world car’s disappointing exhaust note, while the Vulkan truck is there to provide extra competition to the offerings from MAN, Volkswagen, IVECO and Mercedes-Benz.
As noted above, v1.4 added oval racing rulesets to AMS2, including full-course yellow (FCY) implementation. Three oval layouts have also been added to the game, including the famous Daytona Tri-Oval used in NASCAR’s blue ribband Daytona 500 event.
The oval tracks are ideally suited to the fictional F-USA cars, but the faint whiff of officially licenced IndyCar content in the air means this may not be the last we see of oval racing in AMS2…
The onset of oval racing required the addition of FCYs into AMS2’s ruleset. In practice, it works as expected: big accidents bring out the yellow flags, and AI cars follow each other in a single file until the track is clear and the race can go green.
Cars also become transparent under FCY conditions, so if there are any vehicles stranded on track you will be able to pass through them undamaged (think along the lines of ACC’s formation lap procedure).
It adds a little more immersion to oval racing, which, in all honesty, works tremendously well in AMS2 (and Project CARS 2 for that matter).
DIESEL <COUGH> FUMES <COUGH>
Yes! Diesel smoke has properly been implemented into Automobilista 2, after Reiza teased the feature in its Formula Truck DLC for the original Automobilista. The effect is most apparent in the Brazilian Copa Truck series trucks – which includes the new fictional Vulkan truck as of v1.4.
It’s a minor graphical update, but one that certainly adds to the immersion of simulated truck racing in AMS2. I think the effect could be more pronounced, however, as trucks tend to belch out quite a lot of smoke. Now we just need to see the addition of steaming hot water-cooled brakes…
ADVANCED MECHANICAL DAMAGE MODELLING
The most fragile racing cars in the game – F-Vintage, F-Retro, F-Classic, F-V12, F-V10, F-Reiza and F-Ultimate – now have Reiza’s Advanced Mechanical Damage Modelling (AMDM) feature implemented, meaning cars can develop coolant and oil leaks, later developing into total engine failures.
The rate of wear is affected by how players drive, so sitting over the rev limit for prolonged periods will result in one or more cylinders departing the engine block in spectacular fashion.
Aurally, a sick engine is indicated by a misfire, with failing performance another aspect to alert the driver to ensuing issues. Oil leaks belch out black smoke, accompanied by a message from the in-game HUD telling you there’s a coolant leak. Not long afterwards, the engine will blow.
The game gives you enough warnings about impending doom so you can adjust your driving style to suit. Reiza also hints AMDM will be added to more cars in future. Nice.
Witnessing an H-pattern gearbox doing exactly what is supposed to do is still rare in sim racing, even today. But AMS2 (soon to be joined by BeamNG.drive) is one of those titles. For v1.4, the Caterham SuperSport has its H-pattern movement fixed – it’s not a new feature, but it’s still pretty cool – especially in VR.
The sim’s LiveTrack feature has also been tinkered with, offering even better track evolution simulation and water build-up/drainage. Coupled to 40 years’ worth of weather data for each track’s location, and the ability to use live weather data, AMS2 can simulate famous races from the past and present.
AUTOMOBILISTA 2: FULL OF POTENTIAL?
So, Automobilista 2’s v1.4.1 update has certainly added a chunk of new content – and it’s mostly excellent – but has the game’s physics engine changed enough for me to devote more time to it?
I think so, yes. Over the wide selection of cars I’ve tested for this article, most felt ‘right’ and didn’t have the weird steering effects I encountered in earlier AMS2 builds. I feel like the sim’s GT classes still need work in the FFB department, but I was massively impressed with a lot of the engine notes, especially the Formula Ultimate (sound being a particularly patchy feature in Project CARS 2).
The graphics are also unquestionably pretty, and with maximum detail, I still experienced smooth gameplay – even in VR! And VR is AMS2’s crowning glory – it works so well with large grids and inclement weather that it’s almost worth buying a headset for alone.
If this trajectory of improvement continues in Automobilsta 2 I will certainly be investing more time in it, and if you haven’t sampled Reiza’s work yet then now is a great time to jump in.
What have you enjoyed most about the v1.4.1 update? Let us know in the comments below.
*to drive the new F-USA cars, WWTR, Autoclub Speedway and Daytona Tri-Oval tracks you will need to purchase the Racin’ USA Expansion Pack. To drive Spa-Francochamps 2022, you will need to own the Spa-Francochamps pack.