Thanks to BeamNG.drive’s gargantuan v0.27 update in December 2022, the game’s subsequent patch would always feel a little sparse in comparison.
Not only did v0.27 see the addition of a whole new map (Johnson Valley) and five new vehicles, but it also implemented bypass shock absorbers, advanced EV driving modes and a Tire Pressure Management System (not to mention a multitude of new Missions).
But don’t despair, BeamNG fans, as yesterday’s release of v0.28 sees some worthy content updates to the delightful sandbox driving sim, headlined by a refresh of the ETK K-Series and ETK 800-Series; plus a ground-up rebuild of the fan-favourite Automation Test Track.
There are also 19 new Missions to enjoy, including six at the aforementioned Automation Test Track (ATT), with a range of cars now featuring openable doors.
A couple of new quality-of-life User Interface (UI) improvements have also been added; including rudimentary stat-tracking and the ability to check the validity of installed mods (especially handy after game updates).
We’ve had a chance to sample v0.28, focusing on the revamped Automation Test Track and the two revamped ETK cars. Find out our thoughts below.
The ETK K-Series remaster has been teased for several months and was initially thought to arrive with BeamNG’s 0.27 update. Nevertheless, the BMW 3-Series aping K-Series has had a coat of polish and a full suite of body kits and engine options.
Being the sportiest model range from the ETK stable, the K-Series has predictably received racy “widebody ttSport” versions, including the track-focused GT-IV (DCT).
Although it looks fearsome, it feels well planted on the road, with ridiculous angles of oversteer possible through a quick blip of the throttle. And the new wide-body stance looks great too; enhancing its already aggressive looks.
The K-Series gains new engine options and skins as well as special “Rennspecht” parts, with a new ETK V8 engine available across the brand’s in-game cars.
The ETK 800-Series is a little more sensible, however, pitching itself along the lines of an executive BMW 5-Series. The big change here though is the addition of saloon (or “sedan”) versions of the car, which, in my opinion, looks much more elegant than the previous estate examples.
Taking a more road-focused 800-Series for a spin highlighted how forgiving and supple it can be, with the car’s tendency to understeer offset by a boot full of torque. Pliable and predictable, the 846tt Driving Experience model felt at home around the ATT.
The 800-Series has been given similar upgrades to its K-Series cousin, with new engine options, skins and track-focused “Rennspecht” parts; including widebody ttSport variations. It’s a well-proportioned car in my eyes.
Automation Test Track
The star of the v0.28 update for me, however, is the ground-up revamp of the Automation Test Track environment. Initially a place to test vehicle creations from the car-building game Automation, the ATT is a sublime course providing a mix of hairpins, chicanes, elevation changes and fast corners (it’s a test track, duh).
Fast and flowing and featuring a permanent Autumnal glow, the track looked a little rough around the edges before this update. But thanks to PBR (Physically Based Rendering) updates and texture improvements on buildings and obstacles, the track has a new lease of life.
One item of note is the attractive Poplar trees now lining the track, looking much more realistic than the previously used assets. However, on my playthrough, I still noticed a lot of heavy texture pop in, especially foliage, which was disappointing.
The ATT also features several other areas within its map, including a rally course, airfield, off-road route and a hydroelectric dam and I’m pleased to say they look better than ever.
While speeding up the dirt-laden off-road route towards the dam in an SP Dunekicker I had to admire the vertiginous details on the passing rock formations (while trying not to become part of them).
A quick trip through the tunnels within the dam also proved what a boon motion blur has been to BeamNG, before the inevitable crash.
Fans will also be pleased to hear the infamous ‘dam jump’ is present and correct, and is best performed while driving a rocket-powered bus and gravity turned down to 20% of normal Earth levels…
Overall, then, the ATT has experienced a pleasant spruce-up, with the map looking a lot less brown than it did before. I’d even go as far to say it’s close to being my favourite BeamNG map after Johnson Valley, once the pop-in problems are eradicated.
With every new BeamNG update comes the welcome addition of new missions, and judging from those present on the ATT the standard is high. I’ve hand-picked a few highlights below, but there are several new Missions across the Johnson Valley, Italy, East Coast USA and Hirochi Raceway maps to sample.
Hill Top Test Course
“Hill Top Test Course” sees players tackle a rally stage in the bonkers, mid-engined version of the Ibishu Covet, in an attempt to reach the end of the dirt stage by nailing each checkpoint.
The stage features numerous switchback turns which prove to be a real challenge in the Renault 5 Maxi Turbo-based Covet. Thanks to its midship engine block, the car needs to be driven exuberantly, so it’s best to channel your inner Jean Ragnotti and knuckle down (I won’t lie, this may require quite a few restarts).
This is a simple “collect X amount of icons in X amount of time” style mission, but the car you’ve been lumbered with is a red Pigeon – looking very much like Postman Pat’s van. With zero power and all the agility of a dead cat (poor Jess), this one is tricky to pull off.
With a little planning, however, you can keep the little Pigeon’s momentum up and beat the timer.
And if you don’t, just drive it into a tree…
BeamNG Sports Race
With a title like “BeamNG Sports Race” you’d expect to see some pretty tasty AI cars, wouldn’t you? Sadly, however, your opponents are mostly driving ordinary-looking family cars. You, on the other hand, get to drive a hot, little mid-engined Ibishu Covet (again).
It seems like a mismatch on paper, but the Covet is a wild one to control and a lot less robust than its three rivals (having just four cars in a race is also a disappointment). Any kind of race in BeamNG is great fun thanks to its brutal damage model, which makes this a battle of tempering your natural instinct to push.
And push I did, leading to the hilarious car-locking consequences below.
BeamNG also now offers players the chance to open doors, windows and boots on a select list of cars. It’s a cool feature, especially as before opening the bonnet you need to pull the release lever in the cockpit.
It also makes it much easier to snap your door off its hinges for that unique ‘al fresco’ driving experience…
As mentioned previously, BeamNG now has rudimentary stat-tracking, enabling players to see how long or far they have spent in their favourite maps. It also tracks how many rollovers and J-turns you’ve performed. Useful stuff.
My stats aren’t particularly impressive at the moment as I’m currently working remotely on a different PC in Dundee.
No Toblerones for me, however (one for Alan Partridge fans, there).
The game can also show a list of broken mods you may have installed, something likely to crop up after a new update. Handy.
The way Parts Manager displays a list of installed car parts has also been overhauled, making it much clearer to see what is and isn’t fitted to your car. It’s a small quality-of-life improvement but very welcome regardless.
Overall, v0.28 of BeamNG.drive brushes up a few rough patches in the game but isn’t a revolutionary step forward. A couple of remastered cars is nice and all, but the revamp of the Automation Test Track is the most valuable feature of the new update, alongside new Mission content to keep fans driving until the next update.
Let’s be honest though after the stonking pre-Christmas v0.27 content drop it’s a surprise to receive any new BeamNG updates so soon afterwards. And a pleasant one at that. More, please!
Have you had a chance to try v0.28 of BeamNG yet? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.
Now, I’m off to the dam in my rocket bus…