The much-maligned PC racing simulator platform Automobilista 2 released a fresh update yesterday with a list of changes bigger than Cristo Redentor.
The Brazilian development team Reiza Studios – also of Stock Car Extreme and Formula Truck 2013 fame – has been working around the clock and through weekends in order to refine, polish and improve its latest release.
I know that they’ve been working so many long hours because updates regularly land on a Saturday…
The title was first released in Early Access back in April 2020, before a v1.0 launch just two months later, and since then through a series of free updates and paid DLC (the full season pass currently costs £79.99/€89.99/$99.99) has been evolving ever since.
In a bold move, the team moved away from the ISImotor2 game engine that powered the 2016 original and onto the MADNESS engine from Slightly Mad Studios that was previously the basis for titles such as Shift 2 Unleashed, Test Drive Ferrari Legends and Project CARS.
While some decried that switch, what it now delivers is enhanced visuals, ear-piercing sound, VR and dynamic weather.
This latest update, along with a new paid-for content set, doesn’t necessarily remedy the main pain points for those holding pitchforks, but it does remind you of just how much fun can be had within AMS2.
The Monza Pack is available now for £7.99/€8.99/$9.99 and it delivers seven total layouts for the cathedral to speed. Among these, there’s the ‘Junior’ short layout and the contemporary setup which you’ve most likely driven thousands of virtual miles around in other titles already.
However, the big-ticket items are the 1971 and 1991 layouts.
Taking to the track in the 30-year-old layout first, the second Lesmo is quicker than you’re used to, the braking zone for the Variante della Roggia is deeper and the kerbing is of a vintage, non-sausage, variety.
The Variante de Rettifilo is the real star here though. It’s still a fiddly, narrow, chicane but with four corners in total, there’s more of a flow than its current setup. I much prefer it to the present-day design and paired with the fictional F1-like Formula V12 single-seater, it sounds a lot better too.
The details go further than the layout too, thanks to Automobilista 2’s time-specific environments. Monza looked resplendent with an autumnal browning of the surrounding trees. My favourite flourish being the retro Lancia Delta and Fiat Uno advertising as you approach Curva Parabolica.
The free-revving engine is sonorous, the track detail on a par with the Sistine Chapel and the smile on my face broader than someone who has just won the EuroMillions.
Somehow it grew even larger when taking the Formula Vintage – again, of the fictional variety – for a spin around the now 50-year-old 10km configuration.
For those unfamiliar, the main chicanes are non-existent, and as you exit the current final corner, you then drive parallel to the main start-finish straight in what became the pit lane before you enter the steep, bumpy, banking.
The steepling inclined curves are still there today, used for the Rally Monza, but here in my virtual world, I’m going full pelt around the rutted concrete in a fragile open-wheeler and my eyes are on stalks.
Until I pause that is, as I’d forgotten how good AMS2’s photo mode was. Damn, it takes a good picture even on feather-weight hardware.
This is where Automobilista 2 excels. The sights, the sounds, the atmosphere. Tracks from a bygone era, which seem to be a core competence of the Reiza team. Driving to soak up the details, to feel as if you’re in the past, to keep memories alive of since altered tracks like the original Hockenheimring or Bus Stop chicaned Spa-Francorchamps.
If you’re heavily into a particular sim racing platform you may be the one posting to Reddit or forums about tyre models and force feedback. I get it. But Automobilista 2 can deliver an unique experience and that’s why it can co-exist.
Crank up the volume, use the cockpit camera, select a retro car and a vintage track. Drive like the hybrid era doesn’t exist.