Well it finally saw some light earlier this month. Rfactor 2 'Open' Beta was released for the world.
I say 'Open' as it was not quite that simple for me and as it turns out, many many people across the globe. Okay so we all knew that it was going to cost us about $40 to play the 'open beta'. But we all expected it to work more or less straight away. I certainly didn't have my up and running as soon as I paid for 12months to the game. In fact I didn't have it running for about a day and a half after downloading and installing the thing. I did expect the servers to be slow or have minor breaks for the first 48 hours after release as there was always going to be a mad rush to get the game. So I backed off and waited patiently for the third day after release before tearing open my wallet to locate my credit card to the punch in the numbers and details to get my hands on a game many of us have been drooling over for the past couple of years.
Sadly the game didn't just 'ping!' open up. In fact it felt like an eternity before my issues with online payment were resolved. So this is why I am being a bit harsh on the game. They made me wait for it and then charged us not exactly 'mates rates' for a 'beta' with little actual content in it. All the money issues aside, I might as well go on and get talking about the actual game.
I have only tested single-player thus far and therefore can really only comment on that aspect of the new game system. Okay so the menu feels much cleaner and neater than that of Rfactor 1 (yes we can call it that now). I do enjoy the flashing 'cards' that present the various racing cars, tracks and race systems to us. It is a nice touch to the format. The introduction of weather was very intriguing and I couldnt help but fiddle to be sure that my first racing weekend was boiling hot before bucketing down with a monsoon of a shower before drying out at the end of the weekend to some afternoon sun again. This system looks brilliant!
It takes me aback to that of Grand Prix 4, which in my eyes was the definitive sim until Rfacor found its feet in mid to late 2007. GP4 had a fabulous weather system for its time and still today makes Need-For-Speed and other shiny games look rather stupid. I feel as though Rfactor 2's weather system may be based on GP4's model. No matter, it does the job well. That is to say that there are obviously still some minor bugs in the system as it rains in the Monaco tunnel. I have no doubt that the full version of the game will fix small issues such as these. Yes I am well aware that it is still a beta.
Okay, actual racing time. I maxed out the settings with only AA and ASF set slightly below full (8x each). I did a very crude car setup to my F1-1968 car and clicked race. The first thing I am greeted with is a low polygon model of a man standing in front of a wall. Hmm, ok. Oh wait, he can walk and move his arms - cool! So he is not the best looking pit model, but already I can see that this is not Rfactor as we have all played before. The car blasts to life and I engage first gear and slightly squeeze the accelerator. Stall. Woops, I forgot to use the clutch. Esc, Esc and 'race' once more. Okay, this time I have my left foot flat on the clutch and I sheepishly select first gear and feather my foot onto the power to get her moving. Already I can see the sun bounces off the suspension of my car as I try to figure out where I am in Monaco yet continue to follow the man who points to the left. Ah! I see now. I never knew that cars were parks back there when not racing (interesting).
I drive out of the makeshift pits and already I can see the circuit ahead. I shift to second and then up to third all while admiring the high polygon trees, buildings, road, signs and OH WAIT! I need to turn! Crunch. Well I got to the first corner, I just didn't slow down that much. My car comes to a rest on the opposite side of the circuit slightly up on the footpath (yes footpath). I don't click esc and return to the pits this time. No I am still admiring the ambience of the circuit. Marshals who stand with next to no protection from a road barrier wave yellow flags to warn the AI that I have cocked it up at Sainte Devote.
The game looks fabulous. It already is streets above that of Rfactor 1. The ambience of the game environment while racing makes it feel more like a racing sim than Rfactor 1 ever was. I did indeed get going and drive a good thrash around Monaco all while trying to come to grips with the handling of the beast I was trying to tame. The tire models are spectacular to say the least as is the potential for modders and track builders alike. I think this game has a really bight future in front. Bring on the full game!