rFactor Review (PC)

The first thing to strike you in rFactor, a racing simulator by Image Space Incorporated, is how pretty everything looks.† The cars are gorgeous, the tracks lovingly rendered and even the backgrounds and scenery look great.† The second thing to strike you in rFactor is how amazingly hard this dang game is to play.† Unfortunately the importance of the second quickly outweighs the first leaving you with a sense of frustration as you painfully gain the experience needed to make this a fun game.

rFactor takes Customize, Control and Connect as the theme of the game.† The game is built to be very mod community friendly so itís easy to import new skins and tracks and even completely new physics models into the game.† There is a very active mod community on the internet for anyone interested in searching for them.† Beyond just the appearance of your car and the raceway you are going to run on there are many selections possible to customize the handling and performance of your car in the garage.† In fact there are so many that itís a bewildering array of choices for the novice racer.† Experienced racers (or just those obsessively into racing in general) will likely have no trouble understanding the multiple options, but if you are new to the genre be prepared to spend a lot of time learning about the various options available.† The game ships with no tutorial mode and a woefully short section in the manual for beginners.† The only way to learn is to dive in and learn the hard way or search for lists of hints on the internet.

This game looks great!

Trying not to bump the other cars.

I played the game on a 2.33 GHz Intel core2 duo system with 2 GB of ram using a Radeon x1800 with 1 GB video RAM.† I was able to push the game up to its highest resolution and this did give stunning visuals to the game with gleaming chrome and excellent lighting and moving shadows.† My many crashes into the walls disappointed me because I didnít see obvious damage modeled to my car, although on subsequent laps I could see my skid marks on both the track and walls and the performance of my vehicle noticeably changed.† However, I was never able to break a car so badly that I couldnít keep playing.† Up close the scenery on the sides of the track became unconvincing Ė they are clearly modeled to be viewed peripherally as you zoom by and not face to face as you spin helplessly across a field toward them.† Internet commentary shows that the game performs poorly on any systems less than the recommended minimum on the box of a 1.4 GHz processer, 512 MB system RAM and a video card with at least 128 MB of video RAM.

The second theme is control.† Controlling a simulation of a high performance car is unbelievably hard.† In fact donít even bother to try unless you have a joystick as a controller as the keyboard setup is nearly impossible.† The hardest thing I had ever done in a simulation before was to try to learn how to land an F-16 in Falcon 4.0 back in 1998.† That was until I tried to learn how to pull out of pit row in rFactor.† Driving the car without the ability to finesse the acceleration and turning transforms the game into a physics demonstration of how too much power to the tires makes a car spin around and around.† After giving up on the keyboard controls, and their maddeningly mapped key defaults, I switched to using a joystick to play the game.† The ability to control my speeds and turns more subtly turned the game from pure frustration into something playable.

Tweak your car for better performance.
I spent a lot of time going sideways.

Even still rFactor is very picky about the control inputs.† Itís extremely easy to spin the cars or overcorrect on any of the turns.† Managing speed and cornering is essential to mastering the game and expect to put in many long hours becoming good at it.† Even on the beginning levels I frequently placed in the bottom of the pack as I learned how to play.† There are many raceway walls that now bear the imprint of the side of my car.† There are many driver helps like skid control and antilock breaking that can be toggled to many different settings to help you though.† Be sure to turn off the assisted turning support though, its help makes overcorrecting easy. †

The final theme is connect.† The game has a built in game browser to allow you to connect with other people for multiplayer matches.† The browser isnít very intuitive but it does work and a little practice will allow you to find races to join.† If you are dedicated you can join one of the many racing clubs who sponsor password protected racing servers and hold regular events.† The multiplayer aspect of this game appears to be its primary appeal.† Consider features like the recordable and shareable movies.† rFactor makes it very easy to record movies of your racing prowess and export them as AVI files.† While this feature is available in both multi-player and single player itís obviously much cooler to share a video of you wasting your friends than it is to post a movie of you schooling the AI.† Multiplayer was smooth and free from lag for me on a broadband connection Ė however it was hard to find races where I wasnít hopelessly out classed.

Not in last place!† And pretty too.
But what do I do now?

My favorite feature of rFactor was the audio.† The high pitched rev of the engines sounds very believable as you gain speed and the sounds of the engine as you shift gears and accelerate is amazing.† The dopplering of motor sounds both in the instant replays and from inside the car as you pass, or are passed, sounds just the way I imagine it should.† The screeching of tires around corners and the sound of hitting the walls at high speed all seemed realistic to me.† I was very glad to find that the repetitive music tracks so common to other racing games is limited only to the menus and once you start racing you are only treated to the voice communications from your pit crew chief and the sounds of the race itself.

The essence of rFactor is that this is a game for hard core racing fans.†† Years ago playing Falcon 4.0 I found people looking at me with glassy eyes as I tried to explain the complexity of the game to them. As much as Falcon 4.0 was as game for air combat fans, rFactor is a game for racing fans.† And only the serious racing fan need apply.† To master this game you will need hours and hours to dedicate to learning the tricks and tactics of the game.† Fans that have racing specific controllers are almost certainly at an advantage over those using joysticks like me or anyone, heaven help them, trying to drive with the keyboard.† Once you have the hardware and experience you too will be able to bring those who donít grok this game to drooling insensibility as you explain the nuances and subtleties of the game. †

Top gaming moment:
† Discovering the pit lane auto pilot so I didnít have to embarrass myself leaving pit row any more.


By jormarakas (SI Veteran Member) on Mar 17, 2009
Hmm, since you make it sound so difficult to learn, im pretty sure its not the game for me =) I'm very impatient, and not the biggest fan of racing games anyway.