Game Stock Car Review (PC)
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When you mention stock car racing here in the US, most people think of NASCAR. This is a type of racing that is based primarily on oval-style racing with domestic manufactures such as Chevy, Dodge and Ford; and famed racing venues such as Daytona and Indianapolis are also most likely also mentioned by both casual and hardcore fans alike.
However, on April 22, 1979 in Tarumã in Rio Grande do Sul, another type of stock car series was born in Brazil. The series today is called Campeonato Brasileiro de Stock Car, or for those of us Portuguees challenged, Stock Car Brazil. During its inception, the series included General Motors brand cars, which were the Chevy Opala and the Ford Maverick. Local racing fans immediately gravitated towards the series because of the American series emulated stock car name. This series was quickly held in high regard because of the performance of the cars and their sophistication. It has since grown to be the primary motorsports series in the country.
Currently backed by two manufacturers, Chevrolet and Peugeot, the series uses V8-powered race cars that reach top speeds of up to 270 kph. All the league race battles take place in 10 distinct and beautiful Brazilian tracks.
Many racing titles on PC and consoles today have a casual-sim targeted audience. Studios and publishers are challenged to market a yearly release that will attract new customers and retain existing ones with in-game gimmicks. Well, it's tough to argue that the targeted audience for Game Stock Car (GSC) is anything but the simulation crowd. And those folks are a different breed. They could care less about gimmicks and flash. Instead, they crave for details like slip angles, car setup options, realistic tracks and top-notch car physics. Fortunately, this is an area that GSC covers very well. From great physics to aggressive AI and an in-depth championship mode, GSC puts it all on the table. You will find yourself immersed in the title, wanting to turn laps again and again.
GSC uses Image Space Incorporated’s six-year-old gMotor 2 engine found in rFactor, Race Series and ARCA Sim Racing, and as you take your fist spin around the track, you will figure out that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Reiza Studios has managed to buff up the original engine and add a much needed turn of the wrench to some of the most basic features.
The force-feedback effects are handled very nicely and truly contribute to the feeling of flying around the track at 120 mph. This is primarily due to the implementation of the recently released RealFeel version 0.936. Every part of the track is felt, whether it be rolling your tire over the rumble strip, or making a critical mistake and ending up in the sand. The driver's vehicle will also absorb the hard racing and start to show signs of wear and tear, which can cause a person to lose precious seconds in the pits while waiting for damage to be repaired. GSC requires a person to learn a successful and consistent racing line, or deal with tires that may be a bit thin just when you need them the most.
You will find that the AI aggressiveness can change from one driver to the next. One driver may passively let you go by, while another will fight you for every inch on the track. Of course, all of these features can modified in the garage to pinpoint how the user wants to race.
In addition, a unique twist is thrown into the racing strategy equation. At the beginning of the race, you are given the option to use one of eight boosts or P2P (Push-to-Pass) opportunities. Just like in the real series, the player can "push" a button to boost the engine power an extra 50 horsepower (HP) for just a few seconds, which helps in overtaking other cars or making ground up. Once it is initiated and used, a counter starts and notifies you when you can next use the boost. This option alone helps keep you close to the leaders even if you make a mistake mid-race -- or you can be left wondering how many boosts the guy behind you has left with two laps to go.
It’s apparent that Reiza intended to keep its product all about racing. GSC does not include any blown-out introductions, military jet flyby sequences or fancy interactive load screens. It follows suit with other hardcore racing sims by keeping the presentation simple and to the point. The heart and soul of this sim resides on the track and stays there.
Jumping into Test, Racing, Championship or Multiplayer sessions is as simple and three or four mouse clicks. And navigating within the race difficulty, car and controller setup menus remains equally simple. Loading race events (depending on your PC) is very quick so frustrations with load times never prop up.
On the track is where this bad boy shines. First off, some of the better known tracks like Curitiba and Interlagos have been impressively re-created. The visual quality of all 10 of the included tracks is very close to equaling what you would find in iRacing. The tracks feature rumble strips, bumps and very detailed pit areas. The cars are rendered very accurately and feature some nice liveries. In addition, the track environments like the sky, grass, mountain and city backdrops are done in a very organic way. Everything just seems natural and not over-processed in any way.
Admittedly, the default sounds of the engines idling leave little to be desired. Once the cars hit the track, the engine sounds show some improvement. However, the idling of the engines sounds more like static then a V8 purring beast. (This is a low point that has been addressed by a sound modification that a community modder has already created and made available for download.)
One important item that is noticeably absent is the game manual. I looked online and checked the install files that came with the download but could not find one. This can be very frustrating to those who are not familiar with the game engine.
You can race online against friends or random people via dedicated servers. However, this an area which highlights the aging engine’s wrinkles. Chat with other drivers during racing is primarily done via text. (Unless a separate real-time voice chat system such as Teamspeak is used.) Mulitiplayer also does not include a built-in online race league, a variation of race modes or easy to manage custom paint schemes. The sim relies on dedicated server functionality where all the race league stats and custom paint schemes are tracked and managed manually.
The gMotor 2 online code has been solid on most titles. GSC benefits from this proven and reliable online code. However, online races will depend on the end-user connection quality and speed to the server. In the test conducted for this review using a standard DSL connection, I did not see any lag or cars disappearing. This is impressive considering most servers and competitors are based in Brazil.
Racing online can be very enjoyable even with the aforementioned challenges and limitations. The online races can include a mix of humans and AIs. The difficulty can also be adjusted by the race administrator by limiting driving aids, cockpit-only settings and race rules. Battling other cars for positions can quickly become intense and nerve-wracking moments. The cars spew small particles as they touch, beat and bang off each other. Severe damage is also implemented; the nose, quarter panels and rear bumpers on all cars can be damaged and may even fall off after collisions.
Career (Championship Season)
Game Stock Car features the 34 cars and drivers that competed in the 2010 championship on 10 Brazilian tracks. The single-player Championship includes the ability to race against 33 other AI drivers as you follow the 2010 schedule. You have the option to start a race weekend and come back at a later time to complete it. (This can only be done in practice, qualify and warm-up.) The big drawback found was the limitation to not save mid-race.
The race length, AI and driving aids difficulty can all be changed during the championship. I tested this mode in 10-minute races against 33 AI drivers, and it worked very well. Points are tracked after every race, and standings are kept to keep you informed where you stand in the championship.
This mode works very well because AIs are more refined than what I am used to seeing in other titles.
From the moment I fired up Game Stock Car, I realized what a quality title it was. From the great venues to smart AI to an absolute wonderful driving model, it rarely fails to deliver. This is anything but an rFactor knockoff, and it will challenge you from the moment you start turning laps. If this is the last sim to use the gMotor 2 engine, then it has gone out with class.
Control Scheme: Handles wonderfully with controller or wheel.
Audio: The sounds are there, but a bit weak at times.
Visuals: While not groundbreaking, still acceptable.
Learning Curve: This title will require plenty of seat time to master.
Score: 8.5 (Great)
(Unfortunately, at the time of this review, the only way to obtain the sim is via a 1.8 GB download that is only mirrored on Brazilian servers. This shortfall rears its ugly head via a few hours of download wait time. Furthermore, a good amount users have reported issues installing the game once it is downloaded. The team over at Reiza is working to address the issues.)