When people think of free-to-play games, the mind often dwells to MMO’s and RPGs or shoddy browser titles. However, there are more than a few racing titles out there that are free too. Yet, when it comes to an authentic and accurate experience, many of these will not fully entice driving fanatics. This is set to change with RaceRoom Racing Experience, a free-to-play racer in development with a teaser on Steam. It is indeed more accurate than other titles, but as far as control goes, it’s a never-ending struggle. Whether or not it’s enjoyable to fight tooth and nail over control of a racing vehicle is questionable. For now, let’s assume the game receives points for trying.
You can watch me fail here. Sorry for being sick and gross at the time.
The visual department has nothing to worry about. Cars float on tracks with pristine finish and glisten as the track reflects upon their shiny hoods. Indicators and other helpful factors can ease players along a track and tell them when to steer, while purists can still enjoy the fact that track recognition makes all the difference. It could’ve heightened the realism with damage models, but perhaps this will be worked in later on. Another plus for fans are the many different camera positions available. The esthetics of the game are fine, certainly for something that is free.
Driving does not receive the same carefree attitude as visuals. Aside from a floating sensation when operating the vehicle, maneuvering feels too stern for now. There is a realistic grip on how driving works and speed will strongly affect maneuverability, but it’s wrapped too tightly to work. Speeds and brakes are offset to the reaction time needed and effect of loss of forward motion to regain any control. This means that most of the time, the car is an unmovable straight arrow. In particular, hairpin turns are a nightmare to overcome, given there is almost no time to intervene and even the most careful turns end up in tragedy. Even if it’s realistic, it’s perhaps to coarse or poorly balanced to feel gratifying to overcome this giant obstacle. Making things worse, trading in too much mobility will make the car spin out, leaving only the thinnest of sweet spots where all will turn out well.
There is one redeeming factor and that is that RaceRoom allows for pretty elaborate customization. The issue here is that only more advanced racers will know how the terminology affects driving, which defeats an accessibility element sorely needed for other gamers. It enhances the skills of people with rudimentary skills already available to them, while those without means sink even further away. This is the basic element of the Matthew effect, which is known in the sense that the richer get richer and the poor get poorer. The same, in a different light, is currently true for this restricted racer.
Is RaceRoom Racing Experience headed in the right direction? Given its straight arrow track right now, it’s debatable. Yes, in the case that the means justify the end and it is a competent racer for those that know how to race. No, in the sense it doesn’t invite other non-dedicated racing fans to join the party. That’s fine, for now.