Ferrari has released their Virtual Academy 2010 simulator a few hours ago, giving sim racers access to a virtual version of their F10 Formula One challenger as well as a laser-scanned version of Fiorano for 14,90€.
Once you´ve bought the game on the Virtual Academy website, you´re offered a 145mb installation file download as well as a license key. Once the installation file is downloaded and installed, the title will ask for your email-address and the mentioned key – Starting the simulation is not possible without one, there is no demo version.
Before the first start, a configuration tool lets you specify general settings such as resolution and controller settings. The Virtual Academy works with pretty much all steering wheels, coming with pre-set profiles for all current models. Starting the game always requires an Internet connection as some data is loaded from the Ferrari servers, a measure to prevent cheating and keep their sensible physic data away from prying eyes.
After the game has started, players are greeted by a rather simplistic menu system that doesn’t offer to many options aside from either going straight to the track and watch a replay.
Before heading out on track, sim racers can choose to use driving aids for shifting, braking and stability control, all of these aids can only be used in practice mode as hotlap laps have to be set without any aids. When arriving in the garage, the first thing that can be noticed are the beautiful graphics. The preview material did not promise too much, Virtual Academy 2010 looks top-notch with a highly-detailed car model, great track modeling and proper lighting.
Experienced netKar Pro racers will instantly recognise their simulation under the hood as Virtual Academy even uses the same keyboard shortcuts as Kunos’ simulation title. Players are not given much room to fiddle with setups as the simulation provides four pre-set setups, the only adjustments can be made to the fuel load and brake bias setting. While the first setup is the most forgiving one and best for beginners, the other three make the car feel a lot sharper when driving.
Speaking of driving, that’s what Ferrari Virtual Academy is about – There are no AI cars and no competition other than the clock. Once you drive the car out of the garage, you`ll instantly feel that Ferrari isn’t playing nice with their title. The F10 is a real beast that will instantly spin out under you if you just look at the throttle wrong. The car has massive downforce and is rather easy to keep on track in a straight line, braking and cornering require some serious driving skills though.
The car will instantly spin out if you hit the curbs wrong, especially in the frighting flat-out corner the third sector has to offer. Finding the right braking points and pressure is a tricky affair and watching Felipe Massa’s replay will most likely leave you in awe – The Brazilian’s 0:57.579 laptime should be nearly impossible to beat for non-alien sim racers.
In terms of physics, the F10 feels just like I would expect an iRacing Formula One car to handle, the car handles very believable in any situation and, despite being a real monster, is rewarding to drive. Force Feedback is decent as well, feedback from the track surface is very much limited though as there don’t seem to be any noticeable bumps at all. Whether that’s because none have been implemented or that Fiorano is actually a very smooth race track is for other to decide, fans of iRacing’s bump modeling surely won’t be impressed with this though.
The package is rounded out by nice sounds and g-force camera effects that increase the realism level even more. Missing features include a damage model and weather as the virtual F10 is indestructable and Fiorano offers nothing but sunshine. Other available features include a replay mode to watch your best laps as well as a rather simple telemetry tool allowing you to compare your speeds, braking & throttling against Felipe Massa’s benchmark time.
It’s a pleasant surprise that Ferrari has resisted to make their simulator accessible to the masses by dumbing down the driving experience as Virtual Academy 2010 is a real simulator that will offer even experienced sim racers quite a challenge. Their no-frills approach is certainly not for everyone, sim racers that are looking to actually go racing will be disappointed as Virtual Academy offers nothing but hotlapping. There’s no shortage in motivation though as going against the time of real Formula One ace can be quite addictive – You´ll most likely never beat him but there’s always a chance to shave off another tenth or two with the next lap..
If you love driving Formula One cars, the 15 Euros on Ferrari Virtual Academy 2010 are very well spend as the title offers the most realistic virtual Formula One car to date.
Update: Added a great video by 6e66o showing the menu system and plenty of driving footage.