Game Stock Car – Review
More than one and a half years after Renato Simioni & Fernando Oliveira Jr. founded Reiza Studios, the Brazil-based company has released their maiden commercial simulation title.
Game Stock Car brings the 2011 Stock Car Brasil season to the PC, introducing a little-known local racing series to an international audience. Is the studio’s first title worth the buy? Read the review to find out!
Back in December 2009, former Simbin employee & modder Renato Simioni & Fernando Oliveira Jr. founded Reiza Studios, launching a new simulation studio that would employ some of the most talented rFactor-modders, including well-known names such as Alex Sawczuk, Niels Heusinkveld & Alex Borro.
That the combination of raw talent would lead to excellent results was proven by Reiza just three months later when the studio released the free Formula Armaroli, bringing a fictional open-wheeler to rFactor that is still regarded to be among the finest mods ever released for the simulation.
Following the little exercise, the studio moved on to more serious business by working on the Game Stock Car title that would bring Brazil’s most popular racing series to the PC using Image Space Incorporated’s trusted gMotor 2 engine.
These decisions make a lot of sense as a national Brazilian series is a great way for the local studio to get some exposure on their home market. Licenses for popular European or International racing series are all either taken or too expensive anyway, making this the logical choice for an upcoming operation.
Same goes for gMotor 2 given that the key members of the development team have loads of expertise with working within the limits of the engine and how to squeeze most out of the proven platform.
Virtually unknown to European race fans, the Stock Car Brasil series is Brazil’s most popular racing series ever since its introduction in 1979. When Europeans and Americans hear the words stock car, people instantly think of NASCAR and oval racing with big & heavy cars that use simple technology.
The Stock Car Brasil cars don’t fall into this category as the machinery used in Brazil would be classified as touring cars in other parts of the world. Powered by ethanol-fuelled V8 engines that put out about 520hp, the cars actually resemble a lower-tech approach to European touring car racers like those used in the DTM, using less fancy aerodynamics and cars that are more suited towards bumper to bumper touring car racing.
Despite the lower level of technology, the cars use modern fuel injection engines and even have a push-to-pass boost feature. Driving aids like ABS and traction control are unheard of in Brazil though, meaning there’s lots of challenge for the drivers left.
Following the departure of Volkswagen and Mitsubishi, only two makes are left in the series as Chevrolet and Peugeot fight for the series title. The bodywork just serves marketing purposes though as both models use identical technology underneath, leading to very close racing.
Being a national series, the Brazilian stock cars race exclusively in their home country. Of the ten tracks included in the 2011 schedule, only two will be familiar to most European & North American Sim Racers as Interlagos and Curitiba are part of the series schedule.
Aside from the well-known Formula One and WTCC venues, most sim racers will have lots of track learning to do as tracks such as Londrina, Brasilia & Santa Cruz are exotic locations for most sim racers.
This is one of the most appealing features the title as has to offer as sim racers have often raced the most common tracks to death as most people can recite the layout Spa, Monza or Silverstone in their sleep while the Brazilian tracks offer some all-new challenges even to experienced sim racers.
What makes the venues even more fun isn’t just that they´re exotic but they offer plenty of variety. From fast tracks with a simple & straight-forward to more technical tracks, a Formula One venue and even a street circuit, the choice of tracks leaves very little to be desired.
As mentioned before, Game Stock Car uses the trusted gMotor 2 engine made by Image Space Incorporated that has already powered countless titles including rFactor, GTR & GTR 2 as well as plenty of other simulations.
Making it’s debut in 2005, it’s needless to say that the engine can be considered dated but Reiza Studios makes most of what they´re given as the graphical presentation is solid through and through.
This starts with the nicely modeled & textured cars that come with detailed interiors and good-looking textures. The Stock Car Brasil series didn’t give the developers much to work with though as all cars have exactly the same interior and only two different body-shapes for the two makes, resulting in little optical variety.
The cars come in a heap of colorful liveries though, all of which look excellent thanks to some good looking shaders and cube maps. Another feature worth mentioning is the damage model as small bits and pieces of the cars fly off on contact, a pretty cool sight in close races.
While the cars are nice and proper, it’s the tracks that completely steal the show in Game Stock Car. With guys like Alex Sawczuk, Luc van Camp and even Alex Hummler aka Com8 responsible for the track creation, one would expect nothing short of excellence and the ten venues do not disappoint.
All tracks come with rich details, plenty of trackside objects, great looking textures and a proper atmosphere that makes them a joy to drive. The trackside buildings & objects are among the best I´ve ever seen in any gMotor 2 title and the overall quality of the tracks sets a new benchmark in terms of quality for titles using this engine.
To top it all off, the tracks even come with dynamic bumps that help enhance the Force Feedback experience but more on that later on.
Like all users of gMotor 2, Reiza has designed their own user interface and the team managed to pack lots of stuff into each menu screen, not forcing the user to click deep through menus to get to the desired settings.
Game Stock Car comes with proper sounds as one would expect. Given the fact that the stock cars use the same engines, there isn’t really any variety among the engine sounds but the V8-units sound properly powerful and raw.
Worth mentioning are the tire sounds that offer proper audio feedback on how the black rubber is doing.
The Driving Experience, Physics & Force Feedback
Anybody who has ever used rFactor will feel right at home in Game Stock Car as the UI and all features work like players are used to. Some details such as the in-car info-displays have been straight taken from rFactor, making the transition from ISI’s most popular title as easy as possible.
Once you get in the car and out of the pits, one of the title’s main innovation starts attracting your eye. Game Stock Car has a dynamic cockpit view that resembles the helmet cam found in titles such as Need for Speed Shift 2, minus additional helmet graphics or effects such as blur.
The driver’s view moves around the cockpit in the corners, creating a feeling of immersion that can rarely be found in gMotor 2 titles. Another real innovation is the title’s boost feature that simulates the push to pass option the series uses.
Drivers can use this feature to activate additional 50hp for eight times during a race. Once the boost runs out, a countdown ticks, informing the player when the boost will be available next time. This adds a very interesting strategic element to racing as saving up your boost options can very well make the difference between winning or losing a race on the last lap.
The Brazilian race cars are proper fun, reaching speeds up to 270 kilometers per hour. While driving these rather powerful touring cars is pretty easy as you get going, the cars can become quite a handful on the limit though, especially once the tires start wearing out.
Reiza seems to have put a lot of effort into the tire data as the grip levels & wear feel extremely believable and sliding around on worn out tires might not be the quickest way to get around the track but it sure is challenging & lots of fun.
The title offers a variety of setup options, some options are somewhat limited though due to the fact that it is a stock car series. To ensure a proper level of realism, Reiza has worked with several real Stock Car Brasil teams and drivers who´ve pleased the final result.
The physics are backed by very nice Force Feedback effects, another area Reiza has put lots of effort in. The title uses the popular RealFeel plugin for proper feedback effects, allowing experienced rFactor players to tweak Game Stock Car to their liking by messing with the .ini file.
The Force Feedback effects are enhanced by dynamic track surface bumps that add a level of track surface feedback to the effects that can not be found in most titles. Needless to say, the effect can’t be compared to iRacing’s laser-scanned tracks but the FFB in Game Stock Car is easily the most detailed I´ve ever experienced in any gMotor 2 title.
Usually, I only cover the AI in one or two sentences in my reviews. This time, the computer-controlled cars deserve their own paragraph as Reiza has put a great deal of optimization in the AI that very much pays off.
rFactor chronically suffers from bad AI, caused by the fact that the tracks and cars are not optimized to work best with each other, only very few mods like VLN 2005 have put in the necessary effort to show off what gMotor 2′s AI engine can do.
Reiza has done just that as racing the AI cars is great fun as the computer controlled cars race hard but fairly and rarely make mistakes. The AI cars run very consistent and quick lap times, it’s very common to see a full field of 34 cars being within 1 second of each other in terms of lap times.
All this results in a proper challenge as keeping up with the AI can be quite tricky, the frustration-level stays extremely low as the cars rarely run into each other and it is very uncommon to see half of the field being wiped out in the first corner.
Reiza Studio’s first mod and the talented staff have raised quite a few expectations and the studio’s maiden commercial title does not disappoint.
Due to the proven base, the title is not adding anything completely new to the market, it is the sum of small innovations and improvements that make Game Stock Car the high quality product that it is.
Features like the dynamic cockpit view and the push to pass feature add something new to the platform and the physics and Force Feedback effects prove that even a six year-old engine can be pushed a little bit further with the right expertise and careful optimization.
Players who are looking for known cars, drivers and tracks will probably be not happy with the title as Game Stock Car is definitely exotic when it comes to its content.
Sim racers who are open to experience something new will get their money’s worth with the ten spectacular & gorgeous tracks alone though and plenty of close racing action on top of it.
Game Stock Car sells for $29,90, the title is available online and can be tried for 30 free minutes here.