The five most realistic PC driving simulators
While racing games are all fine and well on consoles, if you want absolute realism in your virtual driving, there are many other options in the world of the PC.
For this Thursday Five we take a look at the most realistic driving simulators out there.
For the ultimate in off road realism there is little better than this humble little Russian off road logging simulation.
While the concept doesn’t exactly sound exciting - explore a large open-world map in elderly Soviet-era 4WDs (and sometimes 6 and 8WDs!) to discover garages, fuel depots and logging camps, before setting about shifting the logs from one place to another, the actual off road physics are amazing.
Fighting your way successfully up a muddy hillside using low ratio and a winch, only to misjudge the last rise, hit a rock and roll all the way down again is massively frustrating, but utterly addictive.
Realistic mud and water physics are as close to the real thing as possible, while the ability to mod the cars sees things like a Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 jammed into a tiny Russian jeep makes it utterly hilarious as well...
Euro Truck Simulator 2
While the idea of a real-world job simulator is, again, not the most exciting concept for a game to base itself on, the real fun of Euro Truck Simulator 2 does’t come from the ability to lug a load of frozen chickens from France to Belgium, but rather the ability to use your massive 18-wheeler to explicitly teach a lesson in manners to the pushy prat in the Renault Megane currently blocking you in on the motorway.
While the idea of grinding a French car into oblivion up against a motorway crash barrier is something we all have dreamed of doing, the realism of ETS2 allows you to do just that, with the only penalty being a term message flashing up in the corner of the screen and a deduction of a few hundred Euros from your payment. So worth it for the satisfaction though...
While the actual driving physics are a bit ropey, if you have ever wanted to see exactly what would happen if a 1977 Ford Cortina was dropped onto a Fleetwood Bounder RV from a great height, then BeamNG Drive is the game for you!
More of a realistic crash simulator than anything else, BeamNG Drive allows players to create their own maps, cars and obstacles, or just select what you want from the healthy modding community that has grown around it.
Ever wanted to thrash a tractor around a race track? Yep, you can do that. Ever wanted to see how a first-gen Honda Prelude crashes into a giant skateboard on a beach? Yep, done that too. Or how about trying to land a B52 bomber on the streets of Los Santos from the Grand Theft Auto games series? Yeah, you candy that as well...
Or you can just select a car and a road and just drive. It really is that flexible.
After years of messing around making increasingly silly arcade racers based roughly around rallying, Codemasters have now released what has to be one of the most fantastic looking, incredibly realistic and massively frustrating rally games ever made.
Just on PC for now - but coming soon for consoles - DiRT Rally is obsessively realistic and features cars from all eras of rallying; from original Minis and RWD Ford Escorts, through the Group B monsters and Imprezas and EVOs of the 90s, up to the modern era, they are all there.
If you have a powerful enough PC, then the graphics are as incredibly realistic as the handling physics - which are just incredible. Different surfaces have distinctly different grip characteristics, there is a realistic difference in feel and handling between FWD, RWD and AWD cars and rain DOES make a difference!
Staggering realism doesn’t come much more convincing than this subscription-based racer. While the graphics aren’t exactly cutting-edge, the track mapping is considered so realistic that it is actually used by real racing drivers to learn the tracks.
iRacing uses LIDAR laser scanning to map the real tracks and claims that this is accurate down to literally millimetres in scale, meaning that even small bumps present in the real track are in the games version. This has been confirmed by a number of racing drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr, Marcos Ambrose, Jacques Villeneuve and our very own Shane Van Gisbergen, who are all current or past scribers to the series.
In fact iRacing is so accurate in its track mapping nd physics that Will Power used it as part of his recovery after breaking his back in the 2009 Indy Car season!