Saturday, 3 November 2012

Auto Club Revolution

Offering the base game for free and charging for pre-mium features seems like a win-win for both gamers and publishers, and many game developers seem to be jumping on to the freemium bandwagon. We play the game for free. If we like it, we buy it and pay for additional content, and if we don’t, we simply move on. For publishers, the hope is to get players hooked with the free game to the point where they can’t resist the lure of the premium content. The challenge for the game developer, of course, is converting the player from freeloader to paying customer. It may seem hard, but more and more developers seem to be taking up this challenge; the latest being racing game specialist Eutechnyx.
The UK-based developer is probably best known in recent times for its work on System 3’s recent console titles Ferrari Challenge and Supercar Challenge. Its latest effort is the self-published free-to-play simulation racer for the PC – Auto Club Revolution, which recently moved from closed to open beta. We took the game for a spin to see if it’s got what it takes for us to fork out the green for its premium content.
This being a simulation racer, the most important criteria is the selection of cars and how they handle out on the track. As of now, the game offers just seven cars, and of these only one is available to you in the beginning. You earn XP and level up as you play and complete challenges, and a free car is unlocked every five levels. You will unlock all seven cars by level 35. The free cars include the Mazda RX-7, BMW M3, Corvette ZR1, and McLaren F1. From time to time, free cars are also given away. At the time of writing, players were being given the BMW 1er M CoupĂ© for free as part of a promotion with the German manu-facturer. If you do decide to buy, the game offers cars from several top manufacturers, including Bugatti, Jaguar, Nissan and Pagani. There are 30 cars available in all, with more on the way This is a sim, so you would expect realistic physics and accurate handling, and Auto Club Revolution comes pretty close to the best in the business in this regard. With assists off, the game will take some getting used to, but experienced sim racers will feel right at home. For newcomers, there is an array of driving assists at hand, including traction control, stability management, ABS as well as a driving line that marks out the braking zones on the track.

That said, even with assists enabled, this is no arcade racer, so go in prepared for its learn-ing curve. The game also offers an array of performance and visual customizations for cars, which require a combination of credits earned in-game and those that you’ll have to purchase. While alloy wheels, decals and paintjobs allow you to personal-ize your ride, the Upgrade section lets you enhance your car’s drivetrain, suspension, wheels, engine and weight. All of this is done via the game’s web browser interface.So if you really get into it, there’s a lot on offer to let you tweak your car, provided you’re willing to pay for it. But a good car is no good with a track to match, and as it stands, Auto Club Revolution’s track list is a little too scarce. All you have two fictional tracks - LA River (albeit with three variations) and Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, along with three real world tracks – Spa- Francorchamps, Silverstone and Infineon Raceway.I could have looked past the limited free car and track offer-ings if the game offered enough to do with them, sadly it only allows you to race if you choose to play online multiplayer. There’s no option for offline races against AI, so if you want to play by yourself, time trials are your only option. This is a deal breaker for me and the game’s various challenges, while a distraction, don’t make up for it. Head into an online multiplayer lobby and things get worse. The game client stands at around 240 MB, but as you play, the game downloads cars, tracks and other relevant content (my ACR folder current weighs in at 2 GB). The problem is that it only downloads the content that you’ve unlocked, so if you're in a lobby where the other players have cars that you don’t, the client will start downloading those cars before the race can begin. This means a long, agonizing wait for others in the lobby. Even when a race does eventually get away, there is quite a bit of lag and not enough is being done to discourage rash driving.This may be a free game, but it doesn’t compromise on visu-als. The cars look great, and the re-creation of tracks like Spa and Silverstone, which have been featured in countless other games, is right up there with the best. There are many visual tweaks you can apply and the game seems quite scaleable.Auto Club Revolution is very much a work in progress. There isn’t enough content, and without the option for offline races against AI, it’s incomplete. The client needs a lot of work too.
That said, ACR has a solid base of realistic car handling, well designed tracks, good visuals and deep customization options. Eutechnyx knows how to make a good driving game; they just haven’t wrapped their heads around the freemium digital model just yet.
Note:Since Auto Club Revolution is still in open beta, we didn’t think it would be fair to assign it a rating. We’ll have a comprehensive review for you once the game is out of beta.


Processor: Intel 1.8 GHz dual core or equivalent CPU; RAM:
3 GB; Graphics: Shader 3 graphics card with at least 256


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