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Can GTRevival set new standards for accuracy in racing games?

“Expect us to take a few big leaps,” Straight4 Studios CEO Ian Bell tells TG. Here's what they're working on...

Published: 11 Mar 2024

“Here’s a dirty secret about the sim racing genre,” Ian Bell tells us. “Most of the physics engines currently on the market go back a decade, and in some cases, two and even three decades.”

The Straight4 Studios CEO is fizzing with pride about GTRevival, the racing sim his team of Project CARS and GTR alumni are currently developing for a late 2024 release.

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And it’s not necessarily a bad thing that certain physics engines are old enough to order a pint by now, he tells us. Developers have learned how to “fudge” what they can’t accurately model, and as long as the car feels halfway convincing in our hands, we nod along and floor it.

But GTRevival refuses to fudge. Straight4’s building its new sim on a fresh physics engine that makes full use of modern gaming hardware’s power, and that means hitting a new level of physical accuracy.

“We use CAD data from the automakers to model the suspension geometry,” says Bell, “and we’re also adopting some soft-body components to better simulate component deformation under load.

“The engine model takes into account all the thermodynamics and gas flows from intake to exhaust to compute the correct power delivery.

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“The transmission model considers all the components flexing, reproducing natural oscillations.”

These details, along with numerous others Bell mentions that gently remind us how bad we were at physics in school, level up the overall handling model compared to your dad’s racing sims, in ways you’ll really feel, “particularly with a Direct Drive wheel”.

“We’re building a whole new engine and that means our community can expect us to take a few big leaps because we’re not ‘patching’  an engine that is ten or even twenty years old," he said.

Ordinarily we’d smile politely and get back to hotlapping in Forza, but Bell and his team have some serious expertise in this area. In an earlier incarnation as SimBin, they released the GTR games of the 2000s. The name’s a nod to those former greats, in case you didn’t catch that, and GTRevival’s car list also harks back to the same time. The confirmed vehicles so far are all GT1 and GT3 models from the mid-Noughties, muscular and throaty and untamed by modern electronics.

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With Slightly Mad Studios, Bell created the criminally unsung Need For Speed Shift series and the Project CARS franchise. And when a convoluted sequence of corporate takeovers doomed the planned fourth game, some of that incredibly talented team found their way to Straight4.

There’s decades of know-how within those walls, then. So if they tell you that “you can now feel our soft body chassis solver for the first time in our sims - and yes, it’s as sweet as you can imagine,” you defer to their wisdom and infer that something important has been achieved by minds smarter than yours.

Handling’s one thing. But we’re shallow beings at our core and we need our eyes and ears to be tricked, not just our hands.

“Graphics and audio are crucial,” says Bell. “I was looking at Project CARS 2 the other day, and I guess I’m a little biased, but go take that out on a rainy, foggy day at Spa and tell me there are sims out there today that are more beautiful, especially in VR. There just aren’t. And that team is still with us. Audio, same story.”

We’re inclined to agree, Ian. Built on those fundamental foundations, GTRevival wants to take on the big names in sim racing and assert itself as a base for serious competitions. You know, like iRacing kinda serious, only without the monthly subscription fees.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and capital and effort creating what we believe will be the most competitive online sport in sim racing,” says Bell.

GTRevival

“Leading that project is Henrique Alves who developed the Sim Racing System concept. We’ve given him freedom and a budget and a simple enough task — give those blokes from Boston a run for their money. And we’re confident we’ll be doing just that, except the cost of entry will not be a subscription but the price on the back of a box of GTRevival.”

Finally, at the other end of the spectrum are the newcomers. Racing sims don’t generally do a great job of onboarding the beginner racers, the ones without thousands of hours’ practice in other sims to translate to a new physics model and simply crack on.

And with its Racing School content, GTRevival hopes to offer a friendlier and more useful on-ramp.

“It’s been tailormade by real-world pros - Ben Collins, the former Stig to name just one - to enable drivers to become capable sim racers in the shortest time possible. We kind of introduced this concept of a driving school back with GTR two decades ago, as you may recall, and we’re bringing it back to GTRevival, but in a far more 'fun' way. Fun, but also designed to be a training tool.”

Not sure who he means by that Stig chap. The mode sounds promising though.

Bell tells us there’s a big announcement coming in March or April regarding a deal Straight4 has brokered and a delay to GTRevival’s release date as a knock-on effect. But we’ve been waiting two decades for a return to GTR’s hardcore sim levels now. We’re in the home stretch, and it sounds like this team’s creating something built to last.

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