Sim Racing - How I started the Journey
Not only have I come a long way with car games, Sim Racing itself has come a really long way. Aside from the awesome arcade classics such as Daytona, Cruisin USA, Offroad, Sega Rally, Outrun, or even the first time driving a stick shift with a clutch with Race Drivin…..I still remember when the first Need for Speed came out for PC. It wasn’t your usual beat the clock racer, or head to head action. You literally hopped in a vehicle and just drove to the finish. I know it doesn’t sound too exciting, but the realism of the game had car lovers like me hooked to the game right away. Even with the fact that I was using a keyboard to drive a car! Of course it was 1994 or 1995 and you didn’t have the options you have now!
Fast forward to 2022, and now there are are number of different steering wheels you can use to game, or a control pad. (Not to discredit the keyboard, I actually like gaming with the keyboard sometimes).
To be honest, my first encounter with a steering wheel setup was not that great. Around 2010? Playstation 3, Logitech entry level wheel, Need for Speed Run. If anyone has tried this combo, I am sure you know what I mean. Response was not that great, no fine tuning options, It actually made a game I loved to beat over and over with my control pad, not fun.
I never stopped playing car games, however I did give up on trying to game with a steering wheel setup until 2017. I didn’t have quite the setup I have now, I started with just a wheel and pedal combo. The Thrustmaster TMX Pro. Game I was playing at the time mainly was Forza Horizon 3, Forza Apex, and American Truck Simulator. This was a HUGE difference and upgrade from the setup I had before. At the time I was having so much fun with this setup, I even streamed on Twitch. A lot of people used to ask me about the TMX pro on my streams. I still use it and have no issues with it. Yes I have tried better wheels, and yes the better wheels are…better. I will not argue with that. However, for entry level or even veteran sim racers who do not want to spend too much on a wheel, the TMX Pro is more than good enough. Yes, the TMX pro does have a “Gear” feel to it when you turn, where as the more expensive ones don’t….and yes the more expensive wheels do feel more realistic, even felt like the force feedback was better, but value wise I didnt see it justified.
Fanatec wheels (and pedals) are probably a different story. I have never tried a Fanatec racing setup yet, and after seeing and hearing the reviews on Fanatec, I am scared to try one. If it is as good as people say, I know I am going to want it =)
Next in my lineup was the Thrustmaster TH8A shifter. I didn’t buy one initially, especially since it costs almost as much as my wheel and pedals. A buddy of mine was telling me how much a difference the games make with the shifter, and actually made me use his for a while just to show me. Yes, of course I ended up buying one shortly after. This shifter is constructed really well, works perfectly, and is built to last.
For years this was how I played my car games, with minor changes along the way of course. Tried different monitors, TV, different desks, and of course different games. Forza Horizon 4 and the Mclaren Senna brought months and months of awesome gaming, however Forza Motorsport 7 opened my eyes to a different type of gaming.
Just when I was starting to game a little less, my buddy got me this wheel mount and triple monitor mount from Next Level racing. Once again I was corrected. Up until this point, I was ok with just mounting my wheel and shifter to my desk. Boy was I wrong! The mount from Next Level Racing brings another level of immersion and realism to Sim Racing.
Once again, it is not just a convenient way to setup your rig, having the same setup and racing position goes a long way in simulation games like Assetto Corsa or Rally Games!
As you can see I am not using the triple monitor mount (Yet?). There is a lot of mixed opinions about Ultrawide VS Triple monitor. Personally, after a LOT of research and debating, I chose to go with Ultrawide. My Ultrawide monitor is capable of 144 FPS. Once you get used to the high framerates, it is really hard to go back to the standard 60 FPS. Also triple monitors puts a lot of stress on your setup. I am pretty sure eventually I will try a triple monitor setup just to actually compare the difference for myself, and will post a separate review for it
A must have for any Sim Racer is a extra dashboard or display. I am currently using Simhub. It is free to use, customizable, and works with most of the current games out there. Simhub lets you easily output your data to a Phone, Tablet, extra monitor etc.
Last but not least, a lot of people ask me “How good does your PC have to be to play these car games?”
Currently I am running a I7 9700k (Liquid Cooled), Nvidia RTX 2070, 16GB DDR4, and a M.2 Drive…..and guess what, I still cant run a lot of games at 4K, Ultra Settings.
Now on the flipside, at high settings (Not Ultra or Max), not only can my system run them like nothing, my previous setup which was a i5 5500k? Nvidia 1050ti, 16GB DDR3, and a standard SSD was capable at running them too (Full load though)
I guess what I am trying to say is, a decent system with a decent video card will do. You can always adjust your settings to work with your hardware. Of course if you can afford a $5000 setup, or let alone a $2000 video card, you have nothing to worry about. However if that is not the case for you, don’t get dissuaded from this awesome hobby! Not only did I get a lot of my hardware when it was on sale, I bought a lot of my current games when they were on sale too!
Assetto Corsa Competizione has been my game of choice these days. Most realistic sim I have played by far. Tire pressure, pit stops, wear, heck the physics of this game is just awesome. The level of concentration needed to finish a 20 minute race without crashing or spinning out is intense. I am still in the Career Mode training and have not really played other people online.
Aside from ACC, I still play Dirt Rally, American Truck Simulator, and Forza Horizon 5. This is a brief summary of my setup and starting point. I will continue to upload more detailed posts of this awesome hobby!