IndyCar Series

Review

posted 10/16/2003 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: PC
As far as the setup and adjustment of the car goes, it's another mixed bag. There aren’t a lot of things that can be adjusted on the car, but there are probably enough to make it somewhat interesting. I've never been big on being my own engineer/crew chief anyway, so I didn't miss having umpteen zillion things to screw up in the car setup. The garage interface is pretty well designed for the neophyte in that it gives a paragraph or so description of the expected effect of things that you change. For example, clicking on the tire pressure settings will open a window explaining what reactions the handling of the car will have to various changes in the pressures. I found this to be a lot friendlier than having to refer back to a manual or my own written notes.

I've found that there is a pretty healthy learning curve involved in driving these cars, though. You'd think two (or four) almost identical turns separated by a straight would be pretty easy to master, but it hasn't been that way. The steering is quite twitchy, and there is a very, very fine line between getting safely through a turn and trying to create a drive-through window in a solid concrete wall. As long as you can keep the car low down on the racing line, you have a fairly good chance of making it through a turn, but get even an inch too wide and the car will push up to the wall. I'm hoping that this is simply driver error and that I will get better with practice. I've found that if I can string together two or three laps without crashing, the tires come up to full temperature and the car sticks to the track significantly better. It's gratifying that tire temperature has been included in the physics algorithms, but it does seem to me that that is only the case for me, not the AI. It seems that every race starts with the AI cars simply driving away from me while I slide around waiting for the tires to get some grip. This has often resulted in my hearing the most unrealistic and unwelcome sentence from my spotter: "You're 6.7 seconds behind Fisher." Come on - NO ONE is EVER behind Sarah Fisher unless they've previously had intimate relations with the wall or another car! I can crank in a few more degrees of front wing and run the weight jacker all the way forward to get through the first few laps, but then I have a very slow and draggy car once the tires warm up, and the end result is the same.

As far as the AI goes, I have no idea how well these guys race. They seem to be giving each other plenty of racing room as they disappear in front of me, but I’m never close enough to any of them to get a feel for how they behave in close quarters. There is some kind of adaptive AI strength setting in the options menu, but nothing like the percentage slider available in the other racing sims I use. I can’t find a way to slow these guys down to my pace so I can race with them. Ok, maybe I’m a sucky driver, but for a sim to succeed in the market it has to be either ultra-realistic or fun. IndyCar Series is anything BUT realistic in many ways, so it really, really needs to be fun, and this fun needs to be accessible even to ham-fisted granny racers like myself. If I could put the AI at 93% like I do in F1C, I would have at least enough parity with the field to have some enjoyable racing. As it is, I end up maintaining pace at about 7 – 8 seconds behind the back marker.
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