Realistic driving simulations have been overshadowed in recent years by the advent of arcade racing such as Need for Speed et al. Not to say that these games aren’t fun, but sometimes you just want to play with the Jenson Button in all of us. After five years of beta testing and refining, we now have nKPro Racing by Italian racing aficionados Kunos Simulazioni. Driving Miss Daisy it most certainly is not, however even Madame Daisy would want to plant a walking stick into her driver’s face after playing this. The experience sits somewhere between the enjoyment of running over a squirrel and bashing one’s head against a steering wheel as you see graphics circa 1998 roll by.
Before you sit in the driving seat, the install process consisted of installing DirectX 9 drivers. It was soon realised that during the five years it took to get to this point, the graphics engine has not been revamped to take advantage of the bells and whistles that DX10 and DX11 bring. It seemed like a missed opportunity, but there are graphical settings to adjust so pushing them to full may give us some visual delights under the bonnet. Issue number two arises, with an abrupt pop-up message to say that the antialiasing mode was not supported. My question to the developer is, did this ever reach the Q&A department? If there is a game engine limitation, then perhaps the restriction should be enforced in the AA slider. At the very least, defining the type of AA would be useful, such as MSAA or anisotropic filtering. Or, you could just build a new graphics engine that doesn’t blow chunks. Pushing on, a quick offline test run was in order; however my plucky racing car did not leave the pits. The affectionate Microsoft BONG sounded with a game crash involving MSVCR100.DLL. The game was fully patched, but perhaps another five years in the pit lane is required to steer away from these problems. The contemplation of exfoliating one’s face with sandpaper felt much more appealing, but perhaps a retry is in order.
Perseverance paid off however after the sixth try of asking, finally touching tarmac in my Formula 1800. Every mechanic involving your vehicle can be tweaked to the Nth degree and the way your car handles changes dramatically depending on your options. Dig out your Xbox 360 though, as using the keyboard and mouse was a frustrating experience. It is most certainly an analog controlled game and the keyboard mouse option should be removed completely… unless you want to cut yourself with said peripherals from the sheer frustration. I would like to note that Geoff Crammond’s Formula One Grand Prix back in 1992 was perfectly playable with the keyboard and mouse, but I digress. A gentle tip of the hat is in order, as it is obvious that an insane amount of time was spent on physics and user options. Almost everything is clickable, much like the Flight Simulator series from Microsoft. But their concentration in such matters has tipped the scale in such a way that other elements that make a great game are neglected.
The choice of cars is limiting, mainly Formula categories giving you a grand total of 9 cars. The race tracks themselves makes sense; being Italian developers they have chosen locations based in Italy. As you scroll through, it goes something like this: Italy, Italy, Italy, Italy, Italy and… Newbury. Wait Newbury?! One can only assume that licensing was an issue, so the chance of seeing a Silverstone or a Brand’s Hatch is virtually nil. But well, Newbury is a nice place for seeing horses for any Newburian readers out there. At the measly sum of 14.99 Euros, one can perhaps forgive the dated graphics and limited racing tracks. But today, we can’t. Back at Gamescom, I saw a demonstration of a new game by SimBin called Racing Room. It looks and sounds the business, they should know as it comes from the creators of the fantastic racing sim GTR. Here’s the clincher, Racing Room with all the realism and graphical prowess is completely free to play. On top of that, it can generate random tracks on the fly and the integration of online play is much more seamless. To summarise, the competition is good and gratis. nKPro Racing as a mainly online game needs a new chassis, engine, tyres, mechanics and in fact a new everything to compete in the current climate.
If nKPro was released three or four years ago, my views would have been different. But the racing world has been moving at 300mph, while the nKPro bicycle has been peddling along on stabilisers. nKPro Racing is out now for PC.