Among sim racing enthusiasts, Automobilista (AMS) is well respected for its vehicle dynamics. It’s not very popular compared to iRacing or Assetto Corsa. Honestly, it’s not popular compared to just about any other platform. Maybe that’s because of its obscure car and track collection? Or maybe advertising? In any case, people who like realistic sims tend to have AMS in their software library. Personally, I don’t use it as often as AC or rF2 because of the track collection. I prefer (a) tracks I may visit in real life (b) rally courses. But if AC and rF2 didn’t exist, I’d be very happy with AMS.
Project CARS is well known for its Madness engine. If you want to see how gorgeous a car simulation can be, PCARS and its successor PCARS2 are at the top of the heap. But hardcore sim racers generally feel that PCARS is a little on the arcade side and PCARS2 is a lot on the arcade side. I found that it was really car dependent with some vehicles excellent and others miserable.
When Reiza Studios announced that Automobilista 2 would be using the Madness engine, I got pretty excited. Best physics with best graphics? How can they go wrong? I purchased AMS2 during a sale event but have been waiting for the official 1.0 release before driving it. They have been making lots of little fixes over the last couple months as they get close to 1.0, so the release is going to happen soon. But I got impatient and started trying it anyway.
Sadly, AMS2 inherits PCARS2’s hidden configuration files. You can’t tweak values in a text file. However, you can see the default values of the pedals when they are at rest, and this lets you set the floor (I think). Calibration probably sets the ceiling correctly but you might want to stop before pushing your pedals to the end just in case. It’s hard to know because there is no feedback in game to show you what the input values are. I suppose I could record data to find out. There are a couple commercial products for data acquisition and analysis (e.g. Z1 Analyzer) but nothing yet that simply exports to AiM, MOTEC, or TrackAttack.
AMS2 has a very strange mixture of cars. You’ll find plenty of Formula cars and prototypes if you like the high end. There are also karts. But there’s also a lot of low performance cars in both RWD and FWD from various Brazilian series. I can’t think of any other platform that has so many shitty FWD cars. So, yeah, I’m in sim racing heaven with the vehicle selection because I love shitty cars in general. (By shitty I don’t really mean bad, but rather all analog with low power and low grip).
The bulk of the catalog are Brazilian tracks. I’ve never been to any of them and my guess is I never will. So to me they’re a bit like fantasy tracks. Nothing wrong with fantasy tracks! Some of my favorite tracks aren’t real.
Great news, my favorite test track, Brands Hatch, is in the game, as well as a bunch of other UK tracks like Snetterton and Donington. All appear to be laser scanned. There are no dirt tracks yet and I’m not sure if they are planning on that or not.
My favorite driving test is a low powered Formula car at Brands Indy. AMS2 has a Formula Trainer, so that’s perfect. Unfortunately, the Formula Trainer has some really weird behaviors. The steering isn’t even remotely linear. Turn a little and nothing happens. Turn a little bit more and suddenly the wheels turn too much. There’s a really weird understeer behavior and sometimes the front tires don’t spin at all. I went off track into the grass and the car literally got stuck and couldn’t move. I was about to weep baseball-sized tears of sorrow and ask for a refund when I decided I should check out some other cars.
It turns out that the FWD cars are a completely different story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sim so committed to old FWD cars. Thank you Reiza Studios! They are awesome. Finally, FWD cars that actually drive like FWD cars.
Next up, I tried the Formula Vee. Last year, Reiza put together a car and track pack for rFactor 2, and I bought that. So I’ve driven the Reiza FV before, just in a different sim. I really like the FV in rF2. Also, the Puma is really great. In AMS2 the FV is equally awesome. But it isn’t the same. The AMS2 FV is a lot more stable than the rF2 FV. It may be differences in the default setups. I haven’t explored that yet.
Why should the Formula Trainer be so different from the FV? Physics is physics and the two cars aren’t that different on paper. But they are very different. Did RS do something stupid like inherit the Formula Rookie from PCARS2?
There is no modding in AMS2. That means no community-created cars and tracks. FUUUUUUCK.
How successful will AMS2 be? Not very. It looks great and drives great (mostly), but that isn’t enough to unseat any of its rivals. It doesn’t have the match-making structure of iRacing. Nothing else does either. You might go to AMS2 for organized races but not for pick-up games. It doesn’t have community content. One of the reasons AC and rF2 are so popular is that the community has created a huge number of cars and tracks. It doesn’t have a Miata. Miata is always the answer. It doesn’t have a low price tag. The Season Pass DLC is like $100. It has one thing that the other sims don’t have: a focus on Brazilian Stock Car racing. That means it comes with some pretty cool tracks and some awesome shitty cars. That’s good enough for me and some hardcore sim racers, but most people will get a lot more out of AC, rF2, or iRacing.
So is AMS2 better than the original? Like PCARS2, DR2, and ACC, the graphics got better. Maybe some other things got better or will get better. But the loss of modding is a really hard loss. So no, I don’t think AMS2 is actually better than AMS. It may be someday in the future when there’s more content, but right now you’re better off with the original.