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TORCS Print E-mail
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Written by Daniel Westerstal   
Wednesday, 22 October 2008

TORCS is short for The Open Racing Car Simulator, and is a completely free open-source racing simulator. The game was released in 2001 by Eric Espi and Christophe Guionnea, however the development of the game has been taken over by Bernard Wymann and a community of contributors.

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At first glance TORCS seems a little out of date; the graphics is nowhere near what we are used to in commercial games (not that surprising) and the menu system also seems a bit dated. As always with less detailed graphics you get used to them, and TORCS is no exception. After cranking up the detail level in the game, it does not feel that much different from more recent racing games.  However cranking up the detail level in the Linux version of the game caused all sorts of graphical problems, such as transparency.

I am surprised by the vastness of TORCS, the game features 42 cars, 32 tracks and 50 different opponents to race. The opponents are essentially randomly skilled bots, their skills varies a lot. Some drive like a DUI in progress crashing into corners and missing turns. They also have the very weird habit of slowing down almost to a stop at some corners. There are however better bots in the game, but they are not like multiplayer or the AI in Grand Prix 4.

TORCS can be driven using a joystick, mouse, keyboard or steering wheel. Unfortunately we did not have access to a steering wheel at the time of this review, but we tried with joystick and keyboard. It is easy to handle the game using a joystick and it is way easier to maneuver out of a skid than using the keyboard. Driving with the keyboard is simple but it is very hard to control the car when in skids. I often found myself trying to compensate the skid but in 99% I compensated too much and crashed into the guard rail.  To help control the car better there is a little window in the lower right corner showing how much throttle you are using and also in which direction you are steering.

Enough about the steering, how about the cars? TORCS is packed with in my opinion pretty exciting cars including: Ferrari 360 Modena, Viper GTR, Ford GT40 Concept, McLaren F1 and a few others. The cars do have different characteristics but they are not as noticeable as in commercial games.

There are three kind of tracks in TORCS; dirt, road and oval. Road and oval is really very similar with paved roads, the road tracks often have houses and so on as backgrounds. The dirt tracks are a little bit different, the cars also handle very different in dirt. It is hard to control the car and predict the handling of the car on the dirt track, the car slides around more. In real life most of the cars in the game are not made for driving on dirt, I mean who the heck drives a 360 Modena on a dirt track.

The sound effects in TORCS are actually amazing. I often complain that engine sound effects in racing games sound like my grandmas vacuum cleaner, but in this case most of the different cars really sound nice. Try driving the Ferrari 360 Modena and you will get a nice sound experience.

Some racing games are littered with features and realistic handling, I am thinking of the Grand Prix-series in particular. But there are also racing games catering to a more main-stream audience such as the Need for Speed games. So what audience is TORCS aimed at? It is very hard to tell, hard-core racers will probably find TORCS unrealistic, with few features. Main-stream gamers will probably find that TORCS is not as flashy as the Need for Speed games. But TORCS is free, and if you have already tried most racing games out there TORCS might be for you. From a development stand-point the open TORCS engine can also be used in other products.

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Related: Trackmania, Need for Speed Underground
Developer: Eric Espié, Christophe Guionneau and several contributors.
Website for Game: http://torcs.sourceforge.net/
Publisher: N/A
O/S: Windows, Linux, Free BSD, MAC OS X
Cost of Full Game: Free
Year of Release: 2008

Requirements:
400 MHz processor, 128 MB RAM, Open GL Compatible graphics card.
Tested on:
Intel Core2Duo 1,86 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Ubuntu

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