Hands on with Auto Club Revolution, a free-to-play racing game for the web [video]

ACR 2009 Pagani Zonda Cinque

ACR_LogoYesterday, we got a hands on demonstration from Eutechnyx for Auto Club Revolution. Eutechnyx is the developer behind racing games such as NASCAR The Game: Inside Line and Ferrari Challenge. They’ve now taken their racing engine and have ported it over to the web for Auto Club Revolution, which brings console level graphics to the browser. Players will have to install a 500MB race launcher app one time in order to run the game.

Fans of games like Forza and Gran Tursimo will no doubt love ACR as it plays more like a racing simulator than an arcade racer, although it’s not a true racing sim like Simraceway. Eutechnyx wants to make ACR a game for petrol-heads who share a passion and love for cars.

Here’s how the game plays.

Social

acr social race hang out

At the core of the game are social features such as group chats and, of course, auto clubs. Auto clubs are basically the automotive equivalent of guilds in MMOs. To join an auto club, you must be invited by a host or you can start one yourself when you reach level 20. The advantage of joining an auto club is the ability to pull together every team member’s experience points (EXP) into one “pot,” which gets distributed evenly at the end of the week. Club members will also have to work together to achieve weekly goals. A club can challenge other clubs to races and wager EXP points.

While the social features are great, there is no option for in-game voice chat. It’s a bit disappointing that you won’t be able to talk trash to other racers. However, players will be able to connect their ACR accounts with Facebook to post their progress and victories to the social network.

Gameplay

ACR 2009 Pagani Zonda Cinque

Auto Club Revolution looks and plays like a console level game. The graphics are good, but not as detailed as some of the more hardcore racing simulators out there. Still, there is a great amount of detail. The cars and tracks look great and each of the cars has a distinctive feel, though there’s no car damage yet (Eutechnyx will add that later). There are currently a little over 50 cars available at the moment, but there will be more added on a bi-weekly basis.

The tracks in ACR feature real race tracks like Silverstone and also fictional tracks that let hyper cars explore their potential. On the track, users are given a green, yellow, and red racing line for reference so players can be competitive, even if they’ve never raced on that track before. Cars in the game are equipped with traction control, ABS, and an electronic stability system, which makes it easy enough for newcomers but still challenging enough for racing game enthusiasts.

ACR gameplay

At the core of ACR is the credit system. Players will have virtual credits (CR) as well as E-bucks, which you have to pay for with real money. There are cars and customizations that you can purchase with CR, but there will be some that can only be purchased with E-bucks. One of the big worries with a credit system like this is that those who pay for cars will be at an advantage. ACR tackles this problem by giving cars a Vehicle Performance Rating (VPR) and a class rating. This makes sure that similar classed cars with similar power and handling ratings will be pitted against one another.

There are both single and multiplayer modes, though the single player mode is basically for practice and testing out your car. Multiplayer is where most players will spend their time taking part in Quick or Eliminator races. You can race with up to 8 players at once currently.

Customization

ACR car customization

Car customizations play a big part in the game. There are plenty of cosmetic and performance enhancements you can do to your car. Performance upgrades range from turbo charging kits to ECU upgrades. You can also customize the look and feel of your car with custom paint schemes, racing liveries, and decals. Modifications will cost CR or E-bucks, of course, so spend wisely.

A work in progress

acr loading screen

Auto Club Revolution is still very much in a beta stage, but Eutechnyx is very open to feedback from fans. There will be bi-weekly updates that will add new content to the game so expect new cars and tracks. The developer is also working very closely with car manufacturers and aftermarket parts companies to make the game feel real and fleshed out. During our demo, it was hinted that additional race types like rally and F1 may be included in the future.

While gameplay is solid, I would like to see some improvements to make the game more immersive. Currently there’s no way to full screen the ACR Race App so the game plays in a window. ACR site works well, but it takes a bit more time to load elements than I would like. The interface of the website could also use some work, like making a full screen car browsing experience. Currently the car selector only shows small thumbnails of the cars.

Still, Auto Club Revolution provides a fun racing experience and is easily accessible to just about anyone with a browser. By being browser-based, ACR is playable on lower end hardware. Auto Club Revolution is a very promising and fun racing game and I hope to see it continue to grow.

Check out our review of the Auto Club Revolution open beta.

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