Can an Xbox 360 game really capture the essence of an RS3? Is the digital version faster than the real thing? Sport auto, a German car magazine, tested the RS3 on the Hockenheim Short Circuit and achieved a lap time of 1:15.4s. Usefully Sport auto also print the corner apex speeds which makes a more detailed comparison with the game possible.
Sport auto real RS3 lap time, corner speeds and g-forces at Hockenheim short circuit
Which would be quicker in the final reckoning? If the result is all you are interested in, ultimately the game does allow a quicker lap with 1:14.4 achievable although closer to 1m15s for lap after lap consistency. To keep things comparable I used a standard RS3 in Forza 4 and using the manufacturers recommended tyre pressures, with all the assists turned off and simulation steering. Also only ‘clean’ laps were counted to avoid gaining any advantage with off track excursions.
Capturing the Feel
CSR wheel made for Forza 4
Incredibly, using a Fanatec CSR wheel and CSR Elite pedals, Forza 4 really is able capture the feel of the real car, the corner speeds and g-forces are incredibly close to reality. As with the real car the RS3 is assured and you can feel the high levels of grip through the wheel inspiring the confidence to push for the lap times. Through the faster corners the steering goes momentarily light as the front tyres reach the limit of grip, a sure sign the RS3 has give all it has. In the slower corners attempting to turn in too fast of get on the power too early results in masses of understeer and slower lap time, as often reported during track tests.
Corner by Corner Comparison
Ultimately the digital car went faster but where did it make up the time and just how close are the real apex speeds? The real and in game g-forces are as good as identical throughout which gives confidence in the physics used in the game.
Nordkurve – Real: 79mph, Forza 4: 79mph
Braking down from 114mph, the highest speed section of the track across start finish straight, into the 79mph Nordkurve takes precision. Take a big piece of the curb on the inside and use all the available track on the way out to accelerate through. In the real world this would take some nerve the RS3 is up on tip toes through this quick section.
79mph is optimal here, the steering goes light on turn in, hold the throttle at 79mph through the apex and then feed in the power while slowly winding off the lock on the way out. Go in quicker than 79mph and you are forced to lift to avoid running out of road and ruin you exit speed. So far so good, the real world and Forza are identical here.
Ameisenskurve - Real: No data Forza 4: 42mph
Another big braking zone, more than 1.5g on the brakes into this tight right hander. The RS3 feels it’s weight here and the best way to go through quickly is to brake all the way to the apex tighten the line and get back on the power early, letting the Quattro system do it’s work. Exit speed is everything here for the next big straight.
Querspange – Real: 106mph Forza 4: 110mph
The fastest corner on the track and here is where the game gains some of it’s advantage managing to carry up to another 4mph through this curve. Carrying this much speed into the next kink and corner makes for an interesting couple of moments. Whether I’d have the guts to carry this much speed for real in my own RS3 is debatable. At 106mph the RS3 is totally assured and well settled for the next corner so again the real world recorded speed seems the more sensible.
Querspange (exit) - Real: 52mph Forza 4: 52mph
Going fast is easy. The real challenge is shedding the speed and getting the entry speed to the next corner right. The 52mph recorded by Sport auto is again exactly matched in the game. Attempt to carry more speed in and you get lots of tyre squeal and a short, exciting (and slow!) four wheel drift which means it’s time to lift or say hello to the waiting outside wall. Equally when you do get the entry right holding 52mph until you can see the exit is essential or you scrub away speed as you are forced to add steering lock.
Motodrom – Real: 74mph Forza 4: 78mph
Motodrom is another challenging fast corner that requires patience on the way in. Hold 78mph and feed in the power. Again Forza 4 has managed to capture the physics of the mass of the RS3, the weight of the car pushing out toward the gravel trap. It’s easy to go in too fast or get on the power too early here and end up buried in the sand.
Sachskurve – Real: 48mph Forza 4: 48mph
Another corner where reality and Forza are perfectly matched. This is a real ‘wait for it’ corner. Get the entry speed spot on and balance the throttle, catch the cub on the way in and aim for the end of the curb on the exit, feeding the power in as the nose pushes away from the apex. Patience is a virtue here it is easy to get drawn in to getting on the power too early.
Senke Real: 68mph Forza 4:62mph
Senke is tricky to get right, it looks much quicker than it is but go in too fast and you ruin your line for the final corner. The RS3 can take a number of lines though here and keeping the car settled seems more important than outright pace. Here the game is slightly quicker probably because you don’t feel the real forces and bumps that would be at play.
Sudkurve Real: 66mph Forza 4: 68mph
Final corner and important to get the exit speed right here for the run to the line and to achieve vmax of 114mph - again reality and the game are matched on the top speed achievable. The RS3 feels perfectly balanced through this corner, the slight lightness in the steering indicating the tyres are on the limit of adhesion as you edge toward the outer curb.
A Victory for the Game?
Sort of. The time is mostly irrelevant, gaining a second on a game where there is no risk of an accident and you can produce lap after lap with no concern for brake fade is a lot easier than the real thing. Would I attempt to turn in to Querspange at 111mph in my real £40K plus RS3? Probably not!
What is great is that for the most part the corner speeds are realistic and more importantly the simulation feels like a real RS3, you feel the weight of the car, the understeer if you get greedy with the throttle and the power push you out of corners when you show patience and get it all right. It’s also a great way to learn and practice the skills and techniques of the race track – it takes some skill to (cleanly) match and surpass the Sport auto time.
As close as you can get to the real thing? I’d say so yes, what I experience here is exactly what I’m used to from the RS3, it’s an apex speed sensitive car, you have to get your turn in speed just right to avoid understeer, then you can get on the power as you unwind the lock and use all the road available. Quite incredible for 'just a game'.