NOTE: THIS REVIEW IS OUT OF DATE. IT WAS WRITTEN BASED ON AN EARLY BETA VERSION OF THE GAME. NEW REVIEW COMING SOON.
In 2008, a Karting sim in development caught our eye. It was known as "KartSim". It looked promising as far as physics were concerned and the graphics were OK.
Years went by with little in the way of updates and by 2014, the game looked dead in the water.
From the outside, it looked like the project had lost momentum but in reality the developer (Zach Griffin) was busy trying to secure funding to make KartSim the best product it could possibly be. He did not want a half baked sim.
In a recent interview with RaceDepartment.com, Zach speaks about how he spent years trying to code the physics engine, being written by himself from scratch.
It was at that time that I realised KartKraft wouldn’t see the light in the way I wanted, if I didn’t seek external funding and have more resources to develop this game. Off the back of that realisation, I spent all of 2014 raising capital through private equity sources. It was also the start of that year that the game went on Steam Greenlight and had tremendous success thanks to our incredible community. We went from a rank of 2000, to the number 2 game on Greenlight in 23 hours with 20,000 people who voted to buy the game. Using that as a springboard, I raised our first round of funding (seven figures) and started the studio at the beginning of last year. And now here we are with 14 people all working on KartKraft!
Early versions of the game showed some great potential with Zach, hell bent on creating proper kart physics by having the kart frame flex to unload the inside rear wheel.
In every other game with karts, the model used to simulate chassis flex has been A-Arm suspension with input parameters that try and get the inside rear wheel to lift around the corner, due to the lack of a differential. If you look at the other games, you can even see the wheels move exactly like they do in a car. And just by hearing that, you know it will never work. So in KartKraft, we’ve created a model that correctly simulates chassis flex and drives exactly like the real thing.
Fast forward to April 2016 and the game is nearing completion and has just entered the Closed Beta Testing stage. We were lucky enough to be invited to test the game and give our feedback to Black Delta Studios.
The game has came on leaps and bounds since the early Aplha testing version released in 2011... The graphics are STUNNING. The best we have ever seen on a karting sim. It makes KRP (Kart Racing Pro) look ancient, and inferior in every aspect.
The attention to detail is something which has really impressed us since the teaser trailer was released. The karts are really nice and components are very true to life. Previous Kart Racing titles have made an effort to look like the real thing but nobody has gotten close to Black Delta on this one!
They genuinely look "right", they are all in proportion and as close to the real life counterparts as you would want.
Another area where attention to detail is excellent, is the circuits. We can use Paul Fletcher International (PFI) as an example. I have been around PFI a few times, and walked around many more! Everything from the kerbs and Tarmac changes to the electricity hook up points in the paddock are a brilliant match! We were genuinely impressed with how much time and effort has gone into re-creating the circuit.
We have produced a quick video which shows just how alike the two are. Please excuse the shoddy driving on the second part of the lap, the game was still in BETA and I hadn't had much practice . If I was better on the middle/end of the lap, we think the lap times would be near identical, which is an awesome achievement by Black Delta.
Both karts are IAME Senior X30.
Driver of real kart: Stephen Letts
Driver in Kartkraft: Paul Heyhoe
Footage courtesy of Stephen Letts
Driving Experience & Gameplay
So, visually the game is excellent, but how does it feel to drive?
We loaded up the Geelong circuit and selected the Senior IAME X30 kart. The session starts with you sat on the dummy grid, waiting for the lights to turn green.
GREEN. The session has started and it's time to see what all of the fuss is about! You plant your right foot and watch the Avatar mimic the movement of your foot. The kart slowly accelerates out of the dummy grid and it's showtime.
Turning the wheel for the first time, the kart shoots off to the right, the wheel feels a little light so you have to reduce your input to achieve the desired effect.
For the first few corners/laps you will be getting your head around how the kart reacts and adjusting your driving to suit.
You reach the main straight and nail the brake pedal, you can hear the rear tyres struggling as they under rotate in the braking zone. If you stay on the pedal too long, the kart will pitch to one side or the other.
A few laps later you will be getting your head around how the kart reacts in different situations and then it's time to start looking at the finer inputs required for a fast lap!
After a few sessions you will start to feel the small increases and decreases in wheel weight as your front tyres load up or push on, into the corner. You will also get a feel for how much speed can be carried through the corner before the kart starts to push or the back end steps out.
Once we had a good feel of what the kart required to drive, we started making comparisons to karting in the real world. The major thing that hits you is how light the wheel is when in the center position. In a real kart, the castor of the kart forces the wheel straight, so naturally the wheel always wants to go to that position. As most of the time in a real kart, you are only moving the wheel up to 30-40 degrees, (sometimes much much less for some drivers) we felt that the wheel should be much heavier in this region. Currently the wheel gets heavy around 20 degrees. We think it should be heavy from 1-2 degrees off center.
We quickly realised that having this relatively light area on the wheel rotation meant you had to grip the wheel with both hands quite tightly to stop any unwanted side-to-side movement. This resulted in quite a tough time keeping cool while driving!
We should point out that we were using a Logitech G25 and that many wheels will react differently. You can alter the feedback profile to increase things like center weight etc. Having said this, nothing we tried gave us the feel we would expect of a real kart. If you have a different wheel such as a higher end Fanatec, the feel may be completely different, but we cannot comment on this.
So, the feel of the wheel does not quite feel right, but as we are sat stationary in a room it is always difficult to translate a true feeling of motion, solely through your arms.
Once you have got your head around the input required, the kart does actually behave how you would expect a kart to behave, for the most part.
We felt the rear end stepped out a little easy on long fast bends which would not really pose a challenge in real life. It's hard to tell whether this is because the physics are off or because you are not connected to the kart and therefore cannot pick up on what the kart is doing until its too late to keep entirely in check.
Setup changes where not available at the time of writing this and as we all know karting has a huge focus on setup, so hopefully once this is available we can start to make the kart react how we want.
Zach Griffin and Black Delta have done a great job with the physics. It's still in BETA so it's changing all of the time but the fundamentals are there. It's much closer to how a kart reacts than any other kart sim out there.
If you race karts in real-life you know that getting the fastest lap can sometimes be as important as winning a race (for your own satisfaction). Luckily, Black Delta have included a leader board which includes all of the fastest lap times from KartKraft users from around the world. I have to admit, I was pushing for lap times at a circuit at one stage and when I beat the lap time of a fellow racer who is well into racing sims, I was very happy indeed!