Racing game modders can create some pretty amazing things, like rendering previously language-locked experiences accessible for all to enjoy, or adding stunning, transformative new environmental effects to games that lacked them. They can also realise nightmarish visions, like what would happen if you drove the venerated circuit Spa-Francorchamps, only scaled at five times its normal height.
This is a hell of Lightning Hotlaps’ making, who, according to YouTube’s data, seems to have made this in Project Cars. (Edit: a commenter has correctly identified the game as BeamNG.drive. Thanks!) With the use of an F1 2022 chassis mod, they have created something that could only ever appear in the worst motorsport-themed fever dream one could imagine — an Ardennes forest with trees as tall as six-story apartment buildings in New York City. Concrete barriers you’d struggle to climb. Peaks and valleys steeper than your average roller coaster’s. I love it, but it also triggers claustrophobia I didn’t know I had.
Even a modern F1 car has trouble negotiating this extreme topography. The flood at Eau Rouge last summer would have been many times deep enough to drown in, if this were real. The car experiences some kind of random puncture right before Spa’s last two turns, leaving it crabbing as it hobbles to complete a lap. The only problem is that that final chicane now happens to be steeper than the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, and of course, it’s uphill. Nevertheless, the driver somehow makes it.
As weirdly unsettling as this video is, in the early days of 3D polygonal games, arcade racers of the ’90s took quite a few liberties with regard to scale and elevation. Not quite to this extent, mind, but in a way you just don’t see anymore. This mod reminds me of games like Cave’s Touge King The Sprits on Sega Saturn, or High Velocity Mountain Racing Challenge as it was known in these parts.
Honestly, I have a soft spot for this blatant environmental embellishment. It made tracks more striking and interesting, realism be damned. When Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi was once asked why courses like Trial Mountain and Deep Forest weren’t immediately ported to recent Gran Turismo games (they eventually made it into GT7, of course) he said that their erroneous scale was the problem. From our friends at GTPlanet:
Thankfully, Yamauchi confirms that [omitting legacy fictional tracks] wasn’t a conscious uncoupling. “There was no particular reason for it,” he explains. “We are already working on Deep Forest; we actually have the data for Deep Forest that runs on Gran Turismo Sport but it does have some problems.”
He adds: “The problem that we had with some of the older tracks from previous Gran Turismo games was the scale being off in certain places. The size of the trees are very large, or the width of the curbstones, etc. There were curbstones that were wider than cars!
“If we want to bring that into the quality of GT Sport now, there is a lot that we have to redesign, and it is not that easy.”
And so much was redesigned when those original circuits finally turned up in the latest instalment. The trees that used to tower high enough over Trial’s back straight to form canopies of green now leave some space for sky, and the infamous final chicane inset with a steep hill that would launch cars into a nearby overpass was bypassed and entirely re-profiled. Sure, that latter change was more in the spirit of how an actual racetrack might be modified for safety reasons in a modern context, but it also robbed us of the joyful yeeting only possible in a video game.
Of course the official F1 game and simulators should strive for their realism, but now that we’ve seen this, I reckon somebody owes it to the world to create a game of comically disproportionate versions of real tracks. Like Laguna Seca in The Crew 2, only fun.