Le Mans Ultimate Raises the Bar for Sim Racing Graphics

Le Mans Ultimate Toyota

Le Mans Ultimate Toyota

Sim racing titles have a reputation for having bad graphics. iRacing & Assetto Corsa are old platforms focused on realistic racing but completely miss when it comes to realistic visuals.

That world is usually left to the console titles that look to make driving easier and prettier. That is not the case with Le Mans Ultimate.

One of Le Mans Ultimate’s defining features is the way it looks. With an atmospheric day/night cycle and realistically changeable weather patterns, Studio 397 and Motorsport Games’ ode to the World Endurance Championship can look incredible.

How does the early access version of Le Mans Ultimate stack up in the visuals department in comparison to the two console racing game titans - Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo 7? Or even PC compatriots Automobilista 2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione for that matter?

Laser focus

One of LMU’s advantages over the likes of Gran Turismo 7 and Forza Motorsport is its laser-like focus. In much the same way as Assetto Corsa Competizione largely cornered the virtual GT3 racing market, LMU has the potential to do the same with WEC and its selection of LMDh and LMH cars (LMU also has LMP2 and GTE vehicles with GT3s set to follow in future).

Le Mans Ultimate onboard shot
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With comparatively few cars and tracks to render, Studio 397 and Motorsport Games can potentially create content to a higher standard than if the studios had a wider remit. Thanks in part to the YEBIS post-processing effects system, the developers have done just that.

GT7 and FM on the other hand try to cover the full gamut of driving four-wheeled vehicles; from city runabouts to LMDh prototypes and open-wheelers. However, Polyphony Digital (GT7) and Turn10 Studios (FM) have enormous depths of talent and finance to fulfil the increased scope of their games, something LMU - which is developed by a comparatively small team - can only dream about.

Yet, LMU’s artists have managed to produce a realistic-looking sim that punches well above its weight, appearing bolder than the slightly washed-out-looking FM but falling short of GT7’s stunningly vivid environments and cars.

And LMU doesn’t get much more stunning than when driving on the Circuit de la Sarthe as the sun descends over Le Mans, or when inclement weather blows its way across the circuit, producing an atmospheric, steamed-up look inside your car’s cockpit. It really does look special in these moments despite some bland cockpit textures and UI issues.

Rain hits in Le Mans Ultimate
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In a way, it’s fairer to judge LMU against Automobilista 2 (AMS2) and Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC) given the resources available and in this respect, LMU competes well - even as an early access title.

Although not quite as smooth as AMS2, LMU’s visuals are cleaner than ACC’s, which suffers from Unreal Engine’s ‘ghosting’ effects.

Cherry on top

What really sets GT7 apart from both FM and LMU graphically, however, is its superlative photo mode. GT series creator Kazunori Yamauchi is a passionate photographer, and it shows.

Players can tweak real camera settings that produce predictable, properly realistic-looking results. FM, AMS2, and ACC’s photo modes are feature-filled too, but lack the nuances of the Sony-backed title.

Le Mans Ultimate Porsche 963
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LMU has yet to have its photo mode implemented, but through mapping the right controls you can produce images that look sharper and more realistic than FM’s occasionally anaemic shots. If rFactor 2’s photo mode is any indicator, then LMU will also be a prolific screenshot-creation tool.

Early success

It may be futile to judge a sim against its peers based on an early access build, but LMU attracts such comparisons thanks to its killer looks. With beautifully rendered tracks and convincing weather effects, LMU can ably show off the power of your gaming PC and impress your non-sim racing friends.

Although it doesn’t quite reach the graphical peaks of GT7 (and which racing game can, given the resources available to Polyphony Digital?), it more than holds its own against the likes of Automobilista 2, Assetto Corsa Competizione and Forza Motorsport. With a couple of performance and bug-related caveats commensurate with a new title still in early access, of course.

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