Imagine recording a lap time you’re proud of in a racing title, only to post that lap on social media and receive hate for your camera view. Comments of ‘It doesn’t count unless you use cockpit cam’ are regular occurrences on sim racing forums, but is it justified?
On the other hand, more and more sim racers are drifting away from cockpit cam because of its limitations. So is it right to criticise those who don’t use cockpit cam? Or is the view of cockpit cam being the best no longer true?
In the modern era of racing games, the most immersive experience by far is using the cockpit camera. With high-resolution car interiors, detailed dashboard animations, and incredibly accurate audio, nothing beats competing in a race from inside the car.
Being able to see, hear, and even feel the car on the road through the use of cockpit cam brings you closer to the action than ever before. Epic overtakes, near misses with rivals, and even spectacular crashes all add to the immersive racing that no other camera view comes close to.
Combine cockpit cam with virtual reality, or eye or head-tracking software, and the action dials up even more. The F1 series has utilised VR for the last two entries, and even Gran Turismo 7 has got in on the action with its recent PSVR 2 compatibility.
For those who can stomach the use of VR, there really is no other experience like cockpit cam in sim racing. However, for others, cockpit cam is not the meta it should be.
Cockpit cam relies on many factors in order to be good. VR is really an added bonus to sim racing, but it could be argued that it’s a necessity to make cockpit cam viable. Without it, many sim racers find their view restricted when racing.
The average racer doesn’t have enough buttons on their racing wheels to control the camera as well as the car, meaning they are restricted to front-facing views only. This creates claustrophobic chaos when racing wheel-to-wheel, as players are unable to check how close they are to their rivals.
Most modern car models do have functional side mirrors when using cockpit cam, but with no way to turn to look at them, they are as good as useless. This is why the majority of players have now turned to T-cam or even chasecams when racing in lobbies.
Even esports series now see drivers avoiding using cockpit cam. The return of F1 esports last month saw most drivers opt for the T-cam, bringing them as close to the track as possible without restricting visibility. This means even the champions Jarno Opmeer, Brendon Leigh, and 2022 champion Lucas Blakeley don’t like using the first-person POV.
But surely professional racing drivers use cockpit cam when they race, right? Well as it happens, no, they don’t.
The professional view
A recent post on X (formerly Twitter) by Oracle Red Bull Sim Racing shows three-time Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen driving on a sim rig for the Player 0.0 Campaign. Racing around Zandvoort on F1 22, you’d assume Max would use cockpit cam for the authentic F1 experience. Instead, he’s using the T-cam just like the esports drivers.
This even stretches over to the F1 23 Pro Challenges. Featuring EA Sports ambassador Verstappen, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (also an EA Sports ambassador), and Williams’ Alex Albon, these challenges task you with beating the best of the grid around specific F1 circuits. In every instance of the Pro Challenge, the driver to beat races using the T-cam instead of cockpit cam.
Considering they literally use a cockpit view for their day job, it speaks volumes that they’d avoid using it for sim racing. The professional view is that T-cam is better, but why?
Again, it likely comes down to visibility and feel. In a real racing car, the driver uses instinct for when to brake and corner. In sim racing, even with the best wheel and VR headset, that instinctive feel is missing.
Even the best can lose control of the car without warning, spinning out and wrecking their race, so it’s easier to use a camera view that gives a better perspective of the track around them. This helps with braking points, turn-in locations, and avoiding rivals.
So with that in mind, is cockpit cam overrated or overhated in the sim racing world?
Overrated or overhated?
Many in the sim racing scene claim you’re not a true sim racer unless you use cockpit cam. Just like those who look down on assist users, there’s a consensus that to be the best, you need to simulate being in the car as much as possible.
Sim racing snobbery is not new, but arguments in the comments section about whether a lap counts because of the chosen camera view are becoming more prominent as racing games evolve.
On the other hand, more and more racers find using cockpit cam to be restrictive. Crashing in online lobbies can’t always be helped, but when it’s caused by the camera view it’s incredibly frustrating.
If the pros are avoiding cockpit cam, then the sim racing elite should take note. However, if someone wishes to race in the car, that should be accepted too. Ultimately it’s down to player choice, with all camera views viable means to race.
So is cockpit cam overrated or overhated? On the whole, it’s actually overhated. Sure T-cam provides a better view, but sim racing titles like Assetto Corsa, iRacing, and even console sims like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo 7 are designed to be raced inside the cockpit.
Hearing the engine roar as you shift up through the gears, or the tyres squeal as you corner perhaps a little too fast, is an experience you need to enjoy from the cockpit. This is the true racing simulation experience players have been crying out for for years.
For more arcadey games like the F1 series and EA Sports WRC, the T-cam or equivalent provides a better experience for visibility and feel. It doesn’t matter as much if you’re in the car or not if the game doesn’t require it, so there’s no need to hate on someone for watching the race from above.
Just enjoy the race for what it is, not what the snobs think it should be.
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