Review: Richard Burns Rally

One of the most legendary sims ever made was Richard Burns Rally. Even though it’s 17 years old, people still consider it to be the best rally sim. Strangely, I’ve never tried it. Possibly that’s because it has been out of production for a decade and not easily obtained. Well, that’s not entirely true. You could download free versions all over the place, but it didn’t appear entirely legal and installation didn’t look simple. The game had a fixed number of cars and stages, and to change those required hacking the game.

Rally Sim Fans

The people at Rally Sim Fans have made life much easier. They made a modern RBR installer that has a ridiculous number of cars and tracks, and works with modern sim hardware. It’s just a couple clicks and you’re done. I’m still not sure about the legality of this, but if whoever owns RBR ever decides they want to charge me, I’ll pay.

Installation

  1. Go to the Rally Sim Fans website and make an account.
  2. Download the latest installer (1.16.3 at the time of this post).
  3. Launch the installer. Windows may be reluctant to run the installer, but click the “More info” and let the installer “Run anyway”.
  4. The full download is about 15G and inflates to around 100G. You can also do a minimal install at 2G/4G.
  5. The instructions will tell you a bunch of places not to install. I used an external SSD.
  6. Some of the download locations are in Eastern Europe, which may result in really long download times (days) from the US. Experiment with each to see what the download speed actually is. I was able to use a temporary high-availability server and get 14M/sec download speeds, which is about 100x faster than what I got initially. Don’t worry if you quit the installer, it will pick up from wherever it left off.

Configuration

RBR recognized my sim hardware just fine, but it didn’t allow me to apply dead zones to controls. My pedals absolutely have to have dead zones because (1) the throttle doesn’t go below 5% or above 90%, (2) the brake doesn’t go below 25% or above 60%, and (3) the clutch doesn’t go above 90%. Driving around with partial brake and a clutch that doesn’t actually disengage was a little frustrating, but I did get a sense of the physics. It’s good.

In order to put dead zones in my pedals, I had to install some extra software: vJoy and UCR.

vJoy

vJoy is a virtual joystick. It’s pretty simple to use, just install the software and your computer thinks it has a new controller called “vJoy Device” that has 6 axes and 8 buttons. It doesn’t do anything on its own.

UCR

UCR is the Universal Control Remapper. This lets you change the input from one controller to another controller. In my case, I wanted to move my pedals and hand brake to the vJoy device. Remapping individual axes from my pedals to my virtual joystick was pretty simple, but setting the dead zones was a pain. I couldn’t quite get them dialed in.  And when I finally did get some settings that seemed okay, RBR no longer recognized the steering wheel. So I had to remap the steering wheel from Thrustmaster to vJoy. This had the effect of removing FFB.

First Drive

Driving without force feedback is strange. It is actually possible though and because I’ve driven enough rally, I was able to drive through some stages without problems.

RBR vs. DiRT Rally and others

Most of my previous “hard core rally sim” experience has been with the original DiRT Rally. I’ve also driven other rally sims or sims where rally driving is possible.

  • DiRT Rally 2 – not as good as the original, and the asphalt physics appear to be broken
  • DiRT 4 – not really a hardcore rally sim
  • Assetto Corsa – not designed as a rally sim, but does a pretty good job anyway
  • iRacing – although the selection of dirt cars and tracks is very limited, the dirt feels pretty darn good
  • rFactor 2 – I tried a rally course and it was terrible

So how does RBR compare to DR? Well, I wasn’t able to really test RBR fully because my pedals are weird. Maybe if I had my pedals connected to my wheel I could have gotten it to work. Maybe this is an excuse to get the new Thrustmaster T-LCM pedals?

It appears to me that RBR is the Assetto Corsa of the rally world. That is, there is really good community content. Of course, some of that content is more polished than others. From what I can tell when I had FFB working (but poor pedals), the feel is very similar to DiRT Rally. The selection of cars and tracks is equivalent, but RBR has more potential because it can be modded. If you own a simple sim rig where the pedals connect to the wheel, you should definitely check out RBR.

I’m going to keep hacking at things and hopefully figure out how to get everything working in RBR.

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