BeamNG.drive is a soft-body physics simulation game developed by the BeamNG company and first released in 2013. As someone who’s a fan of simulation games, particularly physics simulations, I got my hands on BeamNG.drive early on. I was immediately impressed with the accuracy and detail of the crashes as the game boasts a real-time, soft-body dynamic physics structure using algorithms for physics calculations in real-time. The result is stunning car crashes upon interactions with various objects and other landscape obstacles.
This post will provide a review of the game, while the BeamNG.drive Tips for Beginners post will detail some of the tips and tricks that I’ve discovered while playing BeamNG.drive. If you decide to purchase the game or are looking for more insight, it’s definitely worth a look.
One of the first things that I want to point out with BeamNG.drive is that, as of writing, this game is still considered “early access” which means it is still technically in development. As of right now, there are two modes available – Freeroam and Scenarios. For the most part, most people find themselves playing in freeroam as this is where you have the freedom to customize and experiment with the game, its maps and vehicles.
You start off by choosing one of 12 included maps, which range from a simple empty grid to East Cost USA to a Jungle Rock Island to Utah, USA. Each map offers a unique landscape with varying obstacles, hills, environment, roadways, etc. Aside from the beauty of these environments, they each allow you to experiment in different ways with your vehicles. More about these maps are talked about below in the Graphics section.
Once you’ve selected your map, you’ll spawn with your vehicle which, by default, is the standard pickup truck. If you’re using a keyboard + mouse as your controller, you’ll find the basic controls are the Arrow keys for accelerate, brake, steering, and the camera can be controlled using the mouse or numpad arrows. The game offers two modes for driving – Arcade and Automatic/Manual. Arcade mode will take care of all shifting for you as you accelerate, brake and reverse, whereas the automatic/manual mode leaves the shifting up to you just like you would in a regular car.
As you start driving around, you’ll notice that when you crash into things, your car will becoming damaged. This, of course, is the point of the game! In order to ‘reset’ your car, you can press the ‘R’ key to reset it back to the position where you started. If you’ve gone some ways and would rather not restart from your initial position, you can use the Ctrl + R combination to reset the vehicle in its current place. This gives you the flexibility to smash up your cars all you want with the ability to reset it as needed.
To change between cars, simply use the Ctrl + E combination to pull up the vehicle selection screen to quickly switch between vehicles. It’s here where you can choose to replace your current vehicle or spawn a new one while leaving your current vehicle in place. The multiple vehicles can be switched between using the ‘Tab’ key. This is great for crashing cars together.
Every vehicle, from the default pickup truck to a sports car to a truck handles in a different way and you can really feel the weight and performance differences for each. This allows you to experiment with a limitless number of vehicle designs and customization when setting up your scenarios and crashing the vehicles. Additional features, such as the toggling of slow-mo and changing the speed of the game allows you to really see and feel the impact of the crashes.
This covers the basic controls and gameplay elements but I wanted to mention that the game is also compatible with many different controller types, including steering wheels and PlayStation/Xbox controllers. I would strongly recommend using a controller with this game as the realistic feel of the cars are very sensitive when simply using a key to control it and you will want to leverage the triggers/sticks of a game console controller or a steering wheel for a better gameplay experience.
Check out the below video of a police roadblock that I setup using a police car, barrier and crash test dummy mod and ramming it with various vehicles. You can find plenty more videos like this on my YouTube channel.
Of course, a sandbox game like this allows for many different customizations. I spoke about the controls in the last section and some of the default actions using a keyboard. All buttons can be mapped in-game using the menu and going to the controls area. Furthermore, most game controllers are compatible with the game and their buttons can also be mapped using the in-game menu. Personally, I’m using the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller which was recognized immediately by my game running on Windows 10.
As for the actual gameplay, every vehicle can be customized using the vehicle config menu. This includes the addition and removal of various parts from the engine all the way down to the lights and bumpers. Furthermore, tuning options are available for each vehicle which includes tire pressure, toe and camber adjustments.
Every map can be opened in the included World Editor by pressing the F11 key which allows you to customize anything you want on the map. This includes the movement of objects and placing new objects on the map. This is great for setting up scenarios in the empty grid map or adding additional objects to an existing map. Some of the more common objects can also be added quickly from the vehicles menu for quick placement during gameplay without the need to open the World Editor.
Lastly, the game now includes mods which allows for players to download and install both official and unofficial maps, vehicles, and other mods into the game.
One of the most impressive aspects of this game aside from the realistic real-time physics and crashes is the graphical elements and beauty of the maps and vehicle designs. It’s apparent that great care and detail has gone into the design of all included vehicles and maps. Every element of the maps can interact with the vehicles allowing you to take your vehicle anywhere on the map and crash it. Even as parts fly and vehicles tumble, you’ll be impressed with the way they interact with objects on the map, oftentimes pleasantly unexpectedly.
As mentioned, many mods, vehicles and maps are available for download directly from BeamNG, while other communities exist around the game providing such a service as well as an area for players to chat about the game. You’ll definitely want to check out the official BeamNG Wiki, BeamNG Forums, the BeamNG subreddit and Steam Community.
Furthermore, the game receives frequent updates and new content from the BeamNG team. The DevBlog on the BeamNG website provides all the details of new and upcoming content for the game.
For those of you like me who enjoy a good physics sandbox game and realistic car crashes, BeamNG is the game for you! The beauty and level of detail put into this game combined with the incredible real-time physics engine will leave you impressed and with hours and hours of entertainment. Look for this game to continue to evolve as it has been over the past few years with the developer providing full support and many updates. It is well worth the $20 for Early Access and can be purchased direct from the developer or through Steam.