Rigs of Rods Review

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Rigs of Rods

Vehicle Simulation That Lets You Drive Cars, Airplanes or Boats in an Open Environment!

Avg. Rating: 4.56 / 5

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DFG Exclusive Review Summary

Better than average but has some noticeable flaws.


  • Lets you operate a huge variety of land, sea and air vehicles.
  • Amazingly realistic physics.
  • Open source code that can be modified by anyone.
  • Can be downloaded, played and modified for free.


  • Graphics are pretty ugly, despite the somewhat steep system requirements.
  • Not very user-friendly.
  • This isn't really a game.




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Game Description

Explore the Land, Seas, and Sky

Experience an all new simulation experience with the spectacular physics and graphics found in Rigs of Rods. This Open Source truck, car, airplane, and boat simulator allows you to drive, fly, and sail in total freedom in any open environment.

What makes Rigs of Rods unique is that it uses soft-body physics: vehicles chassis and wheels are simulated in real-time as flexible objects, giving the simulation extremely accurate behavior, while allowing the vehicles to be simply specified by their structural composition as a network of interconnected nodes. This makes it a much easier task for gamers to create their very own vehicles to test out and crashing into walls or terrain can permanently deform a vehicle in a realistic manner.


Easy to Use

What makes Rigs of Rods a great simulator is the huge amount of details you have at your fingertips, while keeping the interface rather simple and easy to understand. With the click of a button you can see the rod network of each vehicle as it moves and see which beams are under the greatest amount of stress.

This effect is even more dramatic to watch as you push your vehicles to ever more extreme situations. There is not much that can compare to seeing the damage caused as you watch your boat deform as it crashes through high swells and careens into the shore, or as your turbojet plummets from a stall into the barren landscape.

Hours of Enjoyment

With the advanced flight model based on blade element theory, allowing the accurate simulation of any airplane based on their physical dimensions and wing airfoils, and an accurate buoyancy model based on elemental pressure gradients, enabling boats with complex hulls to move realistically in the swell, the sheer graphic effects are sure to leave you amazed. Send your vehicles through a whole plethora of extreme stunts and see just how far you can smash each vehicle and still keep it running.


A rather large community has arisen from the ability to create your own custom vehicles and maps, which means that new mods are continually being produced for your gaming pleasure. With ever more new vehicles to test out, you can enjoy this gaming experience as long as you want.

So if you like simulators with plenty of unique features and plenty of gameplay opportunities, download Rigs of Rods today!

Rigs of Rods Review

Jim Rosenquist Avatar

Review by David Galvin

Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.

It’s Not Just a Simulation

Rigs of Rods is an odd beast. On the surface, it looks like your basic vehicle simulator. It lets you take control of a surprisingly large number of vehicles and it boasts some impressive physics to make using them as authentic an experience as possible. However, at its core, it’s both more and less than what its first impression implies. On one hand, it’s a powerful open-source tool that anyone can just pick up and start modding away at. On the other, that’s really all it is; there isn’t a whole lot of gameplay to be found

It’s Not the Flashiest Thing Out There

First things first; Rigs of Rods is not a very pleasant piece of software when it comes to presentation. The colors are washed out, the maps and models are primitive compared to what we’re used to seeing today, there’s no real style to the visuals, and there’s no music whatsoever. The human character you control when no vehicles have been selected is the most embarrassing thing to look at. It lacks detail, does not have a full walk cycle, and never behaves realistically to the terrain it’s on. The way it can ascend hills without changing its speed, stance or momentum makes it feel like it’s a bit of a vehicle itself.


Fortunately, presentation isn’t really the game’s focus and the default human character is not really what you’re supposed to be using. While the rest of the graphics aren’t very impressive either, they nevertheless do their job. Buildings look like buildings, trees look like trees, and the cars look like cars. Sadly, despite this lack of graphical fidelity, Rigs of Rods still has some fairly steep system requirements. You don’t need a serious state-of-the-art gaming rig to run it, but it can still be pretty demanding for your basic office work machine.

Amazingly Detailed Physics

While the graphics may not seem all that impressive when they’re at a standstill, they look a whole lot better in motion. The cars may look like toys at best, but they move like actual vehicles. Rigs of Rods makes extensive use of soft-bodied physics, which involves modeling each car around a skeleton of rods that are connected via a series of ball-and-joint sockets. This means that each component of the vehicle can react to the terrain independently, all the while having a ripple effect on the rest of the body. Hence, we can get cars that bounce realistically as they roll over hilly knolls. This gives us the impression that they’re not just simply die-cast toys, but complicated machines with a lot of mass and suspension.

Even more impressive is how the vehicles can be deformed. Colliding into the scenery can dent up your car real good and make it look more realistically damaged than what most mainstream simulators are capable of displaying. Things such as the speed of the collision, the angle it happened at, and the component of the car that was affected are all taken into account. Needless to say, seeing what kind of abuse your car can go through can be disturbingly amusing; it’s like creating your own crash safety test! You can further muck things up by pulling your machines apart piece by piece as if they were scale models. Even that is handled in a believable way.

Better yet, cars are not the only vehicle available in Rigs of Rods. There are also buses, trains, boats, airplanes and helicopters. Although most of them aren’t given as much attention as the automobile, they still control much more differently and are subject to the very same physics and damage models. Most commercial sims only specialize in a single type of vehicle, but Rigs of Rods lets you play around with several at once at no extra cost! There definitely is a value to be found in that.

Move Along, There’s Nothing to See Here

Unfortunately, while there are a lot of vehicles to control and the physics can be fun to fool around with, the basic download package doesn’t really have much of a game to go with it. If you’re expecting at least a few missions that demand you use every driving and piloting skill you’ve learned thus far, you’ve got another thing coming. In fact, it might be a bit of a mistake to call Rigs of Rods a game per say. It’s really more like a tool and a tech demo rolled into one; you can experiment with the nifty physics or attempt to make your own custom content, but that’s largely it.

The good news is that while the initial download might be bereft of any quality material, there’s plenty of custom user-made content available online. The official Rigs of Rods website boasts over two thousand mods, all of which are available for free. You can get more vehicles, maps and even miniature games and campaigns to play around with. Some content packs even boast multiplayer functionality!

However, while a large quantity of content is good, it’s also pretty detrimental. It’s hard to filter the good mods from the bad ones and even the ones with the greatest amount of quality are probably not going to equal what you can find in commercial vehicle sims like Flight Simulator. The handling for most vehicles always feels a little on the floaty side and the camera is pretty clunky all around. It doesn’t rotate nearly as fast as it should and it can often get hung up on scenery that blocks the view of your avatar. Needless to say, Rigs of Rods feels like a work in progress.

A Vertical Learning Curve

Even when seen as a tool for creativity, Rigs of Rods still has its share of difficulties. It’s not something that you can just fire up and start fiddling with, it still require a great deal of technological knowledge to get working. It’s not a standalone program either; like most games with modding capabilities, some quality content is going to require the use of an outside application. For example, if you want to make new art assets or vehicles, you’ll need to put them together in Maya, Blender or something else of that nature.

In short, if you’re an experienced modder, you may find a lot to enjoy here. You can make just about anything for Rigs of Rods if you can imagine it. If you want to learn about becoming a modder or a game developer, then this software is certainly as good a place as any to get started. Just be prepared for a long learning process. If you’re hoping to get cranking on new levels immediately and right out of the box, go elsewhere. This isn’t SimCity, Spore, The Sims or LittleBigPlanet; this is strictly for serious hobbyists.

Other Technological Problems

As said before, Rigs of Rods is hardly a game and it’s not a commercial product. It’s an open-source project that’s constantly being tweaked and improved upon by hundreds of independent coders and artists. It’s also far from finished and still has a lot of problematic areas to deal with. The most notable of them is how keyboard controls are handled. You can’t remap the keys directly from the software as you can in most computer games at this time; you have to go directly to the file that has them listed and manually alter them via a text editor. This isn’t too difficult, but it’s puzzling all the same and very tedious to do.

End of the Line

Rigs of Rods is a very difficult product to review. All things considered, it is not a very entertaining game. The initial package may have a huge number of vehicles to play with, and the soft-bodied physics are very impressive, but with no missions to complete, objectives to meet, or challenges to beat, there’s not really a whole lot of reason to stick around. If you want content, you have to hunt around the net to find some serviceable mods.


At the same time, that’s not really what Rigs of Rods is about. The program is more of a tool than anything and it can certainly be a fun and powerful one in the right hands. The technology is cool and it would be great to see how it will develop in the future. However, it still has a lot of rough spots. The controls can be finicky, the process of remapping them is annoyingly tedious, and the camera is often uncooperative. It’s not bad by any means and you could do a whole lot worse for something that’s free. It’s just very difficult to get into.

If you have an interest in creating your own content and don’t mind the potentially steep learning curve that goes with it, then Rigs of Rods is at the very least worth a look. However, if you want to get yourself a fun, entertaining or serious vehicle simulator, then you might want to look elsewhere. Rigs of Rods is built for a different kind of user.

Player Reviews

Gameplay Video

Check out all the different big rigs that you can sit behind the wheel in with Rigs of Rods.

 Video of game play for Rigs of Rods


Click Screenshot to enlarge

Rigs of Rods - Screen 1 Rigs of Rods - Screen 2

Fast Facts

  1. Rigs of Rods was released on November 1, 2011.
  2. Rigs of Rods is an open-source freeware game that was originally authored by Pierre-Michel Ricordel.
  3. Currently, Rigs of Rods is Ricordel's only project.
  4. Rigs of Rods is available for download on Windows, Linux and Mac OSX systems.
  5. Sourceforge.net named Rigs of Rods as Project of the Month for November 2012.
  6. There are over 2000 mods for Rigs of Rods available on the game's official website.
  7. Physicist Dr. Brian Beckman praised the game and its implementation of physics. He went so far as to call it 'one of the best driving simulators' he had ever seen.

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