OverviewPlatform: Xbox 360
Is there room for another sim racing game on the Xbox 360? The creators of Race Pro think so, but do we agree?
Consoles and Simulations just don’t get along, ask developers of Steel Battalion and Chromehounds if you want proof of that. But there is one genre which tends to fit snugly alongside each of the console powerhouses and surpass expectations, namely the Forza series and Gran Turismo Franchise. But perhaps its time for another developer to take the juggernauts helm and steer it down the path of motor racing righteousness, enter Simbin and their latest creation Race: Pro.
If your not savvy with the world of PC gaming, Simbin’s brilliance with car modelling and handling will seem like a bolt out of the blue. But these kind Nordic fellows have been perfecting the art of race simulation since 2005 with GTR. But this PC pedigree becomes clear as soon as you boot up the title screen, the polish other racing games lavish upon you is noticeably absent. While this may put some racers off, if your patient you begin to appreciate the simplicity and purity of Race: Pro’s design, This isn’t a game that wants you to feel comfortable sitting in the paddock, it wants you to go out there and experience these lovingly crafted dream machines on the track.
Load times are short punctuated with helpful information regarding the track layout, over taking points and general hints regarding what to look out for over the coming race. Its a small but nice touch which emphasises the attention to detail you need to compete with the aggressive and skilled A.I drivers, before working your way up to race real people, twelve competitors at a time.
Every modern racing game needs a working online component, and Pro’s offer while being generous is shamefully lacking in stability. Once you enter a race the performance is fine with not noticeable lag, but the threat of connection drops and disconnections from host are constantly there. There is nothing as frustrating as battling bumper to bumper against someone for multiple laps online for you to suddenly drop out of the game for no apparent reason. It can soil you experience but if you can find stable games, but it takes more attempts than it should.
With a selection of forty five cars from twelve different European championships, its not the number which is impressive but the detail and variety. Every racer will find a race type which meets their fancy, if its the rough and tumble of the Touring Car’s, twitchy Formula BMW’s or the sophisticated GTR’s. Each class handles differently and authentically, maintaining an escalating challenge as you move into the more powerful classes as they unlock. Career mode has you joining teams through contracts where you are awarded points for successful race meets, these points unlock more prestigious racing classes and cars. It is exactly the kind of unlocking mechanism in racing games that has presided before it and it serves a purpose, its just not terribly original. Thankfully though, Simbin has also included the option of full seasons which are ultimately more rewarding than the single digit lap races of the career mode. The only issue is the lack of actual race tracks which along with all the teams livery’s of WTCC (World Touring Car Championship) and other included championships would be a worthy addition. While we are discussing tracks, the thirteen provided are a mixed bag - some you have come across in every other racer, while the others are selections we should really know more about. Particular highlights are Britain’s best Brands Hatch, for the opening bend alone and the street circuit Macau which is the games answer to Monaco but much faster with plenty of overtaking spots.
Its a nice selection but is crying out for more DLC related additions which Atari have already hinted is in production.
Driving aids are successful in giving new players a chance to dip their toes in the hardcore water, while gently wading in as they turn ABS, Traction Control, and the interactive racing line which glows warning red as you need to slow for a rapidly approaching corner. It enables the game to be enjoyed by both the hardcore and the console casual without compromising any of the Simbin’s scruples. The multiple options also extend to the races being able to change the amount of competitors, laps, weather, and damage. The interchangeable weather conditions are especially noteworthy as trying to navigate a sixteen car grid is hard enough in the dry, let alone in the wet which makes merely making it to the first corner a milestone.
Race: Pro was never going to be perfect, its a PC developers first attempt at a console racer for crying out loud. But what is here is a love letter to European motor sport with a big fat red kiss at the bottom of the page. It is not without its faults such as sometimes throwing up some mental crash results from mundane circumstances or online performance issues which let the game down in a major way. Its a buggy but brilliant racer and it joyfully fills the gap we have all had in our racing calenders until the next Forza or Gran Turismo bursts onto the scene. For a début Simbin has ported over all their PC successes with a tangible finesse, we should all look forward to what they’ll achieve next time but until then lets enjoy the purest console racer since TOCA.
A buggy but brilliant racer.