RACE Pro Review
Written : Tuesday, March 17, 2009
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Racing games generally fall into one of two categories, that of the arcade style racer which is all power drifts, fast cars and hot chicks, or that of the simulation which is more racing lines, car statistics and Michael Schumacher. Sure the simulation may seem the more boring of the two options (and you would not want to take it home to meet your mother with any sense of pride) but it still does the job of portraying racing in its most realistic form. Arguably the kings of PC racing are SimBin and they have decided to bring their unique brand of accurate racing games over to the 360. The real question is; can they compete with the likes of Forza or are they doomed to a Jensen Button style existence of always being second (or third, fourth or fifth) best?
The rush to be in The Italian Job begins.
From the off it is made apparently clear that this is not a game for everyone, and it was obviously never meant to be. This is a game for those people that enjoy the purity of racing rather than the exhilaration of it, and for those that like to tinker with their cars in order to get the absolute optimum performance from them. In this vein, the game is never overly ostentatious and that is often to the detriment of the title as a whole. The graphics look oddly dated while the car handling is never nothing short of superb. It is this obsession with focusing on the physics that makes this game so realistic, but also makes it rather a damp squib for the majority of us.
The career mode is dull, amazingly dull – like watching grey paint dry on a wall then popping off to watch the kettle boil, before adding a second coat of paint for further fun times. It literally is just one event after another with no real objective in sight and nothing to aspire to. Complete events and you will be given some new cars to play with, but seeing as most of the advertised 300+ vehicles are just variants with slightly different features or a different paint job (maybe you got bored of grey) then the novelty of getting a new car will soon wear thin. Battling through all of the events offers no real sense of accomplishment just the feeling that you have done what you had to do – like that stack of filing you simply MUST get around to.
Play the game in first person view with all assistance off and you will get the ultimate driving experience. The problem here is that it often turns out to be harder than driving a real car, and the view from inside your vehicle is far smaller too which completely rules out any margin for error. While you can drive at an easier setting it just seems far too easy and none of your opponents puts up any kind of fight. There just does not seem to be enough of a balancing act, with Semi-Pro being far too easy and Pro being far too tough (considering it is only one step up). Aside from single player you can tackle individual championships too, assuming you have the relevant cars, and also perform time trials on any course of your choosing. That is about it, barring a novelty two player mode where you switch drivers, it really isn't enough to keep you interested for very long.
I allowed my car to be put in the game……..
The game also suffers from a number of annoying gameplay and graphical glitches. Most noticeably being the annoying auto driver which is meant to help you on entering and exiting pit lanes. Occasionally this "helpful" assistant will see fit to crash you into the wall, often costing you valuable seconds or damaging your car further. Talking of damage also brings us to the area where the physics sometimes let the game down, that being when you are involved in collisions. Hit the same car, at the same speed and the same angle and you should expect the same result – right? If only that were the case, as sometimes you will only slow down slightly and sometimes you will be flipped completely. It seems completely arbitrary and is simply not consistent enough for you to trust.
Let us head online for a bit of fun, although after a few forays you may well be wishing you had not bothered. The first issue is the fact there is no lobby as such, instead you drive around your chosen track waiting for other people to join and, if no one turns up, it will time out and force you to go through the same procedure again. I do not think it would have taken a major leap to provide some kind of lobby system instead. Assuming you do get a bite you then have to go through a qualifying session to determine your starting place on the grid. This is an awesome idea in practice but just drags out proceedings when put into reality, as you will often be waiting for newcomers to finish or have to endure them messing around. Once the proper race begins you will have to endure to constant threat of automatic disqualification if you stray from the course too much and also keep an eye out on people just quitting if they are getting beaten. There are some good ideas here but when it has all been put together it just seems like a real rush job and even having a one lap race with only one friend can take upwards of ten minutes if you include the loading screens. The interface is just not as good as you would expect to see on a Live enabled game.
That is one ugly dashboard – make the pain stop.
The achievements are fairly bland to be honest and not all that challenging. You can play through the career mode on the easiest setting and then take on the tracks one at a time on the Pro setting for most of the points, then it is just a matter of dragging yourself through the laborious online mode in order to get everything else. On the plus side you can boost everything as you only need two people in a race but even then you are looking at hours of work due to the extremely disjointed online setup. The fact you have to host games in order to get some of the points also means that people are amazingly unwilling to join other races as they will get no credit for doing so. This can lead to a lot of games available with only one opponent as they are all hoping to host games. Not the brightest idea the developers ever had, as it is not conducive to getting a lot of people competing against each other. Overall the points are fairly easy but still longwinded and annoying.
This is not a bad game by any means, the real problem is just how dated and, well, basic it looks when you stack it up against the competition. Even games that are a few years old like PGR still look better than this and offer a far more engrossing single player challenge and a far superior online mode too. If you have already conquered the likes of Forza then this may well be the next challenge for you but it will only grip you until something better comes along and, on this evidence, that will not take all that long. If you like out and out simulations then this may well be the game for you but it is unlikely to attract anyone else.
I guess you cannot really go wrong here as the engine sounds are suitably authentic and the music on offer is not that bad either. Nothing stellar but nothing too offensive either.
Ugly to look at in places, with some strange textures and planes on some of the cars. The in car view also leaves a lot to be desired and makes driving a chore.
The game itself is actually pretty fluid and the cars all handle nicely, the real issue comes through some dodgy collision detection and perplexing crash results.
Rough around the edges and with nothing to make it compete with the big boys, let alone beat them. This just feels like it would have been a world beater five years ago but has now been left behind.
A dull, generic list that does not show even the slightest glimmer of innovation. The online hosting achievements also ensure that practically no one will join your games - genius.
The driving mechanics are solid enough but that is about as good as it gets as the rest of the game feels surprisingly out of date. The online mode is a real let down too and you have to wonder how anyone would choose this over PGR or Forza. My advice would be to wait for the next instalment in either of those series of games unless you are on the lookout for a hardcore simulation.