Race Pro – Review
SimBin’s understanding of the PC Racing Simulator genre has been transported on to the XBox 360, and it’s worth noting that this is probably their first foray into consol gaming, which in reality should indicate that they have had to deal with a steep learning curve. Possibly we should give them a little grace when it comes to any minor issues that may arise in the game, and see Race Pro for what it is: a really good first step for what has the potential to steal Codemasters crown.
Codemasters took a radical step when they released GRID. Without warning they totally flipped the direction of their flagship racing game and opened it up to a much larger audience, placing fun and accessibility over any attempt at simulation. This bought them a lot of flack, but in the end most people realise that GRID was a lot of fun, and in the end, having fun was ok.
But now there was a gap in the 360’s game line up – if Codemasters weren’t going to be doing the real world-racing simulator, who would. The answer SimBin.
Race Pro’s biggest hurdle is acceptance, they’ve entered a market that Codemaster’s used to own, but a market that has become soft with the easy, make it fun, focus of GRID. Die hard simulator fans are going to jump on board with Race Pro, but many others are going to take it for a test drive and not give it the time it deserves.
Race Pro is the kind of game that you have to take you time with. You have to explore it – it has many hidden features, and even those that are easy to find are complex, such as being able to set up your car. Then you have to choose just how realistic (or difficult) you want to make you racing experience.
Jumping straight in with the default settings will make most people assume that Race Pro totally misses the mark, where as in reality, it’s the player whose missed the mark.
I have a number of games in my collection, but only a few that I keep going back too. These fall into two categories. First there’s GRID and Call of Duty 4. These are easy to just pick up, hop online and have some fun. It’s the Friday night session where I just want to forget about my long week at work. Then there’s Hell’s Highway (the best WWII shooter ever) and Fallout 3. These take a little more time, a little more attention. Where as I’ve clocked the games in the previous category, these guys are still getting my slow and steady attention. I’m a long way off finishing them, because I’m enjoying their complexity and depth. It’s a journey worth taking, not one that you want to rush.
Race Pro falls into the later category. It’s not going to replace GRID for some Friday night fun, but it is more rewarding in the long run. It’s going to take me a while to uncover everything it has going for it, and that’s ok for me. I like my serious games as much as I do the fun ones.
So Race Pro isn’t perfect, in fact I’d be surprise if SimBin weren’t working on a patch for it, as it is a little buggy in places. Collision detection can be an issue, and if you flip or roll your car, the physics look a little too cartoonish, akin to a cardboard box being thrown down some stairs. The graphics are a little on the tame side, but the tracks are flippin amazing. And lets face it, what you race on should be more important than having better eye candy then the last game you played. The sound effects are great, and the different player views are what you’d expect from a racing game.
The handling – as I said before – depends on what settings you use. I was concerned at one point that the cars were a little sluggish if you found yourself facing the wrong way and needed to turn around. Unlike most other racing games I had played, you couldn’t just hit the gas, spin the rear wheels and spin the car around on a dime. On some tracks you had to do a three-point turn. This was bizarre and annoying. But as it turns out, I had traction and stability control both set to high. Once I had turned these off, I could spin the car round with no effort at all. In fact I did just that on the grid in the very next race. Planted my foot on the gas and lost control.
Rcae Pro is a simulator. It will take you time to master and really get some enjoyment out of, but once you do, it will become your new best friend. It does sacrifice some eye candy and doesn’t quite have the feel of a finished product, but it achieves what it sets out to do; deliver a racing experience that is probably as close to racing as most of us mere mortals will ever get.
As far as XBox Live goes, it has a unique and confusing at first approach to racing, but one that makes sense after a while. It also has a nifty way of dealing with those annoying little idiots that like to race the wrong way round the track.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read
Released on: February 27th, 2009
Platform: Xbox 360