Two days ago, I picked up Race Pro, a game I’ve been highly anticipating since its announcement in the form of an Xbox 360 version of the PC racing sim, GTR 2. This title hails from Simbin, a developer that has been heralded as one of the best in the business of creating racing simulators. This is their very first console racing title and the racing simulation community has been abuzz, wondering if they can replicate the notoriously hardcore PC racing simulation experience on a console with little compromise. After investing a few hours in the game, I can say with ease, they’ve done a damn fine job.
As I popped the game into my Xbox 360, I decided to jump into the game by playing it for the very first time with Microsoft’s official wireless racing wheel, which I’d purchased a little over a year ago for Forza Motorsport 2. It seemed fitting to play this title with the wheel in hand. If you own Microsoft’s official Racing Wheel, you owe it to yourself to use it for this game. Racing with the wheel, coupled with the interior view, feels incredibly natural. It can be tough going from racing with the controller to the racing wheel but undoubtedly, it truly is the best and most immersive way to play.
Onto the driving physics, there’s no doubt in my mind that Simbin has created one of the most realistic racing simulators ever, thanks in large part to the physics engine. Even driving something as seemingly mundane as a Mini Cooper (a highly modified version of a Mini Cooper no less) can be very exciting and trust me when I say the Radical SR3 is not to be taken lightly. I have yet to get behind the wheel of the Dodge Viper SRT-10 and Audi R8 (two of my favorite supercars) as of yet, two of the unmodified cars included in the package, but I did get behind the wheel of the Dodge Charger Super Bee, an exclusive download included in copies of the game sold at GameStop (don’t think of that as an ad…). Race Pro does an excellent job of simulating the high weight and power this car possesses, which makes it characteristically difficult to stop at the end of a long straightaway.
Race Pro is one of the rare racers on the market today that is able to blend accessibility with, at times, crushingly realistic physics. The instant you enter the career mode, it defaults to the professional difficulty setting, in which all assists are turned off. For the sake of accessibility, it’s nice that these settings can be changed to your liking. They can all be adjusted in varying degrees, from low, medium to high.
So far, the AI drivers generally make for fairly competent opponents but, on occasion, they exhibit some…questionable behavior. For instance, as the Autodriver lead me out to the track in my Chevy Lacetti, a sequence that you can’t override as far as I can tell, it nicked a barrier while exiting the pits and compromised my aerodynamics. I was essentially forced to restart the session due to my bent front bumper. Hopefully, this isn’t a common occurrence.
I’ve played a couple of online races so far and they all have been free of any perceptible lag, even with as many as ten vehicles on the track at once (the game supports 12 online). Despite the fairly limited options compared to other racing titles on the 360 such as Forza Motorsport 2 and PGR 4, it is nice to have the ability to take to the track in a practice session to play around with vehicle setups before beginning the big race.
Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about Race Pro so far is its incredibly basic presentation. The menus aren’t presented with any sort of visual pizzazz or flair and hardly go beyond the call of duty. This can be somewhat off-putting, even for me, a person who appreciates what lies under the hood far more than visual aesthetics (which is why the Corvette Z06 has captured my heart more so than the far more visually appealing Ferrari F430).
Overall, after investing just a few scant hours into the game so far, I’ve very much enjoyed Race Pro. It has delivered exactly what I expected to, an involving and incredibly realistic racing simulator. Race Pro may be a little rough around the edges especially concerning the interface and overall presentation but it delivers where it counts. Stay tuned for the full review, which should be posted very soon.