As many folk know I do like my racing games. Xbox Live has seen many great racing games. Moto GP 1 & 2, Project Gotham Racing 2 and Race Driver 2. All were class games and had various strengths. However the driving model in each, although attempting to be sim, veered more to arcade so to keep the games as approachable as possible.
GTR is an entirely different beast.
This is a true simulation of driving and as such puts totally different demands on you as a racer. Touch the brakes in the wrong place and your back end will lurch sideways – the gravel trap is your only hope now. Steering as you brake has the same end result.
However nothing beats the feeling of getting it all right and winning a race. The game does require a good pc to appreciate it but the sensation of speed coupled with lush graphics and an amazing physics engine is unbeatable. The game supports multiplayer racing but this feels tacked onto the game and is still buggy. The same can be said for the front end of the game which feels amateurish and is clunky compared to most modern games. However the game has a good community behind it with lots of tracks and cars made available for download – this is a game that won’t die quickly.
Which is just as well – the tracks demand to be learnt and this takes times – lots of time. Each car too has vastly different handling. You also need to invest in a quality controller for the pc – the keyboard won’t cut it and at the very least a joypad is required. To fully immerse yourself a force feedback steering wheel is recommended. Being the gadget man I am a quick trip to… the attic and my wheel was ready – pity my shoulders weren’t. To back up the sim aspect of the game every lap you take (practise or racing) is recorded. This can then be played back and analysed in the Motec Interpreter. This allows you to view your lap, analyse gear changes, acceleration and deceleration – even tyre pressures. You can also compare multiple laps at once. For the enthusiast (geek) this adds another layer to an already complex game. Car set-ups are also provided as well as the ability to download new ones from online.
After a week’s play I’m loving the game but I can see the love dwindling over time – pc gaming is still fraught with difficulties. Firstly you need a pc beefy enough, then you need the latest drivers, you probably want to switch off as many background programs as possible and if you want to play it online you need a broadband connection and a good one at that. Racing games demand low pings. Even then the ‘buggy’ multiplayer component can lead to you or your fellow racers disconnecting. Also to play GTR online you need to register with the developers (SimBin) servers. This is like Xbox Live except SimBin seem to be using Amiga’s as their servers – they suck big time. Frustratingly even if you want to play a game from pc to pc you need to login to their server. They have upgraded them this week but the game update time in the lobby is still slow.
The fact that the game is so sim like can also lead to frustration – think BT Broadband adverts and you know what I mean. I like a challenge in a game but I find GTR just too frustrating. This is due not only to the driving model but also the type of game you end up playing – lots of solo time trialling, keyboard driven lobbies and very little actual racing. It’s just not the kind of social gaming that I’ve become used to on the Xbox and Warcraft. Overall a good game – if you can devote the time required there’s no doubt you’ll love it. For me I’ll stick to the occasional race and enjoy the raft of other good games that are about to be released.