The original GTR stood out as an incredibly faithful simulation, entrancing despite a totally unforgiving approach to grip. This sequel softens the challenge with a far more accepting - yet, make no mistake, far more realistic - attitude to excessive behavior. Yet it's still more intense.
Drivers of GTR 2 's Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Porsches (to name a few) can breathe a sigh of relief that some grip now lingers once the rear tires start spinning, whereas before all hope would be lost. This means braking wildly late, hitting those fanatically-modeled 3D curbs and generally flicking the car too hard are now options, should you need them. They may not be the way to the ultimate lap time, but they're often the way past an opponent in a race.
This game conveys an unrivalled sense of mass versus the machine's attempts to change its course and, allied to the already highly impressive handling, this new freedom to overstep the mark (and, if you're either good or lucky, come back from it) adds a welcome human edge.
After all, racing, like music or any other endeavor, is about people as much as machines - something F1 has forgotten with tragic effect. If the original game demanded the ultra-controlled, metronomic beat of German techno, GTR 2 is the loose intensity of Nirvana.
The real difference, then, is the ability to fight for victory with a hotter head. Yet obviously there are other more tangible differences. The game has reached the 2004 season, which at least allows for the inclusion of the stunning Maserati MC12 - good enough here to make you realize why the FIA has decided to hobble it - though not the beautiful, and rather effective, Aston Martins.
The 2003 cars and circuits return as unlockables, and while two or three-year-old content may not sound hugely exciting, arguably it matters less here than in most cases. Why? Simply because the real series will be familiar to just a handful of cable-viewing diehards in the first place.
While the expected array of stability, traction and anti-lock aids feature to help beginners, a more active role is played by the new driving school. This covers everything from the basics to full laps of each track, breaking things down into sections in between.
With a visible race line (color-coded to indicate brake and acceleration) and a ghost car to chase, the driving school tests are both illuminating and addictively challenging.
Just about everything outside these set challenges is scaleable, adjustable or customizable through the improved interface, including race length, car types, the day/night cycle, weather and the online rules.
The only thing that's hard to adjust, in fact, is the tension in your muscles. GTR 2 is hugely better than its predecessor in exactly the area that matters.