Without doubt, Race Pro is going to test even the most enthusiastic of console racers and for a number of reasons. We’ve been raised and spoilt with high production, big budget, bells-and-whistles racing games for years. Need For Speeds, Forzas, Gothams, Gran Turismos and GRID have accustomed us to extremely high standards. And here rocks up Race Pro, looking a bit rough around the edges, with five-year-old-PC-game presentation, and it expects us to sit up and pay attention. And you know what? You should…
If you don’t know already, developers SimBin are not only run by a talented chap who happens to also be two-time Swedish GT Racing Champion, they also have an extensive gaming past with PC Touring Car and GT simulators like Race 07 and GTR.
Predictably, like their previous titles, Race Pro is an equally no-nonsense simulator that combines a similar range of vehicles like you’d find in GRiD (such as the Mini Cooper, Radical, Caterham, Formula BMW, Aston Martin DB9 and Koenigsegg) with simulation racing of a similar depth to Forza. To be brutally honest, Race Pro doesn’t look as pretty as either of these, but then, you don’t have to be a good looker to be a good racing game. You’ll have to play it ‘properly’ to find out, though. While driver assistance and a forgiving AI learning curve have been added to make the game more accessible to the console audience, all they managed to achieve it to desensitize you from what the game can actually do.
Only when you turn off as many aids as you can handle and truly immerse yourself in the experience will you appreciate what Race Pro is capable of. It’s not a tyre smoke fuelled crash-fest (in fact, the damage system feels fairly rudimentary), but it’s a rare opportunity to play accurate, FIA-approved seasons and championships.
Unfortunately for those without Xbox Live (or a system link cable), you’ll soon find the limitations of the single-player mode. Okay, so there’s a career mode and a full-on championship mode (if you wish to create your own Touring Car or single-make season) but they won’t last long. In truth, they’re little more than training for what the game will be bought for – extremely hard-fought online racing. This is where Race Pro will find its niche – with the Andy Priaulx baseball cap-wearing enthusiasts with the permanent race seat rigging in their bedrooms.
Look past the presentation shortcomings and you’ll find that Race Pro is an exercise of function over form. So functional that it will scare off many gamers. Yes, the graphics look grainy and unpolished. Yes, crash into another car and it sounds like the crumpling of a crisp packet rather than several tonnes of metal colliding. And yes, the career mode is hardly imaginative. But if you’re a true racing fan, Race Pro is the no-frills motorsport simulator you’ve been waiting for. See you online...
Feb 17, 2009