Laying down some tracks
As good as it is that Race Pro
focusses on the action, not every absent feature can be explained away in a positive fashion. The menus are simple but the options aren't - confusingly, Race Pro
has two big singleplayer projects to get your teeth stuck into. Career mode is very straightforward; there’s no shopping, and not that many choices of vehicle. It’s a simple progression to faster courses and cars that sets demanding finishing targets for a small series of (usually three) races before you can advance.
Then there’s Championship mode, which allows you to expand the number of races you tackle and hone your skills with a particular class of vehicles. In addition you can also tackle one-off races, or go in for time-trials.
The decision to hide the car-tuning screens away is mystifying, as tweaking the settings is an important part of any racing simulator. While you can play with gear ratios, tyre PSI and camber to your heart’s content, all the settings are hidden in the pause menu. Once you select a race to drive, the game loads you’re in the car straight away – there’s no intermediate or prep screen.
It's easy to lose control when you turn the driver aids off
While turning the driving aids off introduces you to the game’s involving handling model, it doesn’t do anything to improve the damage model, which is woeful. Forza
famously did what Gran Turismo
didn’t dare, enabling you to bash up your Ferrari like a pair of cheap trainers. Race Pro
goes for an uncomfortable half-way house. There is damage, but it’s negligible. Every so often you can spot parts of other cars flying off after a big collision, but it’s rare – usually all that happens is there’s a dead thump, and a look at one of the external camera angles reveals a deformed bumper.
Worse, the game has no idea how to handle the momentum from a crash, so you can slap into the side of another car at 100mph and all that happens is lots of your speed disappears, as if it’s just been deleted. Not only is this unrealistic, it also means that you can, on occasion, use the old arcade driving trick of using other cars as your brake pedal. It’s not quite as bad as a Need For Speed
title, because the physics applied to accelerating away from a ‘crash’ is realistic and do need to be dealt with by the player in a sensitive way.
includes 13 real race tracks, and most are excellent. Big hitters that are present in many other games such as Monza, Laguna Seca and Road America are joined by the brilliant but often overlooked Brands Hatch and the twisty Zandvoort. The only real dud is Oschersleben, which is a poor man’s Hockenheim that includes all fiddly corners but lacks the majestic straights.
The AI is tough and competetive, but does make mistakes
Car choice, as mentioned earlier, is more limited than in some other racing sims, but it’s still varied, ranging from touring cars such as BMWs and Aston Martins, to exotic sports cars such as the Audi R8 and open-wheel racing cars from F3000 and Formula BMW.
The game’s graphics have come in for criticism in many reviews, and it’s true that in replays there’s not much to look at. Partly this is because the courses are real, rather than being designed for visual appeal (unlike, say, Forza 2
’s Maple Valley Raceway).
Partly it’s because the car models are boxy and don’t display much movement or fine detail. That said, when you’re actually in the driving seat, Race Pro
looks fine. In car, it's not a million miles away from Forza 2
. The graphics do a convincing job of creating an impression of speed, too.
It’s always tricky to test multiplayer as there are so many variables outside of the game’s control. However, during the times we tried Race Pro
’s head-to-head multiplayer, it was at best average, and often unsatisfactorily laggy. The integration of times from global Xbox Live leaderboards into the game worked nicely though, and seemed less fiddly than in Forza 2
works best if you approach it as an uncompromising racing simulator. If you’re not a big fan of driving games, and have yet to play Forza 2
or even GRID
then both are better bets. They’re more balanced, better looking and have stronger presentation. If you’ve played those games however and are looking for something more challenging and more focussed on the craft of racing, then Race Pro
is certainly worth considering. Its direct approach to the task is challenging at first, but many fans of racing will find it refreshing not to be taking to the track to go fast, rather than just to earn enough virtual credits to pay for some shiny new hubcaps or the next Lamborghini.