Race Pro

I do enjoy a good race, don’t we all? The sound of screeching tires, engineering being pushed to it’s limits and two drivers trying to outwit each other on beautifully crafted circuits. The exhilaration of a close race, attacking the opponent and stealing first along with the beauty of the vehicles on show means real racing should be a staple in console gaming but it doesn’t pan out that way. Need for Speed style “street” racing is popular as are games like Forza Motorsport that give you a taste of everything from F1 circuits to powersliding but true hardcore racing titles are more the domain of the PC with the SimBin developed “GTR” series being one of the notable racing series for true enthusiasts and available only on the PC. Race Pro for the Xbox 360 marks SimBin’s first foray into console development, can they bring that different style of racing successfully over to the console market?

Upon booting up the main thing that will strike you is that nothing strikes you. Menu’s are bland, there’s no flashy intro and there is no licensed soundtrack to bop your head to. It all feels very anonymous and like any shovelware racing game that we see from time to time, lacking the kind of polish that’s certainly become standard for gaming this generation. This extends into the actual game where the graphics don’t offend but sit squarely in mediocrity with both the car models and the tracks themselves. There’s little in the way of nice little graphical touches either and everything feels very basic yet functional. In game menu’s mirror this being quite text heavy and lacking in any kind of pinache, simple black boxes are all that’s needed and therefore it’s all we get. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with a functional style it does make Race Pro inherently inaccessible to anyone who needs encouragement to play it and with such strong competition in the genre it’s a negative Race Pro really didn’t need. It’s been said that beauty captures your attention and personality captures your heart, if so then we’re lucky that Race Pro has bags of personality.

Despite this lack of presentation Race Pro excels where a good racing game should excel, on the track. The second you start a race you feel how different it is compared to even the sublime Gran Turismo with the car physics feeling much more physical and gritty than it’s console counterparts. Cars handle like real cars and not the constant slip sliding supercars of other titles, you can feel the road under the tires and you can feel each car’s unique character and limitations all through your wheel or pad (yes, the pad is a viable option). It plays like a proper PC racing simulation and as such you have to drive like a real driver, putting the time into time trial mode, tuning your car using the extensive options, learning your tracks and your vehicle. There are no points for style and no gimmicks, it’s pure racing and pure racing takes practice even in just the time trial never mind when there are other cars on the track.

The starting grid is quite small for races and there aren’t any Nürburgring long distance style tracks so races turn into proper one on one battles with real racing attack and defence. Don’t expect to glide past and knock them out the way either, the AI will defend like a real driver and if you did try to muscle through an opening taking a heavy hit and the physics will ensure you spin out just like in real life. The AI only goes to enhance this with some of the most drivers in the current generation making for intense races with a real challenge for the solo player. That’s not to say that the AI is infallible, in the last race I did before writing my main AI competitor completely misjudged a corner and flew off the course but that’s humanity behind the computer is what makes it such an engrossing experience.

Aside from the style problems Race Pro’s biggest issue will be holding the attention of the more casual fans. It’s not the difficulty factor (the easier difficulties are very playable for the arcade racers) but more the fact that there isn’t much to the game. The track listing is only 13 and the cars whilst being a great mix of classics and modern GT series cars unlock fast and offer little the casual market will drool on. The ever present career mode has you racing through eight groups each with up to seven races held therein, sounds meaty but in practice you can blow through it relatively quickly and once that’s done you have either Xbox Live (in the style of the game online multiplayer is as basic as you’d expect) or just improving your times on time trial. Whilst this is enough for the kind of person who gets excited about driving a Caterham CSR 320 it won’t be for the people who are already struggling with the sub par looks of the game and find themselves drifting back to Forza. It’s a real shame because underneath the lacklustre package Race Pro is currently the best racing experience you can get on the Xbox 360, it rewards patience and skill and I hope publisher Atari get people to try Race Pro out because the thrill of actually playing Race Pro deserves attention.







3 responses to “Race Pro”

  1. Del Torro El Sorrow avatar

    Those screenshots look quite nice.

  2. John.B avatar

    Trust me, bullshot is in operation.

  3. John avatar

    I was impressed when we had the preview back in October, my experience with the final product is that something is missing. The physics are there, the graphics are ‘real’ rather than flashy but I’m stuggeling to find the depth in the game that we were shown in the original menu structure.
    The Career mode is the biggest let down for me. I WANT a challenge, a season or ten to run through and allow me to grow and develop as a driver. Career here seems to be nothing more than a quick vehicle to unlock cars.
    If I could weld Grid and this together I’d be in racing heaven, as it is Race Pro is being put on the ‘yeah, it’s OK’ pile. Shame.

Leave a Reply