With Forza Motorsport 3 not being released for a while, and Codematsers going down the arcade route with their Race Driver GRID, hardcore race drivers have been left abandoned, that is until now with the release of SimBin's Race Pro.
The Swedish developers have teamed up with Atari to bring us the exclusive Xbox 360 title - Race Pro. OK so it's not the most inspiring title for a game ever created, but it's what's in the game that counts. So what should you expect? Lets find out.
In Race Pro , or RP for short, the main aspect of the game is based around time trials. Getting really fast laps by taking each corner as fast as possible, preferably without spinning out or driving along the turf edging the track. Upon entering the RP world there are plenty of game modes available to you, from Single races, championships, time trials and a career mode to name but a few .
Career mode is where most of your RP experience will occur. You have to win contracts with racing teams to build up your credits to advance and buy another contract, and so on. The price of a contract also varies depending on where you finish in your tryouts. There's also different classes which each consist of up to 7 contracts, so overall, there's a lot of racing to be had. Unfortunately this is where my first problem occurred. It isn't racing. The AI drivers are so bad I don't know what words I should use to describe it. It's like they are on some sort of driving day out and they must stay together so that no-one gets lost. Ok, i've thought of a word - pathetic. Every single race turns into a game where you race round an empty track as once you've passed them the race is over. None of your opponents show any character or personality, they always seem to drive perfectly on the on-display race line, and if they are out of place they will slow down to get back on line. My second problem with the game was with its difficulty settings. Racing on Semi-Pro is too easy, and I was unable to increase the AI difficulty from medium, so I thought i'd try it on the harder of the 3 settings - Professional - to see if the AI would become more of a challenge. This certainly worked, as the AI drivers were kicking my ass around every track. The reason being however was largely down to the fact that I couldn't control the car like before. Instead of driving round the track at my pace, I found myself sliding all over the place consequently loosing control of the car. No anti-lock brake system, no traction control, no stability help and no longer a fun experience. The fun is sapped out of the game straight away as I found myself going slow around all the corners to avoid spinning out. The hardened AI ceases the opportunity to then pass me and I then face the impossible challenge of catching up. This setting will appeal to the hardcore racing fans who are looking for that ultra realistic driving sim, though sadly it just wasn't for me.
Other game modes include a Championship mode where you race against the AI on all the different race tracks earning points for finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd etc. Unfortunately as with the Career mode the same problems arise. Professional is too hard, and Semi-Pro is too easy. If only they allowed you to change the AI difficulty to hard and keep the rest of the Semi-Pro settings, it would be great, and much more of a challenge for me, but not too hard were you loose the will to live.
Speaking about race tracks there are 13 glorious looking race tracks available, with the most famous track, and a personal favourite of mine, being California's Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I really enjoy doing 8 or 9 lap races on this circuit, whilst always trying to improve my lap times. The other tracks vary in difficulty and length, Britain's Brand Hatch being the easier and Spain's Circuit de Valencia being the more challenging. The circuits all look impressive with tree's either side and the occasional steward standing by, just encase he's required.
As for the driving experience itself - it's realistic. Each car reacts differently so you need to treat each car differently too. Having a couple of laps with each car before a race is crucial when playing on Professional in order to get a feel for the car. Starting off driving the Mini-Cooper, then swapping it for a shot of the Formula 3000 cars is a big difference. Braking points, when to accelerate through the corner and the grip of your car's tires all change and it is noticeable. The on-display race line is very similar to that found in Forza Motorsport 2 although it's easy to get fooled. After a while I realised that you shouldn't follow the line exact, but instead just use it as a guide, and as a guide only. This way you know roughly when to brake and when to accelerate while adding your own driving style to the way you turn into the corners.
So what do you do once your bored doing time trials and kicking the AI's ass, or vice versa, in the Career and Championship modes? You head over to the multiplayer aspect of the game of course. It's worth mentioning that SimBin should get an award for what they have tried to do here. Racing games these days seemed to have forgotten about the people without Xbox LIVE access, but that's were SimBin come to the rescue. Or at least they try to anyway. They haven't included split-screen like we would all love to see, but they have included a 2 player offline game mode called HotSeat. In HotSeat you can either be on the same team or compete against each other in a race. You take turns about driving for a set period of time each before passing the controls to the other player. It takes guts to try something like that, and while it isn't split-screen it still caters for the non Xbox LIVE users.
For Xbox LIVE users you will have the usual options found in any game these days. Player and Ranked matches with the lobby system allowing you to drive around the track until the host starts the race. There seemed to be some minor problems when connecting to the host but when I did manage to get in I was really impressed. Unlike the pathetic offline AI the Xbox LIVE users are real people, so like me they can drive fast, crash at corners and generally cause mayhem. It's really good fun.
So all-in-all Race Pro has it's pro's and con's. The AI is so bad it seriously takes 25% off the final review score. If only they allowed you to have a more challenging AI without making the cars slide all over the place with no traction control. There are plenty of game modes to keep you busy, so the hardcore gamer should be satisfied when playing on the Professional difficulty setting. While I did enjoy setting some fast times on the circuits it does become boring after a while and I found myself wanting to play something else. So here's what i'm going to close with. If you are a hardcore racing fan who is looking for a fill in game until Forza Motorsport 3 is released, then buy it. For everyone else I would recommend that you rent it if your looking to set some fast lap times.
- Plenty of game modes
- Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
- HotSeat mode (2 player offline)
- Pathetic AI everywhere
- Professional settings are a massive fail
- Casual gamers will not enjoy