RACE Pro Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

SimBin have developed a reputation for creating harsh racing sims for the PC gaming audience, but they have yet to establish themselves on consoles. With RACE Pro they may very well make a name for themselves outside the PC gaming market, even if the title of their first console game is rather boring.

Having first partnered with THQ to bring the GTR series to the Xbox 360, that deal seems to have gone down the pan and SimBin’s first console game has now turned into that of the Atari published and Xbox 360 exclusive, RACE Pro. The title of the game may be as bland as a crumpet without any jam, although Race Pro should certainly be a game that will perk the interest of those who are warmed by making emotional connections with their racing cars.

Those expecting the beauty of something like Race Driver: GRID’s Ego Engine won’t find such an eye catcher here. Don’t get me wrong, RACE Pro is no eyesore it just doesn’t go any further than giving us adequate, shiny car models and passable scenery and trackside details. Visually, it is a little disappointing and pales massively next to the aforementioned GRID, although thankfully in other more important areas, the game gets things a lot more right.

On the track (here we have 13 tracks, with the likes of Laguna Seca, Brands Hatch, Monza and some very narrow and twisty city tracks), cars shudder along realistically and with all the assists turned off you’ll have to learn to keep your driving smooth and consistent. The AI is pretty good, using the full length of the track, although making few mistakes (I have seen them get penalised and occasionally disqualified, though) and seemingly ignoring your existence on the tarmac at times.

Much like the car setups, the vehicle handling allows for some tinkering, altering options to make things easy for yourself or to give yourself more challenge and control over the car. There’s three handling levels to choose from: novice allows you to use the highest settings for things like anti lock breaks, traction control and stability assist, intermediate on the other hand limits you to low and medium settings, and finally the professional level takes away any such beginner luxuries, leaving you to get to grips with the more real-to-life demands of a racing car driver. There’s also a very helpful Forza-like race line which can be used on two of the driving settings if you so wish, although naturally the professional setting thinks you shouldn’t be needing such help and disables its use entirely.

With all the above coming together, it’s an excellent manner in which to take you from a wet behind the ears rookie to a more confident virtual driver who, whilst on the racetrack, doesn’t have too many disagreements with his chosen motor.

RACE Pro’s attempts at realism also continue in the vehicle damage and the fair play racing rules. Sustaining a certain amount of damage can kill your car, or, less severe, damage the steering enough for an argument to break out between you and the car. Racing rules come in the form of corner cutting, which smartly isn’t allowed: doing it once will earn you a warning, doing it again will get you slapped with a drive through penalty, whereby you’ll have to drive through the pit lane for your punishment. Ignoring warnings and penalties is also a sure way to get yourself disqualified from the race, as is driving around the wrong way, which just isn’t tolerated by the strict rules of the game. Online idiots (the game can be played with up to 12 players at once over Xbox Live) should perhaps look for another game then, I’ll personally be glad to see the back of them.

As for options, there’s the obligatory career mode which shows you the breadth of Race PRO’s garage of cars (including WTCC, Formula 3000, Formula BMW and GT amongst others). The career mode presents you with 33 contracts (each with three races), which can be earned by either completing a lap around one of the 13 tracks in a specific time limit, thus cutting the contract purchase price drastically, or you could always pay outright, although in this way the contracts are going to cost you more. It’s an interesting and simple structure and another feature that shows that the game isn’t as intimidating as it looks and sounds.

There’s also championship, practice and time attack modes, but it’s the offline multiplayer that is really worthy of a mention. Rather than split screen, SimBin have opted for a Hot Seat mode, in which players can either cooperate with one another by taking it in turns to control one car in a single race, or compete against each other by taking it in turns to control their own individual motors (the AI takes over when each player isn‘t driving). It’s certainly a rather odd multiplayer mode, but it does work rather well and is worth a play, if only for the curiosity factor.

RACE Pro is a great simulation that has room for a wide array of skill levels, it’s true that changing any of the settings isn’t going to make the game into an arcade racer, but it’s certainly not going to coldly ignore those who may not be as proficient as some at keeping their cars on the track, whilst also satisfying those with the skill and patience to learn things properly. It’s just a shame about the lack of polish and the imperfect AI, but fans of such racing games will probably find it difficult to turn their noses up at this.