In this X-Play Review, we take a look at the ultra-realistic Xbox 360 racing sim 'Race Pro'. Will the Minis be enough to propel this game to pole position? Find out.
- Excellent driving physics
- Tracks from around the world
- Great audio work
- Bland environments
- Collision detection issues
- Massive loading times
Race Pro Review--
Swedish developer SimBin is known for its excellent series of PC racing sims. With Race Pro on the Xbox 360, the studio is branching into the console space to take on juggernauts Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. While the game is a good first effort, a lot of the time it only feels half-done, which is unfortunate because the core is so solid. A lot of the extra touches and details that really push racing games over the top are missing here, and ultimately, Race Pro feels more like a half-hearted affection than a gesture of love.
The driving physics are for the most part excellent. Clearly inspired by European circuit racing, Race Pro features a host of different car classes from touring cars to tiny Caterhams to high performance open wheel vehicles and everything in between. The track selection spans the world and includes some more renowned locations, such as Laguna Seca in California and Monza in Italy. What deserves special praise, though, is the inclusion of a lot of tracks that don’t typically appear in racing games. From the tiny lanes of Portugal’s Circuito da Porto to the long, disused airplane runway of Anderstorp Circuit, the locales here are varied and uncommon, meaning a whole new set of challenges for racing game fans who have grown long tired of the Nurburgring and Catalunya.
She ain’t exactly a looker…
Unfortunately, the game simply doesn’t hold up visually, especially compared to the other racers on the Xbox 360. Textures are flat and muddy. Environmental reflections on the cars don’t match up to anything in the environment, creating a disingenuous illusion of lighting. Overall everything just feels bland. Additionally, when things are tight going through a corner or in the braking zones, there are some collision detection issues with other cars as they magnetize to your chassis in close quarters. The presentation is also very bare bones and kind of generic. If you’re going to have a pit crew member come over the headset and tell me I’ve won a race as I cross the finish line, where is he during the rest of the game?
Audio-wise, it’s a different story. The roar of the engine and squeal of the tires thrum through your seat as you tear around the world in fast cars. Play Race Pro with a nice surround sound setup, and even the manliest of gear heads will be swooning with aural pleasure.
Drives like a butterfly, stings like a bee
Ultimately a racing game is made or broke in the gameplay department. Thankfully, Race Pro is a hardcore sim through and through and features some great physics for each and every class of car. An Aston Martin DB9 and a Formula BMW handle about as differently as they look, and it completely changes how you’ll drive any given course with each vehicle. With the driving assists off, you’ll have to be on top of your game and focused; every corner becomes a chance for disaster and every overtaking opportunity feels that much sweeter when pulled off to perfection. One gripe, however, comes when pushing the throttle out of a corner or during the green light start: even at partial throttle the cars handle like they’re on ice. Getting up to speed to lay down that torque is incredibly difficult, unnecessarily so. What also isn’t okay are the gear markers that pop up as you approach a corner; whereas the DB9 has to take the first turn at Curitiba in second, the Formula BMW can do it in third, with less braking time. Completely ignoring this bit of driving knowledge (ironic considering the game is giving you tips about race lines and braking zones at every opportunity during the loading screens) are the gear markers, which remain in the same place and same gear no matter what car you’re driving, ultimately rendering them little more than useless.
And speaking of loading, any time you restart a race or time trial or practice session, prepare for a 30+ second loading screen. This is unacceptable when one small mistake on your racing line can mean your entire race is over. On that note, the difficulty is also wildly uneven; on medium, the AI is easy to overtake and beat even when starting from last place. On professional difficulty, opponents drive almost perfectly, and your handling gets a bit trickier. What the game needed is a difficulty setting somewhere in between; as it is, only the hardest of the hardcore racing sim fans will be able to keep up with the challenge.
There’s an online mode over Xbox Live to take on friends or strangers, but without the ability to turn off body contact, all it takes to ruin your session is some 12-year-old dive bombing you during your approach to the Corkscrew. A sparse mode that calls itself career is anything but, with the only goal being to grind your way through different car classes in a seemingly endless list of the same tracks over and over.
What it comes down to is this: Race Pro is less Michael Schumacher and more Jacques Villeneuve. It does a few things well, a lot of things mediocre, and is kind of annoying when you have to deal with it for more than an hour at a time.
Article Written By: Justin Fassino