|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SimBin||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Most games have their good and bad qualities, but rarely are they so pronounced as in RACE Pro, SimBin's new racing simulator for the Xbox 360. For the most part, the game is unremarkable: standard feature set, unimpressive graphics and sound, awful voice acting, bland interface, etc. However, two aspects of RACE Pro will completely redeem the title, at least for dedicated sim fans: the handling and the difficulty, which are fine-tuned to within a rounding error of perfection.
We're most excited about the positive, so let's start there. Thanks to their work on the PC platform, SimBin's developers have been known for years as masters at getting the "feel" of different cars right. That translates very well to the 360, even when you play on the game pad (it's also compatible with the racing-wheel peripheral).
We haven't driven enough different real cars to attest to accuracy, though a quick look around the Internet shows the consensus to be that it's there in spades. What we can attest to is that each car feels real, and each car feels different from the last. Every time you switch vehicles, you have to learn a whole new set of nuances, even if you have the racing line turned on. You need to know everything from how hard to break to make it around curves, to how much maneuvering you can pull off without sending the car into a skid.
This keeps the game fresh hour after hour. The A.I. opponents, meanwhile, behave convincingly, valiantly fending off your attempts to pass without noticeably "cheating." When you have a long stretch of road on which to accelerate, the sense of speed is thrilling.
The only complaint we have in terms of the physics has to do with damage. RACE Pro uses real cars and tracks, licensed through their makers, so of course you can run into whatever you like without your vehicle getting mangled. As it does in every other licensed game, this detracts from the realism, and while an icon pops up when your car is "damaged," that won't always stop you from using other cars as props for straightening your own vehicle out around curves when you fail to brake adequately.
The problem with most realistic sim games is that they're frustratingly difficult; real racing requires all sorts of strategy that Need for Speed doesn't, so arcade-racer fans rarely have the patience to make the jump. RACE Pro does require patience, even on its most forgiving settings, but it definitely offers a reasonable challenge for players of all skill levels.
Beginners will want to start, of course, on the easiest setting. There's a race line to guide you, the standard assists to make the car easier to tame, and A.I. opponents who are, if anything, too easy (you'll usually blow right by them on straight-aways). It's easy to lose control of your car, so you have to pay attention, but those who take a half-hour or so to get the hang of it will find that it's not at all unmanageable. Sometimes, you can even veer off the road briefly and stay in first. Also, novices who try different cars will be delighted to find that while the most challenging elements of each model are blunted, there's still a distinct shift in feel each time you slide behind the digital wheel of a new machine. As you slowly dial back the assists, these additional aspects to each car's character slowly come through.