Atari revs up the 2009 racing season by launching its driving sim called Race Pro for the Xbox 360. From start to finish, Race Pro is quite intense. It exploits the concept of being a professional racer and having to apply the right mechanical parts for a given racing scenario. For the most part, Race Pro provides some solid driving experience. However, be prepared to be punished as you take on the expert level. It is noticeably challenging and unforgiving; a minor slip into the grass area could cause you the checkered flag! Needless to say, the novice and semi-pro settings are much friendlier and deliver some exciting moments; these lighter options offer casual gamers a chance to strut their driving skills while having fun.
What sets Race Pro apart from other driving simulations are its attention to details and the profound understanding with regards to real-time handling and car physics. Simbin, the developer, knows everything about professional racing because its founder Henrik Roos is a former GT Championship driver himself. What this game does is that it pushes you not to learn the tracks but rather to tailor your approach based on a specific car. For example, you may have a good handle on a tight S curve using a Caterham CSR200, which you have become proficient at. However, using a different machine, let’s say an Aston Martin, that you have little acquaintance with, and drive it on that same curve, you’ll most likely spin out!
From the Mini Coopers and Radical SR3’s to the Formula BMW’s and Dodge Vipers, each car offers different handling and you’ll instantly feel the difference the moment you take the driver’s seat. The subtle pressures of gravity and other forces associated with driving feel so natural that gradual adaptation to your surroundings becomes more intuitive rather than occasional guess work. The game features a number of racing options but you’ll find most of the exciting highlights in the career mode. You are given eight race groups to compete in; each holds up to seven different contracts. You purchase each contract using credits that you’ve collected based on performances in previous races. The amount of credits you’ll pay depends on the tryout. If you pass, you pay hardly anything. If not, you swallow the full amount.
The game offers a comprehensive set of adjustments, including gear ratios, camber settings, and tire pressures to name a few; but the best part of customizing is that it doesn’t overwhelm the selection process in which a player tries to make his or her necessary modifications. From a graphical standpoint, Race Pro provides some exquisite designs but they are not yet up to par with other reputable sim racers such as Project Gotham Racing and Forza. The presentation is more than acceptable with car models looking relatively authentic, and racetracks brimming with near-perfect details of their counterparts. Vehicle damage is present but don’t expect anything dramatic. You might see some large folding on the front end of a car but that’s as devastating as it’s going to get. Don’t worry about the multiple collisions and endless crashes; these have no negative effects to your gameplay whatsoever.
Speaking of gameplay, Race Pro runs incredibly smooth and stages loads incredibly fast. The game provides a great sense of speed and good grip on the road at the default setting. One aspect of gameplay that’s particularly engaging is being able to feel each bump on the track. In addition, the game offers friendly tips before the game starts. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned veteran, you have complete freedom to tweak the different aspects of a car including traction, anti-lock brakes, stability assistance, steering dead zone, throttle sensitivity, and more! Though the overall atmosphere is geared towards experience players, casual gamers will still find a comfortable niche among the difficulty settings being offered; however, it’s going to be a very daunting task playing in the “Pro” competition.
Race Pro is a good solid racing sim overall. It’s a bit technical but definitely playable with its flexible controls. This is a game that wants you to win and is determined to find your balance or niche whereas other games punish you for not staying within the “guidelines”. It’s obvious that Race Pro is not going to win an award for best graphics. However, with its adrenaline pumping high-speed chase and realistic racing action, it gets a five-star on performance alone. It would have been nice to hear some music during the races or an option for playing cooperative split-screen in multiplayer. I guess there is always next year. So far, the game has lived up to most of the expectations. Those gamers winced on PGR and Forza shouldn’t be intimidated by Race Pro’s simulation design. There’s enough sweet spot for everyone to enjoy.