Race Pro Review (Xbox360)

The racing simulation market is a strange one. There arenít that many games in it, the ones that are donít really sell unless theyíre called Forza or Gran Turismo. In fact, the amount of really good multiplatform racing simulators equates to just about zero. Seemingly not bothered by that grim statistic, Atari decided to enter the racing fray with the Xbox 360 exclusive, Race Pro.

Now as stated above, the very mention of a racing sim on the 360 sets off alarm bells all ringing out the same question, ďIs it as good as Turn 10ís superb Forza Motorsport?!Ē Well the answer is a yes and no. Yes in terms of pure racing and no in terms of presentation. They also both suffer from the same irritants.

The in-car view is the only way to flyÖerrÖdrive.
The lack of definition in the presentation mars what is otherwise a great drive.

The first thing you notice about Race Pro is the graphics Ė theyíre not very good. They remind me of that grain effect that Mass Effect gets sometimes on the 360. Everything looks low res and as though the image has been expanded leaving a slightly fuzzy effect as though thereís an aerial half hanging out the television set youíre playing it on. You can also instantly tell that most of the work has gone in to detailing the cars themselves and not the track as the vehicles look like theyíre stuck on the track rather than actually racing on it.

So if you compare this standard with Forza 2 (and Iím sure Forza 3 when they announce it) itís a complete hands down victory for Turn 10 in the looks department. Iím sure most car lovers out there will tell you that although physics and mechanics are the fundamental building blocks for any racing game, thereís nothing quite like admiring the smooth bodywork and the glistening paint.

However, seeing as we mentioned physics we might as well come clean that it is this area where Race Pro really excels. Every car handles differently, you can feel through the various intermittent selection of clever bumps the car makes on the track, and the excellent use of force feedback, that each driving experience is both a unique and realistic one. Compared with Forza, well, there is no comparison, really. Both development houses have striven for a well polished and absorbing racer and both have succeeded in this respect. The amount of tweaks and improvement that can be made to your carís setup (and ones that are noticeable during gameplay) is both astounding, if not a little overwhelming.

Why no fluffy dice? DLC perhaps?
Pole position is where itís at.l

It is here that my gripe with both games - in fact, almost every racer sim Iíve played to date Ė comes in. I can happily complete the game on the hardest level without having to adjust anything, and just dipping my toes in the waters of what each tweak does and when and how completely alienates me from the experience. So in one way itís a good thing that I can leave all that stuff behind and still win races and enjoy myself, but on the other it always feels like Iím missing on something. However, Iím not prepared to read up on the inner workings of a motor vehicle in order to shave off 0.578 seconds from my already race-winning lap time.

What impressed me probably the most about Race Pro was the AI. Compared with the rigid, almost methodical driving patterns in Gran Turismo Prologue, the AI assisted cars in Race Pro perform as life-like as Commander Data on the Starship Enterprise. Itís pleasing to see your opponents actually oversteer and make mistakes, to be buffeted from left to right as they try and overtake you. It all adds to a comprehensive experience whereby you never really know whatís going to happen next.

The only thing that negates such decent AI is when you donít actually get to experience it, and the only time you wonít get to see it is when youíre either way behind everyone else or way in front of them. Unfortunately, in Race Pro, I found myself more often than not a good five seconds ahead of the pack. Only when I was racing on a track I didnít know Ė and to be fair, there are loads of tracks to get your teeth into Ė did my cautious driving allow for the other to catch up with me.

The crowd effects only add to the authenticity.
Although motion blur is in this screenshot, it isnít in the game. Shame.

The sound is yet another issue I have with the game. The engine noises sound like theyíre being filtered through a tin can rather than an in your face engine growl. Nothing removes a player from a gaming experience more than weak sound effects; whether it puts a wet popping sound when youíre supposed to be holding an AK-47 in a FPS or a tinny engine sound when driving a suped up racing car.

On the whole however, Race Pro gives you loads to do: thereís a career mode, Championship Mode, Time Trial, Online Multiplayer, the lot. If you can forgive the slightly less than high definition graphics, the rather dampened sound effects and just concentrate on the thoroughly realistic racing experience on offer than you wonít go too far wrong with Race Pro. As a challenger to Forza it simply doesnít compare, but those of you who are starved for this sort of thing Ė lets face it, itís not like the shelves are full of games like this Ė then you wonít go too far wrong with Race Pro.

Top game moment:
Youíll never tire of coming in first!

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By Richie82 (SI Member) on Feb 25, 2009
Hmm. Have to say I've never been a big fan of these stuffy, simulation style racing games - Forza, Gran Turismo et al. More of a PGR or Ridge Racer man myself. Still, it does look quite nice.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Feb 26, 2009
Me niether. Tried this out a Leipzig last year, and whilst it did look pretty slick, there was nothing that really 'wow'd me about it. Mike's assessment seems to be more or less spot on, from what i remember.
By Waffles (SI Newbie) on Feb 28, 2009
Ya this is a pretty fun game i liked the controls the graphics were so so.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 01, 2009
Graphics don't look very good, but I haven't seen it live. I'm not the racing type guy, I'm more action based, FPS, RPG and some RTS, OK and Arcade as well. :)
But this game reminds me of Codemasters GRID, which is the only racing game I played in 2008, besides NFS: Undercover Demo.
By crawlroman (SI Core) on Mar 11, 2009
Looks fun enought=D
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 11, 2009
Yeah, right. Atari hasn't made a good game since the old days... Keep dreaming. :)
By jormarakas (SI Veteran Member) on Mar 18, 2009
True =) I noticed this awesome competition on ataris page... i was so hyped up and thought i had the perfect answer... then i noticed the competition was for australian viewers only.... oh well.