GTR 2 Review
By Jeremy Vancleave |
Last summer, Simbin released GTR for the PC, and it was good. Now, almost a year and a half later, we have been blessed with the sequel, GTR 2. Once you've successfully modeled a particular sport, it is no longer a great mystery what the content of the game will be. After all, we've gone through countless of iterations of Madden NFL, all simulating what is basically the same real life sport. Similarly, at first glance, it is hard to see what has changed from last year in GTR 2. But as is the case with Madden, it's the small new features and improvements in technology that keep us coming back year after year as the game creeps closer and closer to achieving realism.
Some of the improvements seem to be mainly spin-based marketing. For instance, we are promised "34 different track variations" with no mention whatsoever of how many actual tracks this means. In reality, there are less than a dozen tracks -- the same official FIA tracks included in last year's game -- but by using various combinations of track layouts at a particular circuit, the company now claims almost triple the number of layouts to race upon. It's a classic case of being technically truthful, but nevertheless misleading, by the marketers.
Also, 144 cars are promised; however, they count the same car on different teams as if they are unique cars. So you don't really get 144 different cars; you actually get 25 different real-life licensed car types. This is no small achievement, so it's a mystery why Simbin would feel the need to inflate their car count to compete with console titles like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport.
Like its predecessor, GTR 2 has three racing modes: novice, semi-pro and professional. For the first time this year, however, you get a racing school mode to help racing newbies learn the ins and outs of racing the various FIA GT cars around the circuits. If you've played the Gran Turismo series on the Playstation, you would find this mode similar to the license trials in that game. You are given tasks to train for and complete, such as braking, accelerating, following the correct racing line, and doing track laps against a ghost instructor car. Completing these trials will unlock tracks and championships in the game.
The basic 2003 and 2004 FIA GT series championships are supplemented by additional 'custom' championships, which are made progressively available throughout the game. These custom championships begin with relatively short and easy single-make races, and graduate to longer and more challenging events. In addition, there are endurance events up to and including 24 hours in duration. These can be time-scaled or raced in real-time, and you can even take turns with a skilled AI driver to give you a rest when your muscles start to ache or the eyestrain takes its toll (or your significant other demands you get off the computer for a change!)
As was the case last year, this is a full hardcore simulation and is compatible with the MoTec telemetry software. Unlike last year, it does not ship with the software, but this can be downloaded from the manufacturer's website at no charge. It takes a little fiddling to get the telemetry configuration set up properly, which is annoying. It was nicer to have it working out of the box.
Graphically, the game has been given a major facelift and come off about twice as good as last year's. The cars are incredibly detailed, to the point that, unless closely inspected, a screenshot could be mistaken for a photograph. The track and curbs are richly detailed with high-resolution textures that show convincing real-life wear and tear. As usual, it is mainly the distant trackside objects that reveal some of the chinks in the armor and remind you that this is still a game. But where the action is, the track and its immediate vicinity, the graphics are incredibly realistic. This comes at a price, of course. On anything less than a top-of-the-line PC, you will need to dial back some of this eye candy to keep the frame rate high enough for responsive racing.
If there is a disappointment with the graphics, it's that the frame rate is inconsistent from track to track. Tuning your PC for a great frame rate in Barcelona might subject you to a stuttering mess at Spa-Francorchamps. It would have been nice to be able to set the graphics once and forget about them.