RACE 07 Review
By Daniel Kershaw |
Following up on the well-regarded GTR and GTR2, the crew at SimBin has crafted another racing simulation for hardcore racing simulation fans: Race 07. Whereas the GTR series focused on the FIA GT Series, Race 07 is primarily about touring cars. Anyone familiar with the Codemasters TOCA series from Codemasters is familiar with these cars. However, this is the FIA sanctioned WTCC (World Touring Car Championship) simulation, which brings together the very best touring car drivers from all over the world to race in an F1-style championship, many on real world circuits not as familiar to F1 drivers.
Race 07 doesn't stop at being a touring car simulation, though. SimBin has also given us a taste of open wheel racing with the F3000 series, and added several other interesting single-model series as well, such as the Caterham, Formula BMW, Radical and Mini series, each with its own vehicle type and handling characteristics.
As with GTR, the goal here is to provide a fully accurate simulation of the vehicles and an accurate representation of each series, featuring three real-world seasons (2006, 2007 and 1987) and their real-world scoring system. There are no frills, minigames or management modes in this game. You are instead given the standard single season championship mode, single race, time attack and open practice.
The game does come with various levels of driving aids to help less experienced drivers get around the course without frustration. But make no mistake: this game is not aimed at the casual racer.
One new feature is a believable weather system. It can be dry, wet or changing, with both light and heavy rain provided. This doesn't just mean that the asphalt is a darker color, either. Real rain falls from the sky and your wipers can be activated to sweep it away. This brings an additional dimension to the game as cars handle quite differently in the wet. You will need to switch to wet weather tires and alter your racing setup and driving style appropriately. As many have found out, cars don't turn as well in water!
The graphics engine continues to evolve from the GTR graphics engine which, if you go back far enough, was used by EA in their now discontinued F1 series for the PC. The bad news is, this graphics engine is getting long in the tooth. It does not scale particularly well down to older machines. By the time you turn off enough graphical options to get a decent frame rate on such a machine, the game looks many years old. Even on newer hardware, reports have been coming in of unwanted stuttering, both on Vista and XP. Even with the graphics cranked up, the game doesn't seem to raise the bar a great deal above past offerings. SimBin should be advised that this graphics engine has perhaps reached the point where it needs to be replaced, if they wish to wow users with visuals. However, if you've got recent hardware, you should find that the graphics are a detailed and pleasing interpretation of the tracks and cars in which you'll be racing. In particular, you will note the fully-animated 3D flag wavers alongside the track, the fully 3D interiors of the car, and even from outside the car you can see the drivers being shaken around, turning their heads, shifting, and leaning into each corner. Of course, the falling rain will also be a welcome addition.
A new feature can monitor your frame rate during the course of a real race, and suggest graphics settings changes to get your frame rate into the target range. Although this is a nice feature, the graphics settings are not as fine grained as I would like to see, so the changes the game makes are just to change the presets to high, medium or low, and not really tweak individual items like shadows or other frame rate killers.
The audio of the engines, cars, and voiceovers is excellent, as it was in GTR2. The development team knows how to create all the sounds of racing and if you've got a good sound rig you will feel like you are on the track. I particularly enjoy the ambient sounds of trackside activity, such as engines being revved in the paddock, cars out on the track in the distance downshifting into turns, and so on. Having been to many racing events, I can tell you that there is rarely such thing as a quiet paddock, and having the ambient noises really makes you feel like you are trackside.
Getting into the gameplay itself, you have to first know that it is all about real racing. By this I mean the kind of racing that can be compared to running a race along a tightrope, trying to go as fast as you dare without stumbling. If you are too conservative, you'll fall back. Too aggressive, and you risk falling off the track or smashing into another car. In hardcore racing games, tenths or hundredths of a second matter, and muscling other cars off the track usually harms you more than helps you. If you want to balance on the ragged edge of grip, lap after lap, consistently improving, this is your kind of game. If not, no amount of driving aids will make this a pleasure for you. Most people are going to need practice, and a lot of it, to become competent at this game. This means learning each track, spending long sessions practicing, tweaking and tuning, and otherwise getting to the point where you no longer need all your concentration just to put in a respectable lap time. If you jump into a race before you are prepared, you will quickly be overwhelmed by the AI, the track, and your own car's physics.