There’s been a real lack of racing games on the 360 recently. There’s always been a healthy amount of racing game from arcade through to sim like but since GRID (which i really didn’t like apart form the graphics) and Forza 2 (so long ago now) there’s been hardly anything. Thank goodness for Race Pro which was released last week.
Now unlike most games that I pick up, first impressions aren’t very good. Graphically this isn’t a looker and while proficient enough it suffers from frame rate issues, stuttering during playback and a fairly standard career mode that does nothing new.
Online options are also more limited than similar games and suffer from some issues. Hosting a game can be problematic at first as when a new player joins the game the hosts game stutters. Even worse, to change car choice you need to drop the game and restart the multiplayer room. You can change the track your racing on while using the same cars but that’s about it. Pretty poor. Scoreboards are also full of glitcher times. Sigh.
However, this is a game from SimBin, renowned for their PC racing game pedigree. Move the settings to professional, turn off all the driving aids and switch to manual gears and you’ll find the best driving sim on the 360. It feels superb and online play has been excellent so far despite the shortcomings already mentioned. I’ve spent a couple of nights now online with the game and it is very rewarding and will definetly be the racing game of choice until Forza 3 eventually appears.
The physics just feel right. Unlike other console racers where there physics, or lack off, are soon exposed everything in Race Pro feels real. You can flip your car and I have done a couple of times now. Most other racers refuse to flip no matter what you do. Also refreshing is the car and track choice. A variety of tracks are making their first appearance on the 360 and Race Pro is all the better for it’s track variety. The cars are also varied, each having their own unique feel and sound. One thing that really does annoy though is that cars need to be unlocked before you can play them online. What a daft decision. By not having at least a car unlocked on each class makes it difficult to join random races online until you’ve played quite a bit of the career mode which is fairly dull and unrewarding. It also makes it difficult for friends to pick up the game later in the year and join in online until they have unlocked some cars. Ill thought out and a lack of understanding what players want from a game, both offline and on.
The fact that it’s graphics are a bit of a let down should not put you off this game. It’s a shame but doesn’t detract from the games main selling point – highly realistic racing. While some issues may be fixed via a patch I don’t hold out much hope as we haven’t really see many games get better and better with patches (online Burnout Paradise perhaps?). I love the game and hope others pick up and enjoy it too but it will be a hard sell for Atari. It would be great if there’s enough sales for a Race Pro 2 with better graphics and presentation and a larger range of online options and tracks. The racing engine deserves it.