With the unfortunate stranglehold EA Sports has on the Formula One series, it’s interesting to see the market respond by moving into lesser known, but no less interesting series like GT. In many cases, the same world-famous tracks are used as with the Formula One racing, but when F1 makes the fly-away trips the GT series visits some of the lesser known European venues. These tracks are all modeled with painstaking attention to detail in GTR 2. If you are an aficionado of European tracks, you will certainly recognize Eau Rouge in Belgium, the pair of Lesmos and the Parabolica at Monza, and the Tamburello turn at Imola. Unfortunately, the fidelity of the modeling follows along with the periodic molestation of these famous tracks as chicanes are added in an effort to slow down the pace of the racing, but there’s no real choice for the developers on that – they have to follow the changes in the real world to maintain accuracy in the sim.
Allow me to stipulate that the AI cars, the track and car models, the sounds, the physics, and all those things are as good as they can be with our current level of personal computing horsepower. That statement is arguable, but only at the nitpicking level. Where GTR 2 really shines, though, is in the ways that it did NOT piss me off. I have a list of pet peeves when it comes to racing sims, and chief amongst them is my outright hatred of being put in a box and having to fight my way out of it to get access to the cars and races I want. I’ve always held that a simulation should allow me, the guy that plunked down the dinero, the right to drive every car available in the title from the moment I finish the installation. I get frustrated by tightly constricted “Career” modes that require me to start out in some weak-kneed back marker, and earn my way into the premier cars. I don’t have the time or patience for that – if I did, I’d go out and slog my way through real world racing and endure all of the incumbent challenges thereof. No, I want to race what the big boys are driving, and I want to do it NOW! GTR 2 gives me the latitude to determine what to race, where to race it, and who else I’ll be racing against. That said, GTR 2 will allow you to live a more structured life if you so choose. Completing certain “Driving School” topics will unlock various racing championships, such as a 3 lap rookie race series or the like. Why anyone would want to try to race a 3 lap race is beyond me, but that’s the point: GTR 2 doesn’t force me to. I can create a single race weekend at any track I want, with any mix of cars I want, and configure various difficulty levels to provide the challenge that I want. It’s a very libertarian mode, and that fits my desires nicely.
One challenge a highly accurate simulation is always going to face is the steep learning curve. Some of the best racing titles in the past have been vilified by people not willing or able to devote the time and effort required to learn to drive the cars. GTR 2 does a great job of welcoming those folks to the community with its highly granular difficulty configuration, which allows individual users to set the difficulty anywhere from “close your eyes and stomp on the gas” to “press that gas pedal as if there’s an egg under it.” Beyond that, GTR 2 now has a Racing School mode that will enable drivers to quickly learn new tracks. In the past, the way to learn your way around a 3+ mile track was to drive lap after lap. This could be an inefficient approach to take if, for example, you were only having trouble with one small part of the track but had to drive entire laps to get back to the area where you needed more practice. In the racing school, you can concentrate on two or three turn sections of track, over and over again. There’s even a nifty racing line overlaid on the track to indicate where you should be applying the brakes, where you can coast through with a simple lift of your right foot, and where you should have that right foot planted as firmly as possible against the firewall.
No modern racing title would be complete without a multiplayer mode, and GTR 2 has one. I connected long enough to run a few practice laps with some human-driven cars, but never entered a full-fledged race. I’ve been suffering from an under-performing cable connection lately, so my ping times were awful. Because of that, I don’t think I can definitively give a rating to the quality of the network code, but it seemed pretty reasonable in my admittedly brief experience.
In maintaining a good balance between supremely challenging simulation and manageable difficulty, GTR 2 has successfully breached the divide between too much hand-holding and a sink-or-swim approach, allowing all comers to dive in and enjoy the incredibly realistic racing experience. For those willing to explore middle-tier racing series that aren’t quite as famous as Formula One or NASCAR, GTR 2 offers everything anyone could want in a PC-based racing sim.
It’s all there: high fidelity track and car models, intelligent and aggressive AI opponents, and a game structure that allows you full latitude in how, when, where, and what you want to race. It’s hard to find anything to complain about in Viva Media’s new GTR 2.
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