GTR: FIA GT Racing Game
Cars: To The uninitiated they're just an expensive metal box on wheels that allows you to get from A to B. But not to me - I know better. I know that lurking underneath the bonnets of a selection of four-wheelers is an adrenaline rush potential that would make bungee jumping seem like a pastime for OAPs - and it's exactly this type of vehicle that features in GTR. So, if like me the blood that flows through your veins has an octane value, it's time to get very excited. After all, the Germans, Austrians, Swiss and Scandinavians have been burning rubber since November 2004, and now SimBin has found a UK publisher, its decided to unleash the full horsepower of GTR onto us Brits.
Under The Bonnet
Make no mistake though, this is a driving sim rather than an arcade-style racer: you won't find any chasing police cars, extravagant nitrous effects, crafty short-cuts and other such gimmicks here. The bottom line is, if it isn't on a real racing track, you can bet your left testicle it won't be here.
SimBin's efforts have faithfully recreated last season's FIA GT series in the game, from the names and liveries of the teams to the exact weather endured by the drivers. In terms of statistics, GTR offers over 70 choices of car from 18 different models, ten different tracks that have been accurately reproduced from a combination of GPS readings, CAD and telemetry, three different difficulty settings and a comprehensive Arcade mode.
What's more, the extra time spent tinkering under the bonnet of the UK release means you can enjoy five more car models than our continental chums, an improved damage model, the Spa 24-hour race and a new save function which enables you to record your progress mid-race.
But figures are all well and good - what you really want to know is how the the driving model stands up, right? Back when we took preview code out for a test drive a few issues back, we were more than impressed with the handling of the cars. Since then things have only got better, and the tweaks that SimBin has made now puts GTR in the category of 'uber-realistic driving sim'.
Since I first got my hands on the finished GTR, a good percentage of my lunch hours have been spent firmly grasping my Logitech/Momo steering wheel. In fact, I've been using it so much, it's taken up permanent residence on my desk. The first time you switch the game on, hear the car start up and feel the vibration travel from the steering wheel along your arms, you can tell that SimBin has created something special. This is without a doubt the closest you may ever come to driving a real-life supercar -and that's not bad going for a few tenners is it?
Now, I know you may be thinking that ten tracks doesn't sound like much to keep you going, but as a driving fan, I can guarantee there's plenty here to keep you revved up for weeks. The best part of GTR isn't even trouncing your opponents, who possess unnervingly human-like Al during races, apparently modelled on individual drivers' personalities.
No, for me the most addictive element is perfecting each and every corner: hitting the apex at the perfect point, judging your cornering speed correctly and figuring out the correct time to start feeding the power back in. The perfect lap is elusive, yet still obtainable with the right amount of practice - and even when you manage that, you'll still be coming back to improve on your track times and win that championship.
Don't think that GTR's only for the hardcore few either; the different difficulties make it accessible for driving fans of all skill levels. Arcade mode, for instance, is ideal for an easy drive - and with a bit of practice can turn any driver into a speed junkie. Meanwhile, if you're more skilled, the Semi-Pro and Simulation modes give you the opportunity to hone your wheel-wrenching skills against computer-driven cars or human opponents online. There's no room to improve by exploiting the game's mechanics either (using other cars to get round corners in TOCA springs to mind), so constant practice is the only way to turn you from a Driving Miss Daisy into a driving demon.
So, with everything firing on all cylinders, including the rather excellent shiny graphics engine, are there any dodgy rust patches in the game you should know about? First, we're not impressed with the headlight strength in the night-time Spa track, and there are no new gameplay ideas (although that's not what GTR's about). Our major gripe though is that championships can only be undertaken in Semi-Pro or Simulation flavour, meaning if you're a beginner, there's a way to go before you can compete with a hope of winning.
However, bemoaning these slight niggles is like complaining that your new Ferrari doesn't have a cup holder. Given SimBin's humble background (the team began creating mods for EA's F12002), and considering this is its first game, the collective has achieved the impressive feat of producing the most realistic driving simulation that we've ever burnt rubber in. Grand Prix 4 used to hold that title, but now there's a sleek, more talented newcomer taking the chequered flag.
Having A Fiddle
What's A Slow Bump When It's At Home?
Despite being an avid car enthusiast for more than a decade, I'm still constantly bewildered by some of the set-up options in driving games - and GTR is certainly no exception. Coast, slow bump and packers? They could be sexual techniques for all I know.
However, SimBin has done the less mechanically-minded of us a massive favour with the inclusion of the Engineers Manual, which provides a layman's explanation of the terms normally only understood by grease monkey mechanics. Not only that, but after you've finally got to grip with what these tweakable settings achieve, the manual features a fantastic section entitled 'The Experts Speak'. In it, FIA GT drivers Henrik Roos and Christophe Bouchut join the SimBin development team to discuss some handling problems you may encounter and how to resolve them using the settings. Now there's no excuse to avoid getting under the bonnet and tinkering with your motor on a Sunday...
Download GTR: FIA GT Racing Game
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP