Jeff Markiewicz On March 19, 2009 at 8:18 am

Race Pro is a hardcore racing simulator from Simbin Studios. It is their first foray into console development after doing several titles for the PC but definitely not their first racing simulation. They started in 2005 with their GTR series which got an inevitable sequel and was critically acclaimed for its fantastic handling physics. Their Race series started in 2006 to a misstep by focusing more on the casual market but jumped back to true form a year later with Race 07. These guys know what they are doing but will jumping platforms be a success or another mistake?

My perspective is one of a casual fan of racing. I play racing titles occasionally, really enjoyed the Project Gotham Racing series but never took them too seriously. But once I jumped into the game and jumped the track once (and got warned) I knew this was a hardcore game. This is not a game where you can turn at 100mph, you have to slow down and take it slow. There are three difficulties, novice, semi-pro, and professional. The main differences are that there are assists in place for the lower ones. The assists work marvelously because when I jumped onto professional and kept spinning out and killed the car by downshifting too much. In addition to the assists for the novice players, you will also get a racing line which can help you learn how to play but its static unlike other titles which will modify it to teach you the game. Each turn is also rated and will prompt you beforehand so you know the severity of them. The main mode (other than online) will be the career mode because this is how you unlock cars but it is dull and uninspiring. Basically you earn money to purchase contracts. If you have enough money you can skip the time trial and go straight to the race. For everyone else they will have to beat a specific time to get awarded with the ability to purchase the contract at a reduced price. Then you will do three races. Then you’ll do it all over again for the next challenge. The awards change based upon the difficulty so there is a point to play on the harder settings. The cars will be basically giving to you for doing these instead of purchasing them. In the options menu you can modify your car to your heart’s content but I feel they could’ve made a compelling career mode if only they placed these at the forefront of the gameplay and taught you how to use them and purchase the ability to modify these aspects.  In addition to career mode, you have a mode that allows you to play through an entire championship with a single car as well as the basic race modes. The game supports up to 2 people on one box so you can easily play with at least 1 friend. But after all of this, the real meat of the game will be online but that has some issues.

Even in the worst of games, I have always been able to at least quickly get into an online game (if people are actually online) and understand what is going on. Here, I was absolutely clueless for quite a while. The game forgets to tell you anything. You go straight into the game which is awesome but you will have no clue what you’re supposed to be doing.  Then the stats screen will come up and you will figure a new map will load but there is no countdown except for the pause menu when you hit continue. If you wait long enough the new map will load but instead you’ll load into a map by yourself. This is actually the qualifier. Then once you do your lap you’ll finally get into the race. The point is perhaps a hardcore racer will just instinctively know what is going on but I did not because the game did not give me any information. Once you get over this huge presentation issue, you’ll finally start enjoying the meat of the game. There are ranked and unranked races. Custom races will bring up a nice game list but it is missing a latency quality meter which means you’ll get into laggy games quite a bit, especially since there are a lot of foreign players. It can be great if you can get into a good game or have a lot of friends playing but be forewarned as with the driving, there is also a learning curve involved in getting online.

The graphics are passable but barebones. The tracks and cars are modeled well but they seem so lifeless and dull. There are people in the stands but they are all static and don’t move. The interiors range from okay to horrible (especially if you crash and the window is messed up). There is a cool effect though; rain will streak along the side windows while it is raining. But there are only two conditions, perfect and raining. The cars are modeled accurately and will show damage but the crashes can look stupid. Shadows and geometry will pop in as you drive and there is quite a lot of aliasing. Basically if you’re a graphics whore this won’t be your title.

The sound design is both good and bad. There was a design decision along the way to take out most of the music, most of the ambient noise, and even your manager from talking to you. Music exists in the menu and that’s about it. The selection is forgettable. The manager has about 3 lines and will warn you if you cut the track and congratulate you if you win. The game focuses solely on your car. You have options to tweak the audio levels for every aspect of your car so you have a symbiotic relationship. You listen to her and treat her right; she’ll take you across the finish line. This also plays into the depth of the driving physics and experienced players will be closely listening to the subtle queues the car gives. It’s a cool decision but it still feels like the game has an identity crisis because it doesn’t add to the personality.

This is a pretty barebones title for hardcore racers. Some concessions have been made to make the entry as painless as possible for casual gamers but it is still a frustrating ride. The single player options are quite dry and serve only as a method to unlock cars for playing online. Each car can be modified to your individual specifications but it sits under the hood not integrated into gameplay so you can choose you use it or not. If you play on the lower difficulties you’ll have the benefit of some assists which will help you drive but on the professional difficulty you’ll need to actually be good and understand how to drive the car or else you’ll be in a world of hurt. Even with assists an accidental slipup can make you lose the match or even get you disqualified if you cut the track too much. The online presentation is absolutely horrible and will frustrate almost anyone except the most hardcore racers until they realize what is going on. The graphic are dull and uninspiring. There is no personality in the game at all. There barely is even music but that at least has a cool reason. There is a wealth of sound options that allow you to increase or decrease various car noises so you can respond accordingly on the road. Even as a budget title it’s hard to recommend this to anyone except the hardcore racing addicts. Any of the other big racing titles will likely give you a better bang for the buck and be more user friendly but if you’ve already got them and ready to move on, this might be what the doctor ordered.


Hardcore racing fan only. While some concessions were made on the lower difficulties for casuals they have already been bested on other older titles. Captures the make a single mistake and you’re done great. Driving physics are great and have a lot of depth. The wealth of options are nice but not integrated into gameplay and just sit in the background for the hardcore to tweak. The online presentation is horrible and while it might click for hardcore, casuals will be left behind. Lag is also an issue since there are a lot of foreign players.


Passable visuals with a couple cool effects but quite a bit of issues. The biggest issue is that there isn’t anything extra; it’s just all the basics you expect and nothing else.


Minimalistic sound design decision so hardcore can listen to their car and react accordingly but ultimately feels bland.


The game basically lacks personality and polish in every aspect of design and that really kills the coolness factor. The online presentation is horrible. The hardcore racing fans will find some fun here but even with the concessions for new comers, casuals will be better off sticking to other titles.

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