RACE - The WTCC Game Hands-On

Simbin follows up its GT Racing hit with a new driving simulator based on the World Touring Car Championship.



Back in October of this year, the PC driving genre received a massive boost with the release of GTR 2, a simulation of the World GT racing series. It was a game that combined an incredible array of options with stunning visuals and great, realistic gameplay.

Just a month on, and Simbin, the team behind that game, is preparing to release another racing game, Race, this time featuring the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

Anybody that played the GT game will understand the new game perfectly, as although the interface looks different, it features many of the same options. The single-player content actually features three racing championships--the main WTCC, with accurate driver and team data from the 2006 season; a 1987 series; and a Mini series.

The single-player content revolves around the real-life calendar of races, which features 10 different stages. Racing stalwarts will recognise every twist of circuits such as Monza and Magny-Cours, but there are plenty of lesser-known tracks to keep you busy, as well.

The initial options include a quick race, in which you jump straight into the action; a race weekend, which simulates everything from practice to qualifying to the race itself; and a full-blown championship. Each stage of a race event is re-created from real life, with accurate session lengths and qualifying rules. Additionally, it's possible to play the game via a LAN or Internet connection with up to 25 other drivers, which could make for some really intense multiplayer racing.

Attention to detail has been a recurring theme in Simbin's work, and this is reflected in not just the visual quality of the game, but also the amazing array of car setup details. The development team was able to get hold of the computer-aided design drawings for all of the 2006 cars, which meant the possibility of re-creating every nuance of the individual vehicles. Although we only had time for a few races, the difference between the 2006 Peugeot 407 and the 1987 BMW M3 was immediately noticeable in the handling of the two cars.

For more advanced racers, and probably those with degrees in automotive engineering, the option to change so much on the car will be of great interest. The gear ratio, differential, clutch, ride height, brake pressure, and antiroll bar settings are all customisable, and this list only covers a fraction of the total option settings. It's even possible to set up each wheel in symmetry with its opposite number, or individually--although quite why you'd want to, we're not really sure.

While most players wouldn't know where to begin with all of these settings, it's nice to have the option to tinker around with them, even if it's just to see how altering some aspects of a race car can change its performance and handling. It's possible to save your favourite setups to your hard drive, too, and it's more than likely that not long after the game's release, various third-party Web sites will host a whole array of these to give beginners a helping hand.

Overall game options are comprehensive, too, with three standard levels of difficulty that turn off some of the computer aids as you advance. It's possible to adjust all kinds of settings here, from race length and damage levels to traction control, stability help, and antilock brakes.

In terms of the action itself, Race is very satisfying. We were lucky enough to play the game using a force-feedback steering wheel and pedals, and after a few laps, we were beginning to acclimate to the various braking points and acceleration techniques around speedy Italian circuit Monza.

First up was a five-lap race in a Peugeot 407, and straight away the game looked and felt the part. With trees flashing past as we coursed around the circuit, our first priority was to stay on the track. The traction control prevented too much sliding, although it was clear that the car was a little heavy under braking.

A few trips through the gravel later, and we crossed the line in last place, although we'd cut our lap times considerably by the end of the short race. Playing these types of games require a certain amount of dedication, and previous knowledge of a circuit sure helps. However, nothing could have adequately prepared us for a trip around the same circuit in a 1987 BMW M3 in the pouring rain.

First up, the suspension of the car was completely different, so we felt the circuit's bumps a lot more than in the 2006 car. On top of that, without the benefit of modern traction control and antilock brakes, keeping the car facing the right way even on the straights was tricky, let alone tiptoeing around slippery corners. In that race, too, we came last, but the results by no means quenched our thirst for more.

The game also features a full damage model, flags, four different camera views, and a full replay system. While we weren't able to try it out using the keyboard, there's no doubt that--despite its obvious similarities to GTR 2--Race is shaping up to be a great game. It's due for release on November 24 in Europe and will be available to download via Steam, as well as being on store shelves. Stay tuned for more on the game in the near future.

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