Pro Race Driver Review
Despite its problems, Pro Race Driver usually does a fine job of integrating storytelling and dramatic, varied racing, rightfully putting the spotlight on both men and machines.
Most racing games put the emphasis solely on the cars and tracks. But racing fans know that it's also the men behind the machines that make the sport so intriguing. After all, racing isn't just about horsepower, it's also about heroes--larger-than-life figures like Michael Schumacher and Dale Earnhardt, not to mention the unsung experts behind the scenes who build and keep the cars running. With Pro Race Driver, Codemasters has created a racing game that puts drivers in the spotlight without sacrificing entertaining ontrack action.
As a PlayStation 2 survey racing game with a large number of real-world cars and tracks from a number of different racing series, Pro Race Driver will inevitably draw comparisons to the incredible Gran Turismo 3. Both games fall into the same category inasmuch as they're ambitious and they feature racing that falls somewhere between arcade action and hard-core simulation. But there are several things that set these games apart. Gran Turismo 3 centers on enormously addictive car collecting and upgrading, offers more options for tweaking car setups, has a more convincing physics model, and features a much more attractive presentation. Still, Pro Race Driver can hold its own in many ways, not the least of which is its incorporation of a compelling story.
Most racing games offer little to nothing in the way of story or characters. Not so with Pro Race Driver, which features a career mode that focuses on a single fictional driver, Ryan McKane. Pro Race Driver uses the cinematic touches found in other game genres to let you watch and take part in McKane's life in racing. The game opens with a flashback sequence that shows McKane's father--a legendary driver--barely winning a race, only to have his car intentionally clipped by a young upstart driver right after crossing the finish line. Young Ryan and his brother look on in horror as their father dies in a fiery wreck.
In Pro Race Driver's career mode, you get to lead Ryan McKane in the footsteps of his father and his brother, who's also grown up to be a pro race driver. Through occasional cutscenes, you'll see Ryan join his first team with some help from his brother and then try to live up to the family name. Some of the cutscenes also tie directly into the races instead of just serving as a general framework for the action. If you viciously slam into an opponent during a race, you'll get to watch a nasty exchange of words between the two drivers when the race is finished.
While all this could easily have ended up being nothing more than a gimmick, it generally works pretty well. The cutscenes feature visuals that are merely average, but they're usually well written and directed, which makes all the difference. Pro Race Driver does a great job of establishing McKane's character early on, showing you a man brimming with the surly arrogance of youth. Other characters, like his seasoned crew chief and brash manager, also seem unusually realistic for game characters, thanks to their smart and well-delivered dialogue.
The continuing story of McKane's career helps set Pro Race Driver apart, but the story alone is hardly worth buying the game for. You obviously want to have solid racing action, too. Fortunately, Pro Race Driver generally delivers on that front. You'll get to drive 42 different real-world cars (after unlocking them all), including the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the MG Lola Le Mans, the Audi TT-R, the Lotus Elise, and the Dodge Viper GTS-R. You'll also get to race on 38 real-world circuits, like Sears Point, Bristol, Monza, and Silverstone. This means you'll get to try your hand on tiny NASCAR ovals, dense and twisty road courses, and everything in between, including multiple configurations of the same venue, like at England's exciting Brands Hatch.
In addition to the career mode, which takes you through tiers of varied racing series, you can also challenge up to three friends in split-screen multiplayer, test yourself in time trials, and enter free races. While some of the free race tracks are initially locked, a surprisingly large number of them are open for playing right from the start, which is a very welcome change from the way most games handle such "extras." Unlike in the career mode, there's a difficulty slider in the free race mode, as well as options to set the number of laps from one to 60, select the weather, and more.
- Player Reviews: 4
- Game Universe:
- Pro Race Driver (PC, PS2, XBOX),
- TOCA Race Driver 2 (XBOX, PC, PS2, PSP),
- TOCA Race Driver 3 (PSP, PC, XBOX, PS2, MAC),
- Touring Car Challenge (PC, AMI),
- TOCA World Touring Cars (GBA),
- Race Driver 2006 (PSP),
- TOCA Race Driver 2 with Colin McRae Rally 04 (XBOX),
- TOCA Touring Car Championship (GBC),
- Jarrett & Labonte Stock Car Racing (PS),
- TOCA Championship Racing (PS)
- Offline Modes:
- Number of Players: