GT Pro Series Hands-On

Is this the Wii's Gran Turismo? We investigate in our hands-on look at this cel-shaded racer.

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A few weeks back, we took a quick hike over to Ubisoft's San Francisco offices to get our first look at the upcoming GT Pro Series for the Nintendo Wii. While the game wasn't playable then, we recently got a chance to spend some time with an updated build and have come away impressed with this game's unique look and surprisingly engaging controls.

No, it's not Auto Modellista 2--it's GT Pro series for the Nintendo Wii.
No, it's not Auto Modellista 2--it's GT Pro series for the Nintendo Wii.

Like another Ubisoft racer for the Wii, GT Pro Series will come packed with a wheel accessory that, when assembled, will let you snap your Wii Remote into a center slot and thus hold the Wii controller as you would you car's steering wheel. It doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but it actually feels good, especially when compared against our previous Wii racing games experiences where holding the rectangular Wii controller didn't add that much to the driving experience. Best of all, you'll be able to use this accessory with any future Wii racing game that comes down the pipe.

As for GT Pro Series, the game is a cel-shaded racing game that's controls and driving model are considerably tighter than that of another Ubisoft Wii racer, Monster Truck 4X4. The cel-shading gives the game a slick look and removes the need for any graphical comparisons to hyper-realistic next-gen racing games such as Forza 2 and Gran Turismo HD (neither of which the Wii could likely even approach in terms of visual fidelity).

To control the game, you press the A button to accelerate and the B button to brake (or go in reverse). If you're running a manual gearbox, you can switch gears by using the up or down button on the directional pad. Steering, as you might expect, is a matter of merely moving the controller left or right as you would steer your own car. In practice, the game is responsive to the controls--and the physics of the car felt nice, without being too punishing. Cars are apt to drift around corners and, at least on the early-game tracks we checked out, use of the brakes isn't really necessary. Our biggest gripe with the driving, however, was the puny feel of the Wii controller's rumble functionality.

Each of the more than 80 licensed cars found in the game, from makers such as Subaru, Toyota, and Honda, can be set up in two different styles--race or drift. As you might expect, drift setups help you slide your car all over the track, which is ideal for the drift combo challenges found in the game, while the tighter race setups help keep the car steady through the curves. In addition, the kind of race event you choose to enter should determine the kind of car you choose to drive. In a drift event, for example, you'll want to choose a rear-wheel drive car such as the Toyota Trueno to give you the best chance to win.

As for game modes, most of your time in GT Pro Series will likely be spent in the game's championship mode that, like Gran Turismo, is split into a number of different levels. Each level has a number of smaller cups that consist of three or more races; different cups have differing requirements for entry. In addition, there are your standard time trial and quick race events, as well as split-screen multiplayer and the aforementioned drift combo challenges. Here, you drive around specially designed drift tracks, trying to string together as many successive drifts as you can. Having spent a the majority of our time running races, we never quite got used to the slippery, out-of-control nature of the drift challenges and it wasn't long before we headed right back to the traditional race modes.

Four-player split-screen racing will be available with the game.
Four-player split-screen racing will be available with the game.

In all, GT Pro Series has a cool look, lots of game modes, and controls that feel good. It's too early (and too optimistic) to say if the game will become the Wii's Gran Turismo series just yet, but we're holding out hope that our favorable early impressions of the game are upheld when the final version is released later this year. Stay tuned for our full review of the game after the Wii launch.

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