Race 07 - The WTCC Game First Look

SimBin's touring car racer is back for another season, with new tracks and cars, and we dive in to take a look.

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Swedish developer SimBin is fast making a reputation for itself as the centre of excellence for PC simulation motor sport games. Last year it released two titles, GTR 2 and Race, both of which focussed on bringing as much detail to the player as possible, as well as producing some very nice hi-resolution visuals along the way.

Later this year its next title, Race 07, is due. It is an updated version of last year's World Touring Car Championship Game, but more has been added than just new team liveries and drivers. The biggest addition is a selection of single-seater series, over and above that which was added in the recent Caterham expansion for the original game. As well as the original WTCC lineups from 2006, there's an update to the 2007 teams, and there are cars from Caterham, Formula 3000, Formula BMW, and Radical.

On top of that there are more tracks, bringing the total number up to 32--including some exclusive to this game, as well as local variations on key circuits. You can compete in the championships provided, for each of the nine racing series, or set up your own events, which could combine any or all of the car classes, and any variation of the tracks.

After jumping into the game, it's clear that none of the depth of the previous racers has been lost. This game is a simulation, rather than an arcade racer, and you'll need to bear that in mind as you scream around the track. If you're late on the brakes into a corner, chances are you'll end up in the kitty litter or the barriers, and depending on how you've set up the difficulty options, that may even be game over for that race.

The barriers and kitty litter aren't going to be your only problems going round the track.
The barriers and kitty litter aren't going to be your only problems going round the track.

Those difficulty options are likely to be one of the most important menus in the game, especially for offline racing, as it's here that you'll tailor the experience to your own level or competence. Beginners who like the idea of taking some of the world's most powerful sports cars around world-famous circuits, such as Monza and Magny-Cours, will find that although the cars and environments have been lovingly recreated from real life, it's crucial to learn the circuits to make the most out of your race. You can set the opposition skill rating to something fairly sedate to begin with, and there are also steering and braking aids, as well as automatic gears, to get you started.

At this level, it's actually pretty easy to jump in and play, even on new circuits, as long as you take it a little easy to begin with. Once you gain in confidence, you can start to add in the damage or tyre wear levels, and if you're really serious and have a full steering-wheel-and-pedals setup, you can experience a level of realism that few other titles even come close to.

That said, while the game is playable using a keyboard, SimBin has made sure to include support for all kinds of controllers, including the PC-compatible Xbox 360 controller. In the game you'll be able to change your input devices on the fly, and while there will be default files included, you'll also be able to tweak the degrees of sensitivity for analogue sticks, as well as mapping buttons, and so on. It's just another example of the lengths the developer is going to in order to give you as much freedom within the game as possible.

The online side of things, which worked pretty smoothly for the last game, is back again and will be handled via Steam. There will be two versions of the game available to buy, including an offline boxed copy that will enable you to play if you don't have internet access, or just have a grudge against Steam. However, you'll need to validate it online if you do want to play multiplayer. The online custom championships look quite interesting because they allow you to create racing seasons of your own, and there's also the potential for official online leagues. There will be leaderboards, and it is hoped some support for community championships as well.

The in-helmet view brings an even more challenging edge to gameplay.
The in-helmet view brings an even more challenging edge to gameplay.

There are also a number of graphical updates within the game. One new camera angle in particular puts you right in the thick of the action, allowing you to see the action from inside the driver's helmet--one step further than the standard in-car view we're used to seeing. It's a pretty claustrophobic angle from which to drive, and it definitely makes the racing harder, but it's a nice glimpse into the real thing--in fact, this is the closest most people will ever get.

Another nice touch that's been added, to complement the windscreen wipers on touring cars, is the ability to tear off visor strips when they get too dirty. This is only used on the new open-cockpit car classes, but gets pretty useful after too many laps in wet conditions or a build-up of dust and bugs in the dry. It's a minor addition, but one that helps to immerse you in the action all the more.

The game's currently slated for a fourth quarter release, and we'll have more on how it is shaping up nearer that time, so keep checking back.

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