Made to appeal to a wider audience than just the hardcore racing sim fan, this sequel to 2005's indie hit features three difficulty settings and a "Driving School" mode with 45 lessons on braking, acceleration, overtaking, and cornering. After players finish school, they can choose drivers, teams, and circuits licensed from the 2003 and 2004 Fédération International de l'Automobile GT Championship seasons, for a total of 34 tracks and 140 vehicle types. Besides "Driving School," GTR 2 includes modes such as "Open Practice," "Race Weekend," "Championships," "Time Trials," and "24 Hour Races." The game's multiplayer modes make room for 32 opponents from around the world, or just a friendly race between friends.
Realistically, there is nothing that compares to the GTR series for balls-out realism in a racing sim. GTR established the brand as a powerhouse unparalleled in the community, and the solid GT Legends continued the tradition proudly with its huge lineup of classic racers. GTR 2 does the almost impossible by pumping up the gameplay while also making the notoriously challenging franchise more accessible for average racing fans.
Following the release of the original GTR, and subsequently with GT Legends, fans complained of the overwhelming level of detail and almost cruel difficulty of the titles. While each event was certainly winnable, these were truly simulations, and mastery of any course at the hardest levels was an effort. Simbin made the laudable choice to not dumb their game down, to not give in to the pressure from members of the press and public deriding the game's difficulty. Instead, developers have added a Driving School option which, rather than bring the game down to you, forces you to rise up to its level.
Like everything GTR, the Driving School is polished and engrossing, covering all major gameplay features at several different levels of difficulty. From basic acceleration to overtaking your racetrack compatriots, the game actually teaches you how to play-a refreshing change of pace from the standard glassy-eyed instruction manual readthrough and first level tutorial.
If you feel you already know how to handle yourself behind the wheel, the standard events are open to you out of the box. There are the obligatory Open Practice, Time Trial, and Championship modes, plus Race Weekend and 24 Hour Race. 24 Hour Race, much like the name implies, is an endurance race over the span of a full day in the style of Le Mans. Thankfully, you'll swap out with other drivers on your team, and race under time acceleration, so you won't have to dedicate a red-eyed, Red Bull-fueled 24-hours to GTR 2. Anyone familiar with endurance racing knows it is perhaps the most distinct type of racing for bringing out the strengths and weaknesses in a driver and his or her automobile.
Speaking of strengths and weaknesses, thanks to integration with MoTeC software, GTR 2 allows even more number-crunching statistics and analysis than either of its predecessors. While much of the action is streamlined for novice players, drivers who wish to wade forehead-deep into tweaking their autos will be in hog heaven with free software from MoTeC's website. GTR 2 is simply unmatched in its level of play detail, on the course and off.
The AI-which can control up to 56 cars-has been refreshed since the series' last installment. There's something sickly satisfying about turning the difficulty up to "Psychotic" and hitting the course at Spa. Because the damage system has been updated, too, crashes with AI are more involved than before, and you may find yourself using the quick replay often, just to see the physics recreate some truly spectacular crashes. Another new addition is the autopilot, which can be turned on during races to keep your pace steady.
Graphically, GTR 2 is on par with the best-looking racing titles available. While the emphasis is clearly on realism, with the graphics set to 11, the game shines alongside its contemporaries. Users without supercharged systems can benefit from GTR 2's extensive graphics options, which will allow for players to precisely configure their video settings to get the most details out of the cars and tracks-which is, really, what you're going to be looking at. At 150 MPH, you'll have better things to do than count the polygons in the tree shadows.
The tracks and vehicle models in GTR 2 are a major draw for many purchasers, and they do not disappoint in the slightest. Many of the cars and tracks from the original make their way over to this sequel, and each has been spit-shined with new models and rendering. While a Nissan 350Z or BMW M3 may be too common to ellicit a second glance, there are 144 cars included in the game. Only a large handful are unlocked in the beginning, but they include Maseratis, Vipers, a Lamborghini, and over a dozen others. Each vehicle model is tremendously detailed-down to the key slot on the trunk of the M3, which was a detail either added for the game or simply missed by me while playing the other GTR iterations. Either way, it exemplifies the attention to detail paid by Simbin and the craftsmanship offered by the game's modelers. Favorite tracks from GTR's rich past make an appearance, including Valencia, Dubai, and my personal favorite, Donington Park.
The game's multiplayer offers players a plethora of opportunities. Race times can be uploaded to servers to challenge fans worldwide, and the 28-car capability, while half that of the offline, ensures that there will be plenty of competition (or mayhem) when gamers join together to race.
Sound in GTR 2 is pleasant and crystal clear. With a set of Force Feedback headphones, the bass rumblings of engines on each course really reminded me of my limited time at speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour. The in-game and menu music is the standard techno-lite fare, typical for racing titles. While the sound doesn't disappoint, there is room for improvement with the music.
In my review of GT Legends, I pointed out the difficulty of reviewing a game in the GTR Series-not only are the games challenging, but they are simply unparalleled in their realism. The addition of the Driving School mode addresses the drawbacks of the series in an admirable way, not compromising the game's trademark physics or spirit. GTR 2 is the best installment thus far in the series, which, for many gamers, will make this the best racing game ever seen on the PC-if not of all time.
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GTR: FIA GT Racing Game, GT Legends, Grand Prix 4, GTI Racing, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, Ford Racing 3, Grand Prix Legends, Microsoft Flight Simulator X
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