Swedish developer Simbin brings officially licensed World Touring Car Championship (WTTC) action to PCs in Race: The WTCC Game. Gearheads can get behind the wheel of more than 100 cars spread across ten model types. Players can then take their highly tuned touring vehicles around ten replications of real-world tracks. Gamers can also use the helmet-cam, developed specifically for the new inclusion of Formula cars, to take in the downtown views of several city courses.
Race 07 lets players participate in the official 2006 season, and drivers can choose to race in the real-life two-race-format where the top eight finishers change order for the second race. Realism takes to the fore as a damage model includes detachable wheels, nose sections, engine covers, and spoilers, while bugs, dirt, and weather effects contribute to the race atmosphere. Steam enabled online multiplayer support provides races for up to 25, as well as leagues, championships, and leader boards, and computer AI will populate races if players can't put together a full field of friends.
Europe is home of many interesting series that features different kinds of racing. The FIA (responsible for F1, the racing analogy of soccer) runs the World Touring Car Championship, or FEMA. This series uses slightly improved versions of traditional-looking cars, with racing that takes place on road courses. The cars are easier to drive than those featured in SimBin's previous title GTR 2 due to their decreased horsepower. Will this title feature the same polished driving as SimBin's previous simulations?
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
RACE: The WTCC Game features the generally high-quality graphics featured in other SimBin products. The best aspect of the graphics is the car models: they are highly detailed and look fabulous. The tracks look good as well: most of the track elements are detailed with the exception of the sand traps, which seem out of place in their relative roughness. The special effects are again in full force: bugs on the windshield and realistic rainy conditions are the norm. To compensate for this, functional windshield wipers are now implemented. Occasionally having a rock thrown up and crack your windshield is a nice addition. Small accidents are not that impressive (dark shards flying around), but the rest of the effects are. The overall presentation of the game is greatly improved over GTR 2, making the game menus compete with most other PC games. The game looks slick, and this extends from the graphics to the sound. The front menu music gets you pumped for racing, and the rest of the sound maintains the high quality seen in other SimBin titles. The engine sounds seem to be true-to-life, and RACE promotes an overall realism that you are driving a real race car, which is what you're looking for in a simulation.
Being a racing title (the title of the game was a big clue), RACE: The WTCC Game lets you take control of a touring car and race on all of the circuits present in the 2006 WTCC season. There are only ten, but they provide a good variety of fast tracks, technical tracks, and urban tracks (it's as if the FIA knew what it was doing when it scheduled the races!). You can jump in the seat of all of the cars used in the 2006 season from major manufacturers like Peugeot and Seat (well, major in Europe). You can also test out the cars used in 1987 (if you are feeling adventurous) and Mini Coopers, pretending that you are Mark Wahlberg (a daily occurrence for me). The tutorials that were present in GTR 2 are not in this game, so you are on your own in learning how to drive. This is not a huge issue, because the learning curve is smaller for the touring cars, but some lessons on effective braking and accelerating would definitely be helpful (I tend to slide the tires too much). The game can be played in quick races, full race weekends, or complete championships. The quick races are kind of pointless, as the only difference between them and the race weekends is that a lot of the options are removed and you are fixed to two two-lap races. RACE: The WTCC Game also features multiplayer action through the game's browser, driver duals against real-life records on each of the game's tracks, and practice and time attack modes.
RACE: The WTCC Game gives you a multitude of options to customize your race. As with other SimBin titles, you can choose between three difficulty levels that change the level of driver aids available (traction control and anti-lock brakes). You can also set tire wear and fuel usage values to require pit stops during short races. Each race takes place over a number of sessions: practice, qualifying, and two races. The race distance can also be set, although the game lacks time estimations that were present in previous titles. The AI strength and aggression can be changed; I would like an auto-adjusting feature to eliminate the tedious procedure of finding out what level of competition is appropriate for you. On pro level, you can't adjust the AI below 100%; maybe I want to eliminate all driver aids but tone down the AI while I am learning the game. I dislike artificial restrictions like this. Dynamic weather adds another variable to the mix: conditions can change during a race instead of being rainy or sunny throughout the competition.
The races of RACE: The WTCC Game are pretty fun. The game utilizes the unique two-race format of the WTCC, where the top eight finishers from the first race are reversed in order for the second, and the winner receives the most points between both halves. The AI is a good competitor, although they are overly cautious on "realistic" aggression levels. They will go out of their way to avoid contact, even if they could overtake you. It's too easy to block them to slow them down and prevent them from passing you. Obviously human competition will be better opponents, but overall the AI is good enough. RACE: The WTCC Game uses a believable physics model for the heavier and less-powerful cars used in the touring car series. You obviously need to use some sore of analogue controller for the game (joystick, wheel, pedals, analogue gamepad) in order to appreciate the physics and be able to effectively control the cars. The cars themselves are much easier to drive than other SimBin titles, mainly because the cars tend to drive slower. It is easy to slide the tires, however, but the touring cars are a good choice for novice simulation drivers. The races are pretty typical for road course events: an exciting start followed by several laps of minimal passing. Still, RACE: The WTCC Game is more user-friendly than other SimBin titles and competing racing simulations.
Out of the suite of realistic racing games, RACE: The WTCC Game is more approachable than most. The game features a type of racing that hasn't been specifically covered in other titles, and brings in the solid physics, graphics, and AI from other SimBin titles. The game looks good (especially the car models), sounds good, and it provides a thorough representation of two seasons of WTCC action. The physics of the game are credible and the AI provides a good challenge. Human competition is available over the Internet (although almost all of the servers will be using Pro skill settings, so beware) for those adventurous souls. RACE: The WTCC Game is yet another solid entry in SimBin's library of quality race simulations that is geared towards a more general audience and the adaptability and relative simplicity of the title ensures that it will appeal to those who enjoy more realistic driving.
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