GTR Racing

Review

posted 7/1/2005 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: PC
You've all seen those goofy hypothetical questions: if you could only have one flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be? If you were going to be marooned on a deserted island, what brand of toilet paper would you want to have with you? Well, no matter what the premise of the question, if it asks which PC-based racing simulation I would be willing to limit all future virtual racing to, it would be SimBin's GTR FIA GT Racing Game. In all of my years of virtual racing on the PC, I have never experienced anything even close to the realism, performance, and fun of GTR. GTR is hands-down the best racing simulator available today, and is likely to remain the best for quite awhile.

That's a pretty glowing testimonial, but it is quite easily defended. We'll go into quite a bit of detail as to why such a testimonial is well deserved, but first we should take a look at exactly what FIA GT Racing is, and what differentiates it from other series. The FIA GT Championship is described thusly on their web site:

Dream cars, dream locations GT cars are two-door sportscars, created for the road and adapted for the track. Running in two categories, GT1 and GT2, the cars competing in 2005 include the Corvette C5R, the Ferrari 550 and 575 Maranello cars, Maserati MC 12, Lister Storm, Lamborghini Murciélago and Saleen S7 in the top class, while cars such as the Porsche 996 GT3-RS, Ferrari 360 Modena, TVR T400R can compete in the lower class.

With three-hour, 500 km races held around the world, including Turkey, Zhuhai, Dubai and Bahrain, and a season highlight of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, the Championship has a friendly, open paddock, excellent hospitality facilities and, for seven European races, an exciting combination with the new FIA World Touring Car Championship.

Exotic cars, exotic locations, and in some ways, pretty exotic rules. For example, to avoid having a single car dominate the entire season which often happens in other forms of international racing (cough - Formula 1 - cough), the winner of a championship race has to add ballast weight to the car for the next race. If the car wins again, more weight is added. The weight remains on the car until it loses a race. There are set amounts to be added for winning, and set amounts to be removed in following races. There is a finite limit as to how much ballast weight can be added. If a car still dominates with the full ballast weight added, other teams really have their work cut out for them! This is somewhat unlikely, though, as the maximum weight penalty of 80kg. is quite significant. That amount of extra weight takes a toll on tire wear, braking, and handling, not to mention raw acceleration. If the weight penalty seems like an artificial constraint to ensure that the championship remains close throughout the entire season, well, that's because it is. Having a tight championship battle forces a more strategic approach to any given race, particularly the 24-hour race at Spa.

The cars driven in the series are some of the most sophisticated and exotic street cars in the world. Some of that sophistication is not allowed in the series, though. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, or any kind of electronic suspension control must be disabled before the car can be raced. These are also not small cars: the minimum allowable weight of the car is 1100kg. The car must also be raced with the same make and type of engine available in the street version. These restrictions go towards making the series a true measure of driver ability to as much of a degree as possible when racing cars from various manufacturers. They also make the driving of a 600+ horsepower car on road courses a real challenge for those that think they can just jump in and smash the pedals to the floor. These are most definitely not "arrive and drive" cars - they require a level of finesse that will take quite a bit of practice to achieve.

So, what makes Simbin's GT Racing Game so good? To answer that we will have to look at a few different categories. The most logical place to start is with the physics modeling. It's not too hard these days to find racing games that have nearly photo-realistic graphics and incredible sounds. Neither of these matter much, however, if the simulated car doesn't "feel" and drive like a real car. And, to a large degree, a realistic feeling car doesn't do you much good if the racing is inferior, but it can still be quite fun to drive. So, we start with the physics.
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