I predict that there will come a time when computer based simulations are so realistic that they provide such a true representation of an activity that they are nearly discernable. High-end, multi-million dollar flight simulators are already very close to that, and can in fact be used to train and certify a pilot in a new type of aircraft, up to including huge planes like 747s, without requiring any flight time at all in an actual aircraft. As home computer technology continues to improve, I'm hoping that simulators of this fidelity will not only become available on our PCs, but will expand beyond flight simulation into some of the other areas we enjoy on our PCs. First amongst those on my wish list would be auto racing. Top tier racing, like many types of aviation, is financially out of our reach, so computer flight and racing sims are the closest we can get to the actual experience. But how realistic are the state-of-the-art racing sims that are available today? Well, I'm glad I asked since I just happen to be in the mood to review the newly released GTR 2, co-published by Viva Media and 10tacle Studios.
Just like its predecessor (GTR), GTR 2 is developed by the SimBin Development Team. SimBin is known for their intense attention to detail, as evidenced in all elements of the program including the physics engine, the race tracks, the racing rules, the intelligence of the computer-controlled opponents, the car models, and the engine sounds. In every category GTR 2 is very, very good, and might just be the best PC-based racing simulator available today. SimBin even managed to successfully balance the tight line between arcade-ish with a fast, quick learning curve and ultra-realistic but darn near impossible to master. At beginner level the game is very approachable for the novice, and at the pro level it's challenging and satisfying for the experienced and well-equipped driver.
By "well-equipped," I'm not necessarily referring just to the horsepower of your PC and graphics board. You'll need a bit of gumption in your box to be sure, but what I'm actually referring to are your steering wheel and pedals. You need them, and you need pretty goods ones if you want to drive at the pro level. I'm using a Logitech Momo Force and the pedals that came with it, and I'm very happy with both the sensitivity of the control and the force feedback effects of the wheel. The pedals offer a nice, smooth control as well. Without smooth and comfortable controls, it's going to be a far greater challenge to make the laps times you'll need to be competitive.
So, just what’s so special about GTR 2? It’s not any one thing, exactly, but the seamless integration of best-of-breed facets into a very satisfying package. Starting with the obvious, GTR is an acronym for GT Racing, and more specifically in this case, FIA GT Racing. The FIA is the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile, and is the sanctioning body behind other racing leagues such as World Cup Rally, Formula One, and a host of other primarily European racing series. GT is considered an endurance form of racing, and is mostly known for its 24 hour races, although there are shorter races throughout the season as well. It’s one of the few racing series where mid-race driver changes are de rigueur, and is also unique in some of the rules intended to keep the annual championship close and interesting. For example, there are weight penalties applied to cars that win races, detailed by FIAGT.com as follows: “Cars which finish in the top three in either the GT1 or GT2 classes are awarded penalty weight. In GT1, they get 40kg for a first-place finish, 30 kg for second and 20 kg for third. In GT2, these weights are halved, so they get 20 kg, 15 kg and 10 kg respectively. Cars which finish from 4th and under progressively lose any penalty weight they might have accumulated. A 4th place finish loses 20 kg in GT1, with a loss of 30 kg in fifth place, and 40 kg are removed for sixth place onwards. The maximum weight that can be carried is 100 kg in GT1, or 50 kg in GT2. If a car carrying the maximum wins a race, they are given a 'supermaximum' of 150 kg in GT1 or 75 kg in GT2.” All of these arcane rules are supported in the Championship mode of GTR 2.
The GT cars are typically high-end name brands like Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Maserati, and even a few American marques like Corvette and the Dodge Viper. There are a number of classes that race simultaneously, as described by FIAGT.com: “the cars are entered in two main categories, GT1 and GT2. Two more categories can take part, G2 and G3, but do not score points. GT1 cars are more powerful, between 600 and 650 bhp, and can be more heavily developed. GT2 cars, around 450 bhp, have to remain closer to the production models.” The cars are modeled to a nearly photo-realistic level, and even have incredibly believable engine and ancillary sounds specifically tailored to each model. For example, a V10 Viper is achieves the lion’s share of its torque at a relatively low RPM, so as you’d expect, it has a deep, throaty sound to it. Move into a high-revving Ferrari and you will definitely hear a difference in the overall sound package. This is a sim where you will be mighty tempted to crank your speakers up to canine-painful levels, and if you haven’t already got one, you’ll surely be tempted to pick up a subwoofer. Each different model handles differently too. That Viper is very heavy compared to something like a BMW M3 Coupe, and you will feel the difference in the corners. The Viper also packs a commensurately higher horsepower engine under the hood, and this will make itself evident on the straights. It makes for a very interesting sparring session when you get in a dust-up with something light and nimble when your steed is one of the heavy, fire-breathing mega-cars. With its light weight and excellent cornering abilities, the lighter car will shoot past you in the turns, but your horsepower advantage will carry you back around him on the next long straight section of track. This is racing at its finest, and can easily lead to white knuckles on the steering wheel.
Page 3 of 2