The realistic racing genre on the PC is really flourishing these days. While titles like rFactor and Live for Speed may not be
familiar with every PC gamer out there, chances are if you're a racing fan titles like these are apart of your daily gaming regiment. However perhaps the
biggest name behind many of this recent PC racing sim success is SimBin Studios, who are responsible for the GTR series that, despite being in
all intents and purposes a niche title, managed
really get its name out there as a top end racing experience not just in the PC world but in all of the videogame lands. SimBin are back again with a new
title in Race 07: The Official WTCC Game, and fans can expect the same quality and depth we've come to expect from this talented developing
As the game title suggests, Race 07: Official WTCC Game is not just a collection of random cars and events but rather a fully licensed title
featuring the official drivers, cars, and tracks from not only the 2007 World Touring Car Championship, but also the 2006 season as well. It doesn't stop
there though, as gamers can also enjoy the 1987 WTCC class, Formula 3000 International Masters, Formula BMW, Mini Cooper Challenge, as well as Caterham and
Radical events that each have multiple horse power
categories to choose from. Most of the cars all look the part as well with their sponsoring decals and the likes adding to the game's authenticity.
The actual modes you will be racing these cars and classes around in are basically run of the mill when it comes to racing games - you have a one off
quick event mode, time attack, practice, multiplayer for both LAN and Online, and a championship mode. In the championship mode you will only be able to conduct the 2007 WTCC season by default
although there is a "customize
championship" option allowing you to choose any of the other car classes as well as the track list from the game's 30+ included tracks. Unfortunately,
I'm not an expert
on track authenticity so I can't really comment on how accurate all of these tracks are, but from a pure gameplay standpoint the variation and selection on
offer is great, ranging from fast US style Puebla Oval to the technical street circuit in Macau. Unfortunately, while the championship mode is quite powerful
in its ability to allow user customization during initial setup, the actual bulk of the mode is little more than a series of basic events with a point
ladder. It would have been nice to see a little
more attention to this mode, perhaps with a 'career' style take on things that gives it a bit more race to race, season to season meaning.
The racing in this game is, of course, modeled to reflect the dynamics of real life racing, but it doesn't have to be an ultra simulation if you so
choose. Whilst setting up races or events, the game will allow you to define your skill level in one of three groups - starter, semi-pro, and pro - each of
which have a 'profile' regarding the game's range of skill related options, which not only include the usual stuff like AI difficulty, auto gearbox and
damage probability, but also more advanced
tyre wear, traction control, and even the possibility of mechanical failures. If you find that your perfect difficulty level is a mixture of two of even
all of these preset skill levels the game still has you covered with its 'custom' setting, allowing you to mix and match any value for any setting as
you wish. Despite its niche and expert appeal, Race 07 can be just as easily tweaked for casual more arcade driven gamers as well.
But lets not kid ourselves, Race 07 is definitely built for the racing enthusiast in mind. While the gameplay can scale down quite easily in
complexity and detail, it can also scale up well into the leagues of 'realistic simulation'. On the game's most realistic settings you really have to know
what you're doing to drive effectively. The CPU AI is very tough on the harder settings as well but the greatest achievement AI wise in Race 07
is definitely the fact it never loses sight of
realism, which isn't impossible robot driving AI but rather authentic feeling AI that can make mistakes and will adjust in real time on the track
to your and other AI cars. I've never participated in a real life proper car race before, but the driving model in this game just feels right and the
attention to detail is equally as impressive. How's this for an example - if you're driving in an open vehicle, like the Formula BMW series, not only will
you be able to view the action from inside the driver's
helmet, but its visor will also get dirty during the course of a race, requiring you to tear off protective layers.
Of course, being a SimBin racer, Race 07
also features an extensive list of possible pre-race adjustment options giving racing game enthusiasts the chance to tweak their car setups in almost
every possible way. Besides the aforementioned ability to define difficulty level with some pretty advanced stuff like tyre wear and mechanical
failures, gamers can expect a very detailed car setup system allowing to define settings like tyre pressure, ride height and many more for all four
or as a whole, as well as general overall settings such as engine rev limiter, steering lock degree, gearing etc - I could go on and on here. This is
very advanced stuff that adequately shows just how much effort went into making this game a true racing simulation.
Perhaps the only real disappointment I can muster with the racing gameplay in Race 07 is the crash damage model. Crashing in this game isn't
exactly poor as stuff like location and performance altering damage is present, it's just compared to the realism otherwise featured in the game, the
crashes just seem to be lacking the same sort of authenticity. Of particular disappointment are large impacts which feature collisions closer to that of two
billiard balls than two cars. In fairness though,
this is an aspect that racing sims in general are still tackling so it isn't like Race 07 is alone with its somewhat limited
collision physics. This is one area I really hope physics processing units like the Ageia PhysX can address in the near future as
it seems such a shame racing masterpieces like Race 07 can't have damage models to match their otherwise insanely authentic gameplay.
Graphically speaking Race 07 is not going to shock too many PC gamers with its visual quality, particularly in the area of
environmental detail which comes off as a little dated, but the areas that matter most in a racing game, i.e. the cars and the actual track itself, are
more than capable and certainly don't detract from the experience. Sound wise the expected level of detail is here in that all cars seem to have authentic
engine sounds, although one area to the game's audio I found a little
bit lacking is the radio chatter from your team who only seem to warn you about yellow flags and that's about it. Controlling this game is naturally going to
be best on a wheel setup although, with a bit of tweaking to the steering dead zones thanks to the well equipped in-game control options screen, our Xbox 360
USB controller did fine albeit without any force feedback.
If you love your PC racing sims then you probably don't need a relative newbie like me who'll just as happily fire up a game of Need for Speed
telling you that Race 07 is a good game, but given its ability to scale realism settings, Race 07 is not just a sim but also in
general a fun well made racing game, even if you're not a fan of the included racing series at all. There are a few areas that could have used more
attention, but most if not all of these are secondary concerns
that don't prevent enjoyment. Whether you want to drive around worrying about requiring to apply the perfect amount of brake pressure to nail a
corner or not, Race 07: The Official WTCC Game is quality racing gameplay and better yet, if you're a broadband user, you could be playing it in no
time thanks to its availability on Valve's Steam.