When I fired up the demo and entered my first race, I was not presented with the familiar “3, 2, 1 go”. There was no beeping countdown. There was only a set of drag style lights – red red red green – way off in the distance near pole position. My brother had played the original GTR and told me the game was “hardcore”, so I prepared to put my skills to the test. The first red light came on. I revved the engine in anticipation – and the car launched forward and smashed into the vehicle in front of me.
In GTR2 you need to gauge the timing of your own takeoff. If you have the official race rules turned on you will incur a penalty for jumping the gun. You need to make your own pitstops without breaking the pit lane speed limit. There is no Lakitu to put your cart back on the track.
Thankfully this realism also translates to the actual driving. There are two cars available in the demo, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. After a bit of practise both were easy enough to keep on the track, but extremely difficult to race. Running wide on the corners, missing the apex, slipping up the inside under braking: all these terms you hear from real racing finally have meaning inside a game.
The most impressive thing about GTR2 is the computer opponents. In every other racing game I have played it feels as if you are merely driving on the same track. In GTR2 you feel as if you are actually racing them. This feeling comes not from the AI, which is similar to other games in the genre; it comes from the demands placed on the player’s skill. In Forza Motorsport a common tactic I employed was to run a little extra speed into a corner and ram the opponents off of the track, in effect getting them to do the braking for me and taking them out as a bonus. It was just a game, and I treated it as such. Conversely in GTR2 I find myself braking to avoid collisions, aborting overtaking moves when it is unsafe, and generally being a good sportsman. The racing is so difficult and competitive that the oponents are worthy of your consideration. The physics also ensue there is a bit of self interest too – as in reality, a shunt is likely to take you out as well.
You need a decent controller to play GTR2. Ideally a wheel and pedals, but I still enjoyed it using a playstation to USB joystick converter. As an absolute minimum you need analog steering, braking and accelerating.
On the downside the difficulty of GTR2 can make it a little frustrating to play. Inevitably during a race I get greedy for more speed, lose control and bin the car. The dreaded message comes over the radio, “It seems there’s some damage to the front of the car, expect some understeer”. Compound this with the kind of first corner madness seen in real racing and I’m thankful that the option to restart the race doesn’t require loading and is relatively instantaneous.
Unfortunately the demo is single player only, the final release will have a
fully integrated multiplayer mode for racing against other human drivers from all over the world. Oh well, time to get some practice in.