Broadly speaking, there are two types of racing games; the arcade affair and the simulation. The former is for those who like to experience the raw thrill of the tarmac flashing under their bonnet, squealing around corners at stupid speeds, whilst the latter is all about full race weekends with testing, setting up the car and all that malarkey.
GTR couldn’t be more in the serious camp if it tried. It’s a full-blown simulation of the FIA GT Championship, which involves supercars like Porsches and Vipers.
True, there’s an arcade mode as well as the semi-pro and simulation settings. This does allow you a reasonably easy drive, although it’s still a fair bit more demanding than your average racer. Crank the difficulty up to the proper realism settings and you’d best be ready with your driving gloves and nerves of steel (a good steering wheel peripheral doesn’t go amiss either).
It’s a truly exacting drive, so if you’ve not got your car set up well, or you blip the accelerator at the wrong point through a turn, you’ll hit over-steer, or under-steer and probably go wombling free into the nearest gravel pit. And good grief, just wait until the first time the heavens open and the track gets wet; that’s when the Schumachers are truly sorted from the Sunday drivers.
The realism extends from the driving model and physics through to the tracks, which are modelled down to fine details on their real life counterparts. The attention to minutiae is impressive, with touches like the pace car being pulled over in the pit lane during practice laps, and each circuit really feels aesthetically individual. Technically, the graphics are excellent too, with richly detailed environments and fantastic looking cars.
Combine this with the comprehensively simulated race weekends, which involve practice and qualifying sessions in real time, plus extensive car tweaking options to trim those milliseconds off your best lap, and you’ve got one fully-fledged supercar racing experience. The sense of taking part in a proper championship season is evoked to great effect.
It also helps that the AI drivers are smartly programmed. They jostle and compete through turns, making mistakes and not just driving some robotic perfect route around the circuit. Those who lust after beating human opposition will doubtless be satisfied by the thorough multiplayer options, which allow for up to 56 players to take part in a full race weekend.
The only element in which GTR falls down somewhat is with its accessibility. If you’re a casual racer, the arcade mode doesn’t offer a championship competition, which seems a shame, and the full blown affair will possibly be a bit much to handle.