Atari – RACE Pro review

realistic and eminently drivable racer
Photo of Atari – RACE Pro

Driving around in circles over and over again doesn’t sound like much fun, but when you’re sat in a small box on wheels doing 200mph, it gets a lot more interesting. Racing cars: you can’t beat ‘em. Or at least we couldn’t anyway, not on the ‘pro’ level where they left us spinning our wheels in a trackside gravel pit after trying to take that third gear corner just a bit too quickly.

Fortunately, everyone will be able to find a difficulty setting to suit them, as on ‘novice’ with all the driving aids turned on, Race Pro plays like a simple arcade game, but with racing teams and seasons thrown in.

We found it most palatable at ‘semi-pro’ level, with a couple of the aids turned down to low. If you’ve played developer Simbin’s previous Race 07 on the PC, the difficulty curve is very much the same story as that.

And as with the last game, the car physics and handling are skilfully implemented. Of the many cars you can drive, from Minis through GT powerhouses to Formula BMWs, each feels genuinely different in terms of weight and responsiveness. Some can be driven over the kerbs in a chicane without any trouble, while lighter vehicles will skid or even end up on two wheels momentarily. In bends you can clearly sense when you’re pushing too hard, or when you’ve got traction and it’s time to floor it and accelerate out of the corner.

The major difference between this and Race 07, aside from the shift onto the X360 platform, is the introduction of a career mode alongside the one-off racing championships. This ongoing campaign challenges the player to complete contracts with different race teams, fulfilling a certain amount of points over three races to earn credits. These credits are used to unlock new contracts, so you work your way up from the Minis to the more powerful sports cars.

As career modes go it’s quite basic, and so is Race Pro’s presentation. For example, when you triumph in a race your reward is the pit guy saying “You won, well done”; and that’s your lot, back to the menu. It’s also true that the graphics look a little low resolution on a large screen HDTV compared with contemporary standards, but they do the job well enough.

But let’s make one thing clear; we weren’t in any way underwhelmed by Simbin’s efforts. Yes, Race Pro is rather bare bones, but it’s really about that authentic racing experience which it definitely captures, from the physics of the cars to the tracks themselves. Whether you’re driving on a claustrophobic street circuit like Pau, or through the dipping blind corkscrew bend at Laguna Seca, the tracks are convincing replicas of their real-life counterparts.

Multiplayer hasn’t been stinted on either, with several hot-seat modes for playing locally (although no split-screen), and Xbox Live support for up to twelve players online. There’s a lot to like here, despite the presentation issues.

Company: Atari

It's not the best presented racing game in the world and the career mode is somewhat lacking in the depth stakes. But at its heart Race Pro is an excellent racing sim, with some painstakingly modelled tracks and physics and an adjustable range of difficulty settings to suit everyone.