RACE On • Page 2

Cash for clunkers?

With the muscle cars come a pair of larger and better-known US circuits. Road America is a sprawling four-mile gem, fast and foresty with some splendid sweeping curves. Laguna Seca is 2.2 miles of twisty Californian tarmac rendered unforgettable by an extended hill climb and descent. If you can throw a Charger or Camaro over the blind brow and down the steep chassis-flexing face of the infamous Corkscrew, without a flicker of exultation, you should uninstall Race On right away.

Pine-fringed Okayama, the Japanese stop on the 08 WTCC calendar, is the last of completely new venues, though SimBin has extensively remodelled Imola and tarted up a few of the other circuits with new textures and details. The purely cosmetic changes feel faintly futile. Arriving with warm tyres from a game like Need for Speed: SHIFT, the scenery in Race On looks distinctly haggard. Mutton dressed as lamb. The series' crisp physics and combative AI are as appealing as ever, but oh for some sophisticated shadowing and better vegetation.

We've been grumbling about damage modelling for years too, and that's unchanged in Race On. Panels will buckle and parts detach if the impacts are bone-crunching enough, but contact between vehicles, especially the open-wheelers, isn't always convincingly handled. The jolts and the lurches sometimes have a fudged feel to them.

If you want motion blur you'll have to smear the edges of your monitor with vaseline.

Yes, Race On for all its compendious richness (if you buy the standalone version, you are getting Race 07 in its entirety as well as the new content) lacks the core improvements it needed to be a truly essential purchase for series fans. Currently it also lacks a sensible pricing scheme. If you already own Race 07 and STCC, and want to buy the new muscle car and WTCC 08 content separately, it will cost you an eye-watering 18 on Steam. That's only 4 cheaper than the full bundle.

For that kind of money I think SimBin should have delivered something a little bolder and more coherent. Assuming this is the last gMotor-powered PC sim from the studio (and surely it is now the Lizard engine is up and running) it would have been great to see them let their hair down a bit. Something historical perhaps. Or whimsical. Let me drag-race or use those American coupes in a car chase scenario. Imagine SimBin's exquisite handling models in an urban setting. Picture yourself racing towards the county line with a gaggle of human-controlled black-and-whites in your rear-view mirror. Bliss. Race On would have been talk of the town.

As it is, this rock-solid Race 07 variant is a difficult game to wholeheartedly recommend, despite being superb in both single and multiplayer. If you're new to SimBin's stark yet strikingly real racing recreations, I'd say pick up a cheap copy of GTR: Evolution or GT Legends instead. They offer much the same level of variety, vim and verisimilitude. If you're an old hand looking for something arrestingly fresh, you may want to think twice too.

7 /10

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Tim Stone

Tim Stone



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