Despite its blemishes, GTR is the breath of fresh air this genre so badly needed.
- The finest car physics model to date
- Incredible number of options and customizations
- Gritty, complex audio
- Accessible to rookies and arcade veterans
- Excellent attention to practical and graphical detail.
- Dreadfully long track loading times
- Requires high-end computing power
- Potential multiplayer pitfalls
- Not enough prerelease fine-tuning.
Not without its quirks, 10tacle's GTR is nonetheless a supremely engrossing, painstakingly intricate sports car racing simulator that's aimed principally at the ultrahardcore simulation addict, yet it wields enough versatility and fully customizable "detuning" to thoroughly indoctrinate newcomers and even please steadfast arcade racers. Is it, as has been noted in prerelease hype, the modern manifestation of Papyrus' remarkable yet crazily challenging and PC-killing 1998 benchmark Grand Prix Legends? If played at maximum realism and graphical detail levels, perhaps. But there's so much more to GTR that the parallel must end there. Certainly the developers at 10tacle Studios have hit the ground running with this, their inaugural effort. If you have the computing speed to run it and the patience to endure its few pitfalls, you likely won't find a better, more believable non-NASCAR racer in today's market.
Unlike so many racing games, GTR does not focus on NASCAR-type "stock" cars or Formula 1-type open-wheel cars. It instead keys on the FIA GT Championship, a European-based series featuring high-end, high-level sports cars adapted for racing conditions. One of the many nifty perks of this approach is the inherent variety. The game sports nearly 20 unique drivable racecars (the box says 70, but many are simply repainted repeats of others), including a wide assortment of Porsches, Vipers, Ferraris, and Lotuses. Some are considerably faster than others, and that's why both the real-life series and its fully licensed digital peer offer different classes. You decide which car and/or class you drive.
And that's just one of a multitude of decisions you'll need to make before you hit the track. Indeed, one of the most notable aspects of this, a game that gears up primarily to satisfy the yearning of drivers who accept nothing but the most demanding parameters, is its approachability. This should not be lost on disciples of games such as Need for Speed: Underground or other like-minded arcade staples. To wit, GTR is not only one of the very best racing sims out there, but also one of the best arcade racers.
Players that select "arcade" from the main menu are presented with a stripped-down and simplified version of the game that abolishes nuisances, such as garage modifications, qualification runs, race lengths, and other event parameter decisions. Arcade mode is further subcategorized into four distinct classes, each of which delivers a slightly more authentic experience than the one before it. The racing is a bit faster and far more forgiving than you'll find in the game's semipro and simulation modes, though even at its most simplistic, arcade still manages to showcase 10tacle's glorious, road-clawing physics model. Even in the easiest subcategory of all, aptly named "Sunday driver," there's no mistaking that you're really driving a car that contacts the road at four separate points.
10tacle does, however, enforce an engine limiter throughout arcade mode that keeps you from running away from the field. The only way to rid yourself of that limiter is to leave the arcade appetizer behind and begin sampling GTR's meat and potatoes.
At full bore and with all its numerous driver aids removed, GTR exhibits one of the most taxing, complex, and sophisticated driving models ever concocted for a PC racing title. Floor it hard from the start and you will most probably spin out. Leave your braking just a tad too late and you will head offtrack. Hit a rumble strip or a rough stretch of pavement and you're jostled about your cockpit like that little ball in a baby rattle. Bump a competitor a bit too heavily and you'll feel the resulting handling issues as your speed increases down the next straightaway.
What is perhaps best about GTR is its subtlety and attention to detail. Rough pavement, wet-weather handling, braking, accelerating--it's all infused with so much intricate physics that most drivers will have a tough time even coming to grips. Indeed, the GTR physics model is so good that many may feel they need to experience the actual tactile sensations of g-forces just to be successful. This can't happen of course, so the best approach is a smooth, unerring driving style, along with total and complete concentration, particularly during the first few opening laps when your tires are cold. You'll also need to quite seriously modify your technique when moving from one car to another, because 10tacle has simply pulled out all the stops in trying to make them as distinctive as possible.
But wait--there are other answers, too. By pressing the "I" key, you can ask the game's artificial intelligence to temporarily assume your driving duties. You can also request that your helpful crew chief/spotter verbally describe any damage you've incurred. Or you can hit the Replay key and monitor what the other guys are doing out there. In fact, when you're sitting in your paddock during a practice or qualifying session, you can pretty much observe whatever or whomever you want to observe via the game's stylish monitoring system. With all these accommodating perks, combined with an incredible number of difficulty and realism adjustments and an ultracomprehensive garage facility--which thankfully offers numerous predevised setups--patient drivers who want to succeed will do so. Eventually.
Two final weapons in your arsenal come in the form of the MoTeC advanced dash logger and the MoTeC interpreter. You'll find the former right there in the cockpit with you, spitting out essential information and data that'll help you keep your bearings while you're on the track. The latter is far more advanced and infinitely more intricate. By toggling the MOTEC button while in the paddock, you'll open the external MoTeC interpreter application, where you can analyze virtually anything to do with your last lap or any other lap you've run to that point in time. Inside, you'll see a mind-bending assortment of facts, figures, graphs, and other visuals that deliver the inside scoop on your car and driver's performance. You'll also realize that opening the interpreter sometimes destabilizes GTR, thus forcing you to restart it. Regardless, serious gearheads will find much to like here, even if the interpreter doesn't seem to interpret everything it should.
And don't think GTR is intended only for those who like to play alone. The game's multiplayer mode permits up to 56 drivers to compete via LAN or Internet--theoretically anyway. In practice, we found stuttering and other frame rate problems when a dozen or more cars were on the track simultaneously, particularly when grouped together. We had much more success with a six-player game, where the only serious warping and momentary screen freezes occurred at the outset of an event.
It's worth noting that we attempted online play only after installing patch 220.127.116.11, which addressed some of the earlier multiplayer issues. Still, the current online buzz would seem to indicate that not everyone is enjoying their Internet racing. Premature disconnections, lockups, and other assorted oddities are just some of the problems being bandied about.