Since the days of the Model T, people have asked, "Why do guys name their cars after women?" The sneering comics among us might answer with something like, "Because a car will last longer than their next relationship," or "They want a girl they can control." But as one who appreciates a fine automobile and a lovely wife, I think that the truth is less cynical and more sensible. Like women, cars can be beautiful. They can make your heart skip a beat. But if you want things to run smoothly with either, it takes time and work. And it's the small things, the details that count.
Very Pretty to Look At
Which is exactly how the guys at SimBin approached their new "official simulation of the FIA GT championship" GTR 2. They've reconstructed over 140 exquisite racing machines in minute detail. As you sit in the tight cockpit of each vehicle, every button and line (inside and out) is exactly as it should be. The glint of the sun on the hood in front of you and the grumble of the muscular motor are all captured to a T. You can almost feel the leather stretching across the knuckles of your gloved hands as you grip the wheel and rev the engine.
Of course, it's the driving that matters, and that's where GTR 2's particulars shine. It's also where the hard work begins. That's right, work. Speeding around the track may be what you're longing for, but this isn't one of those mash-the-accelerator-and-demolish-anything-that-gets-in-your-way kind of games. There aren't any giggling bikini girls, either. Nope, this is serious racing and one of the most accurate and sensitive games you'll ever "drive." (Console games should cower in shame.) But don't worry, GTR 2 is designed to help you into the driver's seat. Before you start your racing career, you're ushered into a driving school that takes you through 17 categories of training and 142 challenges.
And Smart, Too
You learn the ABCs of smooth acceleration, controlled braking, pin-point cornering and driving in adverse weather. You name it and it's covered in school (which is way more fun than math class). As you make your way up to "speed," you're rewarded with custom championships and track variations that you'll soon be driving. (For the simulation driving pros, cars and tracks are available right away.)
Once you've mastered that sensitive touch, the joys of the race are yours. Time trials (where you race against a ghost image of your best lap time), weekend races, 24-hour races and tons of championships await you. Once again, attention to the finer points is in ample evidence. Animated pit crews, visceral sounds, realistic transitions from day to night, rain splash-back from passing racers and the grab-something-and-hold-on sense of speed are a few of the things that add up to a good day at the track.
Could a Driving Fanatic Ask For Any More?
Now, don't take my glowing assessment the wrong way. I'm not saying that GTR 2 is the perfect hands-on sim racer. It's challenging and rewarding, but it isn't reality. You won't really be feeling the g-forces on a fast corner, or getting your hands greasy under the hood, or for that matter, naming your car Sally Sue. Those features probably won't be available until version 5 or 6, at the very earliest. But until then, GTR 2 will definitely do.