I’m clueless about racing games, but even I can see a huge difference between RACE Pro and every other racing game out there. Whereas other games all have some gimmick going to trick you into racing (like in Burnout, where the point is to wreck the car, or in Need for Speed where the point is to make the money to buy the best car), RACE Pro is just about racing. The tracks are all actual race tracks you’d see in real life – no tearing down back roads or through Harajuku. The cars are all standard race models or street variants of some of the finest racing cars made in the last ten years. Even the oldest car models in the game – a sweet 80s BMW and an Aston-Martin DV… something or other – are totally realistic from the body detail to the sound of the engine (both inside and outside the car).And gameplay is totally not what I expected. There isn’t much to driving in video games – forward, back, faster, more faster. The key to winning in a racing game is driving the fastest car faster than the other guys. But in RACE Pro, the idea is to drive like a pro to win the race. On single tracks, there’s a static line that shows you how a professional racer would take a track (instead of an adaptive line that follows your own personal best). And in 16 car races, there’s none of this un-sportsman-like ramming and nudging that’s common in other racing games. RACE Pro is more like a racing sim than a racing game, really. And because it has its roots in PC gaming, don’t expect to button mash your way to victory; you’ve actually got to open up the in-depth control modification menu and tweak the 360 controls so that they work with the nuances of each car for the best possible handling. And don’t run into walls. You start out with small contracts – like minis and lesser-than-Ferraris – and work your way up to the bigger contracts by placing well in races. You don’t own the cars, mind you; you just earn the right to race them. And thanks to that performance balancing, it’s possible for you to have your own favorite car and not have to gravitate towards some other car so you have a hope in hell of winning in online multiplayer for 12. I like Audis myself, because they look like little eggs and accelerate like bats out of hell. So I picked out a racing model and tried out a single track. It’s still early days for the game’s development cycle, so the graphics and collision weren’t all there – but it definitely felt real to me, even more so when I went into the front seat view where all the dashboard features and steering wheel details are spot-on. I actually felt bad for wrecking cars in this game. Because not only do the cars look so good as to make me want to keep them shiny – the consequences for wrecking your car are severe. It’s not like other games where you get a wicked-looking damage model and maybe you go a little slower while smoke pours out from under the hood. In RACE Pro, I slammed into a brick wall and broke my steering column. For the rest of that track, I couldn’t really steer anymore and the car kept desperately listing to the left. Eventually, I ran over a curb and did something that screwed up my transmission such that the Audi couldn’t even accelerate anymore and I had to quit out.
I’m not going lie – this isn’t a game for casual types or Mario Kart devotees. It’s multiplayer-friendly, though, so if you know a guy who’s into racing like nobody’s business, you’ll have no problems playing with him. Especially since single system multiplayer is a turn-taking time attack instead of split-screen, (which I’ve always found to be less friendship-wreckingly competitive). And if you are that guy that’s into racing, I’ve honestly never seen a better console game for you (at least one that didn’t have a gimmick to trick you into racing).