AS A KID, we all have dreams, hopes and desires that most of us will probably never realise. For myself, getting to drive a highly powered sports car round a track was always pretty high up my list but it was never likely to happen. That is, until SimBin came along and like some kind of Swedish fairy godmother granted my wish (minus the wand and tutu).
Yes OK, I know it's only a game, but let's face it, it's hardly like I'd be able to afford the real deal anyway. Plus, this way, if I do manage to get closely acquainted with one of the circuit's walls, I get to avoid an angry rep of my insurance company knocking on my door and asking for his £500K back. As far as driving titles go, this is probably the closest you'll get to the real deal.
The main draw of SimBin's titles have always been their extraordinary driving model. As soon as you take the wheel, you'll know that this is no casual racer. Instead, you're treated to a taster of just what it's like to drive one of these monsters in real life. Braking in straight lines, bringing power back on smoothly and finding the perfect racing line; that's what this racer is all about. Adopt any other driving style and you'll be met with crashes, lots of off-track and facing the wrong way at 100mph; all pretty scary things to experience in halfa- million pounds worth of metal.
SimBin have tweaked the model a little from GTR and as such, the cars now feel far more solid beneath you and with a bit of practice, some controllable sideways action is now achievable, whether from putting down lots of power early out of corners or going for that elusive full corner drift (although if you manage this, you deserve to be worshipped). Wet-weather racing has also been lavished with attention as you struggle to control putting 600bhp down on the slippery road surface without wheel-spinning.
With a driving model so scarily realistic, GTR was always pretty daunting for
newcomers but this time round, SimBin have catered for novices and experts alike with the Driving School. As well as the basic tutorials on accelerating, braking, cornering and overtaking, each track features its own custom lessons, from how to tackle difficult corners to trying to beat the instructor at a full lap. It's a brilliant addition, getting newcomers up to speed faster and easier, offering plenty of challenge and longevity for the more capable players and adding extra value by unlocking custom championships too.
Of course, once you get back onto the real track, you'll have to contend with other drivers - and it was here that we encountered a bit of an issue. While the AI drivers do seem generally more intelligent, if you end up braking too early for a corner with a car behind you (as you will when learning a track), you'll find that there's an annoying tendency for them to rear-end you, sending you spinning off the track and pretty much wiping out any chance you may have had of winning.
Of course, with a bit of practice, your braking points will shift, but it's an annoying niggle nonetheless, especially for beginners getting to know their way around. When contact is made, it's all quite spectacular. The improved damage model features particle effects (combining pretty smoke with small lumps of car) and ensures that individual pieces of debris are now modelled, so should a piece of your car detach itself, it now creates a hazard for the vehicles behind you, perhaps resulting in a secondary pile-up. Great for cackling like a maniac to yourself if you're the one dropping bits over the track, but not so great if you're that car behind.