Review by Wolf Feather
Reviewed: 12/22/02 | Updated: 12/22/02
The Absolute Best Racing Game to Date on PS2!!!
Pro Race Driver is definitely an above-average simulation-style auto racing game. It can best be compared with Gran Turismo 3 in relation to the number of circuits in the game (some of which must be unlocked), although Gran Turismo 3 definitely has the upper hand in terms of the photorealistic graphics and the sheer number of vehicles. However, whereas Gran Turismo 3 has literally HUNDREDS of races and race series, there is no connecting thread or storyline to the game, and this is where Pro Race Driver truly shines.
Pro Race Driver's Career Mode has the player enacting the racing life of Ryan McKane. The game's opening film (available in French or in English) shows a young Ryan and his older brother at a race and watching their near-legendary father die in a horrifyingly terrible accident. Fifteen years later, Ryan gets his first shot at a big-time auto racing series (Americas Series). All this is done with nice cinematic cutscenes which sometimes includes cutscenes with rival drivers and team managers based upon the on-track racing actions.
With forty-two licensed cars as well as thirty-eight licensed circuits from around the world, Ryan will have A LOT to overcome (including - and perhaps ESPECIALLY - his own ego) to become a legendary race car driver in his own right, surpassing even the racing community's high expectations of his deceased father.
Unfortunately, Pro Race Driver does not include qualifying (this is the one major downfall of the game), so the player is stuck with wherever she or he is placed on the starting grid by the CPU. This can be noted before the races by selecting Grid Positions when in the garage preparing for each race.
Career Mode operates on the tier system. Tier 1 race series use the slowest cars in the game, whereas higher-tier race series use faster and more powerful cars. Again, there are certainly not nearly as many cars as in Gran Turismo 3, but Pro Race Driver does offer a good variety of cars nonetheless. Progressing to higher tiers of race series unlocks both the race circuits and the race cars of each progressive tier, and this immediately takes effect in all gameplay modes.
In Free Race Mode, however, the available cars for a given circuit depends on WHERE in Free Race Mode the player selects one or more circuits to use. The top of the Free Race Mode track selection screen is divided by race series; if one or more tracks are selected from within a race series, only those vehicles which can be used in the series will be available for selection. If the player selects a track from the Freestyle section at the very bottom of the track selection screen, then all unlocked cars are available to the player.
One of the nice things about Gran Turismo 3 is the ability to truly fine-tune each vehicle. While Pro Race Driver does not have nearly as many tuning options (nor the high level of specificity in settings and adjustments), it does offer quite enough options to take a car from extreme oversteer to extreme understeer.
Pro Race Driver does not use rules; in other words, there are no official repercussions (such as ten-second penalties or immediate disqualifications) for unsportsmanlike or dangerous driving, shortcutting corners, etc. Many corners (especially chicanes) do have barriers to ensure that all drivers (including the player) keep to the racing line, and there are plenty of sand traps and gravel traps to significantly slow cars which go off-line at many corners, but this is really the extent of the implementation of any 'rules' in Pro Race Driver. Note, however, that it is DEFINITELY possible (and highly likely) to anger the CPU-controlled competition through blocking, swapping paint, etc.; some drivers may even develop a deep-rooted grudge against the player and take extreme measures to attempt to knock the player's vehicle out of the way or foil the player's chances of winning a race and/or a championship in the given car class.
The PlayStation2 features 256 levels of button sensitivity (for the X, Square, Circle, and Triangle buttons), and Pro Race Driver makes definite use of this feature (but fortunately NOT to the extreme of Total Immersion Racing). Pressing harder on the accelerator button (set to the X button as the default) will provide faster acceleration; pressing harder on the brake button (set to the Square button as the default) will provide harder braking.
Pro Race Driver seems to be best suited to a player who prefers a slightly- to somewhat-loose car, meaning that the back end tends to swing about. This means that drift-style racing is quite feasible for those skilled in this highly-specialized driving technique, and that plenty of countersteering will be required at most race venues. However, there are certainly enough tuning parameters that a player with good knowledge of car tuning can truly adapt virtually any vehicle in the game to a given circuit.
There are several bonus codes available for Pro Race Driver. These are entered in the Bonus folder of the Options file cabinet. Codemasters provides two bonus codes simply for registering the game and for Code M (Codemasters' online newsletter concerning its current and upcoming games, combined with its special members-only section of the Codemasters Web site); without giving anything away (hopefully), these two bonus codes definitely make the game a little more challenging, especially on tight street circuits such as Vancouver.
Overall, players will likely be spending A LOT of time with Pro Race Driver. To my knowledge, this game has the highest number of real-world race venues of all auto racing games available for PlayStation2; this fact alone makes it an excellent ''collectors' item'' for diehard racing gamers. Some of the circuits in Pro Race Driver include Hockenheim (both the short and long versions), Monza, Fuji, Aida, Sears Point, Charlotte, Zolder, Silverstone, Donington Park, Brands Hatch (two configurations), Nurburgring, Rockingham (two configurations), and many, many more. The ability to truly customize races and even race series within Free Race Mode adds tremendous replayability to Pro Race Driver, in a way that Gran Turismo 3 and other PS2 racing games simply cannot achieve.
One very important final note: For those players who have driven these circuits in other racing games and/or with other vehicles, it is important to remember that braking zones and acceleration points do not generally 'convert' well from one racing game to another and from one vehicle (type) to another.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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