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Score: 8.5 / 10
When I think Codemasters, I think accuracy,
true to life, reality, and simulation. In fact, most people probably
think this, especially if they’ve played any of the Colin McRae games.
Pro Race Driver (PRD) fits the bill as typical Codemasters faithfulness
to reality. Besides the accuracy of the cars, PRD features realistic
tracks right down to many advertisements.
That last statement might be a bit of an assumption as I’ve only had
real-life experience with one of the tracks: Vancouver. Zipping around
that track for the first
time really brought home how realistic
games are getting these days. GM Place, Skytrain, the Georgia Street
viaduct, Pacific Boulevard, Quebec Street, and Science World are all
instantly recognizable, as is the layout of the track. They even got
most of the sponsorship ads right. For me, this is the first game that
brings home the leaps and bounds videogames have made.
although I can’t vouch for the realism of the other tracks, I can only
assume that they are…
PRD has the typical racing options: Career, Free Race, and Time Trial.
And in an effort to try something new, PRD’s career mode plays out with
cutscenes in a soap opera sensibility. I’m not sure why the cutscene
route was taken. Presumably, the only motivation racers need to win and
do well is the desire to win – not to see the next cutscene. The same
can be said of fighters that try to throw a “story” in that doesn’t
usually show up until the Boss is defeated. The story could have been
dropped altogether with almost no affect on the gameplay.
The actual racing is very good. The ever-important sense of speed is
there, particularly on narrow tracks, and the game physics are
believable. The crashes can be spectacular – plenty of body damage,
cracked windows, and missing body panels offer a “reward” for screwing
up. The AI is no slouch either so a bit of recklessness is required at
times. They’ll take chances just like you and are not above cutting you
off (as a reaction to your own aggressive driving). As you work your way
through the circuits, unlocking and earning access to more powerful
vehicles, the opposing drivers seem to get smarter, too. This is when a
bit of time in the garage fine-tuning your ride to squeeze out any
advantage is recommended.
If you’re not familiar with that fancy automobile lingo, the manual does
a good job of giving you the basics so when you’re in the garage you can
muddle with the car and not feel like you’re lost. You can adjust your
tires, gear ratio, suspension, anti-roll and brake bias – you know, the
typical car stuff. Just in case you think you can win the whole shooting
match without some tweaking you’ll be sorely disappointed. There really
has to be attention paid to track layout if want to make effective
changes to your car and give you an advantage.
Maybe the biggest gripe I have with PRD is the audio. It took me much
time to get the audio levels just right. Otherwise, I was straining to
hear what the pit crew was saying over the whine of the engine.
If you’re a racing fan, Pro Race Driver is a no-brainer. It was
everything you want, and even though the story seems a bit hokey, it’s
tolerable and doesn’t break the game. Worthy of a test drive at the very