"Soon i discovered that this rock thing was true…
Jerry Lee Lewis was the devil.
Jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet.
All of a sudden, I found myself in love with the world;
So there was only one thing that I could do -
Ding-a-ding-dang my dang-a-long ling-long."
- Ministry, "Jesus Built My Hotrod"
I don't know why it is, and I honestly don't really care, but despite my disdain for real-world automotive mechanics, I seem drawn to racing simulation games. I don't know how to drive, I have no desire to learn, I'll never be a grease monkey, and in fact, I usually get pretty nervous in speedy metal hulls. Yet I dive into the occasional vehicle sim with all the wild abandon one sees in those awkward guys at Ska shows, skanking away to the English Beat with absolutely zero clue that they have no rhythm and in point of fact look like complete idiots. That's me behind the digital wheel, a moron with virtual keys and a lead foot. What's the point of all this self-deprecation? Well, some development team recently stuck a shiv in my sweet spot (as Vin Diesel would say) in the form of a game that hearkens back to the golden age of muscle cars. As if the heady bouquet wafting off of the 3D pavement wasn't enough already, Simbin threw in over 90 cars from the '60s and '70s to crush what little resistance I may have had. Get ready to grind the clutch into iron filings; GT Legends is here with a guttural howl born of a V8 engine block.
So the crude breakdown is this: GT Legends is a 3D racing simulator for the PC, using a full line-up of classic cars on a full line-up of classic European racing tracks. The core mechanics are more or less the same as all titles within this niche genre; you bomb around different circuits winning "cups" that make you the big bucks. With these hard-earned shekels, you can purchase more vehicles, expanding your repertoire to have the greatest bragging rights. Unlike many other racers, the driving force isn't necessarily "bigger, better, faster" but more of a "collect them all" sort of deal. Certain cars are included as part of the prize pots too, and often, these aren't available via the dealer.
"If you had access to a car like this, would you take it back right away? …Neither would I."
- Ferris Bueller, in reference to the 1961 Ferrarri 250GT, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
What an incredible list GT Legends offers! Just to grab a few names from the stock list available to purchase: the 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA, the 1960 Austin Healey 3000, the 1971 DeTomaso Pantera, the 1965 Jaguar E-Type, the 1962 Lotus Elan 26R, the 1952 Mercedes 300SL, the 1964 Porsche 911 RSR, the 1961 Renault Alpine A110, the 1964 Shelby Daytona Coup, and the 1964 TVR Griffith 400. These are but 10 examples from a list of over 90 cars. If you're a connoisseur of classic vehicles, I can only imagine how much drool must be glistening on your keyboard right now. Each and every one of these has been painstakingly recreated down to the smallest detail. There was love put into the design of this game, that much is certain. Perhaps best of all, most of these can be test-driven out of the showroom. You aren't forced to wait until you've won enough cups to see what else is out there. At the same time, some of the sweeter gems aren't in the showroom, leaving you with just enough craving to keep trying until you've unlocked the rarest examples of golden-era GT engineering.
GT Legends is so flexible that it can be played like an arcade racer. There is an ultra-realistic approach to game mechanics and physics, if you're quite knowledgeable in regards to automotive functionality; vehicle damage is devastating out on the tracks, so you simply cannot play this "derby"-style. You'll also need to you need to know a few things to succeed, like an understanding of what happens if you tweak your differential, knowledge of what camber angle means and what effect it has on steering, how to drive stick, and so on, and etc. You cannot, unlike many other racing titles, swap out parts for upgrades. For example, you can't just buy a "better" transmission. At first, I found this to be somewhat odd, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. These are classic cars presented in perfectly restored condition, and one does not just duct-tape in a random part to a 1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C. The point of this game is to enjoy the vehicles as they were, not as you think you can engineer them. To that end I say, "Well played, Simbin."
"Gripping the wheel, his knuckles
went white with desire! The wheels
of his Mustang exploding on the
highway like a slug from a .45.
True death: 400 horsepower of
maximum performance piercing the
night... This is black sunshine."
- White Zombie, "Black Sunshine"
You'll recall that I said GT Legends is flexible. I say this because I myself don't know just about any of the advanced things I mentioned earlier, and like I said, I don't actually know how to drive, yet I have a blast when playing this game. Simbin are benevolent developers and have included the mercy of scaling difficulty settings. If you're the kind of player (like me) who loves to just get out on the road and burn vulcanized rubber, you can just tweak your settings to let the game handle all of the previously mentioned aspects of racing. Can't drive stick? No problem – let the CPU do it for you. Long story short, GT Legends can be played by virtually anyone, regardless of experience. It has all the meat you crave if you're an enthusiast, but all the pure action you can handle if you're not.
Oh yes, before I forget – the graphics of GT Legends are quite impressive. The focus is on realism, with particular care put into rich and warm lighting. The day/night cycle is smooth as silk, and the glow of a sunset on the gleaming hood of whichever vehicle you're in can best be described as "glorious." Model detail is in no way lacking, with each and every interior given thorough care and attention. Odometers, speedometers, fuel gauges, and steering wheels are each faithful reproductions of the originals. The driver avatars are well done too, and animated in a realistic way. It could have been all too easy for Simbin to place a static dummy in the driver's seat, but even if your point of view is set to the third-person, you can see your character reaching down to shift gears through the back windshield. That this is all wrapped up in a high framerate package is a plus, and it all comes with an impressive number of performance options that should help cover a wide array of PC configurations. Equally impressive is the audio; each car has an accurate engine sound taken from the originals, backfire pops and all. Plus, you can load your own soundtrack playlist. Trust me when I say that GT Legends is perfectly suited to Foghat, Nazareth, Three Dog Night, and the Allman Brothers Band. Classic rock for classic cars.
"I never try anything; I just do it. Wanna try me?"
- Tura Santana, as Varla in "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!"
On top of all this, Simbin have included full net-code for online play over LAN and internet! The server browser is clean and functional, the only feature it lacks is a "refresh" button. The maps are the same as they are for the single-player games, and whoever hosts a race can set the difficulty variables. Sadly, GT Legends has a deficit of populated servers to choose from at this moment, so I didn't really get much time in competing online. I'm just pleased that this game even offers it. While I'm mentioning features I didn't get to test out, I feel I should mention that there is full support for steering-wheel peripherals, but because I don't actually own one, I can't comment on how effective Simbin were when implementing it. It's not often that I see using my keyboard as a drawback, but I sure wish I had the choice in this instance.
Really, there aren't many drawbacks to GT Legends. There are none at all that I find affect how fun the game is, but I feel they should be mentioned regardless. First off, you can't custom-paint your rides. I can live without this feature, but when I think back to how long I spend in the paint-shop of Nadeo's TrackMania: Sunrise, I find myself wishing GT Legends had it, too. Second, although this title is all about classic cars, the game itself isn't set in the past. The only time this becomes an issue is when you bomb past an in-game advertisement. Instead of billboards drenched in gaudy psychedelia or tacky-yet-cute retro chic, you get huge banners emblazoned with the corporate logos of companies like Vodafone, HSBC, or Canon. Once again, I can live with this, but I'd have preferred it if the entire experience was a blast from the past, and not just the wheels. Third, the cars don't carry enough surface information with them. For example, none of the cars you buy or win have the year they came out listed anywhere; I had to abuse Google for the purposes of this review. It would have been a nice touch to have a small bit of each car's history included. Finally, we have the ugly presence of the Starforce copy-restriction system. My opinions on this "software" are well known, but let it be said here and now that my estimation of the work Simbin has done on GT Legends is such that I recommend this despite Starforce! Yes, this game is so good that, for the very first time ever, I am going to the mat and (through gritted teeth) telling you that it's worth putting up with this supposed "protection" just to get in some blast time on the tarmac. The developers don't deserve to suffer just because their publishers haven't quite grasped how to not treat their patrons like criminals.
When all is said and done, all I have left to claim is that GT Legends is the single best racing game I've personally ever played. Bold words, I know, but I truly feel that way. It's got an impressive list of features, fantastic physics, beautiful graphics, it's easy to learn and play, and it sounds great. Plus, it has the ultra-cool nostalgia factor working in its favor. If you're a fan of racing simulations, this is an absolute must-have title. If you've ever been curious about the genre, this is about the best place you can start. If you just love old cars, this may be the only way you can experience these fantastic works of yesteryear without winning a multi-billion dollar lottery. This is absolutely "Worth Playing."
"Jesus built my car -
It's a love affair;
Mainly Jesus and my hot rod."
- Ministry, "Jesus Built My Hotrod"
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