Developer: MTO Co, Ltd
Release Date: November 19, 2006
It is an unenviable time to be a Wii owner. Though I suspect thousands (or perhaps millions) of non-owners would staunchly disagree with that statement, the months following any console launch are typically desperate times. It is no different in the case of the Wii. For those of us who have a compulsion to game regularly, the January following any system launch is rough. With little in the way of new releases, we look back at the scraps of the launch library — the games that you would never buy ahead of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but ones that might fill up a few days during the arduous wait for whatever it is you desire next.
GT Pro Series is not one of those titles. It is not an offensively terrible game — just one that has no regard for the current (or last) generation of racing games. When other companies were polishing their PlayStation 2 racers, MTO was working on the GT Advance series for the Game Boy Advance. Portable racers have always gotten a pass for being several years behind the times, so it was a wonder that MTO could create handheld racers that were not too far behind their 32-bit console brethren in quality.
However, when you shift upwards to the console systems, you have to get with the times and take into consideration the positive changes made within the genre. In 2003, MTO released GT Cube, an import-only GameCube racer that underwhelmed on all accounts. As a generic racer that felt like it hit stores five years too late, it surprised absolutely no one that it wasn't picked up by an American publisher for release.
What might surprise you is this: GT Pro Series is merely GT Cube with motion controls. Creating a Wii launch game is just that simple! Any other changes are impossible to detect, as GT Pro Series is the same lame duck it was back in 2003. GT Pro Series patterns itself as a cross between Ridge Racer and Gran Turismo — not the modern sequels, but the original 32-bit classics. Sadly, with shoddy visuals, physics, tracks, and A.I. competitors, GT Pro Series cannot even compete with its decade-old influences, let alone any of the other Wii racers.
The first thing I noticed about GT Pro Series was its complete lack of style or enthusiasm toward racing. You see that often with games that use the GT moniker; from Asphalt GT to GT 64. It seems like GT is merely an acronym for "Generic Title," as they often are just that — boring and bland. From the tracks to the tunes, GT Pro Series brings nothing that hasn't already been done before (and usually much better, at that).
GT Pro Series has just 10 tracks (20, if you count the reverse versions), though I would guess that there are only a half-dozen settings between them. The usual suspects are here, including the sleepy downtown course with the same handful of buildings at every turn, as well as the nighttime highway track with the lengthy, lighted tunnel. A similar course can be seen in R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 (from 1999), as well as every Tokyo Xtreme Racer game to date.
What GT Pro Series does have in spades is licensed cars, with over 80 cars from 10 Japanese manufacturers, including Toyota, Honda, and Daihatsu. Though many familiar models are present, it's much more interesting to check out the unknown Japanese models from common manufacturers. After all, how often do you see a Toyota Vitz or Nissan Cube in America? Each vehicle can be tuned in a number of ways, but many of the parts you earn in the Career mode are largely useless. Hooray for car horns!
Truly, most of your time with GT Pro Series will be spent in the Career mode, which is just as mindless and uninspired as the rest of the game. Events are spread across four difficulty levels, with license tests preceding all but the first set of cups. Unlike Gran Turismo, these license tests are stunningly easy, and feel more like an unnecessary training mode broken up into parts. I never had trouble completing a test on the first try.
Each cup has three races, though the limited set of tracks means you may have to race on the same track twice in any given event. What's more thrilling than racing on a track and then immediately doing it again in the other direction? Many of the events require a particular model or vehicle type, though there are several "Championship Races" in which you can pick any roadster and smoke the competition. With roughly two dozen total cups, you will likely finish this mode in a handful of hours — unless the tedium drives you away.
Aside from the Career mode, GT Pro Series has the expected Time Trial and Quick Race modes, as well as split-screen multiplayer for up to four players. Additionally, the game features a Drift-Combo mode, in which you must execute monster drifts in rapid succession. Only the biggest drifts count towards your total, and I found it tough to string together more than two in a row. The wacky Drift mode in Need for Speed: Carbon handily tops this mode for sheer thrills.
GT Pro Series features six selectable control schemes, with the biggest differences between any of them being the choice of motion or digital steering. The motion controls work as well as in other Wii racers, but it is the steering physics that really bring down the game. Regardless of your input type, the steering never feels precise, and you will over-steer on a regular basis. Using the d-pad feels bizarre in this day and age, but it allowed for much better post-turn recovery.
Like many racers actually released 10 years ago, the A.I. racers in GT Pro Series are incredibly robotic, and rarely stray from their predetermined line. If you happen to get in the way of that line, the computer vehicle will stay angled in the direction toward its intended line and attempt to push its way back. But you won't feel it — though some aspects of the game utilize force feedback (such as driving off-road), you will never feel a thing when you slam into a competitor. What an odd design decision.
Though we have read endless stories of how inferior the Wii hardware is compared to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, we have to expect better visuals than this. Backgrounds haven't looked this pixelated and drab since the 32-bit era, and the cel-shaded vehicles that populate the environments lack any kind of distinctive style or impressive dynamic shadowing. Perhaps the vehicles were cel-shaded to eliminate the need to add detail, as most of the cars maintain a very simple look. It all runs well enough, but you would expect a low-quality engine to perform well on powerful hardware. It's just like buying an old shooter for your pimped-out new PC — it may look shady, but you can bet the framerate will not be an issue.
As you may know, GT Pro Series (along with Monster 4x4 World Circuit) comes packaged with a "Free Steering Wheel." Inside the package are three pieces of black plastic, which snap together to become a wheel-shaped cradle for the Wiimote. Though it does serve its purpose as a Wiimote holder, it seems largely unnecessary. Your kid siblings might get a kick out of it, but I would much rather hold the Wiimote in my hands. It seems like a gimmick, as if the addition of a cheap, plastic toy could somehow make this game worth $50 (it doesn't).
Rather than present itself as an exciting, modern racer, GT Pro Series feels more like an unremarkable PSone game. How can a game this bland and uninteresting compete with the likes of Excite Truck and Need for Speed: Carbon, let alone the scores of racers available on other consoles? Simply put, it can't; and it should be avoided at all costs. If you truly want to use your new console to play an old racing game, nab Mario Kart 64 when it hits the Virtual Console on Monday.