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PS2 Preview - 'Pro Race Driver'

by The Six Billion Dollar Man on Nov. 17, 2002 @ 3:46 a.m. PST

Retaining the series core values of close-contact racing with real cars, real teams, real track, real drivers and an astounding damage engine, Pro Race Driver introduces a character-based narrative and episodic storyline. The game blends real world global championships with a fictional cast; the player takes the central role of aspiring driver Ryan McKane. The heart of the game sees the player advancing Ryan’s career from a test driver to a potential world champion. Ryans races form part of the evolving narrative which involve his racing colleagues and his fiercely competitive family who have a rich heritage in motor racing. We decided to burn some rubber and take our preview build for a spin, check it out!

Today we got our hands on a beta copy of Codemasters’ Pro Race Driver. Yes, it is another racing simulator, but it is actually worthy of its title. Gentlemen, start your engines!

For starters, Pro Race Driver is unique because it actually has a compelling background story, unlike most racing simulators that just involve … racing. You play the role of Ryan McKane, a driver for hire. When Ryan was younger, his father had died on the race track at the hands of another driver. Freudian comments aside, Ryan now wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. In PRD, your work depends on your skill; if you finish at the top of pack, you will receive bigger and better jobs, as well as money bonuses. There are a total of 13 championship titles that span many forms of racing.

Another factor that sets Pro Race Driver apart from other racing simulators is the sheer variety of racing possibilities that it offers. Most games never stray from the established theme, such as NASCAR, Formula 1, off-road, classic, or a minor combination of the themes. PRD takes you through just about every possible form of racing, and you can drive NASCAR, imports, road cars, race cars, and even classics. The game boasts a total of 42 authentic cars, licensed from many of the great auto makers of the world, ranging from the ‘80s to the present. PRD can probably satisfy your auto preferences, however eclectic they may be.

One feature that I feel is essential to any racing simulator is a sense of realism. Too many games have offered awesome cars but are invincible to damage. This is not true with Pro Race Driver, as your cars can – and will! – take damage if you’re not careful. The damage not only limits itself to the cosmetic aspect but also impacts the inner workings of the car. Too many head-on collisions and side swipes, and your car will become difficult to handle. This game finally adds a sufficient damage system to the rather upscale racing simulators. Gone are the days of slamming into a wall at 150 mph and having your car look like it just came off the showroom floor. To add to the realism, there are also weather conditions to worry about. Feel like being a daredevil? Try hauling booty in a full-on storm.

Challenging tracks set in exotic global locales are another feature that makes Pro Race Driver a great racing game. There are a total of 37 tracks – modeled after actual race tracks – from all across the world on which you can race your heart out. You have your stock car tracks, race car tracks, and everything in between, so you’ll never have to have to race on the same map over and over again. So far, this game is looking mighty good.

The graphics fit this game perfectly. Granted, these aren’t your mind-blowing Grand Turismo graphics, but the GT folks didn’t allow for destructible car models, so PRD’s car graphics won’t get any complaints from me. The camera angles in this game are also great; you have the option of your regular behind-car view or behind-the-wheel view, as well as your side and front views. Each track is, as you know, modeled after actual race tracks, so don’t expect winding paths around mountains or racing through forests. Each track has the standard track look but is still unique in its own way.

The sound is also well done. Each car has a different engine sound which is refreshing, and the general ambient sounds are well represented, like the sound of scraping metal and shattering glass when cars crash into each other. The one thing that the game is currently lacking is some background music to help you get into the racing groove, so perhaps Codemasters will add some in the final version.

All of the expected car racing controls are present in Pro Race Driver, but they’re enhanced by the game’s utilization of Playstation 2’s pressure-sensitive buttons, a feature that hasn’t been implemented in too many games. I have a minor complaint about the braking, which seems to lock up the car’s movements, subsequently causing problems on some turns, but maybe that’s how they intended it to be. As for game control, you are given loads of options. You can control just about everything in Pro Race Driver, right down to customizing your car. Suspension to tight? Loosen it up. Not enough speed? Change your gear ratio. Short of changing your paint job, you have complete control over the entire car. There is also the two player aspect so the replay value of the game just received an extra boost of goodness.

Overall, I am extremely pleased and entertained by P.R.D. It combines all of the greatest aspects of current racing simulators out today, and this is only a beta so I can’t wait to see what the final version will look like. Codemasters has an excellent product on their hands and has entertained one serious gamer. Perhaps we will see some online possibilities in the final version … ;)

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