Reviewed: November 30, 2007
Released: October 1, 2007
I love racing games and despite the overwhelming migration to console, the PC is still the best place to experience the genre. The more powerful PC’s allow for ultra-realistic simulation and minute graphical details you just can’t get, even on next-gen consoles, plus there is no substitute for playing any racing game with my Logitech G25 racing wheel.
Two of the best PC racers of this generation is SimBin’s GTR and GT Legends (I still play them regularly, even after two years), so I was understandably excited when I learned that these racing wizards were raising the stakes (and the bar) for all racing games to follow with their latest release, Race 07.
First, let me say that Race 07, like the previous games, is a hardcore racing “simulation”, not for the faint of heart, the impatient driver, or those who don’t like to tinker with their car setups for hours prior to a race. If your idea of a simulation is Forza or PGR then don’t even get behind the wheel. Race 07 is where “real racers” come to play.
Race 07 includes the full FIA WTCC 2007 season with all the cars and tracks as well as several new support classes, plus you also get the complete 2006 season that was included in last year’s WTCC game. In addition to all that we now get to explore the exciting world of single-seat action with Formula cars such as the Formula 3000 and Formula BMW as well as Radical sports cars like the SR3 and SR4, making this the most comprehensive racing title for the PC to date.
To complement these cars, we get all-new tracks that wind through cities (Formula style) as well as new track layouts and a reversed track option. Plus, anyone who knows anything about Formula racing knows just how fragile these cars really are, and the new enhanced damage model allows you to experience this vulnerability firsthand.
So, to break it down, we have 300 cars spread across 9 classes, and 32 real-life courses (tracks and city) from all around the globe. Throw in some new community features and incredible online racing and the ability to totally tweak your cars, even down to custom skins, and you have the ultimate racing title for 2007.
Race 07 is all about choices, and it all starts with how you want to race and what you want to race. In Race Event you have full control of numerous options to tailor the racing experience exactly the way you want to play. For those wanting to play against their friends on a single PC, the Time Attack mode allows racers to turn out their best laps and save their “ghost”, then switch seats and let their friends challenge their performance.
Practice mode is the best way to learn the track layouts, get a feel for the cars, and test various car setups. Championship mode is the core of Race 07, allowing you to experience the 2006 or 2007 WTCC season in all its realistic glory, even down to the unique 2-race format where the grid is reversed for the second race of the event. Championship mode is quite the commitment, taking you around the world to all the tracks.
The Custom Championship basically allows the player to tweak all sorts of settings and creating their own customized series of races. You can limit the cars, tracks, and even disable some of the rules like the weight penalty option. Simply make your choices and the game will create a new championship file that meets your demands.
And then we come to Multiplayer, with support for up to 24 drivers on a LAN or over the Internet. There is also the option to fill out the grid with some surprisingly intelligent “bots” in case you can’t find 23 other people wanting to race. Joining or hosting a game is very easy, with some simple menu screens, and you can even setup your own dedicated Race 07 server if you want.
I should probably reinforce just how good the AI is, especially since a lot of your time will be spent in the single-player modes where everyone but you is controlled by the computer. The computer is relentless and ruthless, putting on the pressure, flashing their lights, and taking aggressive action to force you to make that critical mistake that will cost you the race. Their aggression is scalable and you can tweak this in the settings, but make no mistake, the computer AI is just as good as most of the human opposition I have raced against.
A racing game is only as good as it controls and SimBin has already proven they are experts when it comes to recreating a realistic driving experience. While Race 07 offers support for mouse steering, keyboard, and even a gamepad, there is just no substitute for a good racing wheel. You are allowed to create several controller profiles so it was easy for me to try out all my options. I must admit, the new control system for the gamepad has been greatly improved, so if you simply don’t have a wheel your Xbox 360 controller (or any other gamepad with analog triggers) will offer a reasonable substitute.
It’s worth noting that Race 07 offers the hands-down, best force feedback experience of any game to date. Personally, I feel so connected with my car, and in turn, the track, that I honestly couldn’t play the game without my G25 wheel. Each and every subtle vibration and even my ability to “feel” when I’m about to lose traction just can’t be recreated with a rumble gamepad. It’s beyond description really – you just have to experience it. And SimBin has included profiles for all the popular wheels including my G25.
Race 07 really shines when it comes to the small details. How small? How about individual bugs and dirt particles that accumulates on your windshield or helmet visor. I haven’t seen this level of detail in a racing game ever, and it totally immerses you in the experience. Thankfully, your cars have functioning wipers to clear away the water and insects.
The damage model is intense, and goes far beyond visual representation, which is outstanding in its own right. The game keeps track of all sorts of systems, and as they are damaged your car’s performance will degrade in the appropriate area. Minor damage can be patched up in the pits but slamming your Formula racer into the wall at 200mph usually means you’ll be watching the rest of the race with the fans.
Race 07 is an amazing looking game that starts with some of the best tracks and cars and goes as far as modeling individual raindrops to streak across your windshield as they are blasted by the force of the wind. All of the tracks are based on real-world locations, so you can’t really credit the team with designing, but you can give them props for recreating these tracks with stunning detail. Chance are, most of us will never get to visit these locations in our lifetime, but with Race 07 you’ll feel that you’ve been to places like Monza, Imola, Zandvoort and Brands Hatch, or have vacationed in exotic cities with circuits like Pau, Porto, Macau and the unique Vara Raceway.
The car models are fantastic. With more than 300 cars there are some obvious similarities, at least in models, but with unique paint and decal kits, plus the ability to custom-skin your own cars, the possibilities are endless. Physics is perfectly modeled and you can watch all of the components of the car work just like they would in real-life with a weight and balance as cars careen around turns or the wheels move under their own working suspension.
There are multiple views to play the game and re-watch the race. Serious racers will certainly want to race from the realistic cockpit view with fully functional instrument package. It’s the best way to experience that aforementioned rain and bug system, plus Race 07 supports the Track-IR system that maps your head movement so you can quite literally look around your cockpit and make the best use of your rearview mirrors. You can review your performance from numerous angles and TV-style views and even a detachable free-floating camera. These views are the best way to appreciate the stunning visual design of Race 07.
As you might expect from what I’ve described, Race 07 comes with a hefty list of system demands that might send some racers in search of upgrades. The game does scale nicely to fit with lesser systems and rises to the occasion should you own a “super system”, but you’ll need to meet the minimum requirement to have any chance of playing this game. The more tech you can throw at this game the more fun you’ll have. SimBin has included a great new feature that monitors your race experience and “suggests” changes to improve your experience. Obviously, draw distance and shadows are the first to go.
Race 07 really roars to life in the sound department with realistic engine sounds for all the various car types. You won’t be mistaking the jet-like scream of a Formula racer with a Mini Cooper anytime soon. Things get really loud when the cars are packed together, either at the starting line or as they bunch up in the tight turns. The engines create a unique harmony that can really drive a good sound system. I hang out at the Texas Motor Speedway a lot and this game really captures that ambience of being at the track.
The music is forgettable, kept to the menus where it belongs, but there is some excellent voice work. In all, Race 07 delivers a solid audio experience that rivals reality.
The very nature of the racing genre lends itself to infinite replayability, and with the sheer number of cars, tracks, and racing modes, both online and off, there is nothing to make you stop playing Race 07 until Race 08 arrives. Again, this is a serious racing simulation that demands a significant time investment, not only in learning the tracks and subtleties of the various cars, but also in tweaking setups for weather conditions and other racing variables.
There is a flourishing online community full of opposition and support. Forums offer help with anything from car setup suggestions to tutorials on how to skin your car. When you play Race 07 you become part of a family of dedicated race fans.
Race 07 is an amazing simulation that pushes the PC to the limits. It’s also pushing the current GTR game engine as well, and it might be time for a major overhaul before we see a sequel. Even at its best, Race 07 is starting to show its age, and if Race 08 tries to milk this engine for another year the franchise could lose its loyal fan base.
But for the time being, if you want to experience the most realistic racing simulation currently available for the PC, climb behind the wheel of any of the 300 cars in Race 07 and take this monster for a test drive. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.