GTR 2 FIA GT Racing Game Review (PC)

Back when I reviewed GTR FIA Racing a year ago for this site, I fell in love with the title. Racing game fans and game modders turned racing game developers (SimBin), published by a company (10tacle Studios) that allowed them to create a racing simulation that was as hardcore as it got was a recipe for success. However, as highly praised as the title was by most reviewers and hardcore racing enthusiasts as it was, it received legitimate complaints that it was a bit too hardcore for the average racing fan. For people who wanted to hop into a Ferrari 360 Modena or a Saleen S7 without knowing the intricacies of trail braking, GTR was an exercise in frustration. It wasn’t uncommon to hear of players spending a week or more simply trying to make a few successive laps around any given course (with all of the driving aids off) without spinning out or turning the car into a scrap heap. GTR2 is obviously a simulation that, while maintaining its excellent physics engine, brings the game back down to Earth a bit, allowing non-gearhead casual fans and hardcore racers alike to enjoy it equally.


The game’s graphics appear to be improved, although they weren’t exactly sloppy to begin with. The biggest difference I noticed this year as opposed to last was the framerate. I had issues with the game playing choppy in a crowd, and even with high-res details (car models and cockpits, for example), I never had the game’s framerate drop to unacceptable levels. My gaming rig is middle of the road by today’s standards (AthlonXP 4000+, 2GB of PC3200 DDR RAM, and a Radeon X800 Platinum), and my video card would be considered the biggest bottleneck on the system, but it still tore through GTR2 in 1280x1024 resolution with 30+ average frames a second (the target for any serious racing fan).

What makes the performance even better is that the game is improved in almost every area. Car liveries are crisp and clean, without textures looking muddy or rough. Smoke and weather effects are drop-dead gorgeous, and the sun glare through your windshield will literally blind you through some corners. It never ceases to amaze me how far developers continue to push the envelope with regard to the visual presentation of games. Chasing vehicles around any given track still makes me grin from ear to ear. Seeing the nose of the car in front of you pitch to the asphalt under hard braking, or watching the tail drift into a lazy spin as you give chase is a sight to behold. In addition to the actual racing visuals, you have a full day/night cycle, detailed weather effects (including rain spraying against your windshield during wet races), fantastic lighting (especially headlight effects), and extremely detailed environments. If one could find complaint with the graphics in GTR2, it would be that the grass textures tend to blend together a bit and create a washed-out look. When I’m nitpicking things like grass textures in a racing game where you should be spending the majority of your time as far away from grass as possible, however… that’s a testament to the fine presentation found within GTR2.


Like last year’s title, GTR2 includes unique sounds for each of the game’s included 140+ touring cars. The number of vehicles included may sound somewhat limited to players weaned on ludicrous numbers of cars found in console titles like Gran Turismo, but considering the fact that each and every vehicle feels distinctly different (and you don’t have thirteen different versions of a Viper, for instance), it’s a staggering number. The engine sounds all appear to be authentic, but since I’ve never sat in the cockpit of a Ferrari 550 in race trim, I can’t say with 100% certainty. I do know that the aforementioned Ferrari sounds much different than a Lister Storm (or any other vehicle), however.

Since most of your time in a racing game is spent listening to the engine’s RPMs, some of the more subtle effects can be missed, and that would be a shame in the case of GTR2. Hearing a fender scrape against a guard rail is much different than slamming a tire stack in a speed break runoff. You can hear the bending of sheet metal as you use the chrome horn to attempt to move a vehicle in front of you out of the way, and the tire screech effects as you push your ride a little further than the rubber wants to go are all very believable. The graphics and audio package combine to make an extremely immersive experience.


Like I’ve mentioned countless times in racing reviews here at Operation Sports, graphics and audio don’t mean a thing without a great physics engine and game play to go with it. Here is where I think you’ll find two very different camps when it comes to GTR2. In one camp, you’ll find the hardcore drivers… guys you’ll see leading the points standings in every online league you come across. Guys that turn laps that seem quicker than humanly possible. Guys who spend countless hours turning virtual wrenches on virtual machines, trying to find that magic turn that will cut another half second off of their Spa lap time. Those guys will probably take exception to GTR2’s new physics engine. Make no mistake about it, GTR2 is much easier to drive than its predecessor. Is that a bad thing? It depends on which camp you’re in, honestly, since the other group includes guys that want to just hop in and turn a somewhat believable lap in a very fast car.

I fall somewhere in between. I can see where the hardcore guys will take exception to the new handling model, but I also believe that the original GTR, while excellent, may have been overly difficult. As I mentioned before, I’ve never driven a Ferrari or Viper around Monza, but I can’t imagine it being difficult to crawl around a track in 3rd gear without losing the tail end braking for a chicane as it was in GTR. I liken it a lot to the progression that Papyrus’ NASCAR Racing 4 made to its NASCAR Racing 2002 Season edition. Sometimes, in order to get realism, you may get unexpected results with regards to traction and ability to control the vehicle. NASCAR 4 felt like driving on ice to the majority of players, and by integrating a new tire model (supplied by Goodyear, no less) into the game, we suddenly had a better, more believable base to work with. Cars behaved more predictably than before, and people found it a bit easier to drive around a track. It still took a phenomenal effort to be fast in the game, but everybody could at least compete. I feel that the same thing has happened here with the GTR to GTR2 revision. The cars, while easier to drive overall, behave a bit more predictably, and will cause far less frustration for less experienced drivers.

Instead of screaming for the heads of the developer, I recommend even the most hardcore enthusiasts to actually take a look at what happened to the game overall with this change. You’ll find guys racing harder into a corner, lines easier to hold, and fewer guys crashing out early. You get better racing overall. Fewer wrecks, more middle-of-the-pack drivers (guys who would quit on the game and never play last year, coincidentally), and a better, more predictable experience overall. It hasn’t degenerated into an arcade game, as I’ve seen posted in some places on the internet, but it did lessen the learning curve some. You can push the car a bit further into a corner than the previous iteration without losing control, but you can’t go completely crazy and brake halfway through a hairpin, either. I firmly believe it’s closer to reality than the previous title, as great as it was. It’s infinitely more enjoyable for a far greater number of people, though.

With that out of the way, it’s time to look at the game play modes. A new Driving School mode allows players to work their way up through progressively difficult lessons, starting from basic acceleration through braking, cornering, and eventually full lap lessons against a ghost car on every track included in the game. With each lesson, you have the ability to unlock new championships (listed under Custom Championships) and run an incredibly long list of different championship seasons. Completing the Driving School will really give you a handle on the tracks and skills required to succeed in GTR2, and getting gold medals in all of the lessons gives you an addictive quality not unlike console titles that reward players for successfully completing missions with the best possible times. It’s a very welcomed addition, to say the least.

In addition to the Driving School, the Open Practice, Time Trials, Race Weekend, and Championship modes (official 2003 and 2004 versions, which seems curious in a 2006 game) return. You also have 24 hour races, which include a full day/night cycle and weather patterns. Races start at 4:00 in the afternoon and run all the way to 4:00 the next day in the 24 hour races, and you have the option to increase time acceleration to 60x, so you have a 24 hour race taking an hour of real time, another smart move. All modes are useful and enjoyable, unlike a lot of racing titles out there that throw out “garbage modes” that help fill the back of the box space but aren’t really much fun to play. I’ve spent considerable time in each mode, and enjoyed all of them in GTR2.
All of the single player modes in the world, however, won’t compare to hopping online and trading the lead with a live, human opponent. Unlike in GTR, I have had an exceptional experience in GTR2. I haven’t had more than a few cars in probably 100+ online races that were warping uncontrollably, and it’s worth noting that a lot of the drivers I ran against didn’t speak English and had obviously foreign user names. If I am able to race eighteen or twenty guys online from European countries in a game successfully, chances are you’ll be fine racing your buddies from around the country. It was rock-solid for me, and it was probably the single greatest fear I had when getting the game. Combine the new physics engine with more stable online play, and you have a game that’s built to last for the long haul; solid multiplayer performance with ease of use.

The online garage returns as well, and I still think that it’s the most brilliant piece of code to ever come down the pipe for a racing simulation. Integrated uploading and downloading of setup files, separated by track, is pure brilliance. The online setup selection is small as of yet, but you’ll still find some users that create setups that suit you, and you end up looking for their files on each particular track (if you’re not into creating your own, that is). With four children, I don’t have the time required to put twenty hours into setup creation on any given track, so the online garage area is like manna from heaven for me. No scouring websites, no unzipping files… just easy, log in and grab files. I loved it last year, I loved it in GT Legends, and I love it in GTR2. The only recommendation I might have for it in its third iteration is sorting the files by car model as well, or perhaps adding a filter that can be set. Sometimes you need to sift through 25 Ferrari 550s (which seems to be the car of choice online for GT class) setups while looking for a Saleen setup.

Bottom Line

As I write this, I know it sounds almost like a PR release for a publisher, but that’s not the case here. I’ve just had so much fun with this game that it’s practically renewed my interest in PC racing single handedly. I’ve sort of hit the proverbial wall… playing a game for a few days, finding some of the repetition boring, and moving on. GTR2 is a title that I haven’t been able to pull out of my DVD tray for several weeks now, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. If you like driving fast, pick up GTR2. If you like racing online, pick up GTR2. If you like racing in single player, pick up GTR2. Basically… pick up GTR2. It’s a smooth, solid, fun racing title with a lot of cars, a lot of tracks, and a whole lot of fun. It looks great, it sounds great, and it drives very believably. The online code is rock-solid, and you can spend hours or minutes setting up a car, depending on which mode you choose to employ… real setup or file download within the game. The only thing that could keep you from enjoying GTR2 is if you hated racing, or didn’t have an average-to-good PC to play it on.

Again, we’re faced with the possibility of an overall score being misinterpreted here at Operation Sports in the span of a couple of weeks. NBA2K7 on the Xbox 360 was awarded a 10/10 a short time ago, but it did so because it was easy to universally recommend it to any gaming fan on the console. In my opinion, GTR2 falls in the same boat. 10/10 looks bizarre considering it normally brings to mind “perfect” arguments, and it’s understandable. But in my mind, there’s not much they could do to make a finer racing game on the planet. It’s extremely fun, it’s as difficult as you want it to be, and far more people will enjoy this iteration than its predecessor. If you miss the boat, it’s definitely not because of me.

Did I make my point yet?


GTR 2 FIA GT Racing Game Score
out of 10