Moving onto the single player game you're swamped with a huge amount of options. If you're a hardcore fan of the series you might fancy jumping straight into the FIA-GT 2003 or 2004 official Championship. In this mode you get to choose the car you want to race and then take on the tracks in the order they were raced in. Be warned, however - without tinkering with the in game options you could end up taking on a race that lasts upwards of 3 hours. This leads me onto my first criticism - does anyone really want this kind of realism, especially as the default option?
In one of the races you get the chance to compete in a full 24 hour competition. You can, thank the lord, tone this down to a 24 minute race but what really confuses me is the idea that anyone would actually want to spend 24 hours of their life racing round the same track in a game. The rewards for competing in such a race are no greater than competing in the shortened 24 minute version, and secondly – surely there are health issues (physical and mental) with anyone who wants to spend an entire day racing round the same course whilst sitting at their computer. Surely someone from the medical profession should help these people.
Click to Enlarge
I suppose the answer to this puzzling question is the racing enthusiast's desire for authenticity. Die-hard racing fans will be chomping at the bit to waste days driving round the same track over and over again. I am, unfortunately, not that person. The realistic time element of the game is mirrored by the realistic way the cars handle. The driving is not forgiving; make a mistake and the computer won't let you off the hook by keeping the computer within catching distance. Instead you'll be left dwindling at the back of the race screaming obscenities into your monitor. I found this non-existent margin for error, although completely realistic, hugely annoying. After committing twenty minutes or so to a race, only to make one small mistake and have that entire time wiped out, isn't my idea of fun.
This realism does bring a whole new dynamic to the gaming experience however. Holding on to your position in a race, whilst watching the guy behind you in your rear view mirror is a tense, nail-biting experience (well obviously not nail-biting because then how would you hold the steering wheel but... well, you get the point). Unlike other games, you're constantly worrying that at any moment you will make a mistake and that such a mistake will forfeit all the good work that you have done. If you allow yourself to get submerged in a race properly, then it becomes an experience the likes of which cannot be achieved in other racing games on the PC.
The game offers three difficulty levels: novice, semi-pro and simulation. Within these difficulties you can tweak settings to try and find the mode of play that compares to your own driving skill. This takes a fair amount of time and my advice to new drivers is to crank everything right down to begin with, before pushing things up. I struggled at novice level with most of the help settings (such as assisted braking and automatic gear control) turned on. As much as the GTR development team want to make this game more accessible, the truth is that it still won't be the choice of any regular Joe Bloggs who fancies playing at being Nigel Mansell
Taking part in a championship is not the only way to get racing kicks in GTR 2. You can tuck into some time trials to practice and refine your skills on a particular track and you can also get involved in some multiplayer action. One option you're allowed to fiddle with before a race is damage, which can be scaled up to 200%. This means all car damage is doubled, a brillaint option for destruction crazed maniacs like me. This adds a layer of fun to races (especially in multiplayer) as you try and clatter into one another to knock off the panels, tyres and everything else that makes up your opponents car.
As fun as that is it does lead onto a frustration I have with the way the in-game engine works. Despite all the realism, I found that I could work out areas of tracks where I could cut corners and not receive a penalty. I also found that by timing it just right I could ram into the cars in front of me to aid me getting round a corner as fast as possible. These are probably both immoral things, that no serious racer would do but I was surprised at the ease with which I was able to get around the system without incurring a penalty.
This game in many ways is a great way of finding out more about your own gaming personality. If, unlike me, you're something of a gaming perfectionist then a game like this is exactly what you're looking for, a 'Microsoft Flight Simulator' for racing car enthusiasts. If however you're like me then you turn to games to provide entertainment, enjoyment and fun. This is hardcore, racing simulation done superbly. Despite this it's a game designed for a niche target audience.
Read on for our take on GTR 2's graphics, what controls work best and why we think this game contains some of the best sound you'll hear outside of Silverstone.