Sports Car GT

EA’s detailed racing sim gets down and serious.

Sports Car GT tends to lean towards action racing but does so in the authentic context of a professional racing league and detailed physics modeling. In some sense it’s a less demanding version of NASCAR Racing, with enough intricacies and realism to elevate it above the arcade threshold but with a lenient learning curve designed to aid beginners.

3_1The game is a real treat for the eyes if not for the ears. Both cars and tracks are flat-out gorgeous representations of their real-life counterparts. They have very natural looking shapes and some fun special effects such as rain reflections and flickering brake lights. The driving model is a grand achievement. While it lacks the technical sophistication of Grand Prix Legends, it models weight transfer, traction, and inertia in a way that feels “just right” while remaining reasonably simple to learn. It’s only a shame the sound isn’t as authentic.

If the car is balanced right, it’s a real joy to sling it wildly into the corners and squeak the tires around the turns. This is exactly the kind of driving model that all racing games aimed at beginners should have. It’s fun, easy to jump into, and the skills learned here will transfer well to more challenging racing simulations. Cars are initially challenging to control – you’ll certainly need a driving wheel, as the keyboard just isn’t precise enough to keep you out of a spin. Yet here too the game cuts you some slack, allowing for driving aids that tries to correct and avoid oversteering.

Most racing sims fake the behavior of the AI cars, making them seem like soulless automatons. Your opponents in this game are thankfully far more human than that. Using a physics model similar to the player’s, they move in a very lifelike fashion, rolling on their suspension, adjusting for traffic, and occasionally making very believable mistakes. Cars swerve vigorously in a pack and frequently try to run you off the road unless you bump them to assert your position.

Backmarker cars also refuse to move over and let faster cars through, even after honking the horn or flashing headlights at them. This stunningly rude behavior is combined with a system that doesn’t penalize anyone for improper conduct. Want to take revenge on an impertinent driver? Tap his rear corner and send him spinning into the dirt. You have nothing to lose.

18_1The biggest problem with Sports Car GT is that it is, quite frankly, a total flirt. It makes moves suggestive of a serious simulation then inexplicably turns around and backpedals once you try to give it due attention. True, the physics are very good, the garage adjustments are impressively vast, and endurance races up to 72 hours are an option for those insane enough. On the other hand, the game encourages un-sportsmanlike driving, no telemetry options are available, and there is no option to save endurance races in progress.

Sports Car GT is a supreme ride for those barely acquainted with racing sims, and thus comes highly recommended for first-timers looking for a good game to bridge the gap between action racer and simulation, or for intermediate drivers unconcerned about field size, correct flagging, and “proper” AI behavior. It may seem contradictory to think of a game offering ultra-endurance racing as anything but hardcore to the extreme, but that’s simply the nature of this beast.

System Requirements: P II 233 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 320 MB HDD, Windows 95/98

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