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Hands-on: RACE Pro

David Craddock

To say that Sweden-based developer SimBin is kind of good at creating simulation racers would be akin to saying that Shigeru Miyamoto has marginally influenced the direction of video games. Racing, quite frankly, is SimBin's forte. With almost as many accolades as Mario Andretti has championship wins, SimBin has truly mastered the PC as their platform of choice on which to create realistic racing simulations.

That's all well and good, but how will such a thorough level of authenticity transfer over to the Xbox 360, a device with fixed hardware and eight buttons of input? SimBin's answer comes in the form of RACE Pro, a simulation racer developed specifically for the Xbox 360, and one we took for a test drive at a recent Atari press event.

Whether you only want to take your dream car for a quick jaunt around a course or you're ready to start an entire virtual career, SimBin features a variety of modes to get racing fans on the road as quickly as possible. Single Race works as you'd expect: pick a car, hop in the seat, and drive around the track of your choice -- carefully, too, since SimBin's specialty of ultra-realism has been faithfully secreted into RACE Pro.

Career Mode is where SimBin hopes most racers will spend the majority of their time. Players start at the bottom of the ladder driving simple sports cars as they work to earn contracts that bequeath better and better machines. Thirty-four contracts are available for the taking, with each contract lasting for three races. So long as you place high, you'll earn big bucks, which can then be spent on better contracts that allow you to drive Formula racers, production cars, World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) machines and more.

Reputation is sometimes more important than the depth of your bank account. Performing well during races might cause sponsors to approach you with prestigious contracts good for one race with a high-end car.

RACE Pro's 15 tracks are expert recreations of actual courses found around the world. Many have been featured in past SimBin titles, but some, such as the U.S.-based Laguna Seca and Road America, are exclusive to RACE Pro. Traversing the tracks is made somewhat easier by a glowing line that extends before your car as you drive, twisting and wall-hugging slightly before each turn so that drivers will know when they need to start pumping the brakes to ease around the bend.

And ease you should, so long as you don't want to batter your car to the point of immobility. This isn't Need for Speed, son -- if you treat this game like an arcade racer, you probably won't be able to finish many races. Tearing down a straightaway is one thing, but don't expect any fancy drifting around corners unless you've given yourself a sufficiently wide berth. Pit crews are available to make most repairs, but if your car suffers too much damage, you won't be able to finish the race.

All aspects of RACE Pro can be heavily tweaked to allow for simplistic, medium, or hardcore levels of simulation driving. Each individual piece of every available car -- from suspension, tires, the wheel, brakes all the way to damage models -- can be modified, helps even the most casual of drivers have fun without getting bogged down in stats.

Given the Xbox 360's plethora of arcade racers, RACE Pro looks to be a breath of fresh, rubber-scented air for console gamers. Look for it to race into disc drives this November.

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