Review: GTR Evolution


The racing game genre encompasses a diverse range of games, from the completely absurd to the extremely realistic. On one end of the scale reside the likes of Mario Kart, where the laws of physics are resolutely ignored and powersliding is not only effective, but often an imperative strategy. The other end of the scale is occupied by a variety of racing simulators, where accuracy is king and any attempt at The Fast and The Furious-style drifting will usually result in disaster.

SimBin Studios make games which fit very much into the latter category. Formerly responsible for the GTR series of grand touring car simulators, their latest release, GTR Evolution is no exception. GTR Evolution is essentially a racing simulator of the most accurate kind, focusing on bringing as many details from the world of circuit auto racing into the game as possible. An expansion to SimBin’s previous title, Race 07, an officially licensed simulator of the World Touring Car Championship, GTR Evolution brings a broader perspective to a game which specialized in touring cars, adding new cars of several different classes, along with new tracks, including the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife, one of the most famous – and infamous – race tracks in the world.

GTR Evolution goes for a more inclusive approach to circuit racing than SimBin’s previous titles, combining the WTCC content of Race 07 with grand touring racers and production-class supercars, giving a great deal of variety and substance to the overall package. As the title of the game implies, the gameplay changes from SimBin’s previous games to GTR Evolution are gradual rather than sweeping, building on a formula which has proven successful for the developers in the past.

Unlike many racing games, GTR Evolution takes an open-world approach to its content, with all of the cars and tracks available to the player immediately. While this lack of a structured approach means that many players may feel lost in their first few hours, it is of great benefit to those players who simply want to install the game and race immediately with the full content of the game.

GTR Evolution offers players an impressive list of options when creating racing events. Single races can be customized as the player sees fit, with options ranging from the number of opponents to race against to the weather conditions, and whether the race should have a practice or qualification event to precede it. The weather options are particularly noteworthy, as not only does the rain cause potentially adverse changes to track physics, but also affects visibility, as raindrops fall onto windscreens and helmet visors in a stunning display of attention to detail that continues throughout the whole game.

It is in the racing action itself that the game begins to pull away from most of the competition. While the cars in many racing games feel lifeless, as if they were simply conforming to formulae to create their expected performance, the cars in GTR Evolution feel completely unique, and more importantly for a racing simulator, absolutely realistic. Even the most minor touches by other developers’ standards have been expressed, including full simulation of tire wear, downforce, road surfaces and even car damage should the player be unlucky enough to crash.


The game weds this adeptly designed physics engine with impressive and adaptive artificial intelligence, which aggressively blocks the player’s progress, jockeys for position and responds and adapts to different situations in the game. They are even programmed to make occasional mistakes, a detail many racing games fail to take into account that increases realism. Indeed, the artificial intelligence is so strong that many players will have to avail of the feature to turn down the virtual racers’ performance.

This attention to detail is also visible in the aesthetic features of the game. While the graphics are merely acceptable by modern standards, lacking the more advanced lighting features of more recent games, the game compensates by adding some very immersive touches. The details range from the easily noted, such as the restrictive view inside a racing helmet and the cockpits of the cars, fully laid out as they would be in reality, to the minor details, such as insect splatters and raindrops on windscreens and helmet visors and the simulation of g-force on the car and the driver.

Most impressively of all, the developers haven’t forgotten the value of good audio, as they have created one of the most magnificent sets of engine recordings ever found in a racing game. From low-rev burbles and moans to high-rev screams, roars and supercharger whine, almost every single sound helps to create the impression of sitting in the real-life analogue of any of the cars in the game. The developers even managed to pick up on the minor details between the several different Caterham and Radical track-day cars in the game, the sorts of differences that only an ear accustomed to listening to an engine could pick out.

Unfortunately, the challenge GTR Evolution provides will prove to be too much for many gamers. Because the game concentrates on realistic driving action, there are very few conceits that the developers could make to plausibly make the game any easier, and as such, the game is unforgiving at any level. To their credit, SimBin has attempted to give the new simulation racer an experience that they can tune to their skill level, adding driver aids and reduced computer skill levels as configurable options, but all of the driver aids in the world will not make the outrageous power of the Koenigsegg CCX or Gumpert Apollo any easier to control.

The controls are another factor which play towards this intense difficulty. While the player can control the cars with a keyboard, mouse or joypad, the outrageous power of many of the cars means that they require too much steering adjustment to be driven with anything other than a wheel peripheral. The expense of a quality force feedback steering wheel, which is highly recommended, is another factor which leaves this as a game best left to the specialist market.

Bottom line: GTR Evolution is a highly realistic and very competent racing simulator with amazing attention to detail, but its uncompromising difficulty will leave many players frustrated.

Recommendation: An essential purchase for fans of the genre, but people interested in purchasing their first racing simulator should consider the difficulty of the game and the cost of a force feedback steering wheel before making their choice.

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