Demo Driver 8: RACE 07 (#118)
Some games are very easy to evaluate based on a minority of information.
RACE 07 is a game based on a certain philosophy of racing games. Within that context, I can tell that it does quite well, even in the demo, of conveying that exact philosophy. If you’re fond of that philosophy, the game itself will leave most other possible games dead in the water with only minimal effort. It’s a game that clearly believes in a specific kind of racing game. The demo shows that off wonderfully.
It is not a kind of racing game that I like. It is, in fact, the kind of game that I actively avoid. Which leaves me in the awkward position of praising the demo for very effectively showing me what the full game is all about and what it wants to be while at the same time not wanting to pick it up or even think about it ever again.
Let me start out with a diversion. To me, the best racing game ever created is Split/Second. This is a game with no licensed cars, no official tracks, and very few traces of what actual racing is like. What it does feature is a whole lot of things blowing up on your command, mechanics for generating bigger explosions, and an engine based around drifting and hitting the accelerator at all possible times.
The reasoning here is simple. The developers of Split/Second believed – as do I – that what we’re really interested in seeing when we’re watching a race is the spectacle. A video game lets you bring that spectacle onto a bigger arena with more interaction than would otherwise be possible. You can race along an airport tarmac and dodge a plane crashing onto that tarmac because this is a game and you have literally anything in the world to work with. The thrill isn’t about whether or not you see a Ferrari, it’s about whether or not that Ferrari is swinging wildly along an insane course and dodging missiles from an attack helicopter. At that point, you might as well be driving a Miata or some off-brand car you’ve never heard of.
That’s one extreme. The other extreme is what RACE 07 adheres to, where races are meant to be sober, disciplined, structured affairs. In other words, you’re not concerned about the spectacle, you’re concerned about the sport.
When you load up RACE 07‘s demo, it immediately presents you with your options: two tracks, two types of race, two cars for the touring version and one car for the F1 version. All right. Then you can go in and customize your car, which involves setting the tension on individual wheels and brakes and I’m sorry, thank you, I’m done now. There is no meaningful way for me to critique this. If you cannot get enough of fine-tuning the performance of a car’s suspension, I can say that this is a game which features it. Does it do a good job of that? Maybe? It certainly features it.
So this is an excellent demo, because it tells me exactly the sort of game that I am playing. My usual approach of executing stylish drifts and hammering the accelerator does not work, unless my goal was sliding out of control on every corner and slamming into barriers. Of course, it also features remarkably understated mechanics for damage. They’re there, yes, and there is helpfully a setting that allows you to choose how big an impact damage can have on the race. But even at high settings, hitting a barrier at 200 kph results in listed damage and an otherwise intact vehicle, not the mangled pile of wreckage slowly cartwheeling away down the field that you’d expect to see. I suppose it’s to prevent people like me from playing the game that way, so mission accomplished.
Even moving away from your car’s suspension, as I hinted, there are a lot of options. Want your race to consist of twenty laps with four other cars? Go for it. Want to fine-tune the weather? You’ve got it. I assume this is all largely accurate in terms of how it affects performance and the like. All very detailed, all very ornate, all about as useful to me personally as a bicycle to an oyster.
The game’s graphics are serviceable, neither spectacular nor terrible; picture Gran Turismo 3 and you about have it, I think. It’s been a long time since I played that game, I could be wrong. Of course, that game was also released in 2001; RACE 07‘s release date is implied by the title. Music on the menus is energetic and rather catchy, but music in the actual races is nonexistent. The net result is that it just hammers home the idea to me that this is a game about sober and serious racing, not something frivolous. Or maybe it’s genuinely more exciting for someone this way. Again, I can’t critique this effectively.
I didn’t win a single race in my time spent on the demo. The game follows a style which I am not very good at playing, but beyond that I sort of accepted that this was a game build around a model I don’t find fun. This is a game wherein you race the course, memorize the turns, brake and accelerate with precise timing, shaving seconds off of your time each time you go through the course. Familiarize yourself carefully or you will lose. Practice over and over. And your reward is… more racing of the same variety.
This is not a reward I find compelling or worth the practice it would require. Maybe you find it immensely rewarding. If so, here’s your game. You will be very happy with it.
Looking up more about the game, it certainly met with positive reviews. Which I can understand. Looking at the shape of it, it seems to do a very good job of hitting the notes it’s trying for, and I wouldn’t suggest that those notes are somehow invalid simply because I don’t care for this sort of gameplay. I find this style of play almost painfully boring, but if you like these very simulation-oriented racing games, it certainly seems like it’d be right for you. And the demo does an excellent job of conveying exactly what sort of product the full game will be, much to its credit.
So where do we end off? RACE 07 is a game that has its goals and hits them quite well. If your preferences for games are anything like mine, you will not enjoy it in the least and should not accept it as a gift. If you grasp your chin thoughtfully and hum at the thought of fine-tuning your car’s performance, this may be an excellent addition to your gaming library. Have fun!