Automotive racing simulations are not new and, if you're like me, you may be approaching this review with the thought of "here we go again, another racing game". I encourage you to set aside any assumptions and read this review with an open mind. While it may be difficult to imagine that another hit to the heavily-flogged horse that is racing simulations can feel fresh, somehow this title has defied the odds.
I suspect you are now asking yourself - aside from the demanding system requirements - "what could this game possibly offer that is new?" I could answer that question by simply listing all the car models, tracks, and progression points (which I do a bit of below anyway), but I think this release proves that the enjoyment derived from a game can't always be measured by sheer numbers alone.
Philosophy aside, World Racing 2 (WR2) does provide a number of measurable features which add to the enjoyment of the game. More than ninety different cars from seventeen different manufacturers are available, and each model sports distinct handling attributes. Cars can also be driven in a number of unique visual environments. From peeling through small rural towns to following tracks that cross the landing strips of aircraft carriers, this game serves up some great visuals. Even when I turned in the wrong direction and drove way off course, the game continued to offer unique graphical surroundings that added to my enjoyment as I struggled to find my way back into the course.
Rather than simply have you progress through monotonous racetracks, Synetic has stepped up the challenge through the use of different race types, a sprinkling of civilian traffic, complex AI computer opponents and a point system called "speedbucks". Speedbucks are earned through good racing habits, but will also be deleted for unsportsmanlike conduct, i.e. a deduction is applied after the player takes a shortcut. With this in mind, players who are collecting these points should be careful not to "cut corners" on their race lines. Since speedbucks also provide the only means for upgrading car models, players can choose to focus on accruing them in addition to race standings.
One aspect of WR2 that is not always present in other PC racing simulations is the ability to play either split-screen with an opponent who is on the same computer or multiplayer against other remote users. The variety of multiplayer options adds a fresh dimension to the game and really goes toward upping the replay value.
If you enjoy listening to music while you drive, you will most likely enjoy the standard music tracks included with the game. For those who want to change it up and throw on their own tunes, WR2 features an options that lets players add custom music to the in-game playlist.
With any racing game, the key question is "how does it play?" Each vehicle in the game has unique handling characteristics, the game offers a sense of speed, and is an enjoyable racer on the PC. The game also offers a damage model, and while not as in-depth as what you'd find in TOCA Race Driver 3, it's appropriate for the game. The combination of graphics, AI in the competing cars, realistic and unique handling associated with each car and the challenging track designs make this an enjoyable racing game. The game is a third-person racer, allowing you to take in the scenery around the tracks as you race.
Some players will find the computer generated "civilian" driven obstacle cars to be a negative aspect of the game since they tend to bounce around the road in an erratic manner. However, after playing the game for a while you will agree that this adds to the challenges of the race in a positive way.
When I was asked to compare World Racing 2 to other automotive racing games I have played. Trying to answer this question uncovered the thing I most enjoyed about this game, it felt fresh. It wasn't as limiting as open wheel track games, nor as repetitive as a NASCAR game, or as vulnerable as motorcycle games usually are. It didn't seem to impose as many rules as other games, just let you drive. Strap on that helmet, and we'll see you on the track.