Towards the end of last year I picked up GTR – the official simulation game of the FIA GT Racing championship, on the recommendation of someone on a motor sports forum I frequent.
To say it has a steep learning curve would be a collosal understatement. The learning curve is vertical, and that’s coming from someone who’s no stranger to racing sims. I cut my sim teeth on Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix, back on my Amiga, and I’ve saught out simulation style games for each of the racing series’ I’ve had an interest in over the years, from Formula One to IndyCar Series. With all that history in my virtual racing resume, I think I can safely say that initially GTR is the most frustrating and least rewarding game I have ever experienced.
I’m playing GTR with a Logitech force feedback steering wheel and pedals – essential if you’re to stand a chance with this game. You need to feel every single bit of feedback from the car you’re driving, and each of them have their own quirks that must be interperated through each vibration and change of weight relayed through the wheel.
From the beginning I knew I’d have to get myself up to scratch to race in an online league run by the guy who’d introduced me to the game. With hindsight this probably made it more frustrating due to the pressure I was putting on myself to improve at first. On more than one occasion I thought about throwing in the towel, due to sheer exasperation with reeling off lap after lap of Barcelona, a circuit I know very well, but only managing one clean lap in ten. By the time the league was ready to roll in January I felt I was ready only to assume my place at the back of the grid and simply struggle along with it.
What transpired was that in one of our practice races the penny finally dropped. I’m not sure what it was but I suddenly developed a feel for what the car was doing underneath me. Don’t get me wrong – six months after first turning a wheel I still find the game can be infuriatingly harsh. It’s just that now I realise that’s the point. It’s a simulation in every sense of the word – if I was driving a real Mosler without all due care and attention around some of the toughest racetracks in the world then I’d be bound to make more than a few mistakes.
The key is most definitely concentration – if you allow your mind to wander it’s almost a given that you’ll screw up. Over the 45 minute races that we’ve been running in the league, there isn’t a single person who doesn’t make the odd error. Wins are usually the reward for the driver who makes the least mistakes, rather than the man with the fastest car on the day.
A few races into the racing season and I’ve tasted the highs, the lows, and the kick-myself disappointments that have come with making a schoolboy errors which have cost me wins and points a plenty. The strange thing is, even with the frustrations, I’m really enjoying the game now, and that seemed as impossible as the handling model when I first started.
Granted, I’ve lucked out and found a great group of guys to race against in the dubiously named Wanker Cup, but I also think I’ve found a simulation game that really does reward hard work and perseverance. I cant wait for GTR 2 to arrive later this year.