I've ran the championships a run once, currently working on my second run-through of the game. The time I've clocked in this game is closer to 40-ish hours than the 24 it says; the game launches a launcher (for file permissions) before it launches and when the launcher closes, Steam no longer says I'm in-game.
ANYWAY. Right, review time.
- GRAPHICS. For a game made almost 9 years ago, the graphics hold up well. Vehicle liveries are clear and easy to read, cockpit decals are clear, and you can read the speed off your in-dash display. (All this, of course, can be downscaled, or in the case of the in-dash display, completely turned off.)
- REALISTIC DAMAGE. Run your engine too hard and it'll blow out. Hit a wall wrong and your splitter may come off which will make your vehicle tend to understeer, or you might have a blowout which will cause the vehicle to pull to that side. Your engine may even catch fire if you're running it at too much throttle. (This can be turned off.)
- TUNING. You can tune the cars almost how you'd like (within reason, of course!) and the minor differences in tuning can be felt on the track. The game includes native support for MoTeC, a powerful tool used in real-world motorsport, to be used for track data acquisition. (Sadly, the MoTeC acquisition is not live - you can't have it on one monitor and showing live changes in speed, steering wheel angle, etc.) Note that MoTeC is not included with the game, and you should either be familiar with the tool or search for a GTR2 worksheet, as well as how to use the data in tuning your vehicle before it will be useful to you at all.
- GOOD AI. Most of the AI will follow a realistic racing line, including when passing a wreck under yellow, overtaking or allowing someone to overtake, or recovering from a wreck. You can even adjust how strongly the AI performs (I believe it goes 75% strength to 125%?) as well as how their racing style is (Timid, Clean, Realistic, Aggressive, Psychotic I believe the choices are).
- DAY/NIGHT CYCLE. This is surprisingly one of the things I like most about GTR2. The game includes a day/night cycle which you can adjust the speed on in the menus. It goes from realtime (24 hours == 24 hours) all the way to 60× (24 minutes == 24 hours) and the opponent vehicles will turn their headlights on at dusk and off at dawn.
- WEATHER EFFECTS. This isn't as surprising considering many modern games have it, but remember: this was made in 2006. It comes with basic rain effects (road mist, rain fall, rain splash on windscreen) and rain strongly affects traction in 4 stages, shown by the track condition with increasing amount of traction loss: Dry, damp, wet, and flooded. You also have 3 different types of tyres: Slicks (with 3 degrees of compound softness), intermediates, and wet tyres (with 2 degrees of compound softness).
- MODDING. The game makes itself easy to mod. Want a new livery for that car you've been eyeing? Go online, find a template and make one. You don't even need to place it in GTR2's archive files if you don't want to, the game will load loose files. You can add custom music as well (note: it plays in order of filename, 0-9 then A-Z).
All-in-all the bits above are what make the game great.
- PROGRESSION. Yes, a simulator game... with progression. In order to unlock tracks, you need to win different championships (under the CUSTOM tab in the championships menu) and in order to unlock the different championships, you need to - of all things - get the gold award in the driving school levels. NOTE: This can be bypassed by placing a blank file titled SDNDTG.DYN in the root GTR2 folder.
- NOT UPDATED. There is an updated patch of the game which solves some issues, such as Hockenheimring's AI not turning off their pitlane speed limiter after exiting pitlane, which was not released on Steam. The version you get is incompatible with versions using the most updated version, unless you manually patch the game.
- NOT ALL CARS INCLUDED. Ferraris and Porsches are included with the game, however due to the Steam game's design you would need to manually do some stuff to the files in order to drive them - I'd go into detail but it's not permitted by the Guidelines, so if you must know, you can search it. If you do NOT do this, some championships are cut from the game, and any Porsche or Ferrari you see will be from a manufacturer titled "Gray MTR" and unable to be driven outside of tutorial, or if you are able to get the game to glitch where you're able to drive.
- TOUCHY HANDLING. If you play with an XBox 360 controller as I do, you might be surprised in that the deadzone is virtually nonexistant. You have to gently nudge the joystick in order to take a turn, and speed-sensitive steering only goes up to a certain amount. Not a major con, and some people certainly may prefer this driving style over the traditional "smash joystick against detent" style on consoles, but it certainly takes some getting used to.
This game has aged quite well over the years from what I can see. All-in-all it's a decent game, though I would NOT recommend it if you prefer more arcade-styled racing games, such as Burnout: Paradise, Forza Horizon et al. I've got to give it a solid 8 out of 10 personally.
Edited 2015-04-08 23:27Z to fix a fragmented sentence.
Edited 2015-04-08 23:30Z to re-organize a sentence in the damage section.