review – GTR reloaded

long time without any updates here. i’m sorry for the absence but i wasn’t able to spend that much time over the summer.

but, i haven’t missed the release of GTR reloaded (or GTR evolution) and after getting my copy at the local game shop i was really keen on putting this piece on my pc. the most interesting thing is the official nordschleife and how the game perform compared to the former 3rd party nordschleife versions for GTR2. so here is a 2-hour review, a kind of first impression.

installation:
well, nothing really exciding here. after starting the setup you’ll get the choice of installing an offline or online version. since i have never spent that much time online i went for the offline version, just to avoid to get ’steam‘-ed. i do not understand the concept of having two versions. after waiting for the copy process of about 3.2 gig onto the harddisc without any spectacular screens or whatsoever, the installation ends with the common questions about opening related information and the placement of icons all over if not deselected. the well known configurator tool let’s you choose a few settings with the ’since GTR1′ non telling antialiasing settings level1 to levelx.

start:
the start of the game takes unusually long and i assume this time is needed to load those fancy looking intro videos. as a frequent player i’m always anoyed by this but i have seen some nointro mods around the net. the intro videos are not bad at all but they don’t reach the race feeling of the GTR2 intro. overall, a lot of work for something which will be skipped by most of the people out there.
the look and feel of the main screen is quite clean and well structured but different to GTR or GTR2. it requires some minutes to check where is what and the approach is not really straight forward in my oppinion.

setup:
the setup of the game is similar to former titels but with a new structure. the often communicated as confusing menues are kind of shuffled and still not telling. with former experience, it is not that hard to set up the game but for newbies it will take some tests to find the right setup. the first major disappointment is the lack of surround sound. this is something i can’t understand since the release of GTR. a new feature is the so called ‚performance manager‘. this function tries to balance the settings so that the system is able to provide a certain, user selected, frame rate. unfortunately, the old control f function to show the frame rate in-game is no longer working and fraps isn’t able to show the frame rate neither. not sure if this is related to MS Vista but i will try to get whatever kind of framerate display to check the options any further.

first race:
just to get an impression of the performance and the quality of the nordschleife, i went for a quick race. that was at least the idea. to start a race is far away from quick. a huge amount of screens is the first challenge you have to take. selections of different tracks, cups, cars, drivers, difficulty and so on. after passing the ‚as-usual‘ long loading screen, which has been cleared from any progress bar, the next menu with options appears. just a comment about the loading screen, a good feature is the display of what is being loaded at present time, this could be a helpfull feature to figure out what is causing problems, especially with 3rd party-ware.
i went for a practise session and by using the camera features i was just watching the cars going around the track.

graphics:
well, to make it short, nothing has changed compared to GTR2 or the changes are so minor that you will hardly take any notice. i do not expect graphics like Farcry2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. clear sky nor Sega Rally but a little bit more uptodate would be nice. Having GRID: race driver in the back of my mind, which i won’t call a reference but this is something i expect today, i’ve got the impression that GTR reloaded looks a little bit dead and flat. the nordschleife itself is not bad and maybe it is optimized for performance but overall the track looks kind of unnatural. i wasn’t really a fan of the fancy version for GTR2 due to performance issues but the current version does not look very real. i like the new trees and especially the mix of trees for nordschleife but compared to the real nordschleife, the gras, the gravel and the crash barriers are too sterile. the cars are nice, not too detailled but not blocky, good enough for a game with a focus on the technica simulation. new feature, the wipers. even if they as sharp as the world around, which is a little bit distracting, it is a nice feature. this leads direct to the lack of any depth of field effect. the graphics are sharp until the horizont and depending on the frame rate, all those vibrations are just simulated by jumping pictures. i know, it is hard to guess the area on which the player is looking actually, so blurring the cockpit and the horizont isn’t a solution but having in mind what shaders are able to produce today (think about COD: modern warfare) i think a vibration blur, motion blurred wipers and a slightly unsharpen horizont couldn’t be that hard. regarding level of detail, especially on the nordschleife, gtr reloaded tends to fade in objects after approaching a certain distance. this looks very outdated and a technique more similar to different details depending on distance instead of just pop in trees and stuff as you come closer to them wouldn’t impact performance that much, proofed by other games.
i wasn’t able to check rain and night but will do so soon.

sound:
hm, no surround support, just one track as soundtrack are the downside. the sound of the cars is ok, as usual or common. nothing really new except built in brake noise and some ’section of track‘ related sounds like audience.

performance:
as mentioned above, i was not able to get any display of fps running. my first test is always, set everything on max and check how it runs. ┬áthere is less stuttering compared to GTR2 but a few ‚hangs‘ are still noticable. my personal feeling is that the framerate is around 30 fps with everthing on max and antialiasing on level 4. there is a heavy anisotropic effect on the road, like in former titles with the same engine, so the tarmac appears very blurry just a few meters ahead of the car. this can be tweaked by the settings of the graphic card but will cost a few frames per second. by stepping back on some effects or detail levels, the game appears smooth but my expectation was higher. compared to what is presented the performance is not really exciting.

nordschleife:
the included layouts are tourist, endurance and gp. this is ok and should fit most peoples demands. the layout is very close to the original but i miss some bumps here and there. the karussel is too smoth and the area around between adenau and breitscheid is a little bit too perfect, in real, the track is more twisted within the corners. the performance is quite equal around the track, which is good for the gp part and this provides a smooth feeling for the whole track without major framerate drops. the ai performs sometimes a little bit strange on the track but for a final conclusion i will have a race to check how they perform. the endurance layout is perfect, the entry to the pits and the shortcut to start a lap after leaving the pits fits very well and the ai is using this too.

overall:
this is really hard to decide. for those who are looking for a GTR3, the expectations are not met. if you are happy with a refurnished GTR2 with track updates and different/new classes of cars, the package offers a lot. the caterham series, the mini challenge and the wtcc series are a nice addition if you want to put your hands on something different. if you are just using your favourite car the amount of cars is not really interesting, especially, the lotus elise is missing. for the hardcore sim freak, a lot of options are not interesting, i would tend to call them useless overhead. motec is supported by adding a few lines to the player.plr, the car setup screen is splitted in front, rear, overall, which is confusing and different to former titles. strange thing, the car setup screen is much smaller than before, this could be nice on high definition displays above 30″ but overall not really an improvement if you are using a hd ready below 30″ screen.
conclusion: if you are happy with GTR2 and everything runs fine, there is no real need to go for GTR reloaded (or GTR evolution). even if there are some small improvements in terms of performance, the difference is not that huge. the usability of all those menues and options is eating up a lot of your time, as a solution could work to set up different scenarios and save them for quick access. i’ve got the feeling that the handling is close to console titles and not optimized for PC. more to come as soon as i will find some time to race.

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