Europeans love racing games, it’s right up their with their love of the WWII RTS. The continent that’s given us Rally, Touring Car, Grand Prix, Formula One and Formula Four racing just can’t get enough of games involving hot cars, real tracks and nitty gritty details. This love of a deep racing sim shows in GT Legends, a recently released PC title from Simbin, the guys who brought us the equally deep (and excellent) GTR FIA Racing, have taken the GTR engine and put it in the chassis of dozens of classic cars. Well, it’s mostly European classic cars to be precise, such as older Lotus’ models, original Cooper Mini’s, etc. You won’t find oodles of American cars here (there are some), but you will find the deepest driving experience ever to be called a “video game.”
GT Legends, as the name implies, is all about racing the finest and the fastest of the classic European racing stock (with a smidge of some classic American cars). While it’s cool to zip around in a classic Lotus, the limited starting lineup of unlocked cars is brutal for new players. Frankly, they are what modern racers would call “econo-boxes” and they are rarely any fun to drive. Slow, somewhat sluggish, and squirrely to drive, it won’t take much for GT Legends’ starting line of autos to turn off all but the most hardcore racers. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve got patience and skill, you’ll be able to unlock a huge assortment of some of the dreamiest cars around, but to start, the offerings are slim. Likewise, the immediately available tracks are less-than-interesting, and it requires a serious time investment to get a good taste of the mix of tracks in the game.
Speaking of needing patience and skill, GT Legends is in no way geared towards the casual or arcade racer. Only the most serious racers should get behind the wheel of this game, as it really is the definition of complex. Unlike most American-ized racing titles, which, for example, might only offer suspension options of “stiff, hard, medium, soft, mush,” this game offers tweaking by percentages and by the easier “soft, medium or hard” options. Not a single detail is missed, and as with the car roster, the tuning elements are going to be very off-putting to all but the most fanatical racers.
Once on the track, the game becomes eminently more enjoyable, as all your suffering through tweaking and tuning will pay off in exciting races, filled with smoking wheels, grinding trannies and a hyper-intelligent (yet never cheap) AI. The graphics engine simply sucks you into the game, giving you a feeling of being behind the wheel of a legendary race car on a real-world track. All the elements of a good physics engine are there, though it would have been nice for some rain, wind or snow to make an appearance so as to challenge your inclement-weather skills. Instead, it’s always a race on a dry track.
This is, however, a game aimed at players with high-end PC’s, no slouches will be allowed, nor would they enjoy the game. Vehicles are rendered in near photo-realistic detail, likewise the tracks. The option to switch to a letterbox display adds a nice touch, as if you’re watching the action through an in-car camera. The audio, much like the graphics, is top notch – with realistic vehicle sounds and a solid soundtrack, which, while it may not get your pulse-pounding, fits the Euro-racing feel of the game to the letter.
All in all, you haven’t seen realism in a racing sim until you’ve played GT Legends. While the mix of classic cars and cool tracks is nice, the game’s depth and complexity is really what makes it stand above any other sim offerings out there right now. If you like a really deep racing game, this one will get your tires smoking. If, however, you’re looking for a pick up and play title, this will not be your cup of tea.
— Craig Falstaff