- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

A popular European driving simulation makes its way to America, combining an immersive racing challenge with a soap opera story line that will absolutely blow car nuts away.
Easily equaling the visuals performances found in Hollywood films like Sylvester Stallone's "Driven" or Tom Cruise's "Days of Thunder," the game transforms one player into the angst-ridden but cocky Ryan McKane, who watched his father die during the sport he now feels compelled to conquer.
Through the use of 42 licensed touring and race vehicles competing in 38 international circuits and 13 global championships, McKane works his way up from lowly test driver who never could live up to his older brother's success to king of the road. Unless, of course, I am controlling his career. Then life proves to be a bit more complicated.
Do I feel silly sitting in a Lazy Boy using Logitech's slick peripheral, the GT Force Steering Wheel ($99.95), mounted to a dinner tray as I embark on conquering Pro Race Driver? You better believe it, Fittipaldi breath. However, the sheer magnitude of the simulation requires the device to match its stellar graphics and realistic action.
My quest began in the headquarters area that allows access to various modes of the game as well as checking progress and managing crucial computer e-mails from challengers and employers.
Actually, the first message received will be an invitation from crew chief Bobby Scott, who needs a new driver for his racing team. A test on a track in Mexico in an Eagle Talon follows (take a lap in under two minutes to become a member), which will firmly entrench the player in the Career mode.
Success leads to the Americas Series and its races in Mexico, Sears Point, and the streets of Vancouver with the chance to pocket $100,000 and, more important, gain points to move on to other circuits.
However, those unfamiliar with driving 150 miles an hour while avoiding aggressive drivers and maneuvering through deadly turns will want to start at the Free Race mode. There they will have ample opportunity to practice, practice and practice and watch replays of their exploits. I found the slightest miscue in the real races almost always translated into a last-place finish.
The story also has a habit of always sticking the driver back in the garage and tempting him to try and tweak a vehicle's specifications to get the most out of such confusing elements as suspension, gear ratios and brake bias.
I cannot gush enough about the game's realism, which begins with lifelike characters and selecting keys to take a spin. Spectacular crashes will hinder a vehicle, with even a schematic popping up in the corner of the screen to reveal what parts of the car were affected. Mandatory pit stops determine winning or losing, arguments break out between drivers and road surface paths blacken as a race progresses.
Overall, Codemasters kept me interested with enough role playing elements and tunes from Iggy Pop, Thin Lizzy and Lynard Skynard to combat my inability to properly brake through hairpin turns.
Not as overwhelming as Gran Turismo 3, Pro Race Driver still dazzles through innovation and a threaded plot to give diehards a sleep-deprived, extremity-blistering experience.

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