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When you do make that jump, you’ll soon notice how useful the driving aids are this time around. There’s a wide range, from steering and brake assists to spin recover and traction control, and all are linked into the three levels of difficulty – Novice, Semi-Pro and Simulation – ensuring some are locked out as you progress. On top of these, the game throws in corner indicators and a racing line option, and while these aren’t as helpful as the dynamic aids in Forza Motorsport, they’re still very useful in the early stages of the game.
Even in Novice mode, with all the assists on, it takes a certain amount of practice before you get a podium position, or even get around the track once without a mishap. You might be well advised to spend time in the open practice or time trial modes before you think about racing against anyone else. However, get some experience and start learning the tracks, and before too long it’s possible to win. Take one of the early custom championships, dial down the opponent level and ramp the AI down from Real to Timid, and first place is actually achievable. Before long, you might even take on a full GTR season, facing the full-on mayhem of a packed field of 37 cars.
And that’s where GTR 2 gets you. You can start getting rewards within the first five hours of play, but within another five hours those rewards will start to feel hollow. You’ll want to reset the drivers and ramp up the AI to give you more of a challenge. You’ll want to up the difficulty level, or start playing without so many of the assists. You’ll want to be out there in the middle of those 37 cars with nothing but your own skills to keep you in the race.
Why? Even with all the hand-holding switched on, this is a gritty, satisfying racer. With the kid-gloves off, however, it is one of the most visceral and challenging driving experiences around. As with GTR, the handling is exemplary; it’s tough to keep these beasts on the track, and if you play with a racing wheel and pedals – and you really should – you’ll be wrestling with the former and tap-dancing on the latter in a desperate attempt to keep tyres on tarmac through the corners, and hit maximum speeds on the straights. When you can do so without the dispiriting vision of the pack racing away into the distance, you feel like you’ve really achieved something. You’ll even start to notice how the handling changes over time, and while I’m really not one for those long-haul, 24-hour races, even I have to appreciate the way in which your tyres noticeable fail to grip as the laps mount up, making that pit-stop not an intrusion in the smooth flow of racing, but a necessity.