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Race Pro Review (X360)

Saturday, 21 March 2009    Written by

There's a difference in being beautiful and being pretty. Pretty is a commodity. It can be bought from a makeup counter or a lowcut dress. When it fades, you can replenish it via a plastic surgeon or strategic doses of alcohol.  For games, pretty can be doled out with polygons and lighting effects. Beauty is different. Its unique to each viewer. It's personal. It's so easy to buy pretty these days that its off-putting when someone or something doesn't match the classic definition.  For example, Race Pro,  Atari's entry into the Xbox 360's racing market isn't pretty.

While I was scrolling through Race Pro's spartan menus, my mind kept floating toward the first woman I ever truly loved. Playing through the 13 different tracks, I found myself thinking more and more about her heavy Spanish accent and long brown hair. As I slid into the dirt trying to control a 1987 spec WTCC Alfa Romeo, I wondered out why the memory of her perfume was filling my head. Race Pro doesn't do a lot in the way of easing you into the game. It's driving aids only give you the bare minimum of help and the driving line it provided beginners doesn't change based on your driving style. It's not cruel, it just treats you like an adult. Maybe thats why she's been at the forefront of my mind while trying to concentrate in a 12 player online race.  

I haven't seen Yolanda since college. She had come to the US from Spain to study and somehow we became friends. She would get the words 'kitchen' and 'chicken' mixed up in a way that always made me smile. She hated Spanish language TV and she barely tolerated my attempts to speak her native language. The most vivid memory I have of her is of us sitting in a park during lunch. She had gotten a new necklace and wanted me to help her put it on. It was a job I intentionally fumbled, which gave me the excuse to spend more and more time surveying and rubbing her neck, all in the guise of fastening the simple clasp. She feigned annoyance as I pretended to try harder while trying to convince her that a malevolent bra strap was the main source of the delay.

While we engaged in our mutual deception, two students, still trying to come to terms with the change from puberty to manhood, were gathered around a caterpillar not far from us. Their schoolboy curiosity in the insect was slowly being overtaken by the adult need to show dominance over the world. They took turns picking up the bug and dropping it from higher and higher heights. I noticed them but my attentions were partly focused on Yolanda's necklace but even more so on her neck. When free fall had lost all appeal, the duo switched to dropping sticks on top of the helpless creature as it attempted to escape. They were being cruel. They were being boys, becoming men. A spark of inspiration struck one of them and he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a lighter. His friend prodded him on, the childlike joy in his voice not helping to mask the sadism of his actions. As they tried to set the caterpillar on fire, the disappointment was audible when it didn't burst into flame. Instead it curled into a ball, its outside blackened by the heat. A few seconds later, the two were rewarded by movement, and they exclaimed 'Check it out! Its still alive! Cool! Whats next?'


At that moment, Yolanda stood up, her unfastened necklace falling to the ground, and strode over to the torture scene. Without any hesitation or warning, she stepped on the trembling insect. The icy glare she shot at the men, the boys, made them recoil. She spoke in Spanish, her tone carrying a distinct finality, so even if they hadn't understood that she had said, "Don't make the poor creature suffer", they still understood. Her's was an act of mercy and strength that I had seldom seen. Whether directed at a human being or a tortured insect. Thats the moment she became different from the other girls I knew. Thats the moment I knew I loved her.

I haven't seen Yolanda in years and may never see her again. But whether I've known it or not, I've judged every girl I've known since then against her. Because Yolanda wasn't just pretty, she was beautiful.

Coming around a corner and seeing the world through Race Pro's excellent in car view, I could feel and hear the rear tires sliding out. Correcting it required more skill than just turning the opposite direction and accelerating, and unlike Forza 2 or Gran Turismo 5, Race Pro knew it. So instead of a graceful, if unrealistic drift, the Alfa Romeo jerked left, then right, then careened into the wall. That was the series of events that made me think of Yolanda. Watching the replay and seeing my car being put out of its misery gave me a respect for Race Pro that I never had for other racing games on the console. It wasn't pretty, it was beautiful.

Score 8/10


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