We revisit SimBin’s GTR 2 and GT Legends for the mid-’00s sim racing feels and see if these simulators still hold up in 2022.
Sim racers of a certain vintage still wax lyrical about GTR 2 and GT Legends (GTL).
Both are highly-rated simulators from Swedish-based developer SimBin, with GTL released in 2005 and GTR 2 a year later. They arrived during a purple patch for the company; in the years between 2005 and 2009 they launched seven standalone titles, as well as numerous downloadable content additions, and most were well-received by the gaming public and critics alike.
However, GTR 2 and GTL stand out from this list for a number of reasons.
They had realistic physics coupled with excellent force-feedback (FFB) for the time. I know for a fact that on my old £60 Logitech DFGT wheel I much preferred the feel of GTR 2 and GTL over their direct competitor rFactor.
Another major draw for sim and motorsport fans alike was the immersive feeling of being in an actual racing car. The engine sounds were market-leading, the graphics were pretty, real tracks were convincingly replicated and both featured day into night cycles.
Also, GTR 2 had dynamic weather – and considering some modern racing games still don’t have this – it makes GTR2’s achievements all the more impressive.
So, these two games were exemplary by the standards of the day, but do they still deserve a place among modern sim racing platforms? And what would the sim racing community think of remastering these two classics of the genre?
GT LEGENDS: SUPERB SWINGING SIXTIES SIMULATION (ALSO SEVENTIES)
Firing up GT Legends after many years evoked fond memories; that groovy soundtrack; those funky menu graphics; and the force feedback on my wheel doesn’t work.
A quick Google search and it’s back on, so I don my racing cravat and Nomex bell-bottoms, and it’s lights out and away we go – for a Mini race at Mondello Park…
Immediately I’m struck by the graphics – they look clean and crisp – very presentable. The textures and colours don’t ‘pop’ compared to modern-day sims, but this is a positive start.
I get going, run a few laps, and the feedback from the wheel is actually effective. The moment the little Mini transfers from neutrality to understeer mid-corner is communicated instantly, and I’m soon lapping faster than the AI on professional difficulty.
I qualify on pole then make a horrendous start, falling to third before divebombing past P2 in an aggressive manner. P1 takes a bit of effort to reel in, so much so that I fall just short on the final straight on the final lap. That was challenging!
The car was a handful under braking but had that lovely off-throttle oversteer you associate with a front-wheel-drive race car. Good fun all-around.
GT Legends is based on the 2005 FIA Historic Racing Championship, so isn’t quite a proper historic racing simulation in the way Grand Prix Legends is.
Most of the cars tend towards understeer, which is certainly not how they were driven in the period, but the handling model is quite forgiving, and I’d say lower-powered vehicles like the Mini and Lotus Elite are the most fun to chuck around.
GTL’s sounds are mostly convincing too – a Porsche 911 has that unmistakable flat-six soundtrack, and the DeTomaso Pantera has a rumbling V8. A few of the car sounds are copy-pasted between models, but it’s not game-breaking, although I feel some of the V8 sounds are a little weedy. I expected more from the AC Cobra and Ford GT40 for example.
GTR2: STILL THE KING OF GT SIMULATION?
GTR 2 was released in 2006, a year after GT Legends. Essentially, it’s a recreation of the 2003 and 2004 FIA GT Championships, featuring prestigious grand-tourers from Ferrari, Porsche, Mosler, Saleen, TVR, Lister and… Morgan.
Imagine for a second Codemasters releasing F1 2022 in 2024.
Yes, there’s representation from a variety of interesting cars, even those with wooden chassis and boggly headlights. It was a rather niche videogame, seeing as the FIA GT Championship didn’t enjoy the same profile as F1, NASCAR or even the World Rally Championship, tucked away as part of Eurosport’s Super Racing Weekend.
But it received a positive reception and still boasts a large and dedicated following to this day.
One of the big advantages GTR 2 had over its contemporaries of the time – looking at you again Gran Turismo – was the ability to save your progress during a race. If you’ve ever left your PlayStation running overnight while your Gran Turismo B-Spec driver finishes a 24-hour event, you’ll know how big a deal this feature is.
I began my re-introduction to GTR 2 with the Maserati MC12 at Monza. It was a positive experience; the car made a raspy V12 noise, the steering felt weighty, and the whole package oozed panache.
Much like GT Legends, the graphics still look neat and tidy, upscaled to 1440p in my case, and remarkably immersive. I can imagine a novice sim racer having fun learning the ropes of GT racing in GTR 2, especially with a helpful ‘Driving School’ mode on hand to teach the basics of driving, as well as the handy track guides.
I tried several cars; Porsche 911, Lister Storm, Dodge Viper, TVR T400R and Nissan 350Z. All very distinct – differing cylinder numbers and exhaust notes in real-life – but GTR 2 doesn’t quite capture their essence in-game.
For example, the TVR and Nissan sound like V8s when they should have a six-cylinder braaaaap (a highly technical term). The handling between the cars also felt very similar. I really thought I’d be able to feel a huge difference in character between a rear-engined Porsche, a front-engined Viper and a mid-engined Maserati, but the diversity isn’t replicated in the physics so much.
In modern GT simulators like Asetto Corsa Competizione, the difference between a Porsche, McLaren and Bentley are far more pronounced.
Still worth playing in 2022?
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how well GTR 2 and GT Legends stood up on modern hardware. Both games recognised my Fanatec CSL Elite wheel & pedals, and my Heusinkveld handbrake in the case of GTL. Once I did a little research, I had robust force feedback too.
The graphics were presentable, with silky-smooth framerates and no drops. The sounds were a little patchier, but we’re spoiled these days by the likes of Assetto Corsa Competizione and RaceRoom, and one must acknowledge the budget SimBin had in comparison to the likes of Polyphony Digital at the time.
The physics of both titles are believable and engaging, but perhaps a little too simplistic for today’s discerning professional sim racer. As single-player games they both offer a huge challenge, and there’s plenty of lifespan – getting through all events in both games will take hundreds of hours.
One thing I found quite frustrating however, was most tracks and cars were unavailable from the beginning, requiring progress in career mode to unlock. Thankfully, there are ways around this (good old-fashioned cheating, dear reader).
For a budget price, GTR 2 and GT Legends are well worth a look today, even just to give yourself that warm nostalgic glow of sim racing times gone by.
GTR 2 still has a huge community thanks to the raft of mods available for it, but as a standalone game, contemporary platforms offer bigger and better GT racing thrills. GT Legends on the other hand hasn’t really had a modern-day equivalent, so one wonders if this is a gap in the market ready to be exploited?
Here’s a bold claim; maybe they deserve to be remastered, or deserve a sequel?
GTR 3 anyone…
Apologies, that seems a bit far-fetched, sadly.