By rights, the car in Race Injection that I should be most excited about driving is the Pagani Zonda R. It's like Satan's own chariot – a wailing, terrifying banshee of a vehicle, throwing out 750 horsepower. But the thing about the Zonda R is that, more often than not, it's driving you rather than the other way around. Hanging onto it is like being dragged around by a rodeo bull.
The true star of Race Injection can be found buried in the 'Retro Cool' category. Time and time again I find myself staring at the dashboard of the classic Mini Cooper S. It's endlessly chuckable, making a mockery of the more powerful cars in its class, and I adore the way it cocks a hind leg around the faster corners as if it's marking its territory – which in a way, it is. Mash the brakes and you feel the car squirming underneath you, coax it into a slide and you have all the feedback you need to avoid flying off the road completely.
It's a testament to one of the most enduring and communicative physics models around that the Mini is quite so much fun. The key word there, though, is enduring. Race 07 forms the base for the Frankenstein's Monster of DLC that is Race Injection. That's a game that felt geriatric three years ago. Playing it now is like stumbling into a primeval era before shadows, shaders and motion blur. Because the focus was always realism rather than any kind of stylisation, it's aged dreadfully. The car models themselves are tolerable – their sponsor-heavy liveries distract from any rough edges – but the circuits are angular wastelands, awash with repeating grass textures and hauntingly featureless cardboard spectators.
It's not just the visuals that make Race Injection feel dated: the new cars do as well. Granted, gamers who never played Race 07 get a healthy dollop of circuits, cars and championships for their 20 notes – don't get me wrong, this was a great game. For veteran players though, (particularly those who already own the original STCC), the bulk of the new content consists of updated versions of the touring car models that have been pounding Race 07's virtual asphalt for nearly five years. Race 07's endlessly flogged brand of touring car racing is entertaining enough, but there'll be few simheads that missed it the first, second or third time around. Familiarity breeds contempt and this all feels awfully familiar.
At least this is an avowed last hurrah – a lethal injection for an already long-dead racehorse. Next year GTR3 arrives with a fresh engine and, hopefully, some fresh ideas. If you've never played Race before, feel free to fill your Alpinestars boots with a diverse and meticulous, if elderly sim. If you were there four years ago, drop four quid on the Retro DLC, hoot your way through a few laps in the Mini and then leave the poor thing be.
Review by Mike Channell.
The once proud sim-racing marque splutters across the finishing line and slowly rolls to a halt. Time for a new model.