Thursday, March 10

Go Speed Racer

This week I was lucky enough to embark on an adventure my piddly wage and expenses would never afford – I was invited to the Porsche Sport Driving School for a day of driving.

By all accounts it was amazing. I got to drive seven different cars from the 2.5 tonne Panamera saloon to the sexy and quick (oh so quick) 911 Turbo. We were given professional instruction by current Porsche Team drivers about how to best drive around the tailored circuit, as well as how to understand over and understeer.

How did they teach us this? By putting us in the $200,000 Carrera S and Cayman S and telling us to flog them on an extremely wet skidpan. Getting sideways in any car is a great feeling, but when it’s a Porsche, it’s not yours and you know you aren’t going to get cozy with a guy named Bubba for your exploits, it’s just that little bit better. 

I’ve never had more fun getting into an uncontrolled spin or hearing expensive gears crunching (that was my boss. I call her Lady Driver).

Further to this we tested the ABS on a Boxster, Carrera and Cayenne, learning how to deal with emergency braking and witnessing the awesome stopping power of decent brakes. Basically, we accelerated hard then braked harder, almost sending the nose of each car down into the ground. After this exercise the area reeked of burning brakes and rubber, a smell one isn’t usually smiling about.

To finish the day we were given the chance to race the other participants in a time trial circuit marked out by cones. This was, quite frankly, the balls. Although there was only one person racing at a time, the adrenaline rush was like no other.

The thrill of speed mixed with the fear of soul crushing taunts brought on by time penalties will be a hard feeling to shake.

And now for the gaming content...

To prepare for the day, I thought what better than to get some racing experience under my belt. Rather than take the Astra Martin (champagne dreams, tap water budget) for a spin in the wet, I decided to play a little PGR4.

This is definitely my favourite racing game of all time. Unlike Forza 3 or Gran Tourismo, it’s not complicated or ultra realistic and it’s not too basic like Midnight Club or Need For Speed. You get high end cars and bikes, they look sexy and you experience a feeling of speed. On top of that it has a pretty awesome soundtrack and a cool feature that gives you points for driving dangerously.

Not only that, the environments are spectacular, accurately creating weather effects and world famous landmarks and cities such as London, St Petersburg and Las Vegas. It’s real enough to keep you entertained, but not so real that you need to concern yourself with tyre pressures, panel damage or worrying how a pidgeon pooping on your rear wing will effect down force and top end speed variables.

Whilst many good racing games are available on the market, PGR4 has always been the benchmark for me. The only game to come close to topping it was Burnout Revenge. Unfortunately for the Burnout Series, this is where they peaked, with Burnout Paradise being too big an environment for me to truly enjoy the rough, fast paced racing I loved in Revenge. 

I’m sure many of you are thinking my criteria for judging games is a little odd, especially with many other great racing offerings available but I just can’t get into the full on, hardcore racing simulators. I play games to escape reality, not to get stressed over an alternate one.

If I have the option to monitor gauges and listen to pit crews OR instigate a crash and cause $5.6 million in damages, I’m going to choose the latter. Why? Because I can listen to people hassle me about my driving any day of the week, I can’t get away with causing accidents.

Anyway, I was playing PGR4 to try and improve my driving ability. If you ever have the chance to go to the Porsche Sport Driving School (I highly recommend it), don’t bother playing games the night before - it doesn’t help. The real question is will my new skills help me become a better video game racer?

The answer is no. I still suck.

Have you done anything out of the ordinary lately and hoped your gaming skills will transfer?


  1. TJ if you loved Revenge, you've gotta try NFD: Hot Pursuit. It's made by Criterion as well, and is essentially the same kind of devil-may-care gameplay.

  2. I heard Hot Pursuit was really good, but never got round to playing it.

    On the topic of trying to play a game to improve real life performance, I always play exactly three games of FIFA (or back in the day PES) before I play any game of football. I can't say that the magical abilities of Messi is transferred to me through the controller, but it puts me in the right frame of mind.

  3. Hot Pursuit is pretty good, only problem is that it feels a little soulless. If you can handle a lot of style without much substance, get on it. Amazing graphics, and really addictive stat-tracking system.