Similar to the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and German (DTM) equivalent, the titular Superstars series is a Touring Car championship of Italian origin. Being based predominantly inside Italy, and having only been in existence for a few years, it certainly isn’t as well-known as it’s contemporaries but in terms of style and substance it falls somewhere in the middle between the more established disciplines.
Much like the British event, competing cars are four-door production models with only minor bodywork and aerodynamic modifications, making them instantly recognisable to Joe Public. The main difference in Superstars is that things are on a slightly larger and more glamorous scale, owing to the fact that only V8-engined cars are permitted. So, instead of family saloons from the likes of Ford and Vauxhall, the grid features larger executive cars from prestigious marques such as BMW, Audi and Jaguar.
It goes without saying that this makes things a bit more interesting, especially as a videogame.
The prospect of driving something like a weight-reduced and tweaked BMW M5 on famous circuits like Monza and Mugello is certainly appealing on paper, and that combination of factors is captured extremely well by Superstars V8 Racing (SV8R). The sensation of speed and feel of being in control of a large, rear-driven car is quite excellent and, as you might expect, with around 400hp on tap it can be a lot of fun trying to apply that power in the corners, especially with the driver aids switched off.
Another pretty big reason why SV8R is fun to play, is due to the sound. Truth be told, the music is a mixture of pretty awful house and rock tracks but the sound effects are great. The combination of V8 engine roar and transmission whine when accelerating through the gears is extremely addictive; you just want to hear it again and again every time you hit a long straight. Nice environmental sounds like thunderclaps during wet races also adds to the experience.
The opposition AI drivers display some acts of bravado and aggression, and even make big mistakes and spin out on occasion, but overall they’re not particularly intelligent and a decent player will find them pretty easy to deal with on all but the hardest difficulty setting.
Being a former retail release, there’s a fair bit of content and longevity in SV8R including online multiplayer and a Platinum Trophy to aim for. The Championship mode, which lasts ten rounds, is the main meat of the game, but there’s also a Quick Race option that lets you race on any of the circuits without qualifying etc.
Alternatively, there’s an option to do the same but as a full “weekend”, with practice & qualifying sessions beforehand. Completing the line-up of single-player modes are the License tests which throw up various scenarios that focus on certain skills.
Negatives? Well, the multiplayer lobbies are desolate, so don’t bank on finding too many random people to race with. The notification messages that pop up on screen whenever the HDD autosaves anything are also very frequent and extremely annoying.
In terms of how the game looks, sounds and plays though, there isn’t much to complain about since it’s actually very good. It’s biggest problem is that it isn’t particularly original, nor does it really have a unique selling point to make it stand out for the masses within a crowded genre. Grizzled racing game aficionados however, could do a lot worse than spend 20 bucks on this.