1996 seems like years ago. 12 years ago, in fact, but who’s counting? Back then, arcade games were at their peak and even fairly niche titles like GTI Club, with it’s meagre selection of cars and only one track, could still find a foothold in the market. The game was (and still is, thanks to MAME) something of a cult hit with much of the emphasis on keeping the revs high and the handbrake firmly at your fingertips. Without adhering to any kind of realistic physics, and offering multiple routes around the same road, lots of secret shortcuts and plenty of bumper-to-bumper action, the original is fondly remembered by its fans.
And so to 2008, when conversion masters Sumo Digital picked up the mantle under the umbrella of Konami and turned the classic GTI Club into a splendid 60fps, 720p PSN title with more features than we’ve come to expect from the usual Network fare, bundling pretty much every single PS3 feature into one £10 download. Yes, it’s essentially the same game but now looks much, much better, supports network play for up to eight players, optional sixaxis steering, PlayStation Eye compatibility and voice chat when online. Oh, and some easy Trophies if that’s your thing.
The biggest surprise though is the cute little single player mode, offering a selection of routes and increasingly difficult opponents. There’s not much to it, but for some reason the game doesn’t get repetitive as quickly as you’d expect given the shortcomings in the track count, and the constantly updating leaderboards offer a welcome time trial option for the dedicated. Whilst the game has been built from the ground up much of the course is precisely the same as the arcade’s, so if you’re a big fan you’ll no doubt find the challenge lessened somewhat; it’s a game that you seem to constantly get better and better at the more you play.
If you’re unfamiliar, then, be prepared for some fun racing. The five cars available at the start (including a vintage Golf GTI, naturally, plus a Mini Cooper and a Lancia Delta) all have ridiculously tight cornering, the acceleration of a jet plane and the brakes of a donkey – realistic it’s not but as with most arcade games of that age, it’s supremely fun to play. Sure, there’s no damage modelling, the crash physics are nonsense and the graphics won’t bother Polyphony – but this isn’t the point: GTI Club+ rewards continous play with a perfectly pitched learning curve: your laps will get quicker every time until you’re in that Wipeout-esque zone, chicaning between traffic and drifting around corners without even thinking.
Extras are thin on the ground – despite the fun online mode (no lag, friendly opponents) and a simple livery editor, whether or not you’ll enjoy the game depends on how you like your racing. There’s no doubt Sumo Digital have done a fantastic job with the license, it’s all very Outrun in its presentation too, but in this day and age with the PlayStation Generation being raised on 50 tracks and 200 cars some might find the selection limiting. Us? Well, the game doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not – it’s a great little title, and whilst £10 is probably a few quid too steep, if the game is supported with new features down the line we’re right behind it.