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Q3 2000



- Very good controls and physics

- Exceptional track design

- Smart AI

- Great visuals

- Good sound effects



- Will be too difficult for some

- Horrible music



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F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa

Score: 9.5/10

With all the racing games out there that have allowed players to get behind the wheel of their favorite exotic sports car itís surprising how many of them just donít feel like youíre actually driving these super cars.  The models could be of a Lada or a tricycle but theyíd still handle the same.  Not so with F355 Challenge, as it really does an exceptional job of making it feel like it is a Ferrari youíre driving.  With great visuals and real life courses there is a lot to like about this game, though the high degree of difficulty will be a turn off to all but the most dedicated racing fan.  If you can get over this hump, however, what youíll find is by far one of the finest racers on the market.  


F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa Review          F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa Review

F355 Challenge is definitely well within the category of racing sim, not so much in that parts tweaking way a la Gran Turismo, but in terms of controls, handling, and course design.  While I have certainly never driven a Ferrari, Iím more than willing to take the word of this game, so to speak, that how the cars handle in F355 Challenge is a good indicator of how their real life counterparts feel as they take the turns and straight-aways at breakneck speeds.

That in mind it quickly becomes apparent just how much one needs to understand the handling of the car.  Unlike so many other racers where a player can just hop into a single race and quickly get the hang of things through a trial by fire, learning the ins and outs in a lap or two, that just canít be done in this game.  Between constantly losing control on the turns and having to fight tooth and nail to pass every single opponent, going this route will ultimately lead to lots of frustration.  Expect to spend several days just driving on the tracks by yourself, learning the idiosyncrasies of the Ferrari and every single subtle nuance of every single track.  Itís the only way you can expect to get your skills up enough to have a chance against the highly skilled opponents in the game.





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And the opponents truly are a talented bunch.  There are no place holders, no wolf packs, or any other standard approach to AI that weíve seen in countless other racing titles.  The cars in your way will make you work for every last inch of progress on the track and theyíll do it like professionals.  Thereís no arbitrary control problems when you try to pass someone, the other Ferraris wonít magically become faster when you get on their tail, and they wonít stick to their race 


lines like a bunch of slot cars, theyíll actually try to move around you (or avoid you if you swerve dangerously near).  You canít manhandle your way through your opponents either.  The loss of speed that results from these tactics, as well as the very real possibility of losing control, will require players to be very careful in how they conduct themselves on the track.  If you want to win at these races your going to have to do it the right, honorable way.

The tracks themselves are recreations of real courses, so you can expect a very high degree of quality in how the twists and turns and straight-aways are laid out.  Everything from the ruthlessly bending Suzuka long track to the somewhat more forgiving course at Long Beach will keep racing fans plenty busy.  Just the way these tracks are laid out, it is very difficult to get bored with them.  Simply driving by yourself or actually racing, the placement of the turns, the inclines and the slopes, and just the scenery in general makes it so that it is easy to constantly play a single track and just want to keep going since it is designed so well.  Even if you do get tired of one, there are plenty of others to choose from.

F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa Review          F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa Review

The whole game is very easy on the eyes.  Regardless of the course your on there is this warmth to the presentation that is often absent from racing games.  Usually when you go for a daytime race in other titles the light is very bright, with far too much of a white-ish hue, sort of like a big florescent light tube, resulting in a somewhat more sterile undertone to the entirety of the track in its presentation.  That isnít the case in F355 Challenge.  The light feels a lot more natural here with a yellow/amber tinge to it, but not so much so to make all the races feel like theyíre taking place at dusk.  Thereís also a good amount of detail in terms of texture on the courses, as the road looks appropriately rutted and the grass looks like more than just an endless expanse of Astroturf.  The sky too looks very nice with the light playing off the clouds, and the shade of blue staying nice and soft.  While you canít really see your own car, save for the slightest hint of the tip of the hood, thanks to the game sticking exclusively to an in-car vantage point, the other Ferraris on the track look very nice indeed with lots of attention being paid to the styling of these cars.  All the while the titleís frame rate stays rock solid, never wavering for a moment and ensuring an excellent sense of speed as you go blazing down the track.

What does waver though, and proves to be the one truly sore point of the game, is the music of F355 Challenge.  ďYikesĒ is the best possible word to describe it, as the title is jam packed with horrible, horrible 80s metal.  So much wanker-ism packed into one aural experience should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention, but, alas, this hasnít happened yet.  As such, it is highly advisable that you make sure that the music is turned off at the start of the race, lest you be subjected to some of the absolute worst music to ever be heard in a game.  Thankfully the sound effects are much better with the screaming engine, the roars of anger when you leave it in a lower gear too long, and the soft, swelling purr as the RPMs increase after entering a higher gear.  The screeching of the tires and the positional sound while fending off opponents are also much appreciated and go a long way toward canceling out the horror that is the music in this game.

One aspect of F355 Challenge that is somewhat misleading is its game modes.  Usually when a racing title offers up more than one mode of play each of them is a strikingly different experience, but that is not so in this game.  While there is more than one mode in F355, the essence of the game remains the same.  What youíre really doing in choosing how big of a helping you want for the game.  Will you go for the main course and enter Championship Mode, or will you just help yourself to a snack by having a quick go at it with a Single Race?  There are some features unique to certain modes, like Arcade where you canít change car settings and have to reach checkpoints before time runs out, and Championship where you can tweak to your heartís content and must accumulate points over six courses to win.  Other than these game mode mainstays, a lot of how the opponents behave, and the overall feel of the races largely stays the same, not that this is a bad thing.

When all is said and done though, these problems still only end up being very minor.  If you want a very detailed, challenging, and beautiful racing sim F355 Challenge is by far the very best on the market, well worth hunting down.

- Mr. Nash

(October 12, 2000)

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