F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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