IGN Review of Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli
The simulation racing genre is a hard nut to crack, especially when you're going up against the likes of Gran Turismo for the Sony gamers out there, but System 3 and Eutechnyx are going for the pole position with Ferrari Challenge. The game cuts right to the chase and puts players behind the wheel of more than 50 different cars from the Italian maker and lets you compete in the famed Ferrari Challenge racing series.
I'm a pretty big fan of racing games, and I love everything from Burnout to Gran Turismo. I also happen to be a huge Ferrari fan. One of my favorite things about most racing games is the overall progression that you go through, and how you start with very little and slowly wind up with faster and faster rides. Being that you start out Ferrari Challenge in none other than a Ferrari F430, you miss out on this progression almost entirely. Sure, you'll unlock faster cars, like the F50 or the FXX, and you'll also delve back into Ferrari's past with some classic rides (Bueller?), but the feeling of saving up cash to upgrade your horsepower to gain an edge, and then winning a few series with your new ride to earn enough cash for a better ride is all but lost.
That bit aside, what Ferrari Challenge does right is the actual driving simulation. Regardless of which Ferrari you're behind the wheel of, the car will drive expectedly, ranging from raw power and performance of the newer models to the rather unassisted handling of models from the '50s and earlier. Eutechnyx has done a great job of implementing a physics engine that properly simulates each of the cars' handling, giving you good feedback over how much power you're asking out of the car and how much it's delivering to you at any given moment. Good stuff here.
Unfortunately, the realism bit was taken a little too far with some aspects of the game. For example, I'm a big fan of in-car views while racing, especially since most games, Ferrari Challenge included, are now doing a good job of rendering the interior and dashboard of these rides. However, the camera is set too far back in the cockpit for you to get a good view of the track. The top of the car takes up nearly half of the screen real estate, giving you a narrow view of the road in front of you. Even if it wouldn't be as accurate, the game would have done better to have the camera closer to the windshield.
This not only means that you're staring at a good portion of your roof and not something "cool" to look at, but it also makes it hard to tackle most of the tracks without the driving line turned on (and it is by default). It's very hard to see upcoming turns in the game, so unless you either happen to know these tracks very well already or wish to spend a number of laps memorizing the layout and practicing your speed, you'll be relying on the line to help you.
Also, the main Challenge mode, where you race through a Ferrari Challenge championship series, has races based on time rather than laps. With each race running for 15 minutes or more, and with two races per weekend, that means each "event" is a good half-hour of driving. This would be fine except that if you're good and can get out in front fairly quickly, you'll spend 20+ minutes driving with no competition ahead of you. It makes much of the racing feel like a time trial rather than a race as all you're doing is defending your position by not screwing up.
Given how well each of the cars drive, it's fun to hop onto each course and push your ride to the limit. However, when you're out front for that long, it just feels like you're racing alone and takes a lot out of the experience.
Lastly, the game feels fairly linear at times, and given the long race times for each event, it can feel like you're drudging through event after event. With games like Gran Turismo and Forza out there, both of which let you choose from numerous events at any given time, Ferrari Challenge feels somewhat restrictive. Granted, there aren't a whole lot of racing sims on the Wii, but that doesn't give it a free pass by any means.
©2008-09-03, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved