January 28, 2001
Ferrari F355 Challenge is one racing game that I have been dying to get my hands on. The arcade game is pure excitement and although the home version obviously can't include three screens like the arcade, the graphics look almost arcade perfect. After some delays, Ferrari F355 Challenge is finally available in Australia, and you'd be mad to miss it. This is simply one of the best racing games ever seen on a console.
As you can probably tell this game features Ferrari F355 motor vehicles. That's all that you will find in this game, including the competitors' cars in the races. AM2 have been able to totally focus on the one car allowing them to create the most realistic driving experience ever in a video game, and what an experience it is. Unlike most other racing games the Ferrari F355's very unforgiving. Putting on the power before exiting a corner will see you loose control and slide into a wall or onto the grass. Fortunately, AM2 have been kind enough to offer some assistance such as stability control (to stop the car leaning), traction control (to give the car more grip), Anti Lock Brake System (stops brakes locking up and slides), Intelligent Braking System (automatic braking into corners). These help greatly while learning to drive and can be turned on or off during races with the press of a button.
Ferrari F355 Challenge offers several game modes. These include standard arcade mode, championship mode, single race mode, and of course a 2 player split screen mode. When playing the arcade or single player mode you are given three options prior to each race; training, driving or racing. The training mode displays a red racing line to follow as well as braking areas and aural instructions. The driving mode places you on the track with no assistance to you can practice reducing your lap times while the race mode sees you competing with 7 other Ferrari's to claim victory.
Being a simulation means you have the option of altering several of the car settings. It's possible to adjust the wing angles, springs, toe, and camber among others. If you're a car buff and know what you are doing it is possible to reduce your lap times by several seconds. The casual gamer probably won't notice too much difference, unless you set the options from one extreme to another.
Don't be fooled Ferrari F355 Challenge isn't perfect. There are a couple of minor niggles that should have been modified before release. The biggest problem is that you always begin the race at the back of the grid. It makes you work extremely hard to get to top place, which is fine in the arcade mode, but in the Season mode a qualifying lap(s) would be most welcome. Another minor annoyance is the lack of damage to the cars. Sure, Ferrari may not have wanted to see damage on their cars in a game, but it's sad when you can fly straight into a wall and continue the race. The other minor annoyance is the lack of use for the pit stops. Because the races are so short the necessity for the pit stop is removed. It's a shame because a longer race could have utilized this quite well.
Graphically, Ferrari F355 Challenge is one of the most accomplished titles on the Dreamcast to date. The trackside details are quite amazing while the game maintains a rock solid 60 frames per second. The cars are also extremely detailed and the races take place at different times of the day, with sunset looking particularly impressive. The actual game is viewed from inside the car, there are no external views during the races. Yu Suzuki has stated that this is the only way to make the game as realistic as possible. Unfortunately even though Yu wants the game to be realistic there is no way to remove the lap times and car position from the screen during races. It's only a small niggle, but annoying nonetheless.
What exactly were AM2 thinking about when the put the music in this game? I'm not a big fan of rock music but I know what good music is, and this most definitely isn't it. You'll be looking for the BGM volumes within a matter of seconds. Fortunately the car sounds are excellent, as are the sound effects. The best option is to turn the music off as soon as you begin the race and listen to these babies purr. For once the revving of an engine actually sounds real, and not just an increase in volume level as the revs go up. The only other thing that could have improved the game would be some pit crew chatter giving you data and information during the races about your car as well as the competitors.
There is no doubt that Ferrari F355 Challenge is one of the best racing games ever. The handling, graphics, detail, options, and most of all playability make this an essential Dreamcast purchase. Yu Suzuki has truly created a masterpiece that has been considerably enhanced from its arcade version. Perhaps if you are more into arcade styled racers such as V-Rally, Speed Devils or Rush 2049 then this may not be your cup of tea. For racing simulation fans this should be top of your list. It's that good.