Ferrari F355 Challenge - Review
Ferrari F355 Challenge is a game that I have always respected. My local arcade has the three screen sit down arcade version, and the Dreamcast game was one of my favourites on the system. The arcade and Dreamcast games are pure excitement and although the home version obviously can't include three screens like the arcade, the graphics were almost arcade perfect. But with the demise of the Dreamcast the game never sold in vast quantities, so a port to the Playstation 2 began in earnest at Sega's AM2 division. It's finally out in Australia on the Playstation 2, but the question remains; Is it as good as the arcade game?
|The graphics already look old.|
As you can probably tell from the title this game features the Ferrari F355 motor vehicle. In fact, that's all that you will find in this game, including the competitors' cars in the races. AM2 have totally focused 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.
|The Ferrari F355 car - a beast.|
Ferrari F355 Challenge also 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. There have been a couple of changes to the Playstation 2 version of the game. All the tracks are now available from the very beginning and don't have to be unlocked while the game rewards gamers with video clips of Ferrari's history if you complete sections of the game.
|The replays are wonderful.|
Sadly, as with the Dreamcast game 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 tactical element quite well. Finally, as with so many other car games there is no damage to the cars, understandable given the prestige of the license.
While the game looked good in the arcade and on the Dreamcast, the same can't be said of the Playstation 2 port. The decrease in detail, mainly due to the limited RAM, and it's aging by two years makes it appear on the mediocre side. The trackside details, especially compared to games such as Gran Turismo Concept: Tokyo-Geneva, seems lacking but given that they are based on real tracks little more could be expected. Fortunately, Ferrari F355 Challenge keeps a rock solid 60fps throughout. The cars are extremely detailed and the races take place at different times of the day, with sunset looking particularly impressive. The original versions of the game only allowed an internal viewpoint but AM2 have added an external view for this port. It's a welcome addition, although I wish they had pulled back a little further from the car. Unfortunately, even though Yu Suzuki 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.
|Smoking the tyres.|
What exactly were AM2 thinking about when the put the music into 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. 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. Still seeing as the competition doesn't include this it was unlikely that AM2 would add it into this game so long after initial release.
|Coming dead last - time to move.|
Ferrari F355 Challenge is an interesting title. When released on the Dreamcast a couple of years ago it looked magnificent, but time hasn't done it any favours and it looks decidedly average today. The game is rock hard which may keep the casual gamer away as well and having one car to drive around in isn't going to add to longevity. Having said that this is an extremely good simulation of a car few people will ever sit in let alone drive. If you're a hardcore racing fan this game may keep you interested, casual gamers need not apply.
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|GRAPHICS||The game looks dated, but has a solid frame rate, good car models.||67%|
|SOUND||Please shoot me. At least turn the music off. Car noises are excellent.||55%|
|GAMEPLAY||If you want a simulation look no further. Extremely detailed and fun.||85%|
|VALUE||Only one car, and handful of tracks. Not the game for variety.||62%|
|OVERALL||Ferrari F355 Challenge isn't technically the best game on Playstation 2, not even close. But as a simulation it is unequalled. There is no damage, but then again you won't want to scratch these babies. Beware that this game is rock hard, even with driving assistance turned on. Hardcore driving fans need only apply for this game.