December 13, 2001
Lotus Challenge - Review
Release Date Publisher Developer Players Rating Price
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Car detail is very impressive.
Yet another car racing game on Playstation 2, but it's no surprise considering the genre is the most popular with gamers on consoles. Virgin's Lotus Challenge doesn't feature hundreds of cars from different manufacturers, but rather concentrates on the Lotus cars to give gamers the complete experience with the legendary manufacturer. With cars spanning the fifty years this is one game that has plenty of variety, as well as plenty of different game modes to keep you happy. If you're a Lotus fan then this is one game you won't want to miss, if your a casual racing game fan you may have a different impression. Read on for the details.

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Sadly, the backgrounds are lacking.
The developers of this game, Kuju Entertainment, obviously have a very close relationship with the Lotus car manufacturer. Not only did they get a license to re-create all the cars through their history, but have also received permission to include damage to the cars, which not even Polyphony Digital's great Gran Turismo 3 could manage. It adds so much more atmosphere and excitement to the game. There is no more sliding around a corner, slamming into a wall and continuing with no effect. Not only is the damage visible on the cars, but it also affects the handling. This is exactly what a racing simulation should do.

Lotus Challenge includes around 40 Lotus cars from various periods during the manufacturers history. The 17 tracks are located in differnet countries around the world and all have a different look. However it's the variety of game modes that should get you most interested in this title. Beside standard single races the game includes a Story Mode which sees you selecting either a male or female driver to learn all the ropes of driving a Lotus racing car. As you progress through the game you can earn better cars and can also afford a better racing team and drivers. If you do well enough, you will be offered contracts to perform stunts for movies, but more on that aspect of the game later. The Championship mode sees you racing through the seventeen tracks and upon race completion you will be presented with new cars.

One of the most interesting additions to this game is the Stunt mode. This mode sees you playing a stunt driver who must perform daring stunts such as jumping buses, across buildings or do sharp turns to achieve the goals. It's tremendous fun that you'll return to quite often and will have you licking your lips for Infogrames Stuntmandue out next year. Finally, we come to the 2-player mode where it's you against a mate and as usual this provides the most thrills and spills, just try T-boning your mate on the last corner from behind and see who comes off best to win. Sure, it's cheating, but it's fun.

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Losing control around a corner.
Perhaps the biggest problem with this game is the handling of the cars. With the Dual Shock 2 controller the cars seem to either turn to little or too much. More annoyingly the cars seem to stutter around corners at times. You can be turning and for no apparent reason the car will suddenly lurch a little, then stop, then lurch. It's not overly bad, but noticable enough to warrant a mention here. The other main problem is that the game just isn't a lot of fun to play. The car handling is adequate enough but the game just doesn't have a great sense of speed or "edge of the seat urgency" to it. Beside that there is little to fault technically with the game and it all comes down to gameplay.

Graphically, Lotus Challenge is impressive, while never truly managing to astound. The car detail is as good as seen on the Playstation 2 to date, while the real-time damage manages to convey a sense of reality rarely seen in video games. A big hit will do a lot of damage, take out bumpers or wheel covers, while a small bump will merely bend the panels. The tracks themselves are neat enough but lack the visual punch or little details in the backgrounds that appear in games such as Gran Turismo 3 and MotoGP. Finally, the frame rate also manages to hold up very well with few noticable drops during the races.

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A gorgeous sunset.
Sound is one of the more disappointing aspects of Lotus Challenge. The car engines, while probably realisitic to the real-life cars, will not seem meaty enough compared to the power of hte car. The music is a mixture of dance and rock and are quite suitable in the background while racing. One of the more disappointing aspects of the game is your coach telling you over the radio what the next challenge is. It's grating on the ears to listen to and doesn't really make sense at times. For instance he will often say well done after completeing a tasks, but then continue to say it after you fail the next one.

Lotus Challenge isn't a game for everyone. Being restricted to Lotus cars may not keep those who like variety happy, despite the numerous cars on offer here while the tracks themselves are varied, but lack detail compared to some other racing games. The opponent car AI is pretty solid and you'll have a hard time in some of the races. Unfortunately, this detailed simulation may only appeal to car enthusiasts and Lotus fans. Lotus Challenge is a solid enough title lacking some polish to make it more enjoyable.

GRAPHICSWonderful car models, good frame rate, fairly bland backgrounds.
SOUNDWide variety in music, poor engine noises, annoying coach speech.
GAMEPLAYMuch like Sega's Ferrari F355 enthusiasts will get more out of this.
VALUEPlenty of game modes, plenty of Lotus cars, always worth another go.
OVERALLCar enthusiests will love this game, casual gamers may find it tough.

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