|System: PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Eutechnyx||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 26, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
You may be familiar with the phrase "reality bites," and, depending on your interpretation, that may or may not be true. In relation to a sim, one would think that the more realistic a game is, the better, but that's not always the case. Some sims can be so demanding and unforgiving that they are void of any fun; these games should be relegated to military training exercises.
Video games have to straddle the line between being challenging and fun. Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli does maintain a decent balance, but it often errs on the side of challenge, begging the question, "Why so serious?" Ferrari Challenge has been meticulously crafted, from the gleaming photo-realistic vehicles, which look even better than in real life, to the overly-sensitive controls. The fine line between tension and release is crossed continually, resulting in a certain gameplay inconsistency on any of the difficulty settings / options. There is no doubt this is one of the finest racing games to be presented on the PS3 thus far, but there's not really a lot of competition, so it's the winner by default.
You had better love Ferraris because that's all you're going to be driving in this game. I know that devotees of the Italian masterpieces will ask, "What's wrong with that?" But, in the long run, the lack of variety will test anyone's brand loyalty. The vehicles must be unlocked in a time-consuming challenge mode where you can spend tens of hours with the same vehicle. The F430 Challenge mode allows you to acquire more than 50 different models spanning the company's history from its not-so-humble beginning to present day. Credits earned for successful racing will allow you to purchase these vehicles as well as upgrades such as shocks, alignment, anti-roll bars, and ride height. However, these are more adjustments than upgrades. The vehicles remain as stock as possible; you can't start swapping engines. I suppose Ferrari considers each of their vehicles to be perfection personified, so there are very few options available. After all, you can't change the hair color of the Mona Lisa now can you?
To appeal to a wide audience, there are driving aids and a tutorial that will ease novices into the game. Helpful hints are dished out by Tiff Needell, and there's a test track to iron out the bugs on. The track consists of a variety of twists and turns that you'll encounter in the real-world tracks available in the other modes. At the end of your run, you'll be given a breakdown of your performance by Needell who will coach you in some of the finer points of driving these magnificent machines.
The driving aids will assist you with braking and handling, including traction and stability. With all of the aids engaged, the game can be quite forgiving. Turn them off and you're at the mercy of the control system, which is quite demanding. It's very easy to lose control of the vehicle by braking too late, and you'll be penalized harshly for leaving the track, which can sometimes be the difference between winning and last place. In order to smoothly negotiate a turn, one must brake at a considerable distance in order to control the inertia and keep it from forcing you off the road. These vehicles are literally not to be taken lightly. They have considerable weight and speed which must be taken into account. This will eventually be done by feel, but it's not something that you're going to get used to in a few minutes. It does take a lot of practice. Learning to accelerate at the apex of a curve is another technique you'll have to master. This will give you the speed you need to tackle the straightway ahead of you, but you've got to be careful not to accelerate too soon or too heavily, as you could easily lose control in the turn.
Another challenge, one that I'm sure is unintentional, is the unpredictable A.I. In the single-player mode, you'll be constantly at the mercy of the bot cars that have no regard for their, or anyone else's, safety, not to mention these precious and expensive vehicles. The A.I. will stick to predetermined paths while pushing, bumping, and sideswiping other vehicles that could otherwise be easily passed or are attempting to pass. At times, they do drive responsibly and simulate actual drivers, but there is no training that can help you compensate for their unpredictable nature.