|System: PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: System 3||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||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Let's start with what Ferrari Challenge: Trofeo Pirelli is not. It is not an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat, just-pick-it-up-and-play racer. In the long run, it will (hopefully) not be the end-all, be-all of racing simulators on the Wii, either. And it is not, quite frankly, very much fun.
It is, however, the most unrelentingly realistic racer the console has seen so far, and there are a whole bunch of Ferraris to drive. If that sounds like a blast, Ferrari Challenge contains hour upon hour of entertainment.
Most players, even those used to controlling a car or go-kart with the Wii-mote or Wii Wheel, would be well-advised to try the in-game tutorial before tackling the race modes. Here, voice recordings from British racer Tiff Needell walkthrough the basics of control, and a drive around Fiorano, the Ferrari test circuit, gives players time to soak up the scenery and get a hang of driving.
The graphics are decent - for the Wii, which is always the important qualification. As usual, the game looks a bit pixelated on some HDTVs (even in 480p with a component cable), and it'll do nothing to prevent longing looks at screenshots from the PlayStation 3 version.
Still, there are some nice touches. The landscapes look good, though the trees can seem two-dimensional. Players can switch perspectives with the minus button, and each view features some well-done effects. From behind the vehicle, the car's shiny exterior reflects the surroundings, and in the first-person "cockpit" perspective (which for some reason takes away the speedometer), when driving under trees, it actually looks like the shadows pass over the TV.
Sound-wise, Ferrari Challenge presents a mixed bag. The engine roars satisfy, but the crashes sound far short of jarring. The music is a rather quirky blend of dance, techno, and hip-hop, and it's quiet enough that, during races, one hardly hears it.
From the tutorial's first seconds, it's clear that Ferrari Challenge is indeed a challenge. At high speeds, it's not possible to turn the wheel very far (in the first-person view, it's a little odd to crank the controller 90 degrees, while the wheel on the screen barely budges), so before hitting corners, constant and hard braking is a must.
Relative to a bare controller, the Wii Wheel has an edge in the realism department, but the control scheme only uses the B button (the trigger on the back that's awkward to press without the Wheel) for the rear-view, so there's no real tactical advantage to the accessory. Also, anyone crazy enough to add manual shifting to the laundry list of difficult maneuvers will probably want to forgo the Wheel - gear changes take place by jerking the controller around, not with a button. There's no option to use a GameCube controller, but it does support the Nunchuk.
There are "assists" available on the options screen, and one can adjust each from Off (0) to Max (5) - with these turned up, the car does a better job of keeping balanced, gripping the road, and braking. Here, one can also toggle the racing line and switch to manual transmission. Turning the assists down will garner extra "difficulty" points in the race modes.
Unfortunately, the game doesn't create much sense of speed. Turning the assists down helps with this and makes the car feel more alive and responsive in general, but the problem then is that one can hardly accelerate, brake, or steer without sending the vehicle hurtling off the track. Then again, even with the assists fully cranked, this is pretty much the case for the first couple hours, anyway.