Enthusia Professional Racing PlayStation 2
Published by Konami
Developed by Konami
Release Date: Out Now
Enthusia Professional Racing, an introduction.
2005 is fast becoming the year of the driving simulation. First it was Gran Turismo 4, then it was Forza Motorsport and now we have Konami's Enthusia Professional Racing. Like the two other titles we've just mentioned, Enthusia attempts to be as realistic as possible. Make no mistake about it this is not a game you can just pick up and play right through. To succeed at Enthusia you're going to need a good steering wheel and a lot of patience.
What's the game about?
Enthusia Professional Racing attempts to be a racing simulator with a difference. Instead of following the tried and trusted formula of the Gran Turismo games, Enthusia avoids the 'buy a car and upgrade it to the hilt' routine and rewards your driving rather than rewarding your ability to fine tune a car. The game offers five modes. Top of the list is the Enthusia Life mode which is the heart of the game. You also have Driving Revolution which is a challenge mode where you have to drive through gates at the correct speed. Sometimes you'll need to brake adequately whilst at other times you'll need to speed up to achieve this. Other modes include Time Attack, Free Racing and Versus Racing (for 2 players).
What's good about the game?
Enthusia's greatest strength is that it feels original. The Enthusia Life mode is all about progressing from being a driver who is ranked 1,000th to the ultimate ranking of 1 st. You'll pick one car from the initial 12 on offer (there's some pleasantly surprising choices here such as the original Mini Cooper and the Nissan Bluebird) and then take part in races. There are over 200 cars in the game, which is quite impressive. You're not racing for money though. The idea is to level up your abilities in a kind of RPG fashion. The cars you drive will also level up and when they do they'll increase in weight, power, tyres and tuning level ratings. In essence the more you drive a car the more performance you'll get from that car. Eventually you'll need another car but you can use one model for a surprisingly long time.
There isn't any damage modelling in Enthusia but aggressive driving isn't rewarded. You have what's called Enthu points. You'll begin with a full amount of Enthu points (as you level up, your pool of Enthu points will increase). During a race if you hit another car, hit the barriers or come off the track, you'll lose Enthu points. The annoying aspect of this is that if the AI cars hit you, you'll still lose Enthu points. Should you lose all your Enthu points you'll have to sit out the next race in order to regain all your Enthu points. Missing races isn't a good idea if you want to progress in the game so it's good to avoid losing Enthu points. In order to help you drive well there's a Visual Gravity System (VGS) which is an onscreen guide that allows you to see the forces that are acting on the car which in turn should give you an indication of how you're driving and how to correct your mistakes.
What's not so good about the game?
Learning to handle the cars will take time. In fact playing with a Dualshock 2 controller the cars felt horrible (especially when your vehicle hadn't been improved) and it was only when using the Logitech Driving Force Pro wheel (the game supports the 900° wheel rotation that this wheel offers) did the handling feel satisfactory. Using a wheel is a must when it comes to the rear wheel drive cars because the handling is much too difficult with the controller.
Whilst the Enthusia Life mode is actually enjoyable, when you first begin the mode you'll probably not understand what's going on. Understanding the Enthu point system and the fact that you're rewarded for good driving as well as remaining with one car for as long as possible are details that aren't explained well and it's all a bit baffling to begin with. Yes there is a tutorial of sorts when you first enter the Enthusia Life mode but it's not as good as it might have been. You could say that the presentation is lacking and could have been made more user friendly. At the end of a race you have a Rival Car Raffle. Essentially this means that you press a button and when the indicator finally rests on one of your rivals you'll unlock their car to drive yourself. This is an interesting feature but unfortunately the indicator can fail to select a car which does prove annoying.
How does it look?
Graphically Enthusia looks good. The mostly fictitious circuits look impressive and the car models are definitely up to scratch. The only blot on the graphical side of the game is that there is a small amount of pop-up but thankfully most of the time this isn't that noticeable. A nice blur effect helps to increase the illusion of speed. That said though the sensation of speed isn't as great as in some driving games we've played lately such as Forza Motorsport.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
There are no problems at all for deaf gamers. Driving games don't usually give deaf gamers any problems and Enthusia certainly has no issues for the deaf gamer. In fact the game has a high amount of visual information onscreen including the Visual Gravity System. All information outside of the races is exclusively in text so again you'll have absolutely no problems at all.
I suppose most will think that Enthusia Professional Racing is a rival for the Gran Turismo games. In truth I don't this is the case at all. If Konami had intended that they wouldn't have made key areas of the game so blatantly different. The Enthusia Life mode is unlike any other career mode in a driving simulation. Having to persist with one with car to improve it, the rating system that determines how many points you'll earn, the Enthu point system (that if mistreated could lead you to being forced to miss a race) and the leveling up of not only your driver but also the car you've been driving are original details and it makes for an interesting experience. Played with the controller the handling doesn't feel right but with a good wheel it's a different story and as your car levels up it can actually become very enjoyable. To sum up then Enthusia Professional Racing is a promising start. It's not the ultimate racing simulator but fans of the driving simulation genre should enjoy the game. That said though it's probably not the ideal introduction to the genre.
Overall Game Rating: 7.7/10
Deaf Gamers Classification
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Enthusia manages to inject some innovation into the driving simulation genre. The Enthusia Life mode certainly seems promising but it could have been presented better. What I would say though is that you'll need a good steering wheel to make the most of the game.