Ferrari F355 Challenge
by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
For those of you that think Gran Turismo 3 was realistic then Ferrari F355 Challenge is here to give you a wake-up call. Of course when talking about the Playstation 2 and racing games it is always going to come down to how, on paper, does the game in question compare to Gran Turismo 3. From this point of view Ferrari F355 Challenge will at first appear a poor competition for it's illustrious rival. However, those in the know about SEGA-AM2's legendary arcade and Dreamcast version of this title, will not be so easily put off by mere statistics. Weighing in with a total of one car and just eleven tracks it may not appear to be one of the best driving games on the PS2, but that's certainly what it is.
Offering four gameplay modes, Arcade, Championship, Grand Drive Challenge and a split screen two player mode, the game may not appear to have enough to keep you interested for too long. However when you realise that it is not a walk in the park like most other driving games and that making adjustments to your car is actually crucial to your success, especially at the top difficulty setting, then it becomes different altogether.
Like most driving games the Arcade mode is a standard affair, but with a couple of exceptions. You can choose either Training (which places you on the track on your own and teaches you the track with information on the curves etc.), Driving (same as Training except for the fact that there are no instructions and it's left to you to improve your technique) and finally there is Race in which you get to race against AI competitors. Championship mode puts you through a six race series, there's a series for each of the three difficulty settings, in which you have to accumulate more points than your competitors. My favourite though has to be the Great Drive Challenge which is reminiscent of MSR on the Dreamcast and Project Gotham Racing on the XBOX. Points are awarded for good driving techniques such as overtaking, slipstream, drift, best lap etc. and points are lost for hitting a car, hitting a wall and leaving the track. You have to gain enough points to win either a Bronze, Silver or Gold trophy in order to progress. Throughout all of these modes the AI is impressive and never simply barges you out of the way like in GT3. The AI aims for the racing line but doesn't have to have it at the cost of realism like in GT3.
One niggle that may put some people off is the real need to use a good quality wheel to get the best out of the game. The game doesn't utilise the Dualshock 2's analogue button capability and as such any pressure applied to the buttons are taken as maximum pressure. You'll find yourself dabbing the accelerator and the brakes all too often. However if you are the proud owner of a steering wheel then this isn't going to be a problem and you'll certainly find the car handles far more realistically than in any other driving game on the Playstation 2.
Graphically the game is good but not in the same league as GT3. What sweetens the deal though is that Ferrari F355 appears to run at a greater framerate and gives a far more realistic sensation of speed than GT3. Although you only have one model of car you can choose to change it's colour if you so wish. There are only two camera views to choose from, a kind of in car view and a chase view which is useless if you want to do well, but this doesn't really cause any problems. It's a shame there are no damage models for the cars especially as everything else in the game seems geared towards realism.
There are no problems at all for deaf gamers with Ferrari F355 Challenge. There are some verbal comments in the game that are not subtitled but to be honest they are trivial. Comments such as 'your selection' that are made when you are about to go to the race area, to be honest, are pointless and don't really need subtitling. During a race the announcement that it is the final lap is not subtitled but again this is not important as this information can be quickly gained from looking around the screen anyway. The training mode uses icons and words to relay the verbal information so again there is no problem here.
Ferrari F355 Challenge will appeal to all but the casual race fan who likes to pick up the gamepad and win with no effort. For the hard-core, Playstation 2 owning, racing fans though this it the title to have. Just remember it requires a steering wheel to get the most out of it.
Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10 An excellent game for hard-core racing fans. The complexity and the necessity of using a wheel will put off the casual racer though.
Deaf Gamers comment: Absolutely no problem at all. There are only a few unimportant comments that are not subtitled.