Ferrari F355 Challenge Review

For Dreamcast

By Contributing Writer Jimmy Payne

Rating: Average
   In today's racing game market, a game needs at least three things to sell
well: Great graphics, great control, and a whole bunch of cars.  There's no 
doubt that Ferrari F355 Challenge has the first two of these requirements, 
but with only one car for the entire game, it's hard to stay interested.
   It would be an understatement to say that Ferrari's graphics are amazing.
Not only are the cars and tracks breathtaking, but for once in a racing 
game, the sky looks like an actual sky rather than a big blue dome over your
head.  The control is also excellent, with extremely realistic drifting and 
gear-shifting.  Furthermore, the sensation of speed is more believable than 
it is in most racing games.  When the speedometer says that you're going 80 
miles per hour, it really feels like you're going 80 miles per hour.
   The fact that the Ferrari is the only car in the game will prove to be a 
blessing for some and a curse for others.  Some people will be happy that
the game is totally devoted to one car that they can tweak to their heart's 
content.  You'll never have to say to yourself, "I don't need to worry about
getting new shocks because I'll be buying a new car soon anyway."
   The other side of the argument, and the side that I agree with, is that 
limiting the car selection does nothing but limit the rest of the game.  
I've never really enjoyed going that deep with car tweaking in racing games;
I would rather just buy a new car that's already souped-up and ready to go.
The limited car selection also hampers the game's sense of variety and 
ultimately makes it "get old" a lot sooner than it otherwise would have.
   Another ill-conceived design decision was only offering one viewpoint- 
the driver's seat.  There's no "bird's eye" cam or even a "close follow" 
cam; the only option you have is to look straight through the windshield.  
This won't make a difference to you if first-person is your preferred 
viewpoint, but it's a real turn-off for people like me who are more 
comfortable with third-person views.
   Combine this with the too-good-for-its-own-good Artificial Intelligence, 
and you have a game that is often more frustrating than it is entertaining.
In a page out of Gran Turismo's book, the computer-controlled cars always 
seem to drive in a straight line, rarely bumping into each other or 
otherwise screwing up.  Thus, the computer-controlled cars are usually going
to get a certain time no matter what you do, and this makes each race a 
glorified time trial.
   Another fatal flaw is the lack of tracks.  I don't think it's 
unreasonable to expect at least a dozen tracks from a racing game these 
days, especially if it's a racing game that only offers one car.  This game 
has seven tracks, and many of these are just variations on another track.  
All seven of the tracks look like your typical raceway, and even the 
phenomenal graphics can't save them from becoming boring.
   Ferrari F355 Challenge could have been great if only it had moved away 
from its shallow-minded arcade roots and turned into a game that keeps you 
playing for weeks or months on end.  As it is, with only one car and seven 
generic tracks, the replay value of the game wears thin after a few days.

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