Now I like racing games. Especially those that strive to be as realistic as possible. Sure I have the time for something like Mario Kart which offers arcade racing fun and true this is really the only way when it comes to online or offline multiplayer. True simulation is hard to managed though, the pinnacle for years has been the Gran Turismo series on the playstation platforms. They feature tight controls and outstanding graphics that push the system. Nintendo have never really had a true simulation game to push the system though. Burnout 2 was the best but that didn’t have realistic tracks.
It is with this in mind that I looked forward to Ferrari Challenge by System 3. The game boasted realistic handling and brilliant graphics and was slated originally for a February 2008 release. That date came and went and then Wii version has only just come out having had its release date pushed back pretty much on a weekly basis. So seven months late, that gave them a lot of extra time to improve upon the game. I was therefore eager to start up my copy and get racing. The game features a large number of cars from Ferrari’s history and it features a good number of tracks such as Silverstone, Monza and Spa. The game is one player only which is a shame but not the end of the world.
You know there is trouble when the home screen has lag but I ignored this and went racing. The only track unlocked at the start of the game is Monza, you unlock the others by coming in third or better at that tracks race. The races are timed and not done by number of laps so if you set the race time to five minutes and take five minutes to do a lap then you will only do two laps. This is a system that takes some getting used to but it works. The problem with it though is that the options are five minutes, fifteen minutes (default), 30 minutes or 45 minutes. Each weekend has two races, I am sorry but 15 minutes is not a fun race length and where is the 10 option? The next problem is that the default wii controls are awful. I had high hopes that the Wii remote with its motion controls would be brilliant for racing games with the ability to steer but in this game and several others with the setup (all but NFS Prostreet and Excite Truck) the cars have understeered horribly. Luckily the game comes with the option to plug in the Nunchuk and its analogue stick. As a comparison around Monza with wii controls I managed 2”04 but with the nunchuk configuration I managed 1”56. That is eight seconds difference. I am beginning to think the Wii motion control cannot be used for steering because developers cannot get the sensitivity right. With the nunchuk configuration though the handling is good and fun. The brakes are not though. I am used to turning all the aids and driving lines off on a game, with the aids on in this game it is too easy with them off it is more of a challenge. Turn off the braking line to show you where to brake and you are screwed. The brakes are unresponsive (I imagine ferrari’s having good braking) and it is very hard to judge on a lap by lap basis where you brake according to speed. So this aid is a must but the others can be turned off.
Next up is graphics and overall they’re good for Wii. The Wii is not the best beast for graphics but I have never felt racing games need to be that clear as long as you can get into it. This game has very good car models and the tracks are realised nicely. I would not recommend the default in car view though as the roof line takes up half the screen (a problem I also had in grid). Also I removed there is not enough customisability with the hud it is either all on (speed, timing, distance to cars ahead and behind, map, position, lap, time left) or all off. This is unsatisfactory as I ended up with all of them off to free screen space and didn’t know how much longer the race was going to be or what speed I was going.
The game incorporates a damage system which is fair play to them. What isn’t though is that it sucks. I drove into a wall at 150mph and the bonnet came off. I saw better damage models than this ten years ago. True it beats Gran Turismo where you just bounce off walls but if you are going to put it in you may as well do it well. The racing itself is fun with the AI providing a challenge at times. For the first time ever (for me at least) the AI cars defend their position but taking a tighter line into corners which made me smile.
In Conclusion this is the best simulation racing game on Wii. That is not hard, however, with nigh on zero competition. The game is fun with decent nunchuk handling and a large variety of very sexy cars and well known tracks that are modelled well. The game does have some areas where it just plain sucks, however. For example the default settings are useless (wiimote steering, in-car camera, 15 min races) but with some tweaking they can be sorted. Also the braking zones are impossible without help and it gets a little monotonous. Overall though if you ignore the problems this is a fun racing game which will keep you… and you alone happy for a few days. Now I am just waiting until Codemasters bring out their F1 game next year.