Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirellia
Review posted April 2009 by Edwin Kee
Ferrari is one of those brands synonymous with winning and luxury, as the Italian legend has won more than its fair share of awards, accolades and Grand Prix championships over the years. The prancing horse emblem represents glamour and speed, and so what if the Bugatti Veyron is able to hit sixty from a standing start faster than a Ferrari - the latter has that coveted brand name that all hot blooded males and females love. Throughout Ferrari's history, they have rolled out a fair number of classic cars, and recent years have seen a renaissance of sorts with the Enzo taking lead followed by other drool-worthy models. Having spent a fair bit of time with Ferrari Challenge from System 3 and Firebrand, I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the better racing titles on the DS to date, but before I jump the gun, let us take a closer look at individual segments of the game.
I would strongly recommend you go through the training session in its entirety before thinking you are able to tackle the game. Buckling up, as I went through the tutorial which really helped me learn up the finer mechanics of tackling various types of corners. Of course, the fact that icons and an in-game voice giving instructions do go a great length in helping as well, but it does lend an air of predictability to the whole game since it won't require one to rely on 'racing instincts' as much.
While Ferrari Challenge is pretty realistic compared to other racing titles on the DS, it won't offer you the same degree of playability as the Gran Turismo series found on the original PlayStation. There will be several Ferrari models available for your racing pleasure throughout the game, and it is nice to know that they are slightly different from one another in terms of handling and capability to reflect their real life counterparts. Gameplay is always more fun when the game requires a fair amount of skill and concentration.
Do take note that when you complete each event you earn Challenge Cards. Now what are these Challenge Cards, you ask? They're pretty much an afterthought IMHO by the game’s developer, as these can be used in a mini game that follows the Top Trumps style. This mini game offers light entertainment and has mode to compete with computer or a friend, naturally if you win more races, you unlock more cards for your 'deck' which gives you the upper hand whenever you play the mini game. Gamers who love collecting stuff in games will find this to be an adequate enough reward when it comes to completing the game.
You won't really find much use for the touchscreen here, and somehow we're not particularly surprised. After all, aren't racing games supposed to use the D-pad along with four other buttons (two if you prefer automatic over manual transmission)? Well, the touchscreen is meant more for navigational purposes than anything else, although you can still use the D-pad if you want to. We wish the game would use the touchscreen for more functions, as purely D-pad use is more suitable for arcade racers and kart games than anything else.
The graphics are drop dead gorgeous (by DS standards) and highly detailed, featuring car models that you can actually recognize at a glance. As for the tracks themselves, they are modeled after their real world counterparts and do add a sense of realism when you're tearing up the asphalt with the roar of a Ferrari engine right in your ears. Not only that, despite having such a high detail count, the game hardly slows down or lags, except for brief moments when there are five or six cars on the screen - you might drop a couple of frames or so, but those are negligible as it is smooth running most of the time.
The top part of the screen is used to display your car, while the bottom segment shows the track. It is a much better arrangement compared to racing games on the Game Boy Advance that feature everything on a single screen which could get rather cluttered. Unfortunately, you won't be able to win a race simply by looking at the bottom screen since this is no Mario Kart, so you will need to pay careful attention to the top screen if you don't want to end up last on the tracks. Gamers can change the view from first person perspective to inside the cockpit and my favorite, right from behind. Nice!
You will find audio in this game to be outstanding, especially at the starting grid when you are jostling for top position among the rest of the pack. Of course, sound effects like brakes and being on the gravel are there, but don't expect them to be radically different. Nice to see rumbling sound being incorporated into Ferrari Challenge – if you happen to have a Rumble Pak plugged in, you get a better feel of things and get to respond faster whenever you go off track due to the feedback your hands get. Audio positioning is also pretty good if you're wearing headphones: you get to hear other cars bearing down on you.
Ferrari Challenge is for both beginners and expert gamers in the racing genre, though it will take the beginners some time to learn and practice to fully enjoy what the game has to offer. Though the computer AI is no slouch, the multi-player mode will provide seasoned veterans of racing simulators some real challenges.