Luckily the visuals are another story. Does Ferrari have the photorealistic gloss of GT5 Prologue or the twisted metal spectacle of GRID? No, but its trackside scenery is more interesting than Forza 2's and you can see where most of the polygons have gone: on the cars. Ferrari Challenge needed to celebrate the beauty of these Italian engineering marvels, and it does, capturing the lines and curves of the bodywork beautifully, with the sort of glossy reflection effects and fresnel highlights that you'd expect from Polyphony, not a small UK developer. This isn't the most visually impressive racer out there, but it's certainly no dud.
Unfortunately, things fall down again when the game goes online. When you can get into a game the action is fast and fluid, and Forza-like touches like customisable finishes and vinyls are a nice touch. Getting into a game, however, is the problem. Despite a clear interface and search facilities I took ages to find a game I could actually join after myriad attempts saw me thrown out of lobbies, off servers and even disconnected from PSN. This could always be my connection, but I know there are plenty of Ferrari Challenge players out there with similar tales of woe. Apparently this should all be cleared up with a forthcoming patch.
In the end, Ferrari Challenge is a difficult game to score. It still feels stripped back and old-fashioned when compared to the bigger names in the genre, and for most people GRID offers a more instantly rewarding and exciting game. If you don't like the technical feel and the level of challenge, you'll find that System 3's game leaves you cold. Yet I know that there are a lot of people out there who want a driving game that demands skill, rewards experience and gives you a more authentic reproduction of cars and real-world tracks.
On the 360, these people are already well served by the likes of Forza 2, but on the PS3, where GT5 Prologue is the only real competition, Ferrari Challenge is currently the best bet out there. For Ferrari fanatics it's an absolute must, but anyone with a PS3 and an interest in the more serious driving sims should also give it a try - though maybe from a store with a generous returns policy, just in case.
For a game based on this particular marque, Ferrari Challenge can feel overly-technical and lacking passion, but with its decent graphics and strong racing feel it deserves to be a hit with the more racing audience.