Nor has System 3 made things easier for the novice here. Amazingly, there’s no restart option in the Ferrari Challenge or Trophy modes, while the races are set by default to last a fairly lengthy fifteen minutes – about two to three times what you’d expect in many modern racing games. This means that you can spend a few hours in the game getting virtually nowhere, your only reward being some additional car unlocks that are thrown in merely for completing an event. This might put less committed racers off for good. To be honest, it nearly did me.
I’m glad it didn’t though, because once you get into it the racing itself is actually very good. True, it’s not as thrilling as it is in GRID or PGR4, but the AI plays a solid, aggressive, high-speed game without making it impossible for you to pass, and the handling model is gritty and satisfying once you get used to it. You’ll make mistakes, inevitably, but most of the time the only person you can blame is yourself. Plus, according to the observations of those who are bigger motorsports fans than I, the reproduction of the cars and tracks is very good.
Those who dismissed GRID for its more arcade leanings will be very happy indeed (even if I personally think they’re missing out). With experience, the wins start trickling in, and there are several tracks – particularly Paul Ricard or California – where certain sequences of turns and curves make just the feel of driving enjoyable in itself. Throw in some excellent rainy weather and you have a driving game with enough challenge to keep any wannabe Lewis Hamilton happy. The only minor black mark is damage. It’s modelled, but in a very subdued manner, and you can still use many of the classic GT bumper-car cornering techniques if you want to cheat your way through the pack.
So where does the budget show through? Well, in terms of glossy extras like replay modes or photo modes, Ferrari Challenge is no GT5 or Forza. It’s also telling that there seem to be fewer cars and tracks than we were originally promised; apparently some are to come later as downloadable content, but having raced through Monza twice in one championship, you might not be too impressed to find it there again in the next (even if this is how the real Trofeo Pirelli pans out).
Most of all, however, it’s the audio that lets the side down. Engine notes aren’t as powerful or throaty as you might expect, and the experience through headphones isn’t as exciting as it is in GRID or Forza 2. The music is also a bit of a let down, with a fairly meagre selection of tracks that you’ll hear over and over and over. Again, it’s not what we’ve come to expect from modern racers.