Have you ever owned a Ferrari? Well, neither have I. Since you clearly can’t afford to spend $217,310 on a brand new 2008 Ferrari F430 (and if you can, why are you reading this review instead of driving your awesome car?), should you pick up a $60 video game instead?
Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli is the latest racing title from UK-based developer Eutechnyx. This racing simulator is based around the real-life motorsport series named — you guessed it — Ferrari Challenge. The three official championships in the United States, Italy, and Europe represent the three primary seasons that you can compete in, though there’s an arcade mode (which consists of four races) and a quick race mode if you don’t have the patience to with an entire challenge season. Other options include time trial, practice, and endurance. The tutorial, which is both enjoyable and informative, also deserves mention. Finally, there’s a neat little minigame where you battle an opponent using challenge cars featuring Ferrari facts, though it’ll only captivate you for a few minutes.
But I digress, because it’s all about the driving, and Ferrari Challenge can compete with the likes of Gran Turismo on this front. The vehicle handling was tuned by Brazilian racecar driver Bruno Senna, and it feels spot on. Whether you drive in automatic with all assists and the dynamic racing line turned on, or head the manual route and forgo any outside aid, cars handle realistically. There’s also a decent customization feature that lets you adjust elements of your ride like ride height, spring stiffness, wheel alignment and so on. The most essential fact, however, is that they’re a blast to whip around the game’s 16 tracks. That also holds true in the online arena, where the matches — if you can find one in the sparsely populated lobby — are lag-free despite the worldwide play.
All isn’t perfect, however. On one hand, you start with the Ferrari F430, so you’ll be enjoying a sweet ride from the moment you boot up the game. On the other hand, you start with a Ferrari F430 — it sounds redundant, but let me explain. The F430 is a beast, and as such, you have little incentive to unlock the other 50+ cars on offer. Even when you do, they’re all Ferraris, thus there’s little diversity between them. Yes, this is a Ferrari-focused title, so some may call this an unfair criticism, but unless you’re an absolute Ferrari nut, you’ll wish you could hop in a Nissan GT-R or a C6 Corvette after a couple of hours of quality time with your Ferraris. This is where comprehensive simulators, like the aforementioned Gran Turismo, have the edge.
On a positive note, Ferrari Challenge is surprisingly pretty. It won’t win any awards for graphical achievement, but in motion, the game’s crisp, 1080p visuals look great. Eutechnyx nailed the sense of speed, thanks in part to the game’s solid framerate. The weather effect — yes, singular — is stellar; in fact, it’s probably the best rain ever implemented in a video game. The cars are highly-detailed both outside and in, as evidenced by the cockpit view (which isn’t practical from a gameplay perspective, due to the camera’s distance from the windshield). All is not flawless, though. Environments are average at best, and I only realized there was a damage system when I saw the option to toggle it on and off.
On the audio front, Ferrari Challenge is a mixed bag. The meaty engine sounds and epic main menu music are on one side of the spectrum, while the bland, uninspired racing soundtrack — with one particular song that infuriates me — lies on the other.
There are a few last things to note. The game doesn’t feature an install, so those with small hard drives need not worry, but as a consequence, the game is graced with some fairly hefty load times. Also, I encountered a bug where my controller literally stopped functioning in quick race mode. It wasn’t a problem with the controller, because it functioned fine in the menu and all the other modes. This my be an issue limited to my copy of the game, so take it with a grain of salt, but as a reviewer, this is the type of problem I’m bound to bring to your attention.
Overall, if you’re an avid Ferrari fan, go ahead and ignore all the negative points I’ve made, because Ferrari Challenge was made specifically for you. If, however, you’re just looking for a good time, Ferrari Challenge gets the job done, but not without a few hiccups along the way.