Review by Mr P

"F355 Vs Gran Turismo 2"

Let me set the stage for this review-

• My previous game of choice was Gran Turismo 2, and this review mainly compares F355 Challenge against GT2.

• I am looking for realism and depth in a game. I have no real life track experience, so for realism I look for what makes sense and what makes for challengingly complex handling. Depth is a matter of how rewarding the game is over time.

• I have not played Sega GT, Tokyo Highway Battle (any of them), Driving Emotion Type-S, or any of the Grand Prix series, but I have heard about them.

• I am a fairly skilled video game racer; not that I'm better than everyone else, just that I'm a very solid player and it affects my preferences.

• I have played F355 for two weeks now and seen most (if not all) of the game.

• I am not claiming to be the master of F355 Challenge, just posting my impressions for the benefit of those interested.

***

Handling

This is really what this game is all about, and it is superb. I have never played anything like it, even MR cars with Simulation tires in GT2. The handling feels nimble, sensitive, and demanding. This game seems to have more variety around the limits of adhesion: more sounds, more feel. It feels realistically unforgiving about entering corners too fast. I just cannot say enough about this element of the game, but neither do words do it justice. Consider this section of the review as three times longer than it is, just to give the proper perspective of its importance. My only gripe is the apparent lack of drafting.

AI

The AI is moderately good and a fair challenge, though by way of ''cheating'', such as extreme handicapping. The drones are not limited by the same rules of physics your own car is, and sometimes it can be exasperating to watch one of them do something you could never hope to do yourself. This is a good and bad point, because in the long term the game would be too easy if not for the enhanced performance of the drones, but it is a hazard for the frustrated or inexperienced player expecting the computer cars to drive like cars.

Replays

Unfortunately, this game compares poorly to GT2 in this area. The game has two types of replays. There are edited replays viewable only immediately after the race that show scenery and other cars, but without engine sounds or the ability to change views, let alone follow other cars as in GT2. The directorial style is on the heroic-saga end of things, as opposed to the dramatic-race end as in GT2. You can save replays of some races for later viewing and they do allow different views, but they only show the fastest lap and do so against a disembodied ''holodeck''-like background, lacking both the environment and other cars.

Level of Skill

This game is certainly a challenge for me, but lacks ways of making the competition ever more difficult, for example driving progressively less powerful cars. Lacking even a difficulty setting, it doesn't promise the lasting challenge and excitement of always having a dominant field to overcome. On the other side of things, the above-the-laws-of-physics behavior of the computer cars could be too much for less skilled racers to tolerate; it certainly taxed my patience a few times. Additionally, it can be difficult to use the game to learn to drive better because you cannot do what you see other cars doing, and without good replays you cannot scrutinize your own driving to learn from it.

Fantasy Fulfillment

I've come to realize that one of the great things, for me, about Gran Turismo is the fantasy fulfillment inherent in playing it. Somewhat curiously, this fulfillment seems absent in F355; and for a number of reasons, that I can determine. There is a severe limitation on replays which hampers the time and enjoyment spent admiring your car and your performance, zipping around the track, lurching through turns. The limits in customization of the cars also hamper the sense of control over the car, thus your association with it. Perhaps also the fact that every other car on the track is an F355 diminishes the exclusivity and thus the feeling of fantasy fulfillment one would expect, as nice a rendering of as nice a car as it may be. Additionally, the absence of a role-playing-game-like development of your gamesave, such as your garage of customized cars in GT2, limits the pride you develop through repeated sessions.

Audio/Video

The game is very smooth, with a consistently high (~60fps) frame rate. The image is solid, though it suffers from a little aliasing, particularly in VGA. There's still something slightly cartoony about the cars compared to GT2, but I can't nail down what it is, and I think it may be a result of higher resolution.
Sound is stereo, with very good feedback on tire status. Engine noise is as realistic as I can discern.

Other Bits

Customizability: The game has the one car (as far as I can see), with no part options, which is an obvious limitation to customizability. The suspension is adjustable, but not to the same degree as in GT2.

Tracks: There are not nearly as many tracks as in GT2, but they are very nicely done, and all are real world circuits.

Polish: This is a fully completed game with only rare, cosmetic bugs.

Handling

Yeah, it's really very nice. So nice, I'll mention it twice.

***

Overall

F355 Challenge is an excellent game, but perhaps a little dry. It's a simulation arcade game: strikingly realistic but lacking the persistent appeal of exploration more common in console games. Sometimes, though, when running a course alone, under a beautiful sky, F355 Challenge approaches the sublime. I think it really depends on how much you enjoy driving. I am very satisfied with my choice to buy it, but I imagine some would prefer to rent it.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/21/00, Updated 08/21/00


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