Written on: 03/03/2006 by TOMLEECEE (121 reviews written)
Frankly awesome graphics
Way too difficult
A bit boring - not really much fun to play
I've been playing games for something like 15 years and was, like most gamers in my age group (early twenties) brought up on a diet of Sega games, consoles and arcade ports. After the years of Master System and Mega Drive ports like Outrun and After Burner, and the Saturn's Daytona USA and Sega Rally, I would say that Sega's arcade heritage is in my blood. For this reason I am the kind of gamer who, even though I have owned most non-Sega consoles, defend Sega's arcade games to the hilt. Many would probably class games like the aforementioned Sega Rally as a bit rubbish simply because it only has 3 cars and 3 tracks. But it is in the sublime game play where Sega's games excel and that's where the naysayers inevitably crumble.
There is one Arcade conversion though, no matter how much I try, I simply cannot warm to. That game is Ferrari F355 Challenge on the Dreamcast.
The original arcade cabinet was lauded due to its innovative 3 screened design that offered the player a full panoramic view of the vehicle's dashboard and therefore a bigger view of the track and rival cars. On the Dreamcast, this wasn't possible (who has 3 TV's to spare?) so you just get a normal first person view. This isn't my gripe with Ferrari though. Sure, it would have been nice if you could select a 3rd person view instead of being lumbered with the unchangeable bonnet cam, indeed in the subsequent PS2 conversion you can.
No, my gripe with Ferrari is that it wants to be an arcade thrash around, but ties itself to too many real world simulation laws, leaving it somewhere between the two styles in a barely playable limbo.
It is clearly an arcade game on first glance - the menus are basic, and are reminiscent of the Daytona USA menus. You only get a handful of tracks and you can't change your car as (as the name suggests) they are all Ferrari F355's. When you've chosen your track, that's when it starts to get a bit strange. You are presented with 3 different handling styles that amount to 'beginner,' 'intermediate' and 'expert' difficulties. Rather than impose environmental variables depending on your chosen difficulty such as AI capability, time limits and the like, F355 instead decides how much it will hold your hand during the race.
Choose beginner and the game slaps on acceleration, braking and traction controls, meaning that it automatically brakes for you, accelerates for you and stops you skidding. In theory all you have to do to win is hold the accelerator trigger down and tap left and right. In theory. However, the computer controlled vehicles drive so perfectly (think that scene in the movie DARYL where the robotic boy licks the racing game), you'll probably only see them once throughout the whole race - on the starting grid. And this isn't just me moaning because I'm rubbish at this game - it truly is one of the most impossibly difficult games ever created.
If you try the other difficulties (intermediate and expert), you do get a little more freedom when it comes to manoeuvring your Ferrari, as the computer aides are relaxed or done away with, but conversely are replaced with others, such as compulsory manual gear shift and deactivation of traction control. Coupled with an even greater serving of Cyberdyne Systems-esque AI, you've got about as much chance of winning a race on 'expert' as Yeovil Town have of winning the Champions League. Skid on every corner and hit the barriers every 3 seconds - possibly. Win a race? Have a word with yourself.
It's this complete disregard for anything approaching a middle ground that makes me want to scream every time I play this game. If the AI wasn't so infallible and the car handing a little less fascist on 'beginner' difficulty, this could probably be a fun racing game. It certainly looks the part - the graphics are true second generation Dreamcast quality NAOMI (the arcade machine) perfect, in fact. The vehicles are superbly rendered, the tracks are packed with detail, and due to the slightly washed out colour palette, it looks extremely realistic in places. When compared to the other arcade to Dreamcast conversions from Sega (like Daytona 2001 and Sega Rally 2), this could almost be like playing video footage of a real race. It really does look that good.
However, looks are academic when a game plays this horridly. The are a few un-lockable bonus tracks (including that old racing game stalwart Laguna Seca), and some other bits and pieces to keep you mildly entertained, but if you're like me and prefer your arcade games to be fun, brash and garish, you'd do well to give F355 a wide berth.
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