A Second Look @ F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa

(The things I do for a review. I knew about this game long ago because I bought it from Play N Trade. I owned it for a total of one week before taking it back. I played it for a total of 10 minutes before I was completely disappointed. I spent a total of zero hours thinking about this game from that point on. I knew I had to get this game again to review for Ferrari Month so I got it from eBay. I was willing to give it a second chance for the sake of the review but even after setting the game up through the menus I was disappointed even before I started racing. As I literally hit the first turn of Monza I knew that there was no hope for me ever liking this game.)
(Screen shots taken from Gamespot, and are the only "quality" pics that I could find)
 
Personally, I've always felt that if a game makes you work too hard without any reward it quickly becomes a chore. For example, MMOs gradually increase in difficulty the further along you are. Boss battles become more difficult as knowledge of the game world and skill utilization increases. It becomes fun through the adventure of gaining things, whether it be loot or levels, that adheres you to want to play more. With F355 Challenge the opposite occurs as the driving feels like the player's understanding of physics is put to the test with the only reward awaiting you at the end of each race is another race. No unlocks, no special modes, no surprises. In this sense F355 Challenge is completely a chore to play: you play it only if you want to, not because you feel compelled to. There is nothing to draw you in and nothing to hold your attention unless you're either intent on beating it or are a huge Ferrari fan.



Arcade and Single Play modes are the exact same, each has three different sub-levels of Training, Driving, and Racing. Training adds a recommended line and vocal assists. Driving takes you out on the field in a Time Trial where it records your best lap and ghost. and Racing (where the screen to choose this says you can "Praticipate" in a real race...) pits you against a full field of cars when you're ready for it. In Arcade mode, you can choose any of the immediately available 6 tracks out a total of 11 tracks, the remaining five are unlocked by advancing in the Championship mode, or by going ahead and unlocking them through the password codes. Championship mode is a straightforward race to cross the finish lines first. Versus play pits you against another player. Network Race makes use of the Dreamcast's dial-up modem for you to take to the track against players from around the world, but since its now defunct there isn't an option to choose this.
The game is more geared to be used with a steering wheel for maximum effect but doesn't hinder the playing when using the Dreamcast controller. The controller's analog pad is very accurate and better to use than the d-pad. Since there isn't an option to just look back behind your car, the game uses two of the face buttons for selecting driving assists and turning them on or off. Spin Control, Traction Control, and ABS are the usual assists you'll find along with auto-braking, using this feels like the game is holding your hand but is very necessary for those who aren't used to sim racing games. The selection for the assists could have been mapped to the d-pad while a look behind and hand brake button could have been used instead, but it seems that design flaws are abundant.

Design flaws come in all shapes and sizes and are never glitches. These are ideas that are implemented into a game during its creation that the developers put in place thinking they will be good to play with. The single in-car narrow first-person camera view that can't be changed is the biggest design flaw this game is guilty of. The length the game goes to uphold the title of racing simulator is dumbfounding. Its an idea that's good in theory, but mediocre in practice. It works, but not well. The only way you'll know when a car is behind you is either the rear-view mirror or the small radar at the top of the screen.
Graphics aren't breathtaking and it looks like the typical Dreamcast style, but its not pushing the limits of the system. It goes for a realistic graphical design and its pulled off well but it seems dark, blurred, and just visually unappealing. There is no damage and bumping into a wall will immediately turn your car into the direction you have your steering wheel. Its almost as if its saying "Oh, I'm sure you didn't mean that. Here you go, mate. Be on your way." Additionally bumping into another car on the track will result in a loss of speed for you.
The only time you get to see the car model is just before the race and the opponents on the track. Regardless of that drawback, the F355 looks accurately detailed, down to the air scoops on the side. As for the tracks themselves, a few turns missing turns here and there means that whatever you may be familiar with will have to be relearned. They don't feel like accurate representations of the real courses since they seem to go faster than what you may be used to. I may be judging too harshly as a lot of racetracks are known to reinvent themselves for the sake of keeping things new. 


 
The music goes for an 80's hair metal theme throughout and aside from the opening video only comes off as ANNOYING. In-race is an auditory assault where the main sounds you'll hear are the whine of the engine, the squeal of the tires, and the terrible unlicensed hair metal that the game tries to pass off as music. Its cheesy to the fullest effect and is actually distracting while driving. A radio DJ speaks at the beginning of each race to talk about the song and most of is inaudible as it quickly goes into the song. Oddly enough it goes well together, as well as a peanut butter and melted plastic sandwich.




While it tries to pass as a true-to-life racing simulator, it ends up not being a very fun game at all. There's little or no sense of progression and as far as racing simulators go it would have definitely pushed the boundaries had it been more accessible and had a willingness to not be so stuck up. Better simulation of speed rather than just handling. More options for the player and less restrictions. So what do you do when a game throws out fun for the sake of always trying to be right? Throw it out. You don't need to play F355 Challenge. What you'll find is a game that played by its own rules and ends up constantly smacking you on the back of the head to insist that you're driving wrong. Its not a terrible simulator since its adhesion to reality is commendable and it offers realistic physics on a console meant for arcade ports, but that does not excuse it for being annoying.
The Ferrari license is wasted here and how the game was popular enough to attain an arcade-exclusive sequel is mind boggling. I always do try to find the good in each game, a fair chance has to be given, but in the case of F355 Challenge I won't. With terrible physics, annoying sound, bland graphics, and bad presentation there is no hope for F355 Challenge to even be considered playable in my book. I can't think of a niche of sim racing or Ferrari enthusiasts that would find this game appealing.


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