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Are you going to buy an Xbox One X This Holiday Season?

Hope to Receive it as a Gift

Game Profile
GENRE: Racing
PLAYERS:   1-2
September 19, 2000
 Written by Nick Schmidt  on October 16, 2000

Review: You will lose. Just remember that; oh yes, you will lose...

When you sit down and dream of the more expensive cars on this little green planet of ours, chances are the likes of Ferrari will pop into your brain. These premier Italian stallions can run anywhere from $200,000, to a cool half a million for the top-end models. With this in mind, I'd just like to point out how extraordinarily fitting it is that Yu Suzuki's ode to these power-houses, Ferrari 355 Challenge, is the most expensive arcade unit known to man- clocking in at an unreasonably high price tag of about $20,000! Now, since the average Joe isn't equipped with such limitless resources, Sega decided to port the arcade experience to everyone's favorite console: that's right, the Dreamcast (Okay, maybe it is your favorite, maybe it isn't).

In case you don't know this by now, the arcade unit was not only revolutionary in price, but also in presentation. Spanning three twenty-seven inch televisions, F355 was definitely a showstopper due to the panoramic view and killer visuals. This also created sort of a problem too: since the game ran on four Naomi boards (the fourth being for sound alone), how on earth would AM2 port it without major discrepancies? Simple; just take out the two unnecessary boards from the other screens, mix the sound with the one remaining graphics board, sprinkle some fairy dust, cross you're fingers and pray that everything will turn out fine.

Actually, thanks to some spiffy programming F355 turned out identical to it's arcade cousin; three screens or not. Of course the view isn't as spectacular, but it's the only reasonable thing to do. And when you take a gander at these visuals, you're jaw will surely crash through the floor, and your tongue will proceed to roll on the floor for miles and miles upon end: guaranteed or your money back! Seriously though, this is by far the best looking game since the almighty and almost God-like Soul Calibur. It's literally perfect: no slowdown whatsoever, pop-up has completely been killed off, and the textures are just oh-so amazing as well. Thankfully, this all runs at a silky-smooth 60-fps during every part of the game. Not once have my eyes discerned any blemish of any sort; it's just that freakin' beautiful.

What's even cooler is the painstaking level of detail put into making this the most visually appealing racing title ever. Each track is modeled perfectly after their respective locations, right down to every tree, every bump in the road, and anything else imaginable. For instance, the Long Beach course encompasses all the buildings found in real life, and each one is still visible even when you are all the way across the track. But perhaps the greatest component of F355's visuals would definitely be the fact that even in two-player mode, the graphics are identical. There's no fogging, because frankly, it's not needed. The game still runs as smooth as ever with split screen. I don't know how Suzuki does it, but all of his games are always cutting edge in terms of graphical aptitude.

Graphics can take you far in today's gaming world, but deep down inside all people really want is a game that plays just as good as it looks. This is also not a dilemma with F355, as it is the most realistic driving simulator ever to grace the consoles. Thought Gran Turismo was as real as it gets? Please excuse me while I laugh, ha-ha-ha...okay, I'm done. While it's true that the recent crop of realism inspired racers like Sega GT and Gran Turismo accomplish the whole "practicality" thing with ease, they just don't even come close to the astounding level of complexity of F355. In order to win a race, or even come remotely close, you unquestionably must practice each course over and over again until you've memorized it. Then, and only then, will you stand a chance.

You see, the other cars really aren't your biggest enemy; each track is. Since there is only one car to choose from in the entire game, you really have no advantage over the computer at all. In order to win you have to play your cards just right, take each turn perfectly, and try not to mess up at all. If you do happen to slip off the road for just one tiny, minute fraction of an instant, that's it, race over. Thus, planning each turn ahead of time is imperative for victory.

Help is present however, in the form of four separate assist functions that can be activated or deactivated at any time. There's the IBS (intelligent braking system- brakes automatically for you on turns), SC (stability control- keeps your car stable), TC (traction control- improves control stability), and finally the ABS (anti-lock braking system- keeps the tires locking while braking). Like I said before, these functions can be turned off or on whenever you feel like help is needed, or is hindering success. Personally, I like to use all the assist functions minus the IBS. And don't call me a pansy, but I play with automatic transmission too. Hey! I said no name-calling! Just wait until you play it my friend, then you'll surely understand.

While the whole realism thing is perhaps one of the neatest attributes of the game, it's also the biggest problem. I think it's pretty safe to say that most gamers out there will quickly discard F355 for it's extreme difficulty. But you guys have to remember this is a simulator after all; it's not the next Daytona. Precision is the most important element of success. You'll soon find this out just like I did. For a while I was carelessly power-sliding and thinking I was taking the turns just right, but it turned out that was the reason why I kept losing all along.

If you are concerned about replay value, think again. Theoretically this game could last you an eternity, if you want to put in the time to master it, but again, most will push it aside because of the difficulty. There are a total of eleven tracks in the game, each taking longer than the next to absolutely perfect. From the oval tracks of Atlanta, to the tight turns of Long Beach, each course is a game in it's own. Add the championship mode, the multiplayer, and the network mode (upload times, download times, etc.) and you've got one slick package to last the next year.

But, I must complain about one thing that really concerns me. The music. It's terrible, horrible, atrocious, sickening, and any other synonym that comes to mind. While the actual music is awesome (the guitar), I just cannot, and I stress cannot, stand the singer. He's probably the biggest 80's cliche since neon green and ripped jeans. You know what I mean; take the voice of Sammy Hagar, multiply the annoyance by... oh, let's say a million, and that's basically what it's like. My suggestion: turn off the music, and turn up the effects volume because those engines sound oh-so pretty.

Who knows, maybe I'm just a complete moron. Or maybe I'm not. But before delving deep within the realms of F355, you should ask yourself, "Do I have an attention span?" Well, if you don't, then this game isn't for you. But if you want something that will last just as long as your brain isn't fried on making that one turn perfectly, then by all means, buy this game. Just remember: 80's metal is okay, but for the love of God, can the singer!

Bottom Line
This game certainly is a challenge, just as the title suggests, so I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. Only the hardcore gamers need apply. Even still, F355 Challenge proves to be a worthy addition to any die-hard racing fan's collection.

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