- The game itself is called Ferrari Challenge, and it's aiming to offer nothing less ambitious than the entire Ferrari production line since 1947. There's one rather large caveat there, in that it will ship with 30 different models at launch, but System 3 hopes to fill out the rest of the catalog with monthly update. There's no solid information yet on pricing, but System 3 seem keen to take the microtransaction route via the PlayStation Store.
The same will go for tracks in the game, with the 13 available in the boxed copy being expanded with new ones each month (and Monaco as soon as the game launches). In the meantime, there'll be seven from Europe and six from America available at the start, four of which were available in the demo that we played at Ferrari's very own Mugello track in Italy. Sadly, that particular track wasn't on offer this time (it was last seen in Forza Motorsport 2), but Monza, Silverstone, Misano, and Paul Ricard all looked to accurately represent their real-world equivalents.
While the game might not feature Forza's blistering frame rates, it's still looking really good.Graphically, Ferrari Challenge doesn't look to offer the eye-melting detail of Project Gotham 4, nor will it offer the 60 frames per second of Forza 2. What it does offer are some impressively modeled, authentic-looking cars and a smattering of vortex effects such as swaying trees, flags, and leaves that are moved by the same wind that's buffeting you on the track. This is the first Ferrari game in which cars suffer damage, although the bumps and dents we saw were only noticeable up close. Predictably, the damage is only superficial--it won't affect car performance, so there'll be no early retirements from a race.
Clearly, System 3 has aimed to create a realistic driving game, and it hired the services of Formula 2 racing driver Bruno Senna--nephew of the Formula One great Ayrton--to assist in this end. Senna has driven the majority of the game's cars around test tracks, and then fed back detailed information about individual handling differences. The result is a game that sets out to accurately match the feeling of driving each of its cars in real life, something which will be important to both wannabe and actual Ferrari vehicle owners.
While the vehicles undoubtedly feel realistic, the game itself is still highly playable, and it's a game that demands concentration while still being fun to play. The realism can be ramped up further if you remove the driving aids; ABS, traction, and steering assists can be adjusted midrace by selecting one of the five variable settings in each category. Like Forza, Ferrari Challenge also features a racing line that can be used to show the optimal position on the track, as well as when to brake and accelerate.
No realistic racing game is complete without a host of camera views, and Ferrari Challenge offers the expected selection of in- and out-of-car perspectives. The most striking view is in-car, as the dashboards are modeled right down to the correct stitching. You can look around the interior by moving the right analog stick and admire details as the mirrors and air conditioning vents, although at this point the image in the mirrors featured low-resolution textures. However, those looking for authenticity can admire the Ferrari-logoed gloves that grip the steering wheel in the proper position, as well as the sponsor logos around the track, including those of Ferrari collaborators Puma and Acer.
The final game is set to support 16 players over PlayStation Network and LAN. We can't comment on how this is progressing as there was a technical issue with the code we saw, but the online support at least promises to be comprehensive. When racing online you will be able to put decals on your cars and then let friends borrow them from your virtual garage. There'll also be support for two player split-screen games, although the number of AI opponents might have to be reduced in this mode compared to the single-player mode because of the extra workload on the CPU. The PS3 version will support steering wheels and custom soundtracks, and while there will also music packaged with the game, it is yet to be decided which genre this will be and if it will be turned off by default.
The final piece of the game that we saw on our track day was the card game mode, which is basically an elaborate version of Ferrari Top Trumps. You collect new cards by playing through tracks in the main game, then create a custom deck of 33 cards to battle other players. These players can be either the computer artificial intelligence, or another person on the same console or online. The idea behind the game is to choose from categories on each card, such as brake horsepower, value, or top speed, and hopefully beat the equivalent value on the other player's card to steal it. Once one player has accrued all 66 cards, the game is over. You'll be able to collect more cards by downloading the four or five that are planned for release--you can guess this bit, I'm sure--each month after the game's release. And thanks to the storage space of Blu-ray, expect a few video documentaries to be included that were originally made to celebrate Ferrari's recent 60-year anniversary.
Set for a November 23 release in Europe and a Q1 2008 release in the US, the build we saw of Ferrari Challenge on PS3 was supposedly 60 percent of the way through development. A lot has been promised of the game that we didn't get to see, and System 3 will certainly have a hard time reaching their goals in the relatively short time until release. Having said that, the game has definite potential, not to mention a highly prestigious licence at its centre. With more versions rumoured to be in the pipeline, expect to hear more on Ferrari Challenge in the very near future.