of racing game has a leader. Gran Turismo is the undisputed simulation leader.
Ridge Racer is the king of the arcade (in spirit, at least). Wipeout leads all
futuristic racing games. When it comes to water racers, gamers look to the past:
Wave Race and Splashdown.
going to make a racing game (and chances are you are since it’s one of the most
bombarded genres), you might as well look to one of those leaders for
inspiration. You might even look to them for design and graphic ideas. Even
listen to their music for a soundtrack solution.
Enthusia Professional Racing comes from: a world where it’s believed that to be
the best, you must directly compete with the best. Given the subtitle and the
images of shiny, intricately designed vehicles, the first assumption is that
this is a game in competition with Gran Turismo. That assumption proves to be
true, though the backgrounds and music seem to have more in common with the
Ridge Racer series. Gran Turismo 4 took several years to develop, includes
several hundred cars and dozens of unique tracks. Can Enthusia really compete?
It definitely tries, and in
many respects it does. Enthusia is a fueled with licensed vehicles from all the
major manufacturers, as well as some you’ve probably never heard of (unless
you’ve played Gran Turismo). These vehicles are well represented in videogame
form, having all the necessary curves, grooves, and the right paint options. The
developers opted not to include the funky paint job names that some
manufacturers give to their cars, a realistic element that had to be sacrificed.
primary coal is to be the most realistic simulation racer on the planet. To
promote this message, pre-menu videos demonstrate Konami’s dedication to getting
things right. First they show a real car with a real driver on a real course. He
executes a few fancy driving moves, just the thing to get your blood boiling for
the game. Then they show the videogame version of those moves, only this time
you see a person controlling the game with a PlayStation2 steering wheel. It’s a
cool promo, and when the two cars are stacked next to each other, it’s hard to
tell them apart.
gotten the chance to drive these vehicles for real, so I can’t judge the
accuracy as well as a professional racer can. They made it look fun though.
"Fun" is all that ever really matters to me.
I start the
game, click through the menus, pick my car and … hit a wall. In more ways than
one, no less. Enthusia’s efforts to be ultra-realistic meant it had to be
ultra-difficult to control. That’s understandable, but what about the fun
factor? What about the old adage about making a good first impression? Those
things have to be taken into account.
a small cluster of modes, only one of which features gameplay that’s somewhat
new to the genre. That mode is called Driving Revolution. While it sounds like a
journey to becoming the most skilled racer in the world (or perhaps a mode where
you create the most perfect motor vehicle), it is actually a mode where the only
goal is to drive through lines at designated speeds. If that sounds like fun,
let me make the picture more clear. Light-colored squares appear on screen. They
change color as you increase and decrease your speed. If they turn green, you’re
driving at the proper speed. Follow their path and drive through them as evenly
as possible without going above or under the designated speed. This amounts to a
lot of trial and error, but not much entertainment.
The meat of
the game – Enthusia Life – is that single-player mode everyone desires
(conceptually). Lots of cars to unlock; lots of races to enter; and a ton of
challenges to overcome. This is good, but while you’re facing opponents and
point challenges, you’re battling an even greater adversary: the controls. They
might be realistic, but that’s secondary. Realistic isn’t always fun. It’s
definitely not here. Even the fastest cars don’t seem fast enough. Very few of
them grip the road as they should. I’m going by videogame standards, and the
standard of how I define a good racer, but isn’t that what all games are
developed and based on? When we step beyond the bounds of that, we begin to
cross over to the dark side. This can lead to amazing results, but often leads
us down a dreary path that’s anything but the equivalent to becoming Darth
Vader. Evil or not, Anakin had the Force on his side. Enthusia doesn’t.
conditions are unnecessary for Enthusia. The controls are either stiff and
awkward, or overly slippery. It makes it hard to enjoy a racer that would’ve
been pretty good otherwise. Why not great? To be a great racer you need to have
great controls and great tracks. Enthusia’s tracks are short, simply designed,
and have very few elements that make them stand apart from the courses in other
replays; not-so-beautiful gameplay. Enthusia looks like a first-generation
racer. The vehicles look great, but their reflective bodies aren’t as detailed
during the game as they are during replays, nor are the backgrounds as close to
the real thing as they are during replays.
sounds, new techno beats. The soundtrack is better than I would have expected
considering the genre it’s in (and how limited the song styles are), but it
can’t compare to the works of Tom Salta.
races, hard-to-steer vehicles. The courses are basic, having few sharp turns and
easy corners to navigate. The turns are so wide in one of the off-road courses
that even the worst vehicle can win the race.
Professional Racing wanted to be the heart and soul of the genre. Its odd intro
(showing playful children and a photographer who becomes frightened by a deadly
crash) shows what the developers were going for. After that I expected the game
to include a crazy story mode, but was relieved that it didn’t.
Two players can
go head-to-head in a game of awkward controller confusion.
Enthusia is an
enthusiastically challenged game. It has its high points, like a good collection
vehicles and an awesome replay mode (something other games have). It also has
its low points, like difficult controls and bad course designs (which some other
racers also have). Rent it if you have a great steering wheel (preferably the
one from Logitech). Otherwise you’d be wise to speed towards the nearest exit
and drive to the next big thing, or cruise back to Gran Turismo 3 or 4.