Eat my Dust and Choke on My Exhaust
Do you have the need? The need for speed? Do you want to go from 0-60 in 6.7 seconds? If so, then you'll want to try out Sony's Porsche Challenge because it will satisfy that driving need. This is a driving game geared for those racers out there that want realistic action and motion.
Porsche Challenge allows you to choose from six drivers - Dan, DJ, Taka-Bo, Nikita, Marco, and Rachel. These drivers all drive (what else) Porsche Boxsters. Players can race on four basic courses (USA, Japan, Stuttgart, and Alpine), but variations on each track allow drivers to race on a combination of twenty tracks (even more if you know the Cheat codes, hint hint). There's no getting bored on the same old track with this game.
The graphics in this game are great and blow most other racing games out of the water. There aren't any grainy pixels like in Need for Speed and you don't get that cartoony feel like you do with Ridge Racer. The cars look terrific; they're some of the most realistic graphics we've seen, with true light sourcing and crisp edges. You can even see the driver's arms turning the wheel. Unfortunately, the backgrounds are a bit bland.
The sound effects are also true to life. You can really hear the engine whine when you down shift, the gravel makes a grinding noise when you fishtail off the road and the tires really squeal when you try to take a turn. Of course, the soundtrack sucks and I wished the folks at Sony let you use your own music CD, but that's just me being nitpicky.
Now that you know what you'll be seeing, let me tell you what you will be feeling. Driving in the Simulation mode is like getting behind the wheel of an actual Porsche. The handling in the game is almost identical to the real thing. In Ridge Racer and Rage Racer, the cars were too loose. You ended up swerving from left to right too much. In Need for Speed, the cars were too sluggish and it was hard to take turns too fast. With Porsche Challenge, Sony programmed the handling perfectly. Who says the Japanese make the best cars? It's all about European engineering, baby!!
Another thing I really liked about this game was the different ways you could take a turn. One option is to step on the gas and brake simultaneously so that your Boxster slows down enough going into the turn. After taking it, you would accelerate out and leave everyone else in the dust. For the more advanced racers, I suggest using the handbrake. Pulling the handbrake at the right instance slows the car and allows you to go into a controlled skid. Once you've perfected this type of turning, those hairpin turns and sharp U-turns will pose no problem for you.
Porsche Challenge is not only for intermediate and advanced drivers. Novice race fans can also enjoy this game. The Arcade mode takes the emphasis off the cornering and R.P.M.'s and places it on the overall racing experience. If you don't want to worry too much about taking a turn or shifting at the right time, then this mode is for you. Once you've mastered this style of driving, going to the Simulation mode is a snap.
Racing against a friend can also be fun. The split screen feature allows you to go head to head with that trash talking buddy who thinks he's Michael Andretti. If you are good enough, the Test Driver will make an appearance and you can go up against the best.
I do have a couple of complaints. First, the R.P.M meter is too small. You get this little quarter circle display in the bottom right hand side of the screen. The display only shows the numbers scrolling by and the gear display is minute. Also, the competition isn't very intense. At times you would be driving all by yourself in the middle of the pack with no other cars around you. Some more demanding competition would have been nice.
Overall, I think this is a good racing game, but it didn't have that "oomph." Like a car that just can't shift into the high gears in the straight-aways, Porsche Challenge comes up just a little short.