Ferrarri Challenge will debut on PS3 this Xmas, with the Wii and DS versions to follow (they wanted the game on Xbox 360, but due to MS licencing restrictions it won't be making an appearance). Ferrari Challenge was born out of Mark Cale's connections with Ferrari (his company are one of the main sponsors of the Challenge series) and his love for driving Ferrari cars. His main goal in creating Ferrari Challenge was to combine great technology and showcase the dynamics of true Ferrari racing through an accessible and exhilirating arcade racing experience.
Ferrari Challenge will be the first time that the Ferrari has allowed damage modelling on their vehicles within a videogame (about bloody time). This was demonstrated by the scratches that appear when you collide with fellow racers or barricades, the bumpers that fall off, wing mirrors that go rolling down the track and the dents and bumps which appear in your vehicle. All debris that is shed from your vehicle will still be visible on your next lap around and may cause you and your opponent to swerve.
Despite this version only being 75% completed, the effects of crashing, skid marks, smoke and sparks coming from your wheels,the textures, the environmental graphics and the track dynamics were all visually impressive . The attention to detail , not only in the body work and interiors of the cars (they apparently took over 700,000 shots of the interiors of Ferrari models), but also the textures of the tarmac (even the paint on the tarmac), the scenery and crowd scenes was impeccable. We know Ferrari Challenge is a racing game and racing is what we should be really concentrating on, but the attention to detail around the track was to a depth we haven't seen before in a racing game; we even noticed subtle additions such as birds flying overhead. Cale believes that every single detail is significant if the game is to make a significant impact with gamers, although he's under no illusions that it's ultimately the racing that really matters.
In races we'll be able to change the weather conditions, but Ferrari Challenge will also tap into the Playstation Network to gather details of weather conditions at the 15 tracks that will be available from the outset (extra track downloads will become available, including Hill Climbs, or added if more tracks are added in the real-world challenge series), meaning that if it's raining in Monza, it will be raining in your Monza race.
We were only allowed to drive around the Monza track in the preview, but despite there being no noticeable difference in surface changes (something which has yet to be added), the speed and thrill of the race was captured as effectively as any arcade racer, with intelligent A.I attempting to block off your moves and a smooth, yet challenging race experience.
There will also be customisation options, though not to the extent of the tuning you get in GT, manual gear racing (which you'd expect) and, wait for it, battle cards.
The subject of Battle Cards in a racing game went straight over our heads initially, but after speaking to Mark after the swni, when he was able to clarify the premise, it seemed like an idea that may appeal to those who can't get enough of unlocking stuff. There will be 60 battle cards available in Ferrari Challenge (through completing certain stages), 10 from each decade of Ferrari's history. These will then be able to be traded online, but only after you've played a Top Trumps game with the person who wants your card!
Make no bones about it, Ferrari Challenge looks fantastic and the guys from System 3 have the expertise and the knowledge of Ferrari cars to ensure that driving them feels like it should - unfortunately I doubt we'll ever know if that is true. But nevertheless, we're extremely impressed with what the System 3 have done. Whether they can get close to the success of the GT series with the Ferrari brand is questionable. It's great to drive a Ferrari, but in a videogame it's possible that driving the same brand of vehicle could get boring after a while and leave you yearning to drive something different. But then there may be just enough diversity in the range of Ferrari cars on offer to keep the action fresh, we'll just have to wait to find out.
System 3 are looking to launch Ferrari Challenge with a huge worldwide online tournament where gamers will compete for substantial prizes.