System 3 promises to release fresh content for Ferrari Challenge on the PlayStation Network this May.
There was no realistic way that the Wii version of System 3's pet project, Ferrari Challenge, was going to improve on the PS3 original - a decent but never particularly memorable racing sim. At the very least, this version of the game deserves some credit for retaining most of the game's features, even if the online play has completely vanished.
Sadly, where the game stumbles in this incarnation is in an area that is bound to cause controversy - the Wii controls. It shouldn't need to be said, but I'm a Wii fan. It's a clever console, a fun console and its focus on simple communal entertainment rather than surface sizzle is a breath of fresh air. It's just not a very good platform for a serious and technical driving sim.
There's a reason why the Wii library favours games like Mario Kart and Excite Truck rather than games in the style of PGR or Gran Turismo. Realistic driving sims require a level of feedback that the Wii's input devices just aren't designed to deliver, and Ferrari Challenge suffers as a result.
System 3 boss Mark Cale has told Eurogamer there are plenty of tracks confirmed for future Ferrari Challenge downloadable packs.
Among them will be Laguna Seca, Daytona, Brands Hatch, Donington, Barcelona, Hungaroring and Suzuka. Monaco will follow in September, we're told, along with a few cheeky surprises.
Cale mentioned that System 3 was working towards others such as Le Mans, but said such a high profile track will take a while to license.
System 3 has told Eurogamer that the first Ferrari Challenge content pack will be released for PS3 in August and will cost GBP 3.99.
Eurogamer readers will get to interview System 3 boss Mark Cale about Ferrari Challenge on Wednesday afternoon.
System 3 has told Eurogamer to expect a patch for Ferrari Challenge in the next week or so.
System 3 has told Eurogamer that downloadable content for Ferrari Challenge on PS3 will be released "in the next month".
Do you follow the work of the Church of Ferrarism? Do you put your faith in the prancing horse, give thanks to the healing power of sleek red bodywork, offer silent prayer in the direction of Fiorano?
If the answer is no, then Ferrari Challenge has little to offer you. This is a game that opens with a sensual car close-up soundtracked by soaring choral music. Created and designed to indulge System 3 boss Mark Cale's hot burning for all things Ferrari, the game itself ultimately does little to explain where this passion comes from. If you're not already besotted with the brand, and don't get off on deeply technical racing games, then it doesn't want to know. As far as the Church of Ferrarism is concerned, we're preaching to the converted rather than knocking on your door and trying to change your life with a fistful of evangelical leaflets.
The approach is hardcore simulation rather than arcade thrills which already places this in a niche within a niche. The handling model is robust and convincing, but also ferociously tough and unforgiving. Brake hard and brake early, or every corner becomes a trap, draining precious seconds through wasted momentum and forced penalties. It has more in common with a Formula 1 or Superbike game than most of its four-wheeled peers. It's certainly an impressive work of simulation, especially since it comes from Eutechnyx.
Mark Cale really likes Ferraris. He likes them so much, in fact, that as CEO of System 3, he's been making a game exclusively about them. On top of that, he's delayed the game's launch since November of last year, endlessly tweaking to get that Ferrari feel just right.
I hate "driving" games. My life is short. If I wanted to move round in circles with little chance of variation for countless hours I would have bought a motorcycle and grown a giant arm. It's not the concept, but the trend towards gimmickry and "realism" over enjoyment that makes me so miserable. Games like Forza and Gran Turismo leave me cold. I can't play them. I know they're "seminal", and I understand why they're popular, but I find them slow and cynical. For me, the fun in any car game is in racing very quickly, and immediately. Think SEGA Rally. Blue skies. Think those early McRaes, the original TOCAs. Think Burnout. Think the first Gran Turismo on PlayStation, all those years before "PSone", the breakthrough console game that felt so thrilling and fresh. All of them showed depth but were never a chore. Ferrari Challenge - originally planned for November release and now pushed back to March next year - appears to fall in the right category. Despite being hung up on realism, preview code suggests passion and fun have been kept at the forefront. That's right, sports fans: it's actually enjoyable.