If you think this is one of those racers you can breeze right through without a second thought, think again. If you think you can get away with bouncing off walls, you've just picked up the wrong title. The physics engine in Ferrari F355 Challenge is not only realistic, but also very challenging, as the name would imply. Designed by the legendary Yu Suzuki, F355 Challenge is truly a pleasure to, dare I say, drive. A steering wheel is almost a prerequisite for this game.
Certainly, not all racers are created alike. In its own way, F355 Challenge is a cut above the rest--even though it features but one car. While some racers rely on the sheer quantity of cars and a decent physics engines and others go for exotic licenses with a more forgiving engine, F355 Challenge defies the norm and creates a new benchmark by which console games are measured.
The graphics are beautiful and the sound effects are good. However, I found myself turning off the announcer at every track. The display is well laid out and does a good job keeping you informed of what's going on behind you and in front of you. Each mode of the game is designed in some way to help you progress and polish your skills for the championship mode.
The "Great Driver Challenge" goes a long way in improving your skills, as you get rewarded with points for good technique and sportsmanship. This also goes a long way in emphasizing skills you'll need to progress in the game and unlock further tracks and options. This is a nice touch, too, because few, if any, games get into this much detail in how the races are played out.
Although F355 Challenge has a lot going for it, two things just kept bothering me. Both had to do with the controls. You will not be terribly pleased with your learning curve and progress if you rely on a regular Dual Shock 2 controller. I'm not saying it's impossible, just that you'd be best off using a steering wheel. Also, it was somewhat disappointing to find that F355 Challenge didn't use the pressure-sensitive buttons on the PS2's analog controller.
Overall, the strongest point of this game is its physics engine. I dare say it's as close to reality as you'll ever get with a console racer. In its presentation and packaging, it is very appealing. Besides, wouldn't you rather plunk down $50 for a simulated ride in an F355 than get arrested for "borrowing" one?