A bargain-bin game is notoriously difficult to review with a remote sense of objectivity.
They always come with the perception that they’re rubbish because they’re cheap.
Sometimes that’s not actually the case, but sadly in today’s review, Formula Challenge is a classic example of ‘what you pay for is what you get’ – and even that could be a major exaggeration…
Before we delve into the sheer spectacle that is Formula Challenge, here’s a quick run down of the basic premise: it has a 1- or 2-player set-up, three difficulty settings, auto or manual gears, ten fictional circuits, drivers and teams. Gamers can choose from a quick race (starting from the rear of the grid) or a series of championship races making up a fictional season.
Navigating through the basic menu is fairly straightforward, and the overall feel is pretty basic. The gameplay cameras are many and varied, and the in-car view isn’t too bad. The cars themselves are quite well-modelled, and one of the game’s few strong points.
However, it’s important to review Formula Challenge in all of its glory, and we’d better start off with the circuits.
With the championship set in ten locations around the world, the circuits are a strange mix of fictional layouts and actual circuits that have apparently been placed in other countries. Who’d have thought that the Botswana Grand Prix took place on a pancake-flat version of the Circuit de Catalunya?
To compound the arcade game feeling, the handling is as non-analogue as it gets; subtle attempts at steering inputs have the virtual driver applying opposite lock. The twitchiness doesn’t improve at speed, and the throttle / brake applications are equally brutal.The tracks give Formula Challenge a decidedly aged, arcade game feel. This is quite an impressive feat from Renderware, when one considers that they have contributed to some rather good video games like GTA 3 and Burnout 2.
Fortunately the game physics are so bad that you can simply lift off the throttle to take most corners, assuming your frame rate doesn’t stall. Navigating the corners is interesting: sometimes you’ll float through (literally in mid-air), and other times you’ll take far too much kerb and be sent into a weird ‘auto spin’, on other occasions you’ll hit an invisible wall.
Thankfully, the cars are indestructible, and that’s pretty necessary because the opponent drivers have little sense of AI other than to try and ram you off the road when they’re not driving the wrong way around the track. And of course there’s no replay function to relive your (or their) exploits…
In fact, there’s really little incentive to pick up this title and play it repeatedly. There’s no reward for winning races or championships, there are no secret cars or tracks that are unlocked if you’re successful.
The gameplay is even worse in two-player mode (you can count your frame-rate by the minute), and no one in their right mind would want to play it with you.
On the packaging, Formula Challenge describes itself as “a compelling, heart-stopping, authentic homage to the pinnacle of motor sport”. It’s everything but this.
The Pros: It’s dirt cheap, but that’s really little excuse
The Cons: It’s still too expensive; badly-designed in almost every aspect
Why play it? For the laugh factor alone, unless you’re a complete masochist
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award Formula Challenge…
OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE.
Formula Challenge is available in a bargain-bin of your local computer game retailer.
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