Lotus Challenge Preview

We take a good look at Xicat's driving game that lets you take the wheel of Lotus cars both classic and recent.

Xicat Interactive and Kuju Entertainment are currently working on a new driving game for the Xbox called Lotus Challenge. As you might suspect from the name, the game features a wide variety of cars made by Lotus, including older vehicles like the 1962 Lotus Cortina and newer models such as the 1997 Esprit GT1. Naturally, many of these cars perform quite differently from one another, and you'll get to experience the differences firsthand while progressing through the various modes that Lotus Challenge has to offer.

You'll get to drive a wide variety of Lotus vehicles.

In the challenge mode, you can select from one of two characters before participating in what's essentially a story mode that takes you through a variety of different race types. In the beginning of the challenge mode, you have to prove your worth as a professional driver by completing a series of relatively simple objectives. You'll have to complete three laps around an oval track within a certain amount of time, learn how to use a manual transmission, and even practice with the emergency brake so you can perform powerslides around tight corners--which is probably the most difficult of the three, since the brake mechanism is incredibly sensitive and the slightest tap can send your car into a spin. Once all these objectives have been completed, you'll start to get some actual competition, which comes in a few different forms. Your first event is a regular race against several computer-controlled opponents, but after that, you'll get to compete in a drag races or attempt different sorts of stunts.

In addition to the challenge mode, Lotus Challenge offers a few other, more-traditional features. There's a championship mode in which you can compete in one of several different classes of Lotus cars for a championship. For example, you can choose to compete in races that feature nothing but vintage Formula 1 Lotus cars like the 1960 Type 18, or you can choose to drive something a little more recent, like the super class, which features cars such as the Lotus Carlton or the GT1. Lotus Challenge also features a single race option that allows you to practice some of the events you've unlocked in the challenge mode, as well as a collection area where you can see all the cars and items you've unlocked. It's worth noting that Lotus Challenge contains a brief history of the manufacturer, including information on the founder and some key moments in its racing history.

The game includes a couple of different race types, including drag racing.

While this all may seem intriguing to those who are at least vaguely familiar with Lotus, the current build does have some issues that will hopefully be addressed before the game's final release. At this point, the controls are probably the biggest issue, as they're a little inconsistent. At certain times, simply tapping the analog stick left or right won't cause your car to budge at all, but at others, a small tap will cause it to careen into a wall, almost as if there were an enormous magnet planted there. The learning curve for the game is also quite steep. Since it's been designed to be a somewhat close representation of actual driving, casual racing fans may be discouraged by some of the race types that require a high level of skill right off the bat, though the fact that the AI doesn't do much to respond to where you are on the track does offset the steep learning curve a bit.

Visually, the current the version of the game looks solid. There's not a huge amount of detail on the cars or in the environments, but Lotus Challenge uses many of the Xbox's special-effects capabilities quite well, such as various types of lighting and reflective effects. Moreover, the frame rate seems to remain solid throughout most of the game. Lotus Challenge is currently scheduled for release at the end of January.

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