While the game's touchy driving model and overly complex career mode won't appeal to everyone, Enthusia is a worthy game for those looking for something different in the four-wheel genre.
- Great-looking car models
- Challenging driving physics
- Interesting twist on the drive and collect formula.
- Ugly menus
- Rear-wheel-drive cars are basically unplayable.
Enthusia Professional Racing looks to take the racing simulator fight directly to its high-profile PlayStation 2 rival, the much-lauded Gran Turismo series. Rather than following the path of many racing games on the same platform, looking to imitate the GT franchise's approach, Enthusia takes a very different--and sometimes innovative--approach to the collectible car game. While the game's touchy driving model and overly complex career mode won't appeal to everyone, Enthusia is a worthy game for those looking for something different in the four-wheel genre.
Enthusia is a driving game that places a premium on driving skill, not necessarily tuning knowledge. Sure there are options to adjust numerous handling settings on your car, but for the most part the game wants you behind the wheel fighting it out for first place in any of the game's more than 200 available cars. What this means from a gameplay standpoint is a driving engine that is sensitive and touchy, sometimes brilliant, and often frustrating. Firstly, if you think other driving games have perfected the springy feeling of suspension before, you obviously haven't played Enthusia yet. Weight transfer into and out of corners and under heavy braking is dramatically emphasized not only through the handling of the car but visually as well; cars will lurch under heavy braking, and unless you can carry momentum through a curve in as straight a line as possible, your lap times will suffer.
Working in tandem with the bouncy nature of the driving model is Enthusia's visual gravity system, a visual representation of the forces acting upon your car, tires, and even the driver itself. There are several types of VGS displays. The first is a small car icon that indicates the direction your front tires are facing, the amount of forces acting upon them, and the general direction of G-forces acting upon the car itself. The second display is a frame that shows forces acting both on the car and your virtual driver in a sort of screen-within-a-screen fashion. When you enter a turn, the screen will slightly shift left, right, up, or down to convey the forces working against your driver's head as he pilots the car. Illuminated onscreen arrows further illustrate the direction and power of the G-forces working against your car. Honestly, while the system is cool to look at, and seems remarkably sensitive to the slightest subtle movements of your car, it doesn't really present any sort of essential information that you can't get from the overall "feel" of the car itself. Luckily you can turn the displays off altogether if you want.
From a driving standpoint, first-time Enthusia racers will find that being quick on the track is as much an exercise in restraint as it is raw horsepower. The game's mostly fictional tracks blend some nice straights with tight and twisted hairpins that never let you feel complacent with the car's handling, and therefore braking distances and controlled turns should never be taken for granted. There's no shoving your car into a turn and hoping to powerslide your way around the apex; carefully modulated throttle and restrained braking will be your best friends in this game. Rear-wheel-drive cars are especially tough to drive in Enthusia, displaying a huge tendency for oversteer and requiring incredible amounts of patience (and driving touch) to be successful in. While the game touts an incredibly realistic physics engine, it's hard to believe rear-wheel-drive cars are this twitchy in real life. As one colleague put it to us, "If rear-wheel-drive cars handled in real life the way they do in Enthusia, no one would ever buy one."
Combine this with only a moderate sense of speed (bolstered somewhat through the use of stylized blur lines at the edge of the screen at high speeds), and you have a driving model that is complex in execution but often plodding in pace. To make matters worse, the cars entered into a race tend to be from a huge spectrum of performance abilities, and on longer races, the field tends to spread out pretty quickly so that even if you're in the middle of the pack positionwise, you may not have a car either behind or in front of you that's in sight.