Activision and Exact had the right idea when designing Supercar Street Challenge. The concept was to let players race the world's most exotic sports cars in and around interesting and glamorous real-world locations. Unfortunately, that vision isn't ultimately realized in Supercar Street Challenge, as the high-speed supercars featured in the game feel lifeless, the courses seem entirely too convoluted, and the physics are unexciting. The game does have an excellent sense of speed, but its failings in various other areas keep it from fulfilling its promise as a racer.
Supercar Street Challenge features more than 20 courses set in such locations as Los Angeles, Monaco, Munich, and Rome. Although the courses aren't exact replicas of the streets and highways found in their real-life counterparts, several important landmarks from each individual city do appear in the periphery. Racing through these street courses, players will find themselves in a variety of outrageous racing locations. For example, in the Los Angeles course, you will drive through the LA river basin and inside the bowels of the city's sewer system. Primarily due to the extreme course designs, at times, it almost feels like you are driving Hot Wheels cars through tiny fictional environments, rather than street racing through realistic city-based tracks. The game's poor physics further exacerbate the problem.
Even arcade racing games demand some semblance of realistic physics. Being able to throw the car around the track, with tight controls, is all well and good, but in Supercar Street Challenge, the cars don't really have any weight or inertia to them. Some of the more advanced cars in the game, such as the Fioravanti F100 and the Pagani Zonda, are able to perform completely insane maneuvers and turns, which leaves the game's courses helpless against the driver's skills. But even with the lesser vehicles, you don't really have to drive the courses--it's easier to just bounce off walls, without losing much speed, to get ahead of the other racers. Supercar Street Challenge demands an extraordinary suspension of belief to enjoy, even on the most rudimentary levels.
Still, there is some good in the game, in gameplay terms. Supercar Street Challenge attempts to be one of the fastest racing games on the market, and in general, it's quite successful in that regard. The frame rate does fluctuate, sometimes unbearably, but for the most part, the scenery zooms by as the high-powered supercars fly through the game's twisty tracks. This is particularly true in the game's latter stages, when using some of the faster cars. Additionally, Supercar Street Challenge features a rather extensive design studio that lets you custom-design your own high-performance vehicle. The styling studio was created with input from real-life designer Steve Saleen, and that expert advice has been put to relatively good use. A variety of chassis configurations are available in the design studio, and players can even tweak the length of the chassis at will. Basic performance statistics, such as power, acceleration, braking, and handling, can also be tweaked. Naturally, we would have liked further customization options, such as the ability to tweak individual suspensions and chassis designs, but the styling studio in Supercar Street Challenge is still a welcome addition.
The graphics in Supercar Street Challenge might have been acceptable when the PlayStation 2 originally launched, but being released alongside second-generation PS2 products, the game is lacking in the visuals department. The cars are generally modeled quite realistically, but they lack texture detail. Some of the circuit racers have decals and racing stripes, but, in general, most of the cars in the game have monotone chassis, with hardly any sign of specific texture detail. The game's environments are a bit more robust. Buildings, trees, lampposts, fences, mountains, oceans, and a variety of environmental geometry dot the game's ambient surroundings. Although the textures on these objects are flat, there is plenty going on in the game's backdrops. Perhaps this can be a detriment at times, because, as mentioned previously, the game's frame rate seems to take a hit as a result.
One of the most important aspects of any racing game that features real-life vehicles is the engine sounds. Supercar Street Challenge comes up very short in this regard. Even the most high-powered V8s in the game put forth weak, shrilly whines when revved, as opposed to the meaty growls of their real-life counterparts. In terms of the soundtrack, the game uses generic techno beats. The songs can begin to sound derivative after a while, as most aren't very distinctive Still, Activision could have done a lot worse with the game's soundtrack. As it is, the music in the game is quite bearable.
There is no doubt that Supercar Street Challenge is an arcade racing game throughout, where it is simply easier to bounce off barriers to get ahead of the opposing racers than to drive the course precisely. But the game really isn't much fun, and it also doesn't do justice to its high-performance licensed vehicles. The engine sounds are hardly true to life, and the cars themselves aren't very detailed in terms of visuals. Racing fans may have been content to accept the arcade-style physics if they were able to enjoy nicely designed virtual replicas of the monster racers featured in the game. As it is, the racing in Supercar Street Challenge feels artificial and driving vehicles like the Callaway C12 and the Saleen S7 should be a lot more fun than it is in the game.