Group S Challenge
Lately we’ve seen an abundance of racegames being released on XBOX. It all started with Project Gotham and Sega GT 2002, and Burnout 2, Racing Evoluzione and DTM are just the top of a long list. Apparently Capcom had some spare time and tought “Why not make another XBOX racegame ?”. And so they did and we got our hands on Group S Challenge, a game with a very nice pack. But of course the content of the pack is way more important, so lets take a closer look at the game.
After a promising intro movie we arrive at the main menu, flashy and with little noises when you press a button, sounds familiar ? Next to the options (which can hardly be called “options” since you can’t change almost anything, except the controls) we get Arcade and Circuit modes. Arcade is good to start off with, you can immediately race on any of the 20 tracks with cars from all 4 classes, being (from slow to fast) C, B, A and S. You can race on your own against five AI controlled vehicles or against a friend in VS mode.
But of course Circuit is the main mode. You start off with 60.000 credits, enough to buy your first car. Of course this won’t be a Ferarri, but at least it’ll have 4 wheels and an engine. Money can be earned in two ways, either by participating in Championship races or by catching glowing “marbles” along a racetrack in Line-line mode. You can earn special aero cars as well by taking part in Duel races with a specific car.
Championship is divided in 4 sections. You begin with class C and advance to class S. In order to advance, you will need to meet a goal in every class, like “win each of the five races”. At first this is as easy as taking candy from a baby, but once you’ve reached class A, it’ll become almost as hard as taking candy from DoubleD ! While cars rated C are very simple to pilot, the faster cars aren’t. Group S Challenge isn’t one of those games where braking and slow turning pay off, instead you’re meant to slide through the curves. With fast cars however, you’ll often slide too much, resulting in a spin. Pretty annoying, especially when driving in first position.
Another reason not to brake often is the fact that crashing won’t necessarily slow you down that much. Pretty foolish if you ask me, and your car won’t even have a scratch. Indeed, there’s a gap in the game, a gap called “damage model”.
Fortunately you can tune your car a little and adjust it to your needs. Just like in Gran Turismo you can spend your money on a turbo, tires, suspension, etc. However I didn’t really notice a lot of difference in the performance of a tuned and a non-tuned car. Altogether the game features in about 90 different cars from known brands such as Ford, Peugeot, TVR, Chrysler and Subaru.
The number of different tracks is also very disappointing. While 20 sounds nice, Capcom “forgot” to mention that these 20 street circuits are all spread over only 3 different cities (Shibuya, Surfer’s Paradise and Monaco). Sometimes the difference between two tracks is one or two turns that have been replaced by a straight road. About 5 tracks are exactly the same as other tracks, except that you have to drive in the other direction now. After only a couple of hours playing this game I already longed for more different circuits and I bet everyone will agree on this.
Now, I don’t mean to criticize every aspect of the game, but the AI isn’t great either. No, it’s even terrible ! All computer controlled cars drive on the same virtual line and won’t wander from it to drive past you. The fellows rather crash into you. However, they do sometimes wander from it to pass other opponents, very very weird.
I guess the most positive part of Group S Challenge are the graphics. All cars shine nicely, the environment is quite detailed (at least if you pass it at 200 km/h) and the artificial sunlight and the shadows it casts are very beautiful.
The sound effects are good either, but the music could use some alternation. Hearing the same soundtrack over and over isn’t really pleasant.
In conclusion: That’s about all there is to say about Group S Challenge. After releasing Auto Modellista, which was apparently a nice cell-shaded racer, I expected a new enjoyable racegame from Capcom. But what we got was an arcade racer that looks great, but looks can deceive you. I believe there are enough other race games out there on XBOX that will satisfy you in a way Group S Challenge never will. Although quite entertaining at first, the game quickly gets boring and frustrating. Maybe good for a weekend, but not much longer, so you might consider renting it first.