Enthusia Professional Racing has some good ideas which makes it play more like a sim - with an arcade game underneath the surface just screaming to get out.

Enthusia looks like a lot of fun but it quickly becomes apparent that there's a limit to just how much fun you can have on the racetrack. There's one feature that I have a problem with and I think that it really detracts from the gameplay. It's a demerit system that actually takes points away for bad driving. That's not a bad idea but it takes points away when other vehicles hit you when it's not your fault. That's a bad idea and I'll tell you why.

In order to progress through the Enthusia Life mode you will be rated by how well you perform in a 12-week period. Each race takes place during one calendar week. You will be rated out of your nine best races. Points earned from such races play a huge factor in your ranking. If you lose all your points you are forced to sit out one week of racing. You can see that all of these races are important and if you should happen to mess a few up you'll have a lot of catching up to do by re-running the series.

Protecting your points results in a paranoid racing style in which you won't want to take chances, especially when it comes to other AI vehicles that can bump into you and chip away at your points. Deducting points for bad driving such as hitting a wall, ramp or even another vehicle might make you a better driver but you certainly won't improve your skills when you're nervous about other drivers' hitting you. You won't want to take any chances, especially if you're doing well in the series. And you'll absolutely freak when the AI turns aggressive at that point and threatens your ranking.

Enthusia features hundreds of cars and 50 tracks, most of them fantasy but not overly fanciful. There's a certain discipline to the gameplay that is somewhat out of place. While there are some excellent features I can't help but consider this game something of a training exercise for another racing game. It really puts you under a lot of pressure and never lets you soar.

A couple of new features really helps you to get in tune with your vehicle more so than any other racing game. The VGS system lets you see how your vehicle is interacting with the road in terms of inertia and tire grip. You will see the inertia gauge move left and right as you make turns at certain speeds. If the gauge moves too far in either direction you will likely lose control. At the same time if the tires lose their grip on the surface the tire icon will turn red and you'll be in for an unplanned trip. The great thing about this is that you can see the situation getting critical before it happens. So many racing game use some arbitrary method of determining when you've crossed a line which makes it difficult to gauge accurately by feel. Here's there's no guessing.

There is also a gauge for lateral inertia which is displayed on the speedometer by a rising shaded area. Unless you were doing jumps or stunts I don't really see the point of this data. It's just too much information. Fortunately you can turn it off.

Using the stick for acceleration will take some getting used to. It should be consistenly responsive over its entire travel length but by the time you've got one third of the way up you're already at top speed. You can map the buttons to where you feel most comfortable but you can't use the buttons and the Right stick at the same time. Be careful with the acceleration. The brakes are fine.

In an effort to make you a better driver, the game isn't content to just let you earn points and unlock better vehicles. You will earn more points by entering races where you are less likely to win. Using inferior cars and winning on sheer talent will make you a richer player, faster. The game takes the odds into account and pays you accordingly. At the same time the game doesn't lend itself to taking such risks because of the demerits.

All of the tracks and cars are simple and clean. There's nice detail throughout but most of it is non-interactive. The tracks are designed for controlled driving so you won't be running into many obstacles. There is a mini-game that acts as a tutorial. It gives you pointers and practice so that you can basically continue doing the same thing in the main modes.

With the VGS system, the demerits and the odds, you are forced into a style of racing that is neither sim nor arcade. It's a hybrid that is more challenging than fun, though some might want the word "challenging" changed to "frustrating." There's only one way to find out if Enthusia is for you and that's to rent it.

Preview by Chris

Konami just announced a new racer that will try and compete against the popular GT racing series. A bold undertaking to say the least and with Grand Turismo 4 already in development some may wonder if Konami can bring out a racing game that can rival the options and the overall experience GT brings to the table. Konami has announced that the new racer will feature more than 40 real manufactures and graphics that look like real video footage. Right now they are also saying the game will focus both on the skills of the racer and the skills you have to work under the hood. The one thing that may give Konami the upper hand is the fact the game can be played by both the novice-racing fan and the die-hard fan. This will be done by having the option to allow the AI to tune and modify the car during races for you or allowing you to do all the work. While the game is almost a year and a half away from even being released, this one has gained some attention already.

Gran Turismo by far has the goods so to speak for the racing fan that also is a gear head. The term gear head is in no way an insult in fact the main complaint of the last GT game and others like it was the same. It's too technical and for those racing fans who don't know the difference between a gear ratio and what a simple change of fresh tires really can do. They get frustrated when trying to play games that involve having to make adjustment and swapping out parts. Personally I enjoy the mix of a good racer with the ability to make adjustment and try and build a better car. While I can see how others who may just enjoy racing and do not have knowledge may shy away from these games. So perhaps Konami is onto something that is needed here?

Konami of course did not spill all the details on the game yet. They did say that while racing players will get all the info from their pit crew right down to every minor detail, players can then instruct the crew to make the changes recommended or decide on their own changes and the new info will be updated to them during the next lap. For any racing fan this really sounds great. Of course any game can sound good in a preview or news release and then turn out to suck when the final product comes out. It sounds like Konami is trying hard to make a realistic racing game that can be played by anyone regardless of his or her skill level. It also sounds like the game will feature a single player mode as well as a co-op mode and of course an online mode. Konami also made it known that the game will support most of the popular racing wheels or can be played by using the regular controller. Stay tuned for more info on this one as soon as we get it. For now, just by looking at the early screen shots. It certainly looks promising.

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System: PS2
Dev: Konami
Pub: Konami
Released: May 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole