Enthusia Professional Racing REVIEW

Enthusia Professional Racing Review (PS2)

Timing is an important factor when operating a motor vehicle. Whether it’s at the Indy 500, a Winston Cup race, or even trying to merge your 1986 Escort Wagon onto the Expressway with a trunk full of groceries. Picking the opportune moment to make your move is key. In the race for the wallets of the PS2 racing aficionados, Konami chose to release their first major venture into the genre, Enthusia Professional Racing, right on the virtual heels of Gran Turismo 4. And, for the multiple console owners, nearly at the same time as the impressive Forza Motorsport for Xbox. The race is on. The question is, can Enthusia Professional Racing keep the pace, or will it be left in the dust by the competition?

There are two major components to discuss with Enthusia Professional Racing in terms of gameplay. One is a gameplay mode, the other an attempt to add depth to console racing controls that would hopefully set this title apart from the competition. The main gameplay mode (or career mode) is called “Enthusia Life” mode. An interesting take on the standard fare, it is a calendar driven game where you try to compile “Enthu” points and unlock new cars. What I found strange about the point system was that unlike some other titles, you are not rewarded for good driving, only penalized for poor driving. So you can’t really earn points, you just have them taken away. So, essentially, you could consistently come in near the end of the pack, while running a clean race, and come out ahead of the leader. The strange part is the “Rival Raffle” at the end of the race. This completely random selector determines whether or not you win a new car. That really throws off the balance of risk versus reward, especially if you’ve just challenged a top-flight vehicle.

Once inside a race, Konami has rolled out what they are calling the “Visual Gravity System” or "VGS". In a nutshell, the developers are trying to visually show you the effects of G-force on your vehicle during acceleration, braking, and steering - showing you how much pressure is being put on your tires and vehicle if you try to take on corners too quickly. There’s even a slight tweak in the sides of your screen, which I assume represents peripheral vision, which then effects visibility when the "VGS" is out of control. I love this idea, but I have a small problem with it. Even driving Grandma’s Buick LeSabre has a feel to it. It’s not something visual. If I get the Granny-mobile out of control, I need to feel it back to normal, not put my head down and try to read gauges while I T-bone the median.

Both the “Enthusia Life” mode and the "VGS" left me wanting more. I felt that with another year in the garage, and this thing could be a beast.

The visuals in Enthusia Professional Racing were more than a pleasant surprise. Be it right or wrong, I have come to accept a slightly lower grade level of detail from PS2 titles over the years. However, this title really exceeded those expectations. The car models are beautifully done and the lighting and environments really pull off a crisp, natural look and feel. The developers decided to go in an interesting direction regarding how they would attempt to bring the illusion of speed to the gamer. They decided to actually blur the edges of the screen to try to heighten that impression. It does the job and I was very impressed.

The audio, on the other hand, will not please a lot of gamers. The soundtrack is this pseudo-European synthesizer techno-type deal. I don’t feel that it detracts at all from the game, but a cool soundtrack never hurts. The car sounds, sadly, are not much better. The feeling of speed and power that they were able to convey visually is really completely missed on the ears. Even the most impressive vehicles don’t give you that roar or hum of the beast under the hood that you would hope for.

Standing on its own merits, Enthusia Professional Racing is a solid game. I give the team at Konami a lot of points for ambition and effort. Unfortunately, I have to take some back for execution. It’s good effort that I hope doesn’t get shelved and can develop into a series on the PS2 (and eventually the PS3). But I honestly believe that it will have a tough time stealing track hours from GT4 and Forza on most gamers' consoles.

Overall, the game is well worth trying. Sim racing gurus will respect the direction they’re trying to go with the "VGS". Arcade racers shouldn’t lack for fun factor. Sporting 50 tracks and around 200 cars, most gamers are bound to find something here that they'll like.

Enthusia Professional Racing Score
out of 10