Motor Trend presents Lotus Challengeby Chris Groves
January 5, 2003
Introducing yet another racing game for the xbox; based completely on the British marque, Lotus. The game includes cars from times gone by, to conceptual designs and even F1 models. Truly, the Lotus is a brand that turns heads and I am glad for that - there were about a half-a-dozen late-model Elises, a Turbo Esprit and a few more.
Rather than just pitching another racing title to the gaming world at large, where you go round and round tracks and little else, Kuju has implemented a number of extra features that make this game a very worthy and long-lasting racer. Firstly, there a five main game modes. Each one is chock-o-block with interesting driving goals, but let's start from the top. The game consists of Single Race, Championship Challenge Mode Stunt Mode and the much needed Practice mode.
The practice mode is a great place to get used to the feel of the cars and how the physics react in certain situations, like hard braking on wet surfaces. Single races involve one-off sessions and allow you to set various parametres, like the track and weather. Championship is another "hence the name" game mode, allowing players to participate in a series of races, culminating in a final race.
It's the Stunt and Challenge modes that make the game most interesting, though. While the Championship is where most gamers will spend a fare share of their time, the Stunt mode puts gamers in a number of cool situations. You'll be flown out to an oil-rig to film a tire commercial, where your first duty is to do burnouts on the helicopter landing pad. Other stunt locales include a Hollywood movie set, where you play the stunt driver. Sure, these aren't particularly original ideas, but they lend the game more variety and diversity.
The Challenge mode is similar to the Stunt mode, where certain criteria must be met before passing the level, but this time around, there are two characters to pick from. One level has you chasing a van through the Italian Alps in a pre-50s Lotus with bicycle-thin tires. Not easy on slippery roads... You must stop the van before it reaches the border in this Bond-inspired mission. One other particularly memorable mission involved taking Lotus' newest prototype to a warehouse, because the delivery truck was rooted, or something like that. On top of this, you have to outrun the paparazzi who want all the snapshots of the new Lotus.
I sat down with the game for the best part of an hour and from this I learnt much. The physics are solid and the game, as a result, is very realistic. There are 38 different Lotus cars in the game and the difference between them can be both seen and felt. For instance, take one of the brand-new Exige's for a race and you'll begin to appreciate the characteristics of a rear-engined, 700kg feather-weight. The rear-wheels will spin without judicious use of the throttle and around tight corners the rear always tended to wiggle out, breaking traction. This usually resulted in an amazing four-wheel skid. The Exige was very twitchy, due to its light weight, and not the best car to use straight away. But it did give me an idea of how accurately Kuju has modeled the cars. Another nice feature, and one that xbox fans have been begging for, is a real-world, zone-based damage model. The cars bend, dent, scratch, scrape and spark just like in real life. The cars can be totally deformed. It's even possible to lose wheels, spoilers and other essential parts. A sumptuous graphics package makes the deal even more mouth-watering with the weather dynamics, for one, shining brightly.
The game will be launched later next year and will be available for the xbox and the ps2. The Xbox version of the game will feature additional Lotus car models not found in the PS2 version, as well as enhanced career mode, stunts and race tracks. The game is, for lack of a better word, cool.
Keeps your eyes out for this title!