Capcom has stepped up to the starting line to compete against reigning racing franchise Project Gotham Racing with it's own offering, Group S Challenge. Group S Challenge offers over 50 cars, advanced graphics, car customization, and 3 modes of play. With all those features, you'd assume it had a good chance at competing with Project Gotham Racing, right? Sadly, that is not the case.
The controls of Group S Challenge are similar to most racing games. Folks that have played PGR or Gran Turismo should have no problem jumping right in. The controls are more realistic than some racers, and this should appeal avid racing fans. Group S Challenge offers some interesting game types that should keep racing fans happy. The Circuit Mode is the one mode which you will probably play the most. It is broken down into three parts. "Championship" allows you to work your way up the rankings and race in Challenges for GP's (cash) to upgrade your car. "Duel" lets you go one-on-one with the computer. "Line Line" mode is the final mode, which best resembles follow the leader as you follow a predetermined path to earn more GP's. In the Arcade Mode, you can race against the computer or a friend (System link is NOT supported) with 20 tracks at your disposal. Also offered for Arcade mode is a "One Make" mode, which gives every player the same car, allowing the outcome of the race to be based upon skill, not on the quality of the car. It's a nice mode to have, as everyone knows someone that says "You beat me because you had a better car!" Now you can make them put their money where their mouth is. Regardless of the quality of the game modes themselves, the tracks seem quite bland, and offer no real variation from the usual stuff you'd see in a racing title. The Circuit Mode itself can easily be cleared in a weekend, without sweating it out too much, which will leave you with Arcade mode to keep you occupied, which would be fine, if more of your friends could play with you.
The graphics in Group S Challenge are top notch. The graphics are very close to the quality present in Project Gotham Racing 2 (It's hard to pick which is the better of the two). The details on the cars are quite nice (Although no physical damage is show due to licensing reasons) and look quite realistic. Your surroundings are equally impressive. I often found myself distracted by the detail of the cities/tracks instead of paying attention to the boring gameplay. Many of the tracks you've seen in a hundred other racing games are in Group S Challenge, but looking 10x better. The only major downfall with the graphics is the tracks based on Tokyo streets. They seem to be a bit bland compared to the rest, but other than that, not much to complain about.
Compared to the graphics, the sound in Group S Challenge is terrible. Don't get me wrong, the car/environment sound effects are great, but one can only take so much bad techno music before they bash themselves in the head with their controller until they are rendered unconscious. The XBox has a hard drive. The XBox has music ripping capabilities. Do the math. Any developer that DOESN'T use that feature is ignoring something that's quite easy to implement. Soundtrack Support in XBox games should be the same as Interactive Menus are in DVDs. Available on every disc.
Suggestions: In the end, Group S Challenge is another average racer. It has nothing major to offer to the racing world except pretty graphics, bad music, boring tracks, and lack of multiplayer options. If you are a racing nut, you probably already own this game. If you are not, then go get Project Gotham Racing 2, as Live play is enough to make it a must-buy.