The fact is that the Gran Turismo games have always been the king of racing simulation games on the Sony consoles while it is pretty evident that Forza Motorsports has taken that title for the Xbox. Enthusia: Professional Racing attempts to take on Gran Turismo 4 head on; not a very easy thing to do. It is very interesting that Konami would put money towards this game considering what kind of an uphill battle it is to overtake the Gran Turismo games. In many ways Enthusia is behind the times when going head-to-head with GT4. It could probably stand up better to GT3 in fact.
Enthusia does have one specific thing it does better than GT4 that I’ll talk about later. There is one key thing you should know before I start the review though. If you are going to play this game with the Dual Shock, don’t even think about picking up this game or renting it. If you have the Logitech Driving Force Pro wheel that came out around the time Gran Turismo 4 did you should be good to go and ready for quite an experience if you give it enough tender loving care. Let’s get to the scores.
The fact is that Enthusia is probably not going to stand up to Gran Turismo 4 on a graphical scale, but it does stand up well against Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. Problem is that game came out almost 4 years ago. The opening movie starts up and it looks like if that is the in-engine graphics for Enthusia, this game will look awfully good. Once you start racing though you find that neither the cars nor the tracks are as good looking as what you can find in Gran Turismo 4. There are noticeable jaggies around the cars and the tracks look very bland in comparison to the same tracks in GT4. I hate to compare these two games so much, but for those people on the cusp about whether Enthusia is worth it alongside of GT4 would probably like to know such things.
The game runs at a good clip and I didn’t notice any slowdown. The sense of speed is not very great in this game until you get to cars that can go into the 80s and beyond you don’t feel that you’re going fast. Enthusia has good graphics, it has just been topped by racing games both on the PS2 and the Xbox.
Another place Enthusia is inadequate when compared to its peers. The opening cinema and music are awfully weird and Japanese in feel, which is fine. However this game is rather quiet outside of that. Yes, you hear the engines, but the sound of it is not as overpowering or meticulous as GT4‘s engines are.
This section comes with a caveat placed on it. If you are going to play the game with the standard PS2 dual shock you are likely to play it for a bit and then decide the game sucks and trade it in. The controls are just too loose on the dual shock controller.
If you’re one of the lucky people who picked up the $150 Logitech Driving Force Pro wheel when GT4 came out you’re in for a treat because it is obvious that Enthusia was built around that wheel. The reason the score is so low is because most people that play this game will not have the $150 wheel and it’s probably also the reason Ron sent me the game to review (I received the wheel with my copy of GT4 to review).
With the wheel you start to understand what Enthusia is all about. It is actually the most pure racing simulation I’ve seen this side of Papyrus’ old NASCAR games on the PC. Chuck out everything you’ve ever learned in driving games (except possibly Forza Motorsport since I haven’t played it yet) about things like power slides or slowing down into turns. Enthusia is going to teach you to use the amount of throttle push you give the car to go around corners. Everything is tied into the amount of push you give to the gas pedal and your throttle level is shown to you on-screen. You go into a turn at full throttle and you’re going to go for the wall. Enthusia teaches you to drive and if you spend enough time with it this game will affect how you drive in other racing games and possibly give you better scores (it did for me in GT4).
If you don’t have the wheel it isn’t worth it to pick up this game simply because the control with the dual shock is horrendous.
Now that we have the need for a wheel in place and exactly what Enthusia‘s greatest gift is, we now get into the game modes themselves. There is some good, but a major bad thing in this category. Let’s start with the good parts.
The main mode is Enthusia Life where you go through the calendar year and enter into competitions with the purpose of winning and keeping your Enthusia Points high so your courage doesn’t waver. This may sound easy, but early on you’ll find you aren’t in very powerful cars and you need to unlearn how you drive in every other game and learn how to drive in this game. If you don’t know how to drive and cut off time in this game it will hand your ass directly to you.
The other mode is basically a race mode where you can just take cars out and race them against opponents. I really didn’t touch this section, much like I rarely touch the Arcade side of the Gran Turismo games. They’re just an added gift for the overall package.
The bad thing I talked about above is that you are stuck for a long time with underpowered cars. The reason for this is that they want to teach you how to drive correctly, but it is very hard to win races when you don’t have a car with some pop in it. You have to pass quite a bit before you get the fast cars and then you have to learn how to drive those, making the learning curve for this game very high even with the wheel.
I rate this high simply because Enthusia can increase your ability to drive in other games that use the wheel. After playing Enthusia for a while I ended up cutting off times on my license tests in Gran Turismo 4. It is nice that Enthusia teaches you such things and it would be cool if the GT series did the same. I think a lot of people will overlook this game, but it is a great driving primer.