Motor Trend Presents: Lotus Challenge
Driving a Lotus Elise, Esprit V8, and Super 7 in real life were near-religious experiences for me; taking Lotus Challenge for a spin was more like going to the laundry. A bad laundry. Hours of my life are gone forever, and I had to listen to some semi-incoherent guy rant at length (that'd be the Brit-voiced announcer in Lotus Challenge, not Greg or Che). The game's strange mix of sim and arcade gameplay will please no one, and will leave serious Lotus fans in support groups, talking about what could have been. The Challenge mode, which follows the careers of a few Team Lotus drivers, is by far the best part, but it's too short and not always well-balanced, difficulty-wise. Cars from the same era feel nearly identical, and keeping the more powerful models on the track is way harder than it should be, considering Lotuses are some of the best-handling cars in the world. Though the innovative circular steering option (which allows you to rotate the analog stick like a steering wheel) works surprisingly well, Lotus Challenge fails to qualify. By, like, 1,000 seconds.
Lotus Challenge sports a few clever innovations, but it's so unpolished and ugly that few will stick around long enough to notice. I'd like to kick back and enjoy its nifty "semicircle" steering system and many interesting (and frustrating) Career mode challenges, but when Lotus looks this dumpy and primitive, it's hard to focus on the game's minute merits. With the racing genre soaked to the point of saturation, Lotus simply cannot hang with the likes of Sega GT and Project Gotham.
I have to agree with my esteemed colleague, Demian: This game is completely stuck in neutral. Not only does every car handle identically, but all of them have zero stopping power. Since the best way to pass on any road course is to out-brake opponents into a turn, a true-to-life driving experience is impossible in Lotus. Not that it matters-- careening off the walls won't slow you down, so you can ride the outside barrier for an entire race and count on a solid top-three finish.