Enthusia Professional Racing (エンスージアプロフェッショナルレーシング, Ensūjia Purofesshonaru Rēshingu) is a racing game for the PlayStation 2. It is the first sim racing game made by Konami.
As opposed to purchasing vehicles as in the majority of games in the sim racing genre, cars are unlocked by a roulette-style method after completing a race, which determines which opposing car in the race the player unlocks (although in this roulette, \"no car\" is also one of the possibilities).
Already available in Japan and currently scheduled for release in North America on May 3, Enthusia Professional Racing is a PlayStation 2-exclusive racing game that, at first glance, could easily be mistaken for a Gran Turismo clone. Since we recently spent some quality time with an almost-finished version of Konami's game, however, we can report that the two are actually very different. We can also report that Enthusia offers some of the most enjoyable and challenging races we've played in a long time, thanks to both its realistic car handling and the mostly believable behavior of the CPU drivers you'll be competing against.
The upshot of the various points systems is that the only way you're ever going to earn yourself a number one ranking is to win races that, on paper, you have no business even entering with an inferior car. However, you've got to win these races without making any mistakes. Winning a race behind the wheel of the most powerful car on the starting grid, for example, might net you a couple hundred points if you're lucky, while beating bona fide racecars in an underpowered compact will almost certainly earn you more than a thousand points. The odds system is ingenious in that it encourages you to make the races challenging for yourself (unlike Gran Turismo, which challenges you to make the races easy for yourself), but it's also frustrating because it basically means that climbing into the best car in your collection is a bad idea as far as your career progression is concerned. The Enthusia life mode even forces you to miss a race if you decide to switch cars, which, given the nature of the aforementioned ranking system and the fact that you never really know which races you'll be offered from one week to the next, seems a bit harsh. Despite having a number of desirable sports cars in our Enthusia life collection, we've actually spent most of our time thus far racing in an old Mini Cooper that was available right from the start, simply because the potential rewards are much greater when your car is the least powerful one in the race.
Enthusia's tracks, incidentally, are about as varied as those in any other racing game we can think of. There are more than 50 in total, including street circuits through caricatures of major cities. There are real-life race circuits, such as Tsukuba and the Nurbrugring, and off-road courses that take you across a desert and through a network of caves. The environments the courses are set in are every bit as varied as the challenges they present, and any time you choose to race the same circuit over and over again--because you think you're especially good at it--you can guarantee you'll be asked to do it backwards.
When you're not living your Enthusia life or competing with friends in the two-player split-screen mode, you'll most likely be checking out Enthusia's innovative \"driving revolution\" mode. If you've been following our previous coverage of Enthusia Professional Racing, you'll know that driving revolution is (very) loosely based on Konami's Dance Dance Revolution games, although it could also be compared to some of Gran Turismo's license tests. Basically, you're required to drive through a series of slalom gates without crashing or missing any. Each of the gates needs to be passed through at a certain speed, and some of them also serve as markers for when you should be accelerating or braking, if you're going to make it through the subsequent gate successfully. The driving revolution mode starts out ridiculously easy but gets challenging pretty quickly, especially since the slalom gates often require you to deviate from what would usually be considered the racing line.
There are some amazing tracks in the game, with courses set in Cities, on country roads and even in the desert. The tracks are all very well designed, but I think racing through the desert in the Estima is a bit too unrealistic.
Enthusia Professional Racing looks to take the racing simulator fight directly to its high-profile PlayStation 2 rival, the much-lauded Gran Turismo series. Rather than following the path of many racing games on the same platform, looking to imitate the GT franchise's approach, Enthusia takes a very different--and sometimes innovative--approach to the collectible car game. While the game's touchy driving model and overly complex career mode won't appeal to everyone, Enthusia is a worthy game for those looking for something different in the four-wheel genre.
As far as Enthusia's other modes go, standard time attack, versus racing, and free racing modes are joined by a challenge mode called driving revolution. Here you'll be racing solo on tracks such as downtown cityscapes and ocean bridges. While on track, you'll be running through color-coded slalom gates placed along the road. You're expected to cross through each of these gates at a certain speed, and some gates will change color to let you know when it's time to hit the brakes or slam on the gas. You'll be rated, Dance Dance Revolution-style, at each gate, so if you hit a gate at the correct speed you might see a \"perfect\" or \"great\" rating; while if you miss it altogether, your rating will adjust accordingly. At the end of the stage, the game calculates your overall performance and assigns you a letter grade, and then it's off to the next stage or level. While driving revolution is an interesting concept, and certainly holds some challenge on tracks featuring more powerful cars, it didn't keep our attention very long.
If you're tired of the \"tune to win\" racing model found in the Gran Turismo series, Enthusia offers a fresh take on the driving genre, albeit one that requires patience and persistence to fully enjoy. If you're new to console driving simulations and are looking for an approachable introduction to the genre, Enthusia is certainly not the best place to start.
Enthusia Professional Racing was Konami's first attempt at a simulation racing game, with a diverse car selection, good driving physics, rather frustrating difficulty and car sounds that would make Gran Turismo 4 blush. Unfortunately, its lack of promotion, its release period and poor sales meant that this game would be Konami's last attempt at a simulation racing game.
Enthusia Life: Enthusia Life is the real meat of the game, as this is where players unlock cars, and take part in the main races. Enthusia Life mode is most comparable to Career Mode in other racing games.
Enthusia contains some extremely realistic car models, and may even have as many unique cars as Gran Turismo 4. Additionally, a number of these cars are relatively obscure for any racing game (particularly a Japanese-developed one), such as the Citroen 2CV.
The noble, sporting ethic of \"it's not the winning but the taking part\" is all very stiff upper lip, but you can take that age old concept a little too far. Extend the logic to Konami's GT wannabe - the bizarrely titled Enthusia - and you've essentially got a racing game where it's not about finishing first but largely about your ability to driving patiently, skilfully and - above all - cleanly.
In practice, you'll initially drive boldly and aggressively to muscle your way to the front of the pack; rather like you'd probably do in any other racing game ever. After all, to begin with your car will be horribly underpowered, with syrupy steering, rubbish tyres and possibly no traction control or electronic stability assists to help you out when you start to wipe out. But having said that, if you choose wisely enough from the initially available suite of 12 cars winning shouldn't be too much of an issue - but gaining skill points and car points while not losing 'Enthu' points for all your bumps and bruises is the tough bit.
Naturally you'll probably gravitate towards a more powerful car in order to stand a better chance of winning a race. But, again, Enthusia's structure and idealism rewards the brave, so just jumping into a powerful monster isn't necessarily your best bet. For a start, many of the more powerful cars you win lack traction and stability control (pretty much essential to begin with), or worse might be rear-wheel drive. For reasons best known to Konami, these cars are hilariously uncontrollable and require levels of patience we simply don't possess to control, let alone master. And if these elements hadn't already dampened your enthusiasm, then the fact that you earn less ranking points for driving more powerful cars makes it that much tougher to climb up the ladder - thanks to a well-intentioned but ultimately irritating odds-based system that awards ranking points based on how strong your car is relative to the field.
And therein lies Enthusia's great problem. It simply doesn't really do anywhere near enough to unseat Polyphony's great monolith of a game. In some ways it's a whole lot more accessible (if you can be bothered to wade through the somewhat daunting layers of formulae that get you up the pecking order), but in others it lets itself down with appalling presentation, rank front end, awful music, and visuals which while perfectly serviceable won't have you gawping in awe if you saw it on a nearby demo pod. Those that do give it a look will probably initially dislike it and warm to it after a few hours, but Enthusia can't afford to be a slow burn when the competition is so fierce. It needed to wow the critics and the punters from the off; it needed to provoke genuine enthusiasm, but it never really gets going enough to warrant that you r