Lotus cars have been popular in games for ages now - we remember playing them back on the Atari ST and Amiga, when it was Lotus Esprit Challenge, and Lotus III with the random track generator - they were great fun back then, but in comparison the games were very simple, and could have been based on any car with their basic graphics and stripy tracks.
When you first start playing Lotus Challenge, you'll instantly be grabbed by the detailed graphics and car physics - there's also three different control methods to choose from, including an excellent "circular" method which gives you much greater control over your chosen car.
There's some 42 cars to choose from in the game, ranging from the old vintage Lotus racers, right up to current day models, and even high-tech concept cars which Lotus engineers have designed specifically for the game. The collision damage is also spot on, with sparks flying, headlights breaking, and on the more intense impacts, full body damage to your expensive sports car.
However, you may soon feel that there's very little to the game which will make you want to come back for more - it soon starts to feel like "just any other racer". That is unless you perceiver with it, and manage to work your way through the Challenge mode, upon which time you'll realise that there's a lot more to the game than just racing around circuits.
Indeed, it's the Challenge Mode which really adds a lot of gameplay to Lotus Challenge, lifting it from a GT3-a-like, to a racer with added challenge and stunt mode - you'll be faced with driving harder, faster and more skilfully on each challenge, which start you off as a test driver, and simply require you to prove you're up to the job. You'll then go on to take part in challenges which include jumping over trains for a Hollywood blockbuster film, and generally showing off your skill on some heart-stopping challenges.
Graphics are simply stunning - the cars are highly detailed, and have a full damage system, which you can also set to simply be visual if you don't want the chance of being put out of the race after the first big crash. Courses are also well detailed, although some appear to have less detail on them, and also have fogging which doesn't always seem appropriate for the course.
You'll get to race in a variety of locations, from Central London in an MSR style street race, to English countryside roads, and a speedway in Florida, to barren desert in Arizona - it's all there, and very varied. Each track has it's own special details - the countryside roads in England have speed cameras, wheelie bins in gardens, phone boxes, post boxes, and even a filling station with a working carwash.
One of the complaints that I do have with the game is that there appears to be some slowdown, especially on the tracks with large objects near the side - we've been told that it's correct, and based on what it really looks like from inside a Lotus going at the high speeds that you're able to do, and in all fairness I've never driven a Lotus before, so it may well be right.
A novel touch are the advertising signs which are along the route - not only do you have the big names which are always at race tracks, but you've also got EasyEverything and AutoBytel sponsoring the British tracks, and this all adds something to the English-ness of the game - something all too lacking in American made racing games.
Lotus Challenge will be enjoyed by racing fans and anyone who loves their Lotus cars - the only slight stumbling block could be that you'll dismiss it as being another GT3 style clone, but really it offers so much more with the added challenge mode.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy Lotus Challenge for the PS2 at Amazon