We've all seen countless racing titles that are set to grace the Playstation 2 in the next few months, but Lotus Challenge; published by Virgin Interactive and developed by Kuju, is by far one of the more intriguing. The title looks to offer the kind of realism the Gran Turismo series boasts, with one noticeable difference: damage. That's right, in Lotus Challenge, an appropriate amount of damage is inflicted on your car depending on whether you've just grazed a barrier or flipped end-over-end into another vehicle. This of course, is in stark contrast to the GT series, which for all its realism, has no damage system to speak of. The title offers, in addition to its normal circuit racing mode, a stunt mode where gamers can, well, perform stunts I suppose. This mode of play basically has the gamer as the stunt driver for a movie shoot. Sounds interesting, indeed. The company is still working on incorporating more tricks into this mode of the title's gameplay. This is just one example of how Kuju is attempting to take this game beyond what we normally see with racing titles. Also available in the title is a challenge mode, in which the races are entwined into a storyline. In this play mode, gamers take on the role of one of two characters (one male, one female), who are part of the Lotus Challenge team. The story progresses depending on the outcome of your races. The title features forty cars, fifteen race tracks and ten environments in which to brave the stunt mode.
Visually, Lotus Challenge is coming along quite nicely. The game features 6000 polygons per car, and approximately 250,000 polygons per race track; certainly some impressive numbers. Some graphical effects found in the game include advanced beizer patch UV mapping, alpha painting, geometry export, and conversion, all of which are handled using special proprietary plug-ins for 3D Studio MAX. You may also notice that these screens are without anti-aliasing.
The director of the partnered project, Ad Stevenson, has stated that several other features are to be incorporated into the game by the time of its 2001 release. Stevenson also had this to say about the Lotus/Kuju partnership that is making this comprehensive title possible, "The main thing that [Lotus is] giving us are the variables for each car." He also stated, "We've got 41 cars in total, and obviously they all behave differently, given things like center of gravity, exact dimensions, plus all the other elements Lotus have given us. We've tried putting a Lotus Carlton in, which is a very powerful saloon car, and it does handle very differently to everything else, which proves that our driving model works as it should."
The title seems extremely impressive thus far, and very well could give Gran Turismo a good scare when it tries to claim the crown for the best realistic driving simulation on the next generation platforms. The Lotus/Kuju partnership is looking to produce an innovative, high quality game, and that certainly appears to be what will happen; even this early in development. Again, the game drops in 2001.
10/15/2000 Bryan Keers