System 3’s hugely ambitious Ferrari Challenge: Trofeo Pirelli, due for release on PS3, Wii and DS later this year, is billed as the 'spiritual successor' to Sega's mighty three-screen arcade classic F355 Challenge. No small claim, yet one which System 3 CEO and passionate Ferrari ‘tifoso’ Mark Cale and the racing game specialists up at developer Eutechnyx are more than confident in making.
“It’s come full circle, I started System 3 back in the early eighties because I wanted to race Ferraris. And 25 years on I’m making the definitive, official Ferrari game,” Cale joked at a recent press event to show off the game to European journalists at the famous Mugello circuit in northern Italy.
“Obviously, it’s a game we’ve wanted to do for a long time. But it’s about having the right development team, which we now have with Mark South and his team up at Eutechnyx, and it’s about having the opportunity with the Ferrari factory. Also, until early last year, EA had the exclusive game rights tied up.”
Euthechnyx’s Mark South is the producer on the game, which has been built around his company’s own game engine, one that has been tweaked and perfected over many years of developing racing games.
“PS3 is a great platform to develop on,” says South. “There’s a lot of support for it. There’s good access to hardware. They’re very on-side with helping you get your product done, they will send technicians should you need help and we have a great account manager. I think PS3 has caught up a lot of ground in a very short space of time.”
At launch there are going to be 22 Ferraris in the game, a mixture of Ferrari Challenge cars, such as the 355, the 360 and the 430 Challenge and GT cars, like the 450GT. There are also production cars such as the 599 and the 575 and a number of the older historic classics in there as well.
The game features all the tracks from the official European and North American Ferrari Challenge Series – based on over 700,000 digital photos taken by the developers. So as well as Mugello there’s Misano, Monza, Fiorano (the Ferrari test track), Hokenheim, Spa and Franchamps, Virginia International, California Speedway, Homestead, Infineon, Montreal and Mont Tremblant.
Impressively, the final game is set to support 16 players online over the PlayStation Network or LAN.
It’s one thing accurately recreating the car–physics and track models, which Euthechnyx has clearly done a morethan- admirable job on, but the real magic in the game has been added by racing driver Bruno Senna, nephew of Ayrton Senna, who also claims to be a huge video games fan.
Unlike many ‘name’ drivers who agree to put their name to a video game, Senna has been closely involved with the project from the start, having been introduced to Cale originally by the guys at Ferrari, who suggested that Senna should have a go at racing the System 3 car at Silverstone.
“Obviously this was a huge success after two pole positions, one fastest lap and two race wins,” laughs Cale. “So Bruno and I sat down and spoke in between the race meetings and he asked what we did and I explained. And he was very keen to get involved, because he’s a video games fanatic – they are his second passion after cars – so I invited him to come and see me for lunch and the rest is history, really.”
Working together, the team feels that it has created what it terms the perfect ‘arcade sim’ in Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli. After the initial release of the title at retail, System 3’s plan is to update the game with four to five cars every month as downloadable content, as well as new tracks, hill climbs and lots more additional features providing further gameplay.
2008 will also see the launch of the virtual Ferrari Championship, with thousands of rounds of sixteen-player knockouts through to the final, with major prizes and incentives being provided by System 3 and Ferrari.
The game is just the start of a much longer term relationship between System 3 and Ferrari, with Cale planning well ahead into the future. Indeed, Cale’s ambition in this regard matches that of his hero, Enzo Ferrari, who once famously stated:
“The demands of mass production are contrary to my temperament, for I am mainly interested in promoting new developments. I should like to put something new into my cars every morning – an inclination that terrifies my staff. Were my wishes in this respect to be indulged, there would be no production of standard models at all, but only a succession of prototypes.
"That is why, in my opinion, the best Ferrari is also the next one.”