Making the best of it
Without the physical cues from real-vehicle dynamics to help you maintain a sense of grip, Konami has implemented what they call a “visual gravity system.” This works by having an icon in the center of the screen that shows your current center of gravity as well as the amount of grip available to each wheel. This is combined with a vignetting effect designed to replicate the “head bob” effect. What’s interesting is that unlike most games where the perspective changes, only the vignetting effect changes in Enthusia. This may actually be more realistic because in real life, your head bobs independently from your eyes. I think Enthusia actually does a better job conveying a sense of motion than GT4.
That said, when I first started playing Enthusia, I wanted to turn off the vignetting effect. It seemed to only get in the way. However, once you get into the more difficult races with faster cars, the subtle information given through the vignetting effect is critical. Anyone who plays Enthusia without the vignetting effects on simply hasn’t progressed far enough into the game. I recommend that you force yourself to leave all of the visual cues on – better to learn how to play the game the right way the first time.
The sense of speed is fairly realistic, which is to say that it feels slow until you start approaching 80 mph and higher, often a difficult speed to reach in a curvy track. A linear motion blur effect enhances the effect and the different in the sense of speed between a supercar such as the SLR McLaren and a fast car such as an M3 is superb. Unfortunately wind noise isn’t as well implemented as it is in GT4.
Attention to Detail
The attention to detail for the cars that are present is superb. One of the nitpicks we’ve mentioned in the Gran Turismo series is the ability to install an upgraded ECU in cars too old to have electronically controlled engines, or the fact that automatic cars aren’t truly automatic. In Enthusia, the distinction between “automatic” and “semiautomatic” versus “manual” and “shift-assist” is present. When you pause the game, your car turns on its hazard flashers… Cars too old to have vehicle stability control cannot have stability control turned on. All this makes Enthusia a much more difficult but ultimately rewarding game.
The raffle-based system makes earning new cars in Enthusia more difficult than it should be and despite playing the game for close to a month, I haven’t gotten all of the cars I’ve wanted to. Although there are no Porsches or Ferraris, the car selection overall is quite good because there are more cars that I’m actually interesting in driving. Sure every game has the SLR McLaren but how many have the smart fortwo cabrio? Audi is well represented with the expected R8 and RS6, but you also get the stock A4 3.0 quattro, A8 4.2 quattro, and the allroad quattro. The exotic BMW M1 is even in the game! Jaguar’s S-Type R, XJR, SKR, and X-Type are all in there. Likewise, since there are several off-road courses, you have the real Range Rover, the Touareg, the Land Cruiser 100, and even the Mercedes Benz G500L. There’s the Japanese-version of the G35 with the 8-speed CVT along with the current generation Q45 (Cima), and the previous generation Lexus GS300 (Aristo V300) and LS430 (Celsior). The eclectic car selection is truly indicative of Enthusia’s goal of replicating normal street cars.
I think Enthusia’s tracks are among the best tracks of any racing games. The only real tracks are Tsukuba and Nurburgring Nordschleife, but as your recall from my GT4 article, those were my favorite two real tracks to begin with.
While it certainly would have been better to include other real tracks, the fake tracks from Enthusia are much more fun to drive than the fake tracks from GT4 and visually more interesting. There’s a greater sense of progression and variation in the tracks where you really get a sense that you are driving the car to victory. Many of the fictional tracks are just as technically challenging as that of the Nurburgring Nordschleife relying on tough navigation of the tracks rather than artificial sharp 90 degree turns.
There is a night-time downhill Touge-like track (with a mirrored uphill variant) reminiscent of Initial D, but I don’t know if it’s based upon a real track or if it’s a fictional interpretation. Either way, it is mind-numbingly difficult to drive at high speeds.
The feel of the road in Nurburgring isn’t quite there – traveling through Karussell (the bumpy part) doesn’t feel as different from the rest of the track as it should, but the Tsukuba track does feel realistic.