Supercar Street Challenge (PS2)
Supercar Street Challenge is game with an identity crisis. Much like Michael Jackson after some plastic surgery, it doesn't know what it wants to be. On one hand, its a sim racer with tracks painstakingly recreated from real life, true-to-life car performance, and real world sports cars. On the other hand, it also tries to be an arcade racer with loose controls, forgiving crashes, and ludicrous shortcuts. The thing that's wrong with Supercar is that it succeeds in failing in both the arcade and the simulation arenas, much like how Michael Jackson now fails to look like a real person. You can't be everything for everyone, and Supercar proves this by butchering a concept that could have made great racer.
The unique aspect of Supercar is that you cannot only race cars that aren't even on the road yet, you can also design your own Supercar from your dreams. But, if you think you're going to be able to build your own Mystery Machine or Malibu Barbie RV, think again. The "Steve Saleen Styling Studio," the place where you design your cars, is pretty weak; there's only a limited amount of front and rear designs, and the accessories don't bring much to the table. The standard cars available to select are from top name manufacturers like Lotus, Callaway, and Fioravanti. The Fioravanti model is my favorite, and since it's Italian, you know it has to be fancy.
There's a lot left to be desired in the graphics department. Supercar Street Challenge is a long way from the refinement of Gran Tourismo, and looking at the two side by side, they hardly compare. The most significant flaw is its inconsistent, intuitive framerate. Inconsistent, because you never know when the game is going to slow down or speed up. Intuitive, because the game somehow figures out the most inopportune time to slow down, and then the framerate drops dramatically. The framerate also suffers during 2 player games. Compounding the visual problems are some dirty textures and jagged polygon edges. On the bright side, the tracks backgrounds shine in their overall scope. They are rather accurate recreations of 7 cities around the world. Los Angeles, London, Monaco, Munich, Paris, Rome, and Turin are the playable tracks, and a few major landmarks can be seen in each city (i.e., Big Ben, Golden Gate Bridge, Eiffel Tower.
There's one distinctive mode of gameplay: championship. Manufacturer's Cup, quick race, time attack and two player modes are all variations of championship. Control during gameplay is trapped precariously between a sim racer and an arcade racer. If you don't know what I'm talking about, think about the differences in control between Ridge Racer and GT3; now, put those two control schemes together. An absolute mess, no doubt. There's nothing new that SSC brings to the racing genre, but SSC still has solid racer gameplay.
The Bottom Line: SSC is a below average racer gameplay-wise, but coupled with The "Steve Saleen Styling Studio" and a good amount of well designed tracks, SSC could be worth your money. At least if Gran Turismo 3 wasn't already out.