Enthusia Professional Racing for the PS2 puts you behind the wheel of over 200 different licensed cars on your quest to become the top ranked driver. By driving with style, challenging fast opponents, and building up a diversified garage, your dreams of becoming a professional race car driver can finally come true. While this game is not as groundbreaking as Gran Turismo 4, it still has its moments of fun and makes for an average racing experience.
The Enthusia Racing Mode is essentially a typical career mode with a few added features. You start off with cars that have slightly more horsepower than a lawnmower, and overtime you can earn new cars and improve the ones you have. Driving skillfully in a race will earn you tuning points, which will bring you closer to a tuning level up. That's right, instead of being able to choose what you would like to upgrade, you can grow levels with your car to make them faster. This is nice for people who wouldn't consider themselves grease monkeys, but you shouldn't expect much out of the customization. Enthu points can also be earned by competing in races, which allow you to advance your progress in the game. The odd system rewards you for challenging opponents with greater cars; if you defeat a rival with a much faster car you gain a vast amount of points, while racing someone with a similar car won't bring you much in the end. If, for some reason, you retire from a race, you will lose a great deal of your Enthu points and will be forced to have to rest for a week. Also, if you drive like a maniac by doing things such as ramming into walls and nudging other racers, tuning points will be lost. This adds to the realism factor of the game, forcing you to think about your surroundings instead of performing the ever popular "ride the wall" technique found in Gran Turismo 4. After winning a race, the event car raffle will appear, and if you are lucky enough you will a new car, otherwise you get nothing. Enthusia is different from other simulation type racing games because its career mode doesn't have any form of currency. All of your progress is based on winning cars and earning tune-ups, which makes for a rather linear game. There is no storyline at all, and although this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the lack of freedoms in the career mode stick out like a sore thumb. However, you will notice improvements in your garage as your progress, so the single player campaign manages to hold its own.
The Driving Revolution Mode can help you familiarize yourself with different cars, but more importantly it teaches you the basics of the game. In this mode, you have to pass through groups of gates, and you must pass them at certain speeds. The beauty of this is that by passing through the gates at the right speed, you will quickly learn how to brake and accelerate in and out of turns. After completing the first few stages, you will feel right at home with the physics of several different types of vehicles.
The cars here handle and feel better than some other arcade racing games, but there are still several flaws that can become quite bothersome. The performance of the vehicles, while not as meticulously created as in Gran Turismo 4, is close to what you could expect in real life. The acceleration and braking features work nicely with each other, and you won't find it too hard to learn how each car should handle certain turns. Cars with different drivetrains can easily be distinguished; the 4WD cars are very responsive, while the FR cars can be difficult to control at high speeds. The environment is also an important factor to take note of while racing; if the track is slick from rain you can expect to power slide, and you can also feel your car hug the tarmac on a sunny day. You can even feel every change in elevation on the road, including small pebbles and rocks on the gravel courses, which helps keep you on your toes at all times. Unfortunately, there are some problems regarding the control of the cars. While there is a "Visual Gravity System" that offers information about your car's handling and traction, steering around corners can be very difficult at times. As your drive around the bend, your car will jerk around a lot as you ease off on your turn, and you will constantly feel like you are bouncing around the course. Also, rival cars are very difficult to interact with, and even the slightest bump will cause both vehicles to bounce apart in a very amateur fashion. Interfering with walls will also result in a strange bounce that doesn't seem to slow you down too much. If you manage to avoid contact with your surroundings and attempt to smooth at your turns, you should not have much of a problem with the handling of the cars.
Visually, Enthusia doesn't have too much to offer, but it is still a decent looking game for the most part. The car models are plain and contain many rough edges, but it's still easy to determine what car you are driving simply by the looks. The motion blur effect is a joke; if you reach a certain speed that edge of the screen will brighten up and some of the colors will be mixed, which is a lame way to increase the sense of speed. The reflections are very low resolution and don't fit in well with the rest of the environment, and the cars would look a lot better if they were done away with. The environment is lacking in detail at times; people in the crowd are two-dimensional, as are many other objects in the backdrop. The road textures are rich in detail, and when you blend this with the various lighting effects and the stunning particle system, the graphics are much easier to stand.
The sound effects used in Enthusia compliment the driving a little bit, but for the most part go unnoticed. The background music is always has an upbeat techno feel with no lyrics, which helps get the blood flowing through your veins. The engines sound very weak and dull, though, and really take away from the experience. Collisions with the environment all sound the same, and again they lack the intensity that is needed in a racing game.
In conclusion, Enthusia Professional Racing for the PS2 has something to offer for all driving fans. While the customization is very limited, there is still a plethora of cars to select from, each with their own specific feel. Although it's far from being revolutionary in the audio visual area, Enthusia Professional Racing manages to separate itself from other simulation racing games.