Racing games seem to get pumped into the face of the buying public these days like so much exhaust emission pouring into the atmosphere. Everybody parades around thinking that another one won't hurt, when really we have almost reached complete saturation point. Let us meander down the metaphorical track of the tired Formula 1 licence for a moment. Look how many titles are currently racing for contention for the pole position of number one motor racing experience.
Vroom, F-1 Grand Prix and Super Monaco GP are just three of the relative oldies to grace the grid. Agreed they are to all intents and purposes classics, but weren't they enough to put the rival factions off?
It seems not, because just recently a pack of new titles have weaved their turbo-charged selves onto your shelves. Mr Whinging Brummy himself, Nigel Mansell, took time out from making even more loot to lend his name to a Formula 1 title. Then there is Domark's F1; this has the official backing of the F.I.A. which should give it some extra revs. With the big names and licences being banded around you would not think there would be much space on the track for another competitor.
So when another Formula-1 style title screeched its way into the office, it was greeted with both astonishment and a certain amount of contempt. However, when I noticed the Team 17 logo emblazoned on the bottom of the box my heart became filled with sunshine. Could the company that wowed us with the like of Project X, Superfrog, Alien Breed and most recently Body Blows do it again?
Well what with the recession and all, the company refused to buy me a sexy Marlboro racing suit, so reluctantly I stretched into my undersized Admiral tracky bottoms, slipped on my oven gloves, strapped up my colander and set out to road-test Team 17's new title.
First query is why the devil is it called F17 and not F1 like the others? Well, it is apparently because FUJI and the FIA have decided to get mardy about people using words like F1 or Grand Prix. Now that we have cracked open that little piston rod, let us find out about the nuts and bolts of Challenge. Remarkably enough, 17 puts you in control of one of four racing cars over all the world's toughest circuits. The ultimate aim, like all racers, is to become world champ.
That, to all intents and purposes, is that; most racers follow the same recipe, because that is what the likes of our Damon do for a living. So there are no real surprises on that front.
However, and I am jumping the green light here a little, but things need saying now, before you condemn F17 as "just another racer". For one it is brilliant, and secondly it only costs the best part of £13! When most products float around the £25 to £40 mark, you are guaranteed a quality product for just a fraction of the cost. In terms of its features, F17 holds its own against its more costly competitors from the same stable. Choice of car, varying levels of ability from rookie through to pro and interchangeable control system are just the press of a throttle away.
Once you are out there in the cockpit there are more decisions to make. You can opt for practice laps or play arcade-style three-lap races which challenge you to finish in the top six to qualify for the next circuit. Alternatively you can take part in qualifying to determine your place on the grid in the full-blown championship.
There is also wet weather to contend with, and dmage inflicted on your car by driver error or other mean machines affects your performance.
A nice touch here is that when your little brum-brum takes dents to the paint-work you can pit in. The longer you stay in the pit, the better the repair job you get.
All these things are really nice features but above all the outstanding quality of F17 is playability. Pure, unadulterated, arcade playability. Challenge absolutely oozes out of the side of the disk drive.
The screen update is positively rapid and your car moves at a terrific rate. Everything graphical from backdrops to your car is very well drawn and animated.
When the finish line has been finally crossed, it has to be said that Team 17 have come up with a winner. Everything about this game is just brilliant - it looks good, sounds good and plays as well as any racer I have yet seen.
Do yourself a favour, buy Challenge, have hours of tyre screeching fun and save a dollop of dosh at the same time. Awesome.