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Enthusia Professional Racing

When developers are desperate to make you see how realistic their games are they usually show screenshots of fictional things next to the authentic things.

Konami has gone one step further by filming footage of real cars drifting around tracks and juxtaposing them, corner for corner, next to its own in-game footage. There's very little to choose between the representations, of course, but the spot-the-difference game gets tiresome pretty quickly.

Point made; Enthusia has been built not to try emulate Gran Turismo 4, but to do realism like no other driving game before. Its key innovation is a driving aid christened the VGS, or Virtual Gravity System.

The idea is that players can use the feedback from this meter to drift and power steer around courses with greater precision. In effect, it's a visual representation of the forces that act on the vehicle, and the driver's body.

It's a nice idea in principle, but the VGS currently feels like nothing more than a distraction in the middle of your screen. It's not that the information it imparts appears inaccurate, just that it seems redundant.

Take a sharp right-hand corner and the G-forces bearing in on your (virtual) head result in several chevrons poking out to the left of the VGS. The more G-force, the more chevrons.

Brake violently into a corner and the chevrons shoot upwards, purportedly representing how close your head is to the windscreen. It's as gimmicky as it sounds.

Of more practicality are the grip indicators, small representations of each tyre that communicate useful information on how much traction you're getting in and out of corners.

Because each tyre is independently monitored it's possible to use this information to control drifts, take greater risks and generally drive on the ragged edge.

Konami's decision to release a demo with only a Free Ride mode is lamentable as it fails to show Enthusia's potential. A handful of tracks and just one opponent fail to adequately showcase the love and effort from Manabu Akita, Rage Racer's designer.

Ironically, there's something a little dead and restrained about the racing. Vehicles currently handle like they've got invisible stabilisers attached. You want to screech into a corner and let the back end snake wildly out, but all you get is a calm drift.

The game is still very much on the garage blocks and undergoing engineering works, so hopefully Enthusia will lose some of its sterility before release.

It has the cars, the tracks and the will to match Gran Turismo 4, but without any AI competition to race against it's hard to say if Enthusia can live up to its bold name.

Enthusia Professional Racing will be out for PS2 later this year

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