Format reviewed: Dreamcast
Publisher: Crave Entertainment
Submitted by: James Holian
This was only the second game I purchased for my Dreamcast just after launch day, mainly because it was cheap.
The whole game takes place on one giant map, which is that of Tokyo's highway system. This means that many other non-racers are sharing the street with you, and navigating the vans and lorries is a large part of the gameplay. While there is one area where two paths are available, this is essentially not a true city map with grids of streets, but one giant loop of highway.
Players race this loop in two directions, but you may only change direction by ending your night of racing and returning to the menu, even with a reverse mode the single track provides little variation. Part of the joy of a racing games comes out of mastering the ins and outs of many varied tracks and Highway Challenge lacks this. Not only does the single track reduce the options available to the player, it also makes the game visually boring. As you drive along the dark highways, you see the same buildings rising up alongside over and over again.
With only one track, Highway Challenge needs something to keep you busy, and Quest Mode provides over a hundred different opponents you must beat to complete the game. As you beat them, you acquire money which allow you to upgrade or replace your vehicle, and as your reputation grows, new challengers will emerge to face you.
Back in 1999 i was very impressed with the graphical quality of the cars, granted this was before any real time lighting so today the reflections look a little bland and pasted on. The handling of the cars also leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the time you just ricochet off the edges of the track and passing vehicles.
Overall the game hasn’t aged well, the sequel improves quite a bit on this so I suggest you pick that one up instead. Also worth noting is the Need for Speed franchise has taken some inspiration from this series, especially the underground and carbon instalments.