Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge
for Amiga (OCS/ECS)

Mr Creosote:Herr M.:Overall:
Popular Vote:
Company: Gremlin
Year: 1990
Genre: Sport, Action
Theme: Driving / Multiplayer
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 23305
Review by Mr Creosote, Herr M. (2014-02-22)
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[Mr Creosote] 14 years ago, this website got started. The goal was to find our very own style and target audience. One proven method to gain attention is deliberate provocation. And what would be better suited for this purpose than to aggressively argue against the mainstream?

Which is not to say that I was basically dishonest about my views on Lotus. For me, it is really a highly overrated game. What might have sounded quite cynical in the preceeding paragraph has got a serious background: In spite of the ironic site name, it has always been our declared goal to avoid nostalgia as far as possible, but rather evaluate games based on how much fun they offer today.

What I have to admit is that some of the statements made in the original review had been mainly based on the then fairly recent impression of playing Lotus III, a fairly weak sequel which, on top of everything else, was even plagued by technical issues. Though the original Lotus also did not age well, in my opinion. When it first came out, the fast, fluid graphics and the brisk driving model were more than enough to impress players. The gameplay weaknesses should really become evident to anyone who really tries it out these days, though.

None of which makes some of my bashing correct. It's just that unfortunately, this rather cheap method of provoking works all too well, as the excited comments which quickly came in showed. This was a pity for two reasons. First, some of those comments were even less reflected than what I had said (“you have no clue about games”). Second, those commentators should have known that their opposition only confirmed this style of reviewing. Balanced and thoughtful commentaries are usually met with complete silence around here, unlike quickly produced provocations.

Nevertheless, we switched towards the more serious format soon enough. In this spirit, Herr M. has gone back to the game again, paying particular attention to those aspects which I identified or at least claimed to have identified back then. What his conclusion will be, will be solely his decision, just like everybody else should make up their own minds. Because an unreflected retelling of the canonical majority opinion is really no better than the opposite. It just stands out less.

[Herr M.] Thank you for the introduction! Well, here is my opinion about it. The quotes are taken right from Mr Creosote's original review.
This is the first part of a series many people consider as a classic. As you can see from my rating, I don't agree with that. To describe Lotus, just one word is needed: boring!

Even though I do not judge this game so hard, I have to admit that nowadays, this game really is nothing special anymore. At least from a strictly objective point of view. Once, it might have been incredibly innovative. But after a plethora of similar racing games, which for the most part had a lot more to offer – both technical and content wise – Lotus seems to have lost much of its former glory.

Nevertheless, its historical value is out of question! It's the ancestor of all the 'modern' action racers, e.g. the Need for Speed- or Screamer-games. And what's even more important (and interesting!) is the fact, that Lotus is almost identical to those newer ones!

It is not quite true that this was the ancestor, because that honour rather belongs to Pole Position. Even Outrun, from which Lotus took more inspiration than just the red racing car, was published two years before the latter. Still, even those contemporary games were actually not identical. Lotus for instance is the only one that features an uneven landscape. So aside from the usual curves there are also slopes. As far as the comparatively newer titles are concerned, the similarities are even less obvious. Screamer has more serious opponents and actual collision physics, that go way beyond the 'let‘s slow the player down a bit'. And even the very first Need for Speed game comes with a generous car pool, and each one of the vehicles has slightly different driving characteristics.

Everything that's typical for this genre is already in it: Automation options without which you can't even drive, badly designed and uninspired courses, dumb opponents who ram you from behind because they just drive on a fixed line, a league that only continues if you've won the last race and high speed!

Most of those things are not standard (anymore?)… yet they all apply to Lotus. Having to brake in order to shift manually, means you lose a lot of speed, so it is useless to give it a try. The tracks look very similar to each other and they feel like driving on a railway. You are not even allowed to make a U-turn. Enemy AI is a bad joke, because it is limited to swerve about at constant speed, passing unhindered through the obstacles. Nevertheless it is kind of challenging, because there are lots of them, so there will always be at least one of them that blocks your way. And this is just not especially fair, let alone motivating.

Only slight differences can be found: Lotus has better graphics than the 'modern' games. It's not as ugly! Still quite average graphics. Lotus doesn't try to cover its nature by huge option screen on which you can't set anything.

I dare to strongly doubt this statement. To each his own, but if there is one thing about Lotus which is definitely inferior, it has to be its graphics. The mere fact that the single player mode uses only half of the screen for a lackluster (almost) still image, because the game is in a permanent split screen, speaks volumes. Just like the obstacles which come out of nowhere because of the low resolution. Or the cars looking exactly the same except for the color (red=player, white=computer).

You are right about the option screen though. It is refreshingly minimalistic and efficient, you can speed right away. But not having to worry about settings might also come from the total lack of different racing modes (never mind cars).

If you like Action Racers, you'll love Lotus. If you don't (like me), you'll find every single piece of prejudice to be true here!

Well, I like action racing games, so do I love Lotus? To be honest: No, I do not. Yet I do kind of like it, because besides all that negative things listed above, the game does have its merits too.

The driving physics for example are totally unrealistic, but in a good way. The Lotus accelerates fairly fast but stays somewhat manoeuvrable, so most of the time collisions with your opponents or obstacles on the edge of the road are not that severe. Especially because you do not take any damage. Even if you make a major mistake you still have a chance to catch up or yet win. This ensures action packed races, in which you can not tell until the very last minute if you will make it or not.

If you do not come in first place, you have not lost yet. As long as you finish at least in the 10th place, you stay in the league. This is manageable even if your reflexes are not lightning fast. The tracks and the opponents might be unfair, yet the game is very generous in keeping you driving and having your fun.

On top of that, you should keep in mind that this game comes with a multiplayer mode, for which it was obviously designed. Sadly, so far I did not have the opportunity to give it a proper try. What I did see in those races against human opponents was that many of its flaws (mainly the stupid AI) start to pale and its real strength shines through: That it is a fast paced racing game which is very easy to learn.

Maybe it does not quite earn to be called a classic, but it is a rather solid game. If you just feel like racing a couple of rounds, I would even recommend it to you. It does not take much to get into it and the fun factor is quite high. At least at the beginning, for as countless as the game‘s tracks may be, the long-term motivation leaves much to be desired.

Comments (10) [Post comment]

I played the PC version of it. What can i say.. i did actually enjoy it, BUT.. it feels as if the game is slightly imcomplete. I dunno.. maybe a wider selection of cars wouldn't hurt... more colours at least. Oh yeah, and what's definitely missing is a little addon to physics of the game. C'mon, the car should at least jump sometimes on slopes and mounds... here it seems to be stuck dead to the ground as if there's some unbelievable magnet below.. these kind of things destroy the pleasure a great deal. Also, here the cars never crash and collisions are not just non-realistic, but annoying as hell. I ran into someone from behind and awaaaaay he goes... pfff..
Herr M.:
Originally posted by Rik at 23:53 on February 27th, 2014:
I'm sure the decent speed achieved in this game is at least partly down to the half-screen display in single-player.

Hmmm… I am not that sure about that one, because it still runs smoothly in the two player mode, with a full screen to animate. My guess would be that they just were lazy and it's easier to put a picture on the second half of the screen instead of writing a full screen mode.


I'm sure the decent speed achieved in this game is at least partly down to the half-screen display in single-player. But give me decent speed and I can put up with a barely-animated shot of some mechanics - I'd rather that than have the frame rate struggling to keep up with the action.

But yes, Lotus III (or Ultimate Challenge) has bigger problems than just its many technical issues!

I never played the second one, or managed to get it working on my ST emulator - I'm curious to try it one day.

Mr Creosote:

Then you have not played it on an Amiga 500 :) In the mountain scenery, the framerate is so low that it looks like you're driving backwards!

And, well, those three cars all feel exactly the same, the course generator is a bad joke etc.

The Ultimate Challenge, as Lotus III was called on PC, doesn't suffer from any frame rate or technical issues, but it's still not very good!
Mr Creosote:
As I tried to hint at in my introduction, the third part really has major issues. I'd say the game's speed is Lotus' main asset. Well, guess what: Some graphical sets used in part 3 make the graphics unbelievably jerky, and in consequence the car uncontrollable. Huge disappointment.
Herr M.:
Originally posted by Rik at 21:28 on February 23rd, 2014:
This holds up well compared with the sequels in my opinion. Lotus III is pretty bad: a classic example of thoughtlessly adding unnecessary features.

I never played one of the sequels (maybe part 3 once many years ago, but my memories of it are very fuzzy), but I can imagine that adding anything besides different cars could ruin the simple fun this game has to offer.

Originally posted by Rik at 21:28 on February 23rd, 2014:
As far as this kind of thing goes, it's up there with my favourites. One of the few things I boot up my ST emulator for these days.

To be honest: While testing the game for the review, I almost felt a bit sorry that I had not played it back in the days of old, because it could have been just my cup of tea. That is if there ever was a decent DOS port. ;)


This holds up well compared with the sequels in my opinion. Lotus III is pretty bad: a classic example of thoughtlessly adding unnecessary features.

As far as this kind of thing goes, it's up there with my favourites. One of the few things I boot up my ST emulator for these days.

I agree with "Amiga500". I wonder if you ever played this game with a friend? Really fun and addictive. And btw., you don't have to WIN every race for the game to continue. You just have to make it to the first 10. And that's really fun with a friend :) I even liked the second part though it had no gasoline-factor. The other ones I've never tried (sorry ;)