Ferrari Challenge is set to hit the North American retail circuit later this month on August 26 and we've taken the NA build out on a drive for some early hands-on impressions. Our European readers have probably put in a few good laps into the game -- as it is already out over yonder -- but rest assured, there are some bits of information in this article that you too will definitely want to read about.

The true "current gen" version of Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli is exclusive to the PS3, and with it comes over 40 Ferrari brand cars -- including classic models as far back as the 1950s. Each car has a unique feel; driving the 333SP felt like a charm, but some of the older models were a bit tougher to handle. Customization options are available for all automobiles; you can change the paint job and also add and remove vinyl stickers whenever and wherever. You can take those custom cars and race them online.


Speaking of racing online, it's apparently not region locked. North Americans and Europeans (as well as other regions) can challenge each other to online matches with full headset support. We weren't actually able to try this out during our playtime, but it's been confirmed to us. Aside from online multiplayer, there's also the option for LAN parties, but there is no split screen support.

There are roughly 15 international tracks to race on, and many more to come as the European DLC is also heading to North America (it's just still a matter of when). Taking the cars out for a spin, we noticed a lot of little details. Driving around in the sand for a bit gets your car a little dirty, picking up some of the dust. There is also car damage in the game. It is purely cosmetic and doesn't affect gameplay. You can switch it on and off in the options menu. Honestly, the damage doesn't look too spectacular. The weather effects, however, are pretty aesthetically pleasing, and while I'm not sure about this next statement, it seems that setting the weather condition to "wet" actually not only makes the rain fall, but makes the track slippery -- which adds a whole new dimension of gameplay. Again, not really sure if that's true, but it sure seemed that way.

Included in the game is something called "card challenge." You collect cards of Ferrari cars and you play against an AI opponent in a game of War. Each card has several stats, namely: weight, model year, price value, etc. Depending on what stat you choose, it compares it against your opponent's card and whoever gets a higher value wins. It's a nice little distraction. You can collect more cards in the game by completing accomplishments.

Other interesting facts we'd like to mention are that we've been told custom music tracks and trophies are indeed on the way. We received this statement regarding both items: the developers are "working on including [them] in a patch, set to be released shortly after the game hits shelves." That's good to hear.

All in all, our time with the game yielded some good fun. The gameplay was solid, felt authentic, and the difficulty was geared for the hardcore racer. Graphically speaking, it's difficult to be impressed after having played Gran Turismo 5 Prologue for the longest time, but Ferrari Challenge does hold its own quite well. Of note, the car shine and reflection do stand out. Overall, Ferrari Challenge might be a good alternative racer if you've been looking for something to play.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.