Creating any vehicle-specific racing game is always a challenge. You run the risk of segregating your audience due to a lack of interest in the featured vehicle, or not catering enough to those that want the full-on experience. Test Drive Ferrari is the latest to take up the challenge, and the results are mixed. The game focuses heavily on the simulation aspect of racing, yet fails to take it the full nine yards when it comes to features. What we are left with is a straightforward affair that will leave almost everyone feeling a little dissatisfied.
Ferrari Racing Legends features a career mode that appears bulky at first glance. You have three separate eras to race through, each one featuring vehicles from that time period. The game attempts to feed a story in there, but it mostly comes across flat with actions being fed from an impersonal narrator during and after races. The facts about the cars are a nice touch, but nothing can mask the repetition of tracks and events. Every once in a while you get a nice change of pace with lap times or rival races, but it gets redundant long before you even get out of the first era.
The other major issue with the career is a failure to feed rewards at a fast enough pace. The game only unlocks cars over the course of the game, and to be fair the changes are minimal in most areas. Outside of that there is nothing to keep you pushing forward. You will unlock cars and tracks, and that is it. It feels like a shallow reward, and for a campaign that spikes in difficulty early and often, it simply isn’t enough to keep most players going.
The actual racing works fine. Developer Slightly Mad Studios has a solid track record with the Need for Speed Shift series. Ferrari straddles the line between simulation and minor arcade elements by offering up three tiers of difficulty. Novice pretty much assists you in every aspect such as braking and steering, while turning it up requires you to pretty much handle all the systems manually. What I didn’t like was a lack of being able to customize those assists. I might want one or more enabled that the default doesn’t off, but I am stuck with what the game deems important. This creates issues early on with balancing. Toss in the difficulty curve, and you have a frustrating career that made it difficult for me to keep going.
Car handling is solid, if not a bit mechanical. Cars turn like they are attached to a pivot on the ground, which makes cornering a little rough at first. You will get used to sliding around corners with the hand brake after a while, but it also comes across a little unrealistic when watching the AI do it without much hassle. I do like the subtleties, such as fuel weight actually changing the handling, but without an option to tweak the assists ,you either have an overly steep learning curve, or a free ride to speed. Neither instance is remarkably ideal.
Once you get past the career mode, you can hop online to share in your love for Ferrari. While the options are plentiful and my races went smoothly, I couldn’t help but feel lonely. The sparse community will likely only diminish over time. Another thing to keep in mind is the contact physics. It is highly recommended you don’t slam into another racer, lest you be spun around like a top. This game does not want you wrecking these glorious vehicles, and after doing it once, neither did I. There are other modes such as Time Trials and Quick Race, but it is all standard, and unlocking the cars in career mode is the only mode with some real meat to it.
The game looks good. The tracks may repeat too often, but they are nicely detailed. The cockpit views of the cars are nicely done. Drivers, on the other hand, look like robots out of a 1960s sci-fi flick. I already mentioned the insane crash physics, and it is worth noting that there is no damage. Cars simply bounce off walls without instance outside of the spinning. Everything looks just looks “fine.” Car effects sound great, but a lack of music during races is oddly unsettling. For some reason, driving a car always requires some form of musical assistance.
Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends is not a bad game; it is simply what it is. I hate to be so nondescript about a game, but if you like Ferraris and racing the tracks they tend to zoom on, you will probably have a good time. If not, then this game is definitely not for you. As I said earlier, creating a game based around a single make of vehicle can be a real challenge to developers, and Slightly Mad Studios did a decent job here. You just really have to be into that sort of thing and possess a serious amount of patience to get your money’s worth out of this game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.