"This game has a great concept, and there's even quite a bit of love put into the campaign mode's setup. Unfortunately, its engine cripples the entire product."
It's the story of many a game: on paper, it should have been a no-brainer. Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends is based around the concept of having an entire virtual Ferrari car line at one's fingertips. The brand name alone makes it a drool-worthy prospect for drivers of all stripes, and even non-drivers. It's also developed by Slightly Mad Studios, who last worked on the well-received Need For Speed: Shift titles.
However, as we've seen many times over, a concept thatís great on paper doesnít necessarily enjoy similarly great execution.
Ferrari Racing Legends is a budget game, and that fact sadly works against it. To start off, presentation is as barebones as can be. Once again we have a game with no soundtrack to speak of. In fact, there really isn't much in in the way of sound assets at all. If you're lucky you might get an opening jingle when races begin, or an announcer providing a few quick words of encouragement of chastisement. Minimal sound effects are present and serviceable. Those same descriptions also apply to the graphics, with the courses and cars looking just fine, but no better. The entire game's aesthetic screams "functional" and "sterile," afraid to take on an identity of its own.
At a glance, one might think that the presentation suffers because Slightly Mad went completely for substance over style. The first and most noticeable feature of this game is its absolutely massive campaign mode, which covers all of Ferrari's 65-year history. There are also dozens of Ferrari cars to choose from, and tracks ready to race, all within said campaign.
Which makes it a massive shame that everything is locked. A total of 39 tracks and 50 Ferrari cars are hidden behind the campaign, which you must play extensively in order to unlock everything. This applies to even the free racing option, meaning that if you're a casual user who doesn't have tens of hours to place into unlocking all of the game's content via the campaign, you're out of luck. Sorry if you just wanted to drive Ferrari cars on your television.
However, even this would be forgivable if the campaign were enjoyable, and if unlocking the content was an enjoyable process. Unfortunately, this is the game's biggest objective flaw. The campaign mode is set up in a very old school arcade-style structure built around stages. If you can't pass the stage you're currently attempting, you're not allowed to go to the next stage; itís as simple as that. The problem with this approach comes down to the handling of the cars. The developer went for a "balance" between forgiving arcade-style handling and strict simulation-style handling, with the ability to switch between three combinations of driving aids depending on your skill level. The problem is that in trying to strike a balance, the team implemented handling that does not work well for either type of player. In my circle of friends, neither those who prefer sim-style racers nor those who enjoy an arcade approach could get the cars to control as if they werenít navigating an ice-covered track. Cars spin out too easily, plus turning and handling seem to just stop working after a while. In the end the game just falls apart.
Worse, presumably as a result of Ferrari's strict guidelines when it comes to using the license, this game has less freedom than you would expect from games within this genre. Gone is the ability to customize car statistics. Each carís performance capability is static, with red paint and unique handling. That's all you get. Furthermore, the car assigned to you in a particular campaign mission is the one you're stuck using until you pass said mission. If you find that you have to fight with a certain model to get it under control, then be prepared to fight for a long time.
That's where we're at. This game has a great concept, and there's even quite a bit of love put into the campaign mode's setup. Unfortunately, its engine cripples the entire product. If you can score it on a bargain, it might be worth taking a chance to see if the game works for you, but even then itís best to proceed with caution.
Freelance review by Jason Grant (August 20, 2012)
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