Building a racing game around one car manufacturer can be a difficult spot to be put in. You have to have a wide variety of vehicles, an intriguing career, and most importantly a name with enough heritage to support the title. Slightly Mad Studios, the development team behind the more serious Need for Speed: Shift games, was tasked with developing just such a game based on the Ferrari lineage of sports/race cars.
There are a myriad of choices that could star in a single-manufacturer, but Ferrari really is a perfect fit. It’s one of the few car manufacturers that make only performance cars and has a plethora of cars to pick from. From the first Ferrari ever, the 1947 Ferrari 125 S, to their latest Formula One car, the 2011 Ferrari 150° Italia, and everything in between. There are a total of fifty cars to pick from, each with their own specific driving characteristics.
The majority of your time will be spent doing well-written (but poorly executed) challenges in the “Career” paths. Three distinct eras are presented, and while one can play through any era in any time, the events in said-era are all sequential. This is one of the biggest flaws in the design of Ferrari Racing Legends. While it makes sense in the story presented, one event will consist of two to six laps in a car on one track to set a good lap time. Then the very next event will be the same car and track in a race environment. It makes extended sittings with Ferrari Racing Legends more brutal than they should be.
Unlike most racing games that have a narrative and try to be Hollywood about it, Ferrari Racing Legends has a simple and believable one. You start out by vying to be a test driver, and manage to find your way on the competition circuit afterwards. It may be basic, but it made paying attention easier because it lacked the outlandish storytelling you see in other racing games.
During the competitions, there’s another fatal flaw that killed the sense of immersion; driver AI. I would be cruising along, lose control of my car (yes, it happened a few times), spin out, get adjusted to start driving again and before I could hit the accelerator, bam, I was smacked in the rear by another car which sense me flipping through the air. This was on a straightaway, mind you, so there was no excuse that the car could not have gone around. I experienced a few similar stories during my time on the track, which was truly frustrating.
The campaign(s) aside, there is limited replay value due to a lack of an online community. At least on the Playstation 3, every time I tried getting into an online game I couldn’t find one. So unless you want to race the AI in quick races or the campaign, you won’t find much else to do. You unlock the cars by playing through the campaign(s), but outside of picking a color to race in, you can’t upgrade your vehicles.
Car models are one thing that really stand out in the latest Test Drive. You can’t have a licensed Ferrari game without beautifully rendered exotic cars, and they really do stand out. Even the interiors (I drove in the full-cockpit view the whole time) look like a lot of time was taken to get every aspect of them right. On the flip side, if you happen to look over at the scenery as you drive around one of 39 real-world tracks, you’ll shudder. The textures on the trees, for example, not only break you out of the experience and look out of place, they look like they came straight from a late-PS2/early-PS3 generation game. It’s a shame when compared to the gorgeous vehicle models.
When everything is said and done, Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends caters to the most hardcore of racing fans. Even to that crowd, it falls short of hitting its mark with bad event scripting, poor environment visuals and a lack of serious replay value after the campaigns are done. Slightly Mad Studios does an admirable job at trying to develop a game around one car brand, though, it’s just not quite enough to cross the finish line.
- Believable narrative
- Gorgeous car models
- Dated environmental visuals
- Unrealistic AI
- Lack of online community (on PS3 at least)
- Event structuring will kill your will to play long sessions with repetition
Note: This review is based on gameplay on the Playstation 3 platform with material provided from the publisher. It is also available on the X360 platform.