Okay, so what’s the point of a videogame? Why do you play games? Do you play them to be educated? Do you play them to learn (some aspect of) history? Do you play because they’re entertaining and fun? On two of these three counts the latest Test Drive title, Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends gets good marks, on the third not so much.
Odds are that if you bothered to answer any of the above questions, you felt like the most important thing for a game was for it to be entertaining and fun. That would be the spot where Ferrari Racing Legends fails to perform adequately.
No one would ever deny that Ferrari has been an incredibly successful carmaker through the years and that some of their designs will go down in history as the most memorable cars ever created, but that doesn’t make for what many of us would consider a videogame.
The point of the affair is simple – take the player through that esteemed history of Ferrari’s cars. This is done by first dividing the career mode into three different eras of Ferrari and then having the player race various Ferraris in each eras. There are tons of tasks (“missions” if you will) and there is some story about you being a test driver trying to work his way through the ranks at the carmaker, but there’s really little thought given to that part of things.
The cars themselves look great, and there are certainly a plethora of them. Even better than that, they all do drive differently (and differently again depending on your chosen difficulty level). The speed you traverse a course is notably altered between different cars (as it should be as cars today can go somewhat more quickly). Plus, you get to wonder what the designers could possibly have been thinking with some of those designs – there are cars you’re supposed to drive very very fast and where you can barely see out the window.
Some of this difficulty is alleviated by turning off the poorly designed HUD and some of the missions are just plain hard. As for the layout problems, things are not put where one would might expect them. Most notably, the map of the track all too often blends into the dashboard and you can expect to find yourself crashing into a wall or two as you try to work out exactly where it is (even when you know).
As for the various tasks, one will have you need to set a lap time, another to pass a certain number of cars, and a third to actually win a race, etc. In short, all of the tasks are fairly standard which is fine for a car game.
The problem is that there’s no real sense of enthusiasm to the title. You just kind of drive, and even when you drive it’s something of a ho-hum experience. I have watched enough Top Gear to know that driving a Ferrari ought to be an insane and exciting experience, and that isn’t present here (yes, Top Gear has slammed them too), except with how hard it sometimes is (to be fair though, other times it’s terribly, horribly easy).
Within many of the missions, Ferrari Racing Legends has the disappointing tendency to give you a rolling start to get things going. They then hand you the wheel at incredibly awkward moments, virtually assuring your destruction (here, it’s a sharp turn and we’ve lined you up as poorly as possible, go for it!). In the missions which date back to earlier times, the game even has a fun little sepia tone which stays on for a little bit after you have control of the car just to make things that much more difficult for you (it’s a less aged tint in later levels making the issue less egregious).
The graphics aren’t spectacular either. Tons of jagged lines and disappointingly empty backgrounds along with good images of the cars themselves are present and little else. The cars do look very nice (though far better in beauty shots before and after the game instead of during), but not much else does. The engines roar furiously and brilliantly, and that does add to the amusement if only temporarily.
What I am left with after playing a Ferrari Racing Legends is the sense that I’ve taken a trip through time and gotten to see a history of a car company and how they’ve progressed through the years. That is certainly enjoyable, it’s not a bad history lesson, but even in the modern era it still feels like a history lesson. One gets the sense playing the game that if you were to go to the Ferrari factory, while they wouldn’t let you actually sit in one of their cars as it goes around the track, they would hand you a controller and let you play this game.
Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends is an education in the evolution of supercars in general and Ferrari in particular. It is a stroll down memory lane. It is a collection of virtual versions of some of the most beautiful cars ever made. In all of those way it is fantastic, it just isn’t much of a videogame.
Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: XBox 360 and PC.