Beyond the challenge of mastering a complicated control scheme, simulations have another remarkable virtue: they allow the average player to operate prohibitively-priced equipment. From dogfighting with $30 million F-15 Eagles in Lock On: Modern Air Combat to engaging a distant target through the scope of a M107 sniper rifle in Arma 2, games allow us to handle exotic hardware, without the need for extensive training. For gearheads, the recent Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release of Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends seems like a dream come true- permitting players to drive fifty-two different sport cars spanning the auto manufacturer’s glorious sixty-five year history. Regretfully, a rigid campaign structure is punctuated by severe difficulty spike which sullies an otherwise invigorating racing experience.
Racing Legend’s chief time sink is its career mode, covering three eras in Ferrari history. The Golden years range from 1947-1973, offering vehicles from the open-air, V12 powered 125 S to the single-seat 246 Formula One. The Silver age followed from 1974 to 1990, producing cars like the GTB and GTS, recognizable for their angular body designs highlighted by graceful lines. The Modern era spans from 1990 to the present, furnishing feats of contemporary auto engineering, such as the 570 horsepower 458 Italia. At the commencement of the campaign, players are free to start from any of the three periods, with humdrum text based-descriptions ushering players through the triad of racing trajectories.
Progress is made through five types of competitions- from Checked Flag events which require finishing above a preset position, Time Trials which stipulate a challenging lap time, and Overtake trials, which oblige players to pass a certain number of rival racers. Although the variety is pleasing, each event boils down to driving fast and clean. Fortunately, the game’s engine is nuanced enough so that careening around each track places players on the precipitance of control- with irresponsible acceleration sending cars headed into track boundaries. Cleverly, Ferrari Legends compels a keen mastery of both analog stick steering (for players without a steering wheel peripheral) and judicious use of the accelerator and brake. Unlike most racing titles where participants may yank the stick and slam down the throttle, this title wants players to drive with steely-eyed finesse, less they lose valuable milliseconds around each corner. Participants are able to choose from three difficulty settings, with five diving aids automatically toggled at each level. Additionally, a driving line is available to apprentice petrol-heads.
Yet, even on the game’s novice setting- which turns on braking, steering, and stability assistants, the game can summon up a near insurmountable challenge. Without the benefit of the rewind capability popularized by racing sims such as DiRT and Forza Motostort 4, events in Ferrari Racing Legends are intense, with a single mistake often prohibiting the successful completion of a competition. Worse, the game’s AI is inconsistent, offering a relaxed rivalry one race before offering overwhelming proficiency in the next. This fault is intensified by the title’s advancement system, which forces players to surmount an event before moving on to the next. In execution, it’s likely that players will reach a frustrating impasse during one of Ferrari Racing Legends hopelessly demanding heats. Ideally, the title would have allowed players to bypass a challenge after a specific number of failed attempts, incurring some type of small penalty. While the game’s Quick Race and online multiplayer matches offer temporary reprieve from this stalemate, players may only use cars and tracks unlocked during the game’s campaign. It’s little surprise that I didn’t see a wide variety of vehicles during the game’s mostly lag-free net-based races.
Visually, Ferrari Racing Legends flaunts a wide selection of accurately modeled tracks. While the average player may not notice the different between the 1959, 1975 and 2009 iterations of the Silverstone GP raceway, they will admire prominent tracks such as the Nürburgring Nordschleife, Spa Francorchamps, and Cote d’Azur Monument Loop. Woefully, developer Slightly Mad Studios (Need For Speed: Shift, Shift 2) commitment to authenticity means that beyond the meticulously modeled tarmac, stands, and flora, each course can be a bit nondescript. Fortunately, the game’s sonic delivery fares far better, articulating the growls and wails of humungous engines against the succinct sound of crisp shifting- all helping to offset the absence of music during races.
Heading into Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends, one might think the game’s limitation is the single manufacturer license. Yet with GT, Formula One, and even rally races populated by sixty-five years of fastidiously crafted, vehicles which all handle distinctively, this really isn’t an issue. Instead, the decision to make the title’s campaign obey a linear path filled with vexing competitions is Legends stymieing gaffe. Ultimately, this blunder sullies Ferrari Racing Legends’ otherwise invigorating on-track performance.