July 17, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Slightly Mad Studios
Publisher(s): Atari
Platform(s): Playstation 3, XBox 360, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: July 3, 2012

Test Drive’s latest Ferrari Racing Legends might be the franchise’s most suitable entry. The series has gone Off Road and across the Le Mans circuit, but it never found distinctiveness. The predecessor, Test Drive Unlimited 2, was a fun ride, but ultimately felt like it was playing catch up to other racing titles.  It needed a niche to set itself apart from the competition, particularly Need For Speed.  

The Good           
- Great Car Models
- Nice Handling
- Step in the Right Direction

The Bad
- Very Slow Start
- Bland Environments
- Lack of Polish
- Small Selection of Cars/Tracks

Now we have Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends, a title that strictly focuses on red, Italian muscle, and as a result, gives the Test Drive name its profound, albeit unpolished, identity.  Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends is for two kinds of people: Ferrari enthusiasts and racing fans.  I consider myself the latter, but I can appreciate the more categorical approach.  As the name suggests, the game is about test-driving, so focusing on a specific car-make helps the series steer in a more unique direction.

Unfortunately, the game does a poor job of drawing you in.  The campaign mode is bland and uninspiring, lacking the same finesse and polish we see in the gorgeously rendered vehicles.  I generally dislike over the top cut scenes in racing games, but this is rudimentary, stripped down presentation. 

The career is divided into Golden (1947-1973), Silver (1974-1990) and Modern (1990-2011) championships, each containing a meaty amount of races and challenges. Events consist of Rival Challenges, Time Trials, Catch-up Races and well, your typical Podium Races.  Varied race objectives keep the engines running, but the first few hours are a chore.  It’s too easy early on and you find yourself alone on the track soon after takeoff.

Driving the 50+ Ferraris feels great.  The talents behind Need For Speed’s Shift series (Slightly Mad Studios) ensured that the game controls beautifully.  The realism is nowhere near the superb Shift 2 Unleashed, but the arcade friendly twist makes it more accessible to newcomers.  But let me warn you, once you reach later stages, it feels like stepping down from a tricycle onto a rocket.  The game becomes brutally difficult, making every hiccup result in a guaranteed loss.  The difficulty spikes seem inconsistent and I can’t tell if it’s intentional or a bug.

My biggest gripe is the lack of overall polish.  It’s commendable that the developers branched out to something different, but the game lacks finishing touches.  Don’t serve a tasty meal on a dirty plate.  In the end, Test Drive Ferrari Racing Legends is a welcome deviation that needs a few more months in the garage before it can play with the big boys.

Review by Tin Salamunic

Final Score “A Solid Racer” 7.0
Later cars and tracks are significantly better than the first few offerings. Unfortunately, the tracks feel quite bland compared to some really nice car models.
The developers of Shift 2 are behind the wheel, so you can expect some very solid gameplay mechanics.
There is plenty to do. Those that can get past the first few championships will be rewarded with more variety, but the first few hours are a chore.
There is nothing wrong with the sound. But there is also nothing interesting about it. It’s there, it gets the job done, but that’s about it.

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