Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends Review

As an adrenaline-craving, prepubescent boy with dreams of going fast, V8 BMWs, Aston Martins, and Lamborghinis bellowed through my imagination at speeds of 200 miles per hour. But not until the comedic personalities of Top Gear introduced me to less crude and garish models of Ferrari did I acknowledge the manufacturer’s craftsmanship. Still, you do not need to be a fan of Italian sports cars to be disappointed with Ferrari Racing Legends.

Ferrari Racing Legends renounces the open-world freedom of prior Test Drive titles to explore the Golden (1947-1973), Silver (1974-1990), and Modern (1990-2011) Ages of the revered car company’s showroom. Players begin the campaign in the ‘40s, working as Ferrari’s test driver and building the manufacturer's reputation across a series of exhibitions and time trials. Meanwhile, the omniscient narrator sets the backdrop for each race when not being drowned out by the menus' out-of-place orchestral music. From there, the tedium hits harder than a broadside collision at an excess of 150 kilometers per hour, yet the monotony is not so easy to shake off as the game's ridiculous lack of damage modeling. Although dozens of missions break down the various eras into smaller handfuls of events, I raced the whole of both Silverstone and Monza Speedways four times after half an hour. With 20 track variations split across 200 meets, expect the boredom to kick you in the exhaust pipes before long.

 

Sepia film footage precedes each race from the Golden era.

 

Granted, I assume you can even complete the Modern event series. I cinched the primary and bonus objectives (allowing me to progress) for every Golden and Silver mission on Normal with one or two restarts. The difficulty curve of the Modern missions then derails the excitement fast and furious. The first exhibition demands players overtake every driver ahead within the span of three laps. I began at the back of the pack ... where I stayed the entire race, even after six more restarts. Regrettably, I lowered the challenge to Easy ... and still failed to secure a podium finish. Without satisfying the initial set of Modern objectives, I cannot advance further in the career. I hate to be the braggart here, but I pride myself on holding my own against Forza’s and Dirt’s AIs at maximum difficulty, so my broken spirit should speak volumes about Racing Legends' imbalances.

Test Drive Ferrari also stems from the minds behind Shift 2: Unleashed and its feeble physics engine. Vehicles drift like F1 cars on ice, constantly spinning out if you so much as tap the accelerator in the bends. Thanks to the exceptional advancements made in automotive aerodynamics, I did not expect such irksome controls from the historic F40 or Ferrari’s cornering demon known as the FXX. Even a slight nudge from opposing drivers will send you careening off course into the gravel roads.

 

The 458 Italia remains the crown jewel of Ferrari's handiwork.

 

The only redeeming qualities of Test Drive Ferrari are the cars themselves. When I beheld Forza Motorsport 4 for the first time, I shed a tear – a single, solitary tear but a tear all the same – at the beauty of the Ferrari 458 on-screen. While Test Drive Ferrari comes just short of Forza’s unrivaled visuals, every supercar has been faithfully reconstructed, from the guttural roar of their V12 engines right down to the interior knobs and dials. And with the steel tube-frame of the 125 S to the sleek sophistication of the F430 Spider, you would be hard-pressed to find more polished car models, but the fact that Ferraris remain the only inclusion in this package limits the appeal.

The rest of the game is bland – in the case of the circuits and spectators – or downright ugly – collisions especially. Presumably, Slightly Mad Studios struck a deal with Ferrari that inhibited the developers from detailing realistic sideswipes and rolling their multi-thousand dollar speed machines. I put nearly 30 two-door coupés through tire walls, over guardrails, and into other opponents just to be met with slightly bent fenders. There’s never a penalty for actually crashing to your heart’s content too, as long as you complete an event’s primary objective.

Not even the suffering of seven other players at the hands of Ferrari Legend's multiplayer excused my hours lost to the campaign. 60 years spanning over 50 makes and models of Grand Touring, F1, and road-legal supercars might have been a recipe for success, but with an appalling difficulty curve, frequent fishtailing, and no defining events to separate itself from Forza or Gran Turismo, Test Drive Ferrari does nothing but besmirch the company’s esteemed track record.

Publisher: Atari
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-8 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC 

John Tarr's picture

Isn't using the word bragadocious a bit bragadocious? :)

Anyway, it seems impossible for any modern racing simulator to compete with Forza. I like the idea of the campaign letting you build up the reputation of a single company instead of just racing for yourself, but it seems like they failed in keeping the campaign interesting.

I used to love racing games, but it's been many years since one has really grabbed me. Maybe racing around Colorado in Forza Horizon will change that.

sargeant smiles's picture

@John, have you tried pCars? It's pretty awesome, even though it's still in Alpha.

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