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. Not until the comedic personalities of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May of Top Gear fame introduced me to less crude and garish models of Ferrari did I acknowledge the manufacturer’s craftsmanship. I may just fit the bill of Test Drive: Ferrari Legends’ optimal demographic, but you do not need to be a fan of Italian sports cars to be disappointed with the outcomes.
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. 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 faster than a broadside collision at an excess of 150 kilometers per hour, but the monotony is not so easy to shake off as the 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 twenty 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 derails the excitement fast and furious, however. 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. I could not maintain my second-to-last-place position 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 bragadocious type, but I pride myself on holding my own against Forza’s and Dirt’s AI at maximum difficulty with no driving assists. Here, my broken spirit should speak volumes about the imbalances.
Test Drive Ferrari stems from the minds behind the latest Need for Speed: Shift games and the feeble physics engine from Shift 2: Unleashed. 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 anticipate 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. From 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 similar to Forza 2’s that inhibited the developers from detailing realistic sideswipes and rolling their multi-thousand dollar speed machines. I put nearly thirty two-door coupés through tire walls, over guardrails, and into other opponents just to be met with slightly bent fenders. There’s nary 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. Sixty years spanning over fifty 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 the Forza Motorsports or the Gran Turismos of the genre, Test Drive Ferrari does nothing but besmirch the company’s esteemed track record.
Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-8 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC