|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360*|
|Dev: Slightly Mad Studios|
|Release: July 3, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
There are two basic types of racing video games: games that emphasize balance and innovative gameplay in order to focus on the game itself first, and games that try to accurately simulate the true real-life racing experience. Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends takes the latter approach, marketing itself to hardcore car nuts rather than the general gaming populace. You'd think this might make the game overcomplicated for the common racing gamer, and to an extent it does. However, Ferrari Racing Legends goes to great lengths to make the game accessible even to the casual racing fan. Besides, we all dreamed of owning a Ferrari at some point in our life, and that alone makes the game appealing.
Let's start with the cars. If you drool all over yourself whenever you look at an auto catalog, then this is the game for you. There are over fifty unlockable cars to choose from, and each one handles remarkably differently. I'm only a casual racing fan, and I was able to detect the subtle differences between traction, handling, speed, acceleration, and more. Though the large roster of cars is a bit intimidating for newbies, options are almost never a bad thing, and everyone is bound to find some car that they like.
Like most current-day racing sims, Ferrari Racing Legends lets you tweak the overall physics of the game to your liking. You can choose to have the game hold your hand in most areas, simply flooring the gas and turning when necessary, or you can choose to crank up the realism, forcing yourself to worry about all the tiny minutia that hardcore racing aficionados like to obsess over. The controls are extremely responsive no matter what settings you choose, so don't go blaming them game for your screw-ups. I'd suggest that the majority of the gaming populace simply keep the game on novice settings, which only really requires you to brake and turn intelligently. Higher settings are obviously reserved for gamers who enjoy the full simulationist experience.
Ferrari Racing Legends is more of a traditional racing experience than other games in the Test Drive series. There is no open world or mission-based gameplay, two things that have begun to take the modern-day racing genre by storm. Instead, track and cars are chosen the old fashioned way, through in-game menus. Yes, this is boring, but it's also functional and it fits the arcade/tournament style setting that the rest of the game has. Ferrari Racing Legends is a no-nonsense racer that attempts to sell itself on racing alone, and this holds true in every feature of the game.
For example, every single track (with the exception of one) is a real racing track from the past or present. While some of them were modified very slightly to fit within a digital format, it's nearly impossible to tell simply by playing. What's really interesting is that many circuits have multiple different configurations reflecting different changes and edits made over the years. As a casual racing fan, I wasn't able to geek out about the vast amount of racing history included in the tracks themselves, but as a gamer, I loved the immense track selection. Once again, options are always a good thing, and even if you can't tell the difference between the 1975 and 2009 versions of a circuit, you'll appreciate the fact that the game lets you choose between them.
Of course, there are a few downsides to this "racing first" presentation. The graphics probably suffer the most. It's not that the game looks bad, so to speak; it's that it looks spartan. The cars look good, and the tracks themselves look good, but there isn't a whole lot to make each track unique. There aren't big distractions on the side of the road, nor are there buildings, random onlookers, elephants, or whatever you might expect to be thrown in just to make a racing track look cool. No, most of the tracks are just road and some scenery. Eventually, each track just sort of blurs into the next and there ends up being nothing much to set them apart outside of their pattern of turns.
There's a decent amount of things to do in Ferrari Racing Legends. Aside from standard races, there are also placing trials, time trials, rival races, lap challenges, and more. So even though the game's menu and gameplay presentation are sparse, it actually has the variety of objectives that you might find in any other modern-day racer. While this goes a long way toward increasing the game's replay value, it's hard to deny that the game fills a very specific niche. Each of the game's many objectives is really just another variation on "drive fast." In the end, this is a game for Ferrari fans first and foremost. If you are looking for other bells and whistles, you probably want to spend your time elsewhere.