When it comes to racing games, most titles within the genre have a lot in common - it's simply the nature of the beast. So, when trying to carve out some level of uniqueness within a racing game there's only handful of things that you can tweak; the first, and most noticeable one, is the cars. Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends does just that, offering players an in-depth take on the titular, Italian sports racing car magnate's racing history.
Ferrari has a long and storied background that Racing Legends does a great job of exposing through the game's campaign mode. Broken out into three separate time periods, Golden (1947-1973), Silver (1974-1990), and Modern (1990-2009) the career mode offers players the chance to drive authentic Ferrari cars on 36 different circuits throughout the world. Each era offers some nice touches to make it feel decade appropriate, like offering sepia fade-ins at the beginning of the classic races. The game includes a bit of a back-story about each race, and the driver, but these are told mostly through text screens during loading. It's nice to feel like there's a bit more to the race than just cars going head-to-head, but without really giving the driver a voice, it comes off as only moderately compelling.
Offering up 50 different cars from Ferrari's past Racing Legends allows players the opportunity to sit in the driver's seat of some of the world's most classic cars. From 1947's 125 S to 2011's 150 Italia, Ferarri has long had some of the most recognizable and coveted cars on the road, and most of them are available in this game. The variety is particularly nice because it doesn’t just stick to one class of car, Ferrari has developed Rally, Formula One, and GT cars and Racing Legends caters to this variety by offering both the cars and the races to go with them. It helps expand on the comprehensiveness of the game, leaving no stone of Ferrari's history unturned.
Much like in real life, as time passes the cars evolve throughout the game, however, things seem to be reversed in Racing Legends; as you progress through the career mode, the cars actually become harder to control. The game has an emphasis on realistic physics, but it's to the point that it makes some races virtually impossible to complete. In the past, games like Gran Tursimo have become notorious for pushing players for near-perfect runs in order to rank, but once you get out of the Golden era in Racing Legends, even a perfect run might not be enough to win. This difficulty spike is likely to turn off a lot of players, since completely advancing through the career mode will take hours upon hours to completely. However, most people will agree that finally winning that race that you've been hammering away at can provide one of the most satisfying feelings in video games.
Racing Legends also includes the obligatory online mode, which pits as many as eight players against each other. The online play is a bit of a tricky proposition, in that it allows players to blend the different racing classes against one another, and there isn't a way to limit the races to just one class. In other words, the Formula One cars, with their awesome pickup and tight controls, almost always win. It's great that the game includes the mode, but allowing there to be some level of restrictions on which cars can race each other seems like a misstep.
If you can't tell by now, Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends is more in line with the Test Drive games of the PS1 generation, and less like the open world games that Xbox 360 owners have come to know and love. Racing Legends is a much more straight-forward racing game, dropping the open world aspects for a more linear progression. However, that's not to say it's detrimental to the game, if you're a diehard Ferrari fan, then Racing Legends should be right up your alley - everyone else should be a little cautious when checking it out. The cars and courses are expertly crafted, but the difficulty spike that comes in career mode is bound to frustrate even the most determined racer. If you're looking for a game that's going to put you behind of the wheel of a 1957 Testa Rossa (because, who are we kidding, that's never going to happen in real life) then Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends is for you, but if sexy Italian sports cars have never been your thing, you might want to do laps elsewhere.