The ongoing Ford Racing
series is apparently not for me. I'm not a casual gamer, I'm not particularly into budget games (unless they're good), and I guess I just like basic things. You know, like fast cars, good handling, smart, or even somewhat decent, AI, and a little decoration. You know, some kind of presentation. Some small sense of style, or even just a little effort. These are all the basic things missing from Ford Racing 3
, and I'm really just skimming the surface.
This is the definition of a budget title. It's got a good amount of car modes, it's actually online, and the main goal is here is to collect your favorite Ford cars, which isn't a bad pastime when you think about it. And, you know, if you've never played a videogame, or you play buy, I don't know, one game a year, you might not feel so bad about this cheap, fully Ford-loaded racing game. So, as long as you're not blind, and you're not in a coma, well, you might have a chance of liking this game.
The premise behind Ford Racing 3 is not a bad one. It's the same as Polyphony's Gran Turismo, but Razorworks' title is just simplistically executed. This is a car collecting game, only instead of collecting 650 cars from all over the world that can be upgraded, enhanced, and that you can revel in because of their pure beauty (in GT4), you try to collect 55 ordinary looking, shabbily textured Fords from all historical periods, through a wide variety of races. While there are surely hundreds of fantastic coupes, sports cars, and muscle cars you could spend a lot of time drooling over, you can also collect trucks, sedans, and some hellishly dull forgettable cars, just in case you had extra time on your hands.
Three main modes start you off in different ways. The Ford Competition is a mix of races ranging from straight competition to elimination races to boost-enhanced challenges to off-road, specialty cars races, and more. You'll compete in classics (like 1960s Mustangs), sports cars (early 170s Capris), trucks (the F-series), oldies (old, old stuff), and newfangled models (like concept cars). Ford Challenge enables you to challenge the AI to win a specific car, track, and race types for your collection, while the Ford Collection offers you the ability to create your own races using the cars, tracks, and race types you've unlocked. You can challenge a friend in two-player split-screen, or jump on line and vie against five others on Xbox Live.
Ford Racing 3 isn't a giant mistake. It's not like the designers aimed ridiculously high and missed their goals. No, they just got paid enough to make a decent little $14.99 game that, for the money, isn't a terrible game. But as racing games go, it's filled with warning flags signaling wide swaths of mediocrity and flamboyant dullness. And the stripes run consistently though to the game's core.
If you're a gamer who's played a decent amount of racers, beating each of the modes in Ford Racing 3 will take you about five or six hours. In the first 10 races I entered, I easily nabbed first place. Granted, in the first mode, Ford Competition, you're forced into Easy mode, so you're forced to race easy competition. But, using a point system, you'll soon graduate to higher rankings, which logically bring greater competition. Using the catch phrase "collect" instead of "unlock," every win brings you something new. You "collect" courses, race types, and cars. I don't eve remember collecting race types or courses before, so it's quite innovative that Ford Racing 3 should be the first to do it. Just kidding. Those courses, cars, and race types can then be used in Ford Collection to create your own races, and later on, those cars enable you to make greater choices in upcoming races.
The main goals behind racing games are to bring racing fans a sense of speed, a feel for handling, and an overall experience that's fun. Ford Racing 3 manages to remain relatively steady at 30 FPS. The sense of speed is OK, even in the fast cars in the first-person perspective, they're just OK. The handling is terrible. It doesn't matter which car you pick either, because each car feels like a tug-boat. Each one handles like a floaty Weeble-like buoy that either delivers a greater or lesser sense of floatyness. The steering takes place near the center of the car, rather than in the front wheels, which is annoying, unrealistic, and poor.
The physics are accessible, but have little depth or require very little skill to handle. And the AI is brutish and cheap. Once the game starts getting a little challenging, you can feel the rubber band physics stretching and contracting. The AI can and will nudge, bump, and maybe even tip you, but you can return the favors so, like they say, all is fair in love and war. The courses occasionally provide short cuts or side streets, but they generally are designed with invisible guard rails. Again, there is no penalty for smashing headlong into opponents, rails, or whatever else, except that you simply slow down. Your car doesn't take a lick of damage.
RazorWorks racer provides players with a terribly dull and unimaginative set of menus and screens in which to move about your game, and the videos all look terribly compressed and ugly.
The in-game graphics fair just as badly. The car models are created with the basic model specs but they somehow manage to look uninspired and depressing. For one, the texture work is non-existent. Each vehicle looks like an empty frame filled with a single color, casually slapped on reflective metallic surfaces, and a Ford logo emblazoned on the front. The models are dull and low in poly count. There's also a whole lot of aliasing going on. The whole notion upon which this game is built -- collecting Ford cars for fun -- is demolished by the uninspiring visuals and lifeless design underlying the whole game.
If you've ever listened to too many beer commercials during the Super Bowl, well, I want you to think about all of music in the commercials for just a moment. Now, some of those commercials use licensed music from Eric Clapton, The Who, or even the Rolling Stones, while others manage to fling in the most jingoistic a generic arena rock possible. So, imagine all of the songs that weren't good enough to make the final cut for those commercials and you've got a notion for what the music is like in Ford Racing 3. At least in the Xbox version you can rip your own music. The minimalist voice work is actually hard to hear because the announcer doesn't enunciate and talks too fast, so sometimes you'll simply miss what she said.
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