Have I suddenly become bad at video games?
These are the kinds of serious concerns that I have when I play a game like Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends. In my experience, most games have a difficulty that ramps up fairly simply, with a few places where things lack finesse probably due to sections lacking enough iteration in the design process, or being rushed in crunch, or having any other number of development concerns.
Great games have difficulty ramps that are progressive, train the player while they play, and often require a completely different play-style at higher difficulty modes—the Mass Effect series and Metal Gear games come to mind. Ferrari Legends, though, is like someone handing you a paintbrush for the first time and then slapping you six hours later for not painting something as good as the work of Brandon Bird.
It's truly baffling, especially since Ferrari Legends has a "driving 101" tutorial. It just happens halfway through the first (of three) campaign sections and includes missions that are harder than the hardest races in the prior section of the game. I can only imagine that they originally intended this section for the beginning of the game, got into crunch, realized it was completely unbalanced, and moved it to the middle of the campaign.
The cars in Ferrari Legends look great, inside and out. I mean, that's what the game is there for, to give you the experience of driving over 50 Ferrari models and feeling like the racing legends you occasionally get to square off with in test laps.
This feeling lasts until shortly after you get the Testa Rossa about a quarter to a third through the first campaign. Then the AI ramps up to insane levels of aggression. In a game where vehicular collision means being knocked back at least four places, the AI in Ferrari Legends seems to think the game is an arcade racer where smashing other cars is business as usual.
Up until that point, I was actually enjoying racing in the cockpit with no HUD, because the cars just look that good on the inside. However, once the AI became twitchy and slam-happy, I was forced to use an outside view and turn on the HUD to make it easier to avoid collision, which made the subpar external environments easier to nitpick as well.
Control is twitchy, and I frequently lamented the complete inability to drive anything with finesse. Driving even the most elegant of cars in this game is like driving a pat of butter thrown onto a hot griddle and attempting to control it by blowing on it with a straw. It's like attempting to steer a rhinoceros through the Chartres Labyrinth by a string of twine attached to its horn while you desperately cling to its back. It's like driving a car whose wheels are made out of bacon grease in a game that punishes you harshly for attempting to drift.
The real kicker is that the game ramps up to a virtually impossible difficulty on the default difficulty of “Easy”. I tried, briefly, to bump it up to “Normal” only to find that not only were the controls less precise (the game had been previously helping the player with driver-assisted features that made it, well, playable), but also that it reduced the track times necessary to qualify for races to a degree that would have made them nigh impossible even on the Easy setting.
I tried the multiplayer to see if there was much outside of the campaign that I would enjoy. It saddened me that the other players who joined me against the, again stupidly aggressive, AI opponents, flopped around like fish out of water and spun out on the track worse than I did. The experience I had of Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends was not singular to me, based on what I saw there.
In short, I didn't like it and I deeply thought about displaying a picture of it in my trashcan to express my disfavor. But I'm not going to waste any more time on it. I'd rather spend it playing something else to wash the taste of Test Drive Ferrari Racing Legends out of my mouth.