Review: Ferrari GT Evolution (DSiWare)

Drivers may want to exercise caution

Ferrari GT Evolution is a decent arcade-esque racing game. It looks quite good, handles well and has enough gameplay variety to keep things interesting, but you'll have to return to certain tracks far too many times before progressing to warrant a stronger recommendation.

The meat of the game is Career mode, in which you both race and take on a variety of challenges as rivals question your abilities and new friends ask you to show off your stuff. This variation separates Ferrari GT from other racing games – it's not simply race after race, as unique challenges are thrown at you along your way. These, however, get a bit stale somewhat quickly as they are more limited in scope than they initially appear. Thinly masked in exposition, they all entail avoiding cones, lapping the track in a certain amount of time, earning enough drift points (to be discussed more thoroughly later), trying not to hit the walls, placing in the top three or picking up an object along the way. This last task is one of the most entertaining, yet occurs quite infrequently. Avoiding cones is incredibly easy as well, so much so that you'll hardly have to pay attention to them as you go. Though these endeavours repeat themselves, they're still pretty fun each time, and there are also trophies to earn along the way for performing specialised tasks.

Earning drift points is the most interesting and difficult challenge you'll face. Initially difficult to master, amateur attempts will result in spin-outs, slow-downs and going off the track, but once you get the hang of it the effect is noticeable and worthwhile. Earning enough of these points while winning a race is a difficult and rewarding affair, and it feels great to master the technique.

Racing well and placing highly affords you credits with which you can buy new Ferraris. The catalogue is impressive: 32 cars from which to choose, with a description and history of each included, and you can even test drive each car before making your purchase. Once you drive a few, however, you'll notice that they all operate relatively similarly. Each one includes statistics relevant mostly to their speed and not their handling, and each one feels about the same in the latter department. Except to collectors and extreme Ferrari fans, the expansive selection won't end up making a huge difference in the game.

The AI presents a tough enough challenge, races rarely feeling too easy or too hard. On the other hand, once you get a good lead on your opponents, it sometimes appears impossible for them to catch up without a huge mistake on your part. Most of the time, the difficulty level seems about right, and you'll rarely feel like the game isn't presenting you with a formidable task. It's definitely more in the style of an arcade game rather than a simulator, though rain and snow will intermittently affect your handling.

Players are encouraged to adjust the way their car operates dynamically - that is, by pausing the race to do so - in five areas relevant to control (steering, brakes, etc.). One also has the option to do so all at once, which is easily the better of the two methods. Halting the game to customise your car takes one away from the action and presents the player with a somewhat cryptic array of symbols from which to choose. While not insanely challenging to decipher, stopping everything to do so just isn't worth it.

The most crucial disappointment is in how frequently you'll return to specific tracks during Career mode. You'll have to play them here to access them in other areas of the game, so playing through the entire story is a requirement. There are eight (Rome, Paris, Los Angeles, Athens, Berlin, New York, Madrid and Tuscany), and while in and of themselves they're unique, fun and challenging enough, you'll be sick of most after playing them over and over again. The main adventure is split up into sections during which you'll do the extreme majority of racing on two tracks – one variable one, and Tuscany. You'll begin by competing mostly at Rome and Tuscany, then move on to mostly Athens and Tuscany, and so on. Such a ridiculously large number of races take place in Tuscany that it won't be long before you dread racing there and even turn down these races. Conversely, it'll be a very long time before you ever see some of the arenas. A player can race for hours before ever seeing Los Angeles, and whether the countless visits you'll make to Tuscany are worth it is very debatable.

Each tournament requires that you have a certain car with which to race, and this adds an interesting aspect to the game. You'll have to look ahead to future races to see which Ferraris to buy, and while one screen presents a list of required cars, you'll have to do your own work on paper to keep track of which ones you have versus which you need, and which of them is the best one to buy. Also imperfect is the car navigation system itself – they are in no particular order, and the only way to get to certain cars is by scrolling through all of the others.

The remaining modes are Quick Race and Multiplayer, both of which are pretty self-explanatory. Each match is customisable in laps, number of opponents and type: regular, elimination, point race and time attack. While fun, you'll probably stick mostly to Career mode, which tracks a great many of your statistics whereas earning them in Quick Race mode feels a bit pointless. Additionally, accessing cars and tracks in the main story is the only way to unlock them for use elsewhere.

Conclusion

What ought to be a rock-solid racer is marred by a Career mode that forces players to return to the same course too often. Otherwise, it looks and feels very good, and a variety of challenges set it apart from other racing games, but prepare for plenty of repetition.

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