Ford Racing 3 - Review
By , From IGN | 2008-03-05
Get this: Ford Racing 3 for the Nintendo DS was developed by the same studio responsible for the absolute travesty that is Burnout Legends for the handheld. The real kicker, though, is that this game, clearly developed as a much more budget, title, is a far better developed and more enjoyable game than the Electronic Arts-published crapfest. Oh, Ford Racing 3 is still quite mediocre for videogame racing standards, but it's, at the very least, nice to see that the Burnout DS development team can manage something significantly better than what it had created for EA just a few weeks prior. And if the team focused a bit more on control and handling this racer could have ended up something a bit more special than just a budget-rack racer that's just better than okay.
Ford Racing 3 is a very generic racing game but with a license, which gives the designers the added incentive of adding some character and charm to their production with a line-up of recognizable American vehicles, like the Fairlane GT, Mustang, Thunderbird, and others. This isn't a realistic racer, so don't expect a Gran Turismo level of attention to detail in the handling or speed, and these vehicles don't exactly show any sort of damage to their bodies or performance when colliding with each other. It's just a straightforward "beat the other cars to the finish line" series of races across a bunch of different uneventful and rigid, but admittedly nice-looking tracks.
The game's steering is a bit on the stiff and inconsistent side, but much of the control issue boils down to each vehicle's attributes. A sports car will handle a lot better than a truck, for example, which is why the game restricts the vehicles to a specific class so that one type of car won't outshine another in the race. The computer AI is also a little on the cheating side - it's a lazy algorithm that keeps losing vehicles as tight to the leader as possible. They're easy to pass since they're not very aggressive, but just watch how well they stick to you when you're in first. Even if you're so far ahead that they'd have to blaze forward at more than twice your speed to catch up, they will.
Ford Racing 3 focuses a little too much on the unlocking aspect of videogames. At the start of the experience you don't have many options to play, but they'll slowly surface and become available as you go through the single player challenge. All the "good" cars are locked away as a tease, as are most of the tracks, and you'll be seeing the same few tracks and vehicles in the circuits over and over again until you manage to get through enough to open up the variety in the game design.
It really is hard to imagine that, at least on the visual and presentation level, this game has anything in common with Burnout Legends. Ford Racing 3 features a much more solid and impressive graphics engine; it's running just a silky smooth at 60 frames per second, but the game has a much better sense of speed than Burnout Legends DS. The car models and environments are solidly rendered but suffer from "budget-itis" where cars don't have that extra layer of shine, polish or lighting effects to make them meld with the surroundings. These vehicles also move a little awkwardly and unrealistic, especially when they roll uphill or leap off a steep incline. Plunging into water is probably the most laughable effect in the game, as the car simply dives under the blue texture that represents the lake's surface.
Not surprising, the lower screen is simply used for the overhead map, but it is admittedly extremely helpful in seeing how far behind the competing vehicles are to your car. But all that real estate isn't used to its fullest, and in fact the game could use a bit more balance of shoving unnecessary HUD items off the main screen to the lower one. There's a game mode in Ford Racing 3 where a powerbar fills the upper screen so much that it blocks the player's view. Why didn't they just didn't toss it down on the lower screen? No idea.