Monday, April 14, 2014

A Second Look @ Ferrari GT Evolution (DSiWare)


Despite what a hardcore gamer may tell you, handheld games are not the bane of gaming's existence. Gameloft, who are best known for making mobile phone games such as the Asphalt series, Marvel movie tie-ins, and the mobile versions of many Ubisoft games, have made several for Sony's consoles, the Wii, Xbox 360, iOS, and even browser-based games. Its safe to say that they are veterans of the industry but they're not huge; and while the Asphalt series may have gained a lot of ground in the last few years it's still not a game you'll find on consoles. The Ferrari GT series is on its third installment on mobile devices while Ferrari GT Evolution for DSiWare is an upscaled port of the mobile phone game from 2008. The years haven't been kind to it so it's important to remember that it's not meant to be a 20-hour life-changing epic adventure. If you have kids then it's perfect for them to play around with. If you're one of the few that miss the days of playing games on your flip phone then the nostalgic factor should make you remember the simpler days of mobile gaming, when games had a purpose and weren't as simple as just tapping your screen repeatedly.

The overall feel of the game is like a throwback to the arcade racers of the past, or more like the Need For Speed games on the Gameboy Advance where there's a strong challenge in just crossing the finish line first. Quick Race, Career Mode, and Multiplayer are the three modes to choose from. In Quick Race, you can choose from Normal Race, Elimination, Point Race, and Time Attack. Elimination should sound familiar while Point Race has you attempting to score the most points through drifting or passing other cars while still attempting to place first. Multiplayer is simple with the host choosing between the game modes present in Quick Race. You can host up to 8 people as long as they have the game installed on their DSi/3DS, but good luck finding anyone else who has this title.
Career Mode uses an in-game email system with invitations to races. You'll start by competing in amateur events until you reach the right level but it does throw in a lot of one-on-one challenges from rivals or lap time challenges presented with short reasona as to why you're racing the clock.
The top screen displays the racing action while the bottom shows the track map, car positions, and your points total. In Career Mode, points accumulate into credits which are earned by passing cars, drifting, and reaching the car's top speed. Credits accumulate to levels which earn you entries into competition races. Credits are also banked to unlock cars later. There are 32 cars including the F430, Testarossa, Enzo, and 250 GTO. 8 fictional tracks from different locales around the world such as New York, Berlin, and Tuscany all suit their real world counterparts nicely. 

There's an insane amount of drifting that's easy to control but pushing it too far will result in a spin out and possibly a loss. It feels like a nod to the OutRun series and is really quite welcome here, adding to the feel of an arcade racing game. There is a suggested driving line but the only time it changes colors is when you veer too far away from it, its ignorable since it doesn't help you by notifying when a hard corner is coming. Adjustable car options include a Steering assist to make hard corners easier, Stability Control, ABS, Road Controls, and Ceramic Brakes for better stopping power. Rain is present as a weather effect but doesn't seem to affect car performance at all. 
Trophies can be earned for various and simple things like drifting 200 meters, completing a Tuscany lap in under 2 minutes, etc. These don't count towards points or levels and are really there just for those who want to fully complete the game.
Opponent AI is dull and never offers a real challenge. They're more like moving obstacles that need to be overtaken. The only challenge that is here can be filtered down to how well you can navigate the corners and shortcuts.

The DSi wasn't the best at handling graphics since it was just a DS in a new shell. In regards to DSiWare games, its not bad for a digital title and a huge improvement over its mobile phone relative. There are no frame rate issues and the racing happens pretty fast. However the lack of flash and flare is a shame because it gives a sense that a little more effort should have been put in before giving it the go-ahead. Maybe pre-made vinyls for the cars, custom rims, colored drift smoke, something to make it stand out among the DSiWare games and to give it a more fun arcade feeling.
Cars are nicely modeled but aside from your own selected car you wouldn't be able to tell since the AI only ever seems to choose the Testarossa. Flat, rotating trees, columns, and statues are present but not noticeable unless you stop to look at them. Tracks are nicely detailed in textures but the turns are cornered off and, again, more effort should have been put into that area. Regardless of the bland textures of a bygone era, there's something pleasing about driving around the New York track with the city in the background and the lights passing by. Its all solid with no glitches and graphical hiccups.

Sounds such as the tires making noise on brick pathways, tires screeching while drifting, and car engines are just midi-files but there is no delay in their execution. Little touches such as the muffler of your chosen car thrumming a little when decelerating are there, but not necessary since you'll never drive that slow. Cars lack the ferocity of real Ferraris and have no bass to them. There's little thrill in driving something that whines as it goes down the road.
Various techno songs loop while playing but they don't have a lasting effect, aren't catchy, and make little difference if the volume is maxed or off. If just the music is turned all the way up, the music can get very repetitive quickly and soon becomes annoying. In all honesty, the sound is the weakest part of this game.

Overall Ferrari GT Evolution is a game that you can do without if you're not big on racing games since it doesn't do anything exceptional or anything new to stand out or above others on the DSi/3DS. Its simple racing and rushed game modes won't leave you with any feelings of accomplishment. Gameloft handled the Ferrari license with kiddie gloves by porting it over to DSiWare and that's a shame since having the opportunity to completely remake a game for a new platform is instead toned down with no new ideas and a big lack of imagination. The upscaling in graphics means little if you're not interested in the overall racing. But if you're one of the few that likes the old mobile racing games you used to have on your flip phone then its perfect for you with its quick career structure, open playability, and short races meant for being time-killers. These days its a small niche of people that like that sort of thing, for the rest of us, you should spend the $8 this game costs on a Virtual Console title instead.

Keep Playing.

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