Stuck in a racing game rut? Tired of the mindless repetition of running endless laps in a series of consistently uninteresting cars? Sick of boring physics engines, minimal damage models, and brain-dead artificial intelligence? Then don't even think about picking up Ford Bold Moves Street Racing, which, despite its stabs at novel racing mechanics, is a subpar racing game that packages all of the above problems into a tidy, second-rate, officially licensed package.
Let's start with the good news. Devout followers of the Ford brand will likely enjoy the sizable lineup of models that feature the blue oval logo. Older models, such as the 1973 Escort RS 2000 and the 1968 Mustang GT are available, and the lineup continues all the way up through the present day and beyond, with standouts that include the 2004 Mustang GT-R Concept, the 1995 GT90 Concept, and the extremely cool-looking 2007 Shelby Cobra GT500. Cars are arranged in three different performance classes, and some race events in the game will have class requirements that you will have to meet before beginning the race (such as a minimum number of high-performance vehicles). Though there is zero in the way of customization and you can only choose from a handful of team-specific paint jobs, the cars themselves are accurately modeled and look good, both in the showroom screens and on the road.
Beyond the obligatory quick-race and split-screen multiplayer modes (the game does not include online racing on any platform), the main single-player game modes are solo racing and team racing. Solo racing lets you either tackle individual race events or enter one of six championship series (based on car class). When running these solo-mode championship races, you get a real feel for just how boring street racing can be. Unlike in the team-racing mode, where you have to purchase and repair the cars you run in the race events, in solo-mode races, you have access to every car in a particular class. As a result, there's nothing to stop you from choosing the hottest car in the class and simply outmuscling your opponents. Don't feel bad in doing so, however, because the AI in Bold Moves isn't above its own cheap tactics. For example, your opponents will ram into you mercilessly, and the game's physics are poor enough to ensure that you are the one who is going to usually draw the short straw in any collision.
It won't take you long to quickly tire of the solo-racing events in Bold Moves. To keep things fresh, then, the developers have added a team-racing mode that, in theory, is actually pretty cool. In the team-racing mode, you and up to two other AI-controlled cars are part of a team, taking on rival teams in a series of class-based races. Individual positions at the end of a race earn a car points (10 points for first place, eight for second, and so on). The team with the most total points at the end of the race wins, and the team with the most points at the end of the series is the champion. Here, then, it's not necessarily your job to make sure your car comes in first; just that each car on your team is high enough in the running order to earn the most points of any other team in the race.
The twist here is that, at any point in the race, you can take control of any car on your team by pressing the directional pad either up or down. The camera will then shift to the next car in the order, and you'll be able to drive that car and hopefully move it up in the racing order. Then, you can switch to the third car and do the same thing. Team races in Bold Moves are designed to be a series of small events that you micromanage, and you'll quickly figure out how best to exploit the system to win races. One final addition to the team-racing formula here is the ability to issue orders to any teammate you aren't currently controlling. Orders include "block" (which will cause your teammate to get in the way and slow down opposing cars) and "draft" (by cutting in front of you, your teammate will give you a boost of drafting speed, which you can use to overtake opponent cars). With some planning and careful positioning, you can pull off more-advanced maneuvers, such as double or triple drafts and more-complicated blocks.
Still, the system is far from perfect. Its biggest flaw is the brain-dead AI of every car on the road that you are not controlling, which also includes your teammates. Cars will routinely ram you into corners or into obstacles--be they friend or foe. It's especially frustrating when trying to pull off double draft maneuvers. You first pass your teammate and then expect him to pass you up in return, thus completing the move. Instead, your teammate will barrel into the back of your car 80 percent of the time, making little if any attempt to get out of your way. Beyond these more obvious gaffes, there's just no subtlety to the game's level of challenge. While keeping track of three cars at first seems tough, it isn't long before you figure out the key to almost any team race in the game. Step 1: Get your fastest car into the lead position; if your car is hot enough, it'll have no trouble staying there. Step 2: Get your second fastest car into the second-place position, where it'll likely fit just fine. Step 3: You see where this is going, right? Beyond some simple jockeying for position here and there, if the cars you enter into the race are fast enough, you'll have little, if any, trouble dominating the entire game.
As you go through team races, you'll earn cars and unlock new cars that you can purchase in the showroom, as well as a series of challenge events. These challenges are a good way to earn extra cash so you can afford the high-performance class vehicles later in the game, but the challenges themselves are a pretty sorry bunch. You can race in time-trial, individual-team, and solo races, as well as overtake challenges, but beyond earning money, there's not much reason to spend an extended amount of time on these challenges.
Because rubbing bumpers occurs so frequently in Bold Moves, your cars go from pristine to banged up pretty quickly, especially in some of the longer championships. And while the cars do suffer a good deal of cosmetic damage, including cracked windshields, scratched and scuffed paint jobs, and bumpers hanging on by a thread, there's barely anything in the way of performance degradation, even after crashing many, many times at top speed. Where damage takes its toll is in the repair costs, which are required to get the car back to tip-top shape. But, then again, if car performance isn't really affected, there's not much of a need to repair it, is there?
The presentation in Bold Moves is straightforward and unglamorous. The cars themselves look fine, and there are no frame rate issues to complain about. The race environments--mostly urban reproductions of Los Angeles and surrounding areas--are dull, lifeless, and an absolute bore to look at (which, come to think of it, is a pretty apt description of downtown LA). Even the more rural tracks are repetitive and devoid of any kind of background movement that would help keep this game visually interesting. Worse yet, it's a racing game with no visible sense of speed. Even the most powerful cars in the game offer little, if any, thrill and are characterized more by their slippery handling than by their sheer power. The sound of the car engines, which to the game's credit is probably accurate on a car-by-car basis, makes about as little impact as the game's vanilla musical soundtrack. The controls in the console versions of Bold Moves are simple, and the cars are actually nice and responsive. Unfortunately, in the PC version of the game you must drive using the keyboard, and while it's possible to play the game this way, it's about the furthest imaginable thing from "fun."
When people complain about racing games because they are boring, Ford Bold Moves is exactly the kind of game they are talking about. The team-centric racing concept here is a good one, but it's weighed down by dumb AI, boring environments, and a generally uninteresting racing engine. Ford fans might appreciate an all-in-one place to drive their favorite cars, but there's not much else to offer virtual racers who are looking to mix things up.