Ford Racing 3 Hands-On Impressions

We get hands-on with a PS2 demo version of Empire Interactive's third Ford-licensed racer.

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Recently we had the opportunity to spend some time with a PlayStation 2 demo version of Ford Racing 3. Razorworks is working on PC and Xbox versions with online play also, although to date we've not actually seen them. Our demo only features a handful of the 62 vehicles that will be in the final game and only two tracks to race them on. However, we've been able to sample a number of different gameplay modes and can report that, if nothing else, the game should certainly offer a longer-lasting challenge than its predecessor.

The vehicles we had available to us included a '68 Mustang, a Ford GT, an F-150 FX4 pickup, and an EX Concept off-road buggy. Unsurprisingly, each handles quite differently, though they're all equally easy to get to grips with in a minute or so. The sensitive handling in Ford Racing 3 definitely leans toward arcade-style powerslides and the like, but it isn't so unrealistic that you won't need to slow down for corners or bounce off walls without losing time. The leaning of the vehicles and the squealing of the tires both do a good job of letting you know when you're pushing your vehicle to the limit. The vehicles are also basically good fun to drive.

Ford Racing 3 will feature 14 different tracks (12 of which can also be raced in reverse) and three arenas. The two tracks included in our PS2 demo were a street race named Summit Trials and an off-road circuit entitled Voodoo Village. Summit Trials is definitely the more conventional of the two, and it features rock formations, twisting roads, and scenery based on the Japanese area of Asuka that makes it reminiscent of the tracks found in Namco's Ridge Racer series. Voodoo Village, on the other hand, will see you racing on a beach, through caves, across rope bridges, and even through a waterfall and river rapids. The experience isn't nearly as exciting as it sounds, though, and the river portion is particularly disappointing since racing down it just involves bouncing around on your chosen off-road vehicle over some particularly ugly rock formations that have an equally unattractive water texture moving over them. It's conceivable, of course, that the visuals in our demo don't represent the quality of those that will appear in the finished game, but we'd be surprised if that's the case on this occasion.

Ford Racing 3 will feature 16 different race types in total, four of which are included in our demo version of the game. The standard race, boost, elimination, and overtake modes of play we've had access to actually aren't nearly as varied as their names suggest; though the currently unavailable modes with names like drafting, playground, sledge drag, tug of war, hill climb, and seconds out, do sound quite promising. In case you haven't worked them out already, the differences between the gameplay modes included in our demo are as follows: boost is the same as a standard race except that you have two turbo boosts to use per lap; elimination is the same as a standard race except that the last two cars on each lap are eliminated; and overtake requires you to pass 25 relatively slow-moving vehicles within a time limit. Oddly, activating the turbo boosts in the boost mode makes the ground beneath your rear tires glow and causes you to leave skid marks until you slow down. Stranger still are the Auto Modellista-style "speed lines" that emanate from the center of the screen, and which do the same awful job of creating a sensation of speed at 60mph as they do at 155mph.

It's unfortunate that our playable demo of Ford Racing 3 was so limited in terms of the gameplay options that were available, particularly since the finished game will feature so many that are new to the series. Right now there doesn't appear to be anything horribly wrong with Ford Racing 3, but at the same time there isn't a whole lot for us to get excited about. Nevertheless, we look forward to bringing you more coverage of Ford Racing 3 as soon as we get our hands on a more complete build of the game.

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