Throughout its history, the Ford Motor Company has built a large catalog of distinct vehicles, from muscle cars to trucks and sedans. The company has also cultivated a following of loyal enthusiasts who have formed countless car clubs across the country to celebrate their favorite classic and modern Ford vehicles. 2K Games is once again hoping to capitalize on the Ford catalog and enthusiast culture by bringing more cars than ever to the Ford Racing series with its latest title, Ford Racing 3. However, despite the license and some interesting gameplay modes, Ford Racing 3 comes off feeling generic and far less distinct than the real-life vehicles the game attempts to capture.
Ford Racing 3 lets you race 55 Ford vehicles, including classic, concept, muscle, and modern cars and trucks. The vehicles all provide accurate cosmetic representations of their real-life counterparts, but the default paint schemes look flat, and most cars have only one color available until you unlock a livery pack. You can unlock a livery pack for each vehicle, but that only lets you change the default color to one of a handful of other dull, solid color schemes. Apparently, Ford wants to preserve these icons of automotive history, so don't expect to see fenders crumple or headlights pop when you drive headlong into a mountainside at 150 miles per hour.
The handling of each vehicle varies depending on its weight, size, and speed. For the most part, the vehicles handle as you would expect, with larger vehicles feeling floaty and more difficult to control. However, the speed of the vehicles is not at all representative of their real-life counterparts. For instance, the antique Model T will easily reach speeds of 75 miles per hour--and that's without using the speed boost.
The graphics in Ford Racing 3 are sharp and clear, but flat textures take some much-needed detail out of the game. The water in the game looks completely lifeless, and some of the environmental effects are poorly implemented. In one level you race through a forest where autumn leaves fall from above as you race, but rather than falling naturally and getting kicked up by traffic, they seem to just hang in the air. Also, in some areas vehicles will kick up trails of dust, but often the dust effect will clip right through the body of the car or truck, which looks awkward. For the most part, though, the environments are colorful and varied enough to be interesting, and the frame rate is always steady.
There are a handful of tracks available in Ford Racing 3, and each can be raced in multiple directions, for a total of 26 different courses. The tracks vary from snowy mountain courses, to narrow, twisting highways and the standard oval race track. You'll often drive on multiple types of terrain in a single race, as some of the courses have stretches of dirt track, washed-out sections, and even wooden bridges. Your vehicle's wheels will spin slightly more when you're driving on grass, and sand will slow you down a bit, but it's still easy to maintain control of your vehicle by just jamming on the gas and plowing your way through. There are invisible walls closely surrounding each track, and you'll get the same reaction whether you run into a rock wall or a patch of tall grass. When you try to leave the road, your car or truck will awkwardly bounce back on track with little consequence. Sometimes it's actually faster to plow into the walls at speed than it is to use your brakes to slow for a sharp turn.
The sound in Ford Racing 3 is decent, with distinct engine noise for each vehicle. The track noise is minimal, with the only noticeable change in sound occurring when you enter a tunnel or when your tires squeal as you make a sharp turn. There's only one crashing sound available, and it's the same whether you hit a brick wall or a shrub. Oftentimes, there is no sound at all when you hit something. The music is a mix of a few upbeat rock-and-roll songs that are the familiar standard for most racing games, but the game does have custom soundtracks enabled if you feel like racing to your own playlist.
The heart of Ford Racing 3 lies in the single-player Ford competition and Ford challenge modes. Ford competition is a series of 14 tournaments, each composed of a series of races within a designated vehicle class. The competitions range from easy to hard in difficulty, but even novice racers won't have a hard time placing among the top three finishers every time.
Ford Challenge is a series of single race events in which you must meet certain conditions to complete each challenge. There are four challenges for each vehicle class, with an easy, medium, and hard difficulty for each. There are several types of challenges, including duel, driving skills, drafting, and overtake. These challenges offer a welcome departure from the usual time trial and lap race modes featured in most racing games, but if you've played Ford Racing 2, you won't find anything new here. Some of the challenges are difficult, but you'll probably be able to complete most of the hard challenges on your first or second attempt. There is also a Ford collection mode where you can design your own challenges by choosing the track, race type, conditions, and vehicles.
Ford Racing 3 is Xbox Live enabled so you can race against up to five other players online. However, it's rare to actually find people online to race against. Once you do find a race, you can only race using cars that you've unlocked in the single-player game. As a result, you'll often be outmatched right from the start unless you first invest some time in completing the single-player challenges.
With a low budget price, Ford Racing 3 is a passable choice for fans of arcade-style racing because of its forgiving race physics and variety of gameplay modes. However, the game hasn't changed much since the previous installment in the series, and sim fans will be disappointed with the simplistic gameplay and weak vehicle customization options. Additionally, there are already a ton of arcade-style racing games on the market that do all of this better. The game does have some amusing moments, but it's ultimately a forgettable racing experience.