Ali versus Frazier, the Allies versus the Third Reich, Superman versus Lex Luthor, Wolfmen versus Unicorns; these are just some of the epic battles our world has seen. Ford vs. Chevy? Not quite so epic, really. Yes, discussing preference of one of North America's biggest auto manufacturers over another is likely to spark some heated debate if brought up in any of America's many country-western bars, but apart from being the equivalent of colors in a redneck gang war, Fords and Chevys are really just cars, and not really radically different cars, either. Obviously someone thinks this is a relevant conflict, however, as the fight has been taken to the video game world in Ford vs. Chevy, a lean and generally bland racing game that makes some vague attempts to stir up some measure of fight between the two brands, but mostly is just content to offer up a decent variety of Ford and Chevy vehicles to race with in a number of dull races. Even if you're the type of person who finds a picture of Calvin urinating on a Ford or Chevy logo utterly hysterical, you're likely to tire of Ford vs. Chevy's tedious racing mechanics rather quickly.
There are three basic modes of play in Ford vs. Chevy. The main mode is the Westington Cup, a series of races pitting the two car brands together across a variety of tracks and car classes. So there are muscle cars, off-road vehicles, speedsters, and the like. The race types mostly consist of circuit races and point-to-point races, with some time-based challenges, drag races, and weird special races thrown in. The special races are actually generic checkpoint races with goofy backstory. For instance, one tells you that a truck carrying tires has spilled its cargo, and it's up to you to go race around collecting the spilled tires, which are conveniently scattered across a race track. Another tells you that a photographer wants to take pictures of a number of scenic areas and needs you to drive him around quickly. All you do is race around and slow down to a crawl within several designated areas so he can "take a picture." For the most part these special races are just kind of dumb and feel out of place in the context of the rest of the game.
The normal races do make up the bulk of the mode, but the actual racing action is so flat that even they quickly become tiresome. The problems are multiple. For one, the game just doesn't have much of a sense of speed. Even when you're zipping along in what's supposed to be an extremely fast car, you feel like you're plodding along at a typical freeway speed limit. The boosting mechanic doesn't do much to counteract this; at times, it seems like all the boost does is add some motion blur to the screen, and doesn't even actually increase your speed at all. The driving physics are a weird cross between arcade and simulation. Cars can spin out if nudged the wrong way; the gas button seems to increase speed more the harder you hold it down, but wrecks are weirdly exaggerated, like a bad episode of Starsky & Hutch or something. The damage effects are pretty pathetic, too, to the point where the game might've actually looked better if they'd just skipped out on crashes altogether.
The game does try to toss in one additional element to try to break up the monotony. Essentially, the game tries to implement some kind of team-racing mechanic, with three cars on the Ford side and three on the Chevy side in each race. You can issue one of two commands to your teammates during a race: attack and defend. In theory, attack means that your teammates will get aggressive and start ramming the opposing team's cars, and defend means that your teammates will hold their position and prevent other cars from overtaking them; great in theory, but lame in execution. For one, neither command seems to have much of an effect on the other team's position in a race. You can demand they attack over and over, but the opponents never seem worse for the wear because of it. And another thing is that your teammates can't seem to recognize you as one of their own. If you try to pass them during a defend situation, they'll start blocking you like you're one of the bad guys. Considering that you have to get gold status on every single race in order to move on to the next section of the mode, it can get really irritating.
Beyond the Westington Cup, there's also a challenge mode, which is basically all of the unlocked races from the WC mode in single, bite-sized bits, and split-screen and online multiplayer. Granted, during our time spent with this game, absolutely no one was playing online, so that feature might be less useful than intended. And the frame rate during split-screen races--actually, even in single-player races--isn't very stable, making it kind of a chore to play this way. Ford vs. Chevy also tries to throw a mediocre car customization mode at you. The game boasts a number of real licensed parts, but it can be intensely difficult to figure out which upgrades are actually beneficial to your car, and which ones are purely decorative, since the interface does a poor job of indicating as such. There are also multiple brands for each upgrade type, and there's no indication as to which one, if any, will have the most impact on your car, leaving you to assume that the most expensive parts must be, by default, the best ones.
Visually, Ford vs. Chevy measures up to most other budget-priced racers. The car models are decent, though light on detail, and as mentioned before, the damage effects are cheesy as all get out. Most of the racing environments are just kind of repetitive backwoods landscapes, with occasional dives into desert-esque areas and urban environments. Technically, the game mostly holds its own, apart from the aforementioned frame rate issues, which become especially bad any time you drive through an area with heavy forest cover. The audio is decidedly more grating. The engine noises and other assorted racing sound effects are good enough, but the soundtrack consists of the most irritatingly generic rock music you've ever heard in your life, and each race is peppered with insipid commentary from a pair of dingbats that supposedly each represent Ford and Chevy respectively. They'll prattle on about each other's biases, yet never provide a single iota of relevant commentary during a race, to the point where you wonder why they're even there in the first place.
In the war between Ford and Chevy, there truly are no winners--only losers. The brands themselves lose out by having their names slapped on this uninspired budget racer, and the people who buy this game lose their money and whatever chunks of their life they spend playing this game. It's all well and good that the game features a decent variety of Ford and Chevrolet vehicles, but many of those same vehicles are found in vastly superior racing games--just without the cheeky concept of pitting the two brands against one another because...well, just because.