Version tested: PlayStation 3
"Ferrari don't make cars. Ferrari make dreams," declares the opening screen before a suitably dramatic video sequence powers in. That may be, but you get the feeling that if UK publisher System 3 was left in charge of the Ferrari production line the results – while hardly the stuff of nightmares – would be disturbing. A bit like opening the glove box to find that you'd suddenly switched off the traction control.
Still, even if not entirely as expected, at least all of the car components would be present and functional: you wouldn't be blasting towards your favourite hairpin only to realise that someone forgot to include a brake pedal. This much is demonstrated by Ferrari The Race Experience, sequel to 2008's Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli and this time round a PSN-only proposition that will set you back £11.99 (or £9.99 for owners of Ferrari Challenge). For that modest sum you get a remarkable wealth of content.
Much, like the majority of the 16 circuits (minus the official licences, so Monza becomes Autodromo Italia and GB Midlands Raceway is Silverstone), has been recycled from the franchise's previous outing. But the vehicle roster in particular is now extended to include new models, delivering what is possibly the finest collection of Ferraris in videogame form.
Within this sparkling sea of scarlet you'll find everything from racing legends such as the 333 SP and road-worthy powerhouses like 1984's 288 GTO to aesthetic faux pas such as the California and F512M. But for contemporary Ferrari fans, the biggest draw is likely to be the opportunity to get behind the wheels of the monstrous 599XX or the sublime – if excessively flammable – 458 Italia. (Indeed, the latter is the subject of the tutorial, amusingly assessed, as in the previous game, by Fifth Gear's tame racing driver, Tiff Needell.)
Complementing the impressive range of cars is a substantial suite of play options that, although initially intimidating due to its convoluted structure, leaves little doubt as to its intention: keeping you well and truly occupied. Career takes centre stage, then, with events dedicated to seemingly all notable Ferrari models according to GT Race, Road GT and Classics classification. Next, the Single Player portion delivers the aforementioned Tutorial, alongside a Quick Race option, Arcade (a knockout event featuring a selection of circuits), Trophy (more tournaments), and Time Trial. Multiplayer Ferrari frolics, meanwhile, are limited to LAN or online.
A pleasant touch is Challenge Cards, The Race Experience's own version of Top Trumps. Or it would be, if it didn't mostly involve your CPU opponent successively winning your cards while you watch on powerlessly. Admittedly, your odds increase as you unlock further cards through play, but the experience is limited other than as a way of checking out the stats breakdown for Ferrari's line-up.
Away from such frivolity, the Showroom enables you to add further examples of Prancing Horsepower to your collection (or, pleasingly, rent the ones you can't afford for a quick blast around a track), as well as spray over the good work of Maranello's paintshop with hues and finishes of your choosing before slapping on a load of decals from the Vinyl Shop. Once you're done, simply immortalise your masterpiece via Photo Mode – and then take it onto the track.
Whatever you do, remember to admire your machinery while its wheels aren't turning, because once on the asphalt things begin to look decidedly less pretty. Given that the game's singular attraction is its inclusion of Ferraris, it's depressing to find that the in-car view is one of the poorest cockpit recreations of recent times, with a two-dimensional feel to the interior. If you're thinking that won't bother you because you play your driving games in chase cam (tsk), prepare yourself for one of the least convincing examples of this generation. Cars rarely integrate properly with the track surface, and the overall effect is like bad Photoshop.