The crudeness of the visuals (which extends to a hideous damage system and the odd, inoffensive, frame drop) is outperformed by a horrendous soundtrack. A particularly pointless effort, given that every Ferrari comes with its own sound system built in. It's the bit that drinks petrol at a rate more or less directly proportional to the speed you're doing.
For a game that should be representing the Ferrari experience in all of its exclusive glory, the production values are a long way from Maranello. Redressing the balance, though, is the handling, which although limited in scope nevertheless delivers a model that should engage more demanding players while catering – thanks to an adjustable, accessible and comprehensive set of assists – to a larger crowd.
The vehicle dynamics are a decent and appealing mix: they don't communicate nuances such as under/oversteer positively enough, perhaps, and certainly lack the precision you'll find in many of the game's rivals, but they never impede the satisfaction of nailing a quick succession of corners. Plugging in a Logitech G25 intensifies the experience, as you'd hope, yet doesn't transform it in the way that a similar force feedback wheel fundamentally enhances GRID, say.
Your AI opponents keep things interesting by behaving erratically. The default 'dynamic' setting can see them veer from laughably slow to remarkably determined little buggers. Far from irritating, the latter situation provides the game's best moments, forcing you to focus on the road ahead and lap within just tenths of a second, continually under pressure from a rival that's never too far from your exhaust. But those instances don't last, alas, and for the most part your competition displays woeful, drone-like conduct.
A considerably better experience can be found online, where eight-player, technically sound events develop into a fiercely disputed sequence of races and the opposition can prove delightfully difficult. Once you've unlocked your favourite Ferraris offline, the game's longevity will most likely come from human competition.
That alone isn't enough to beat out the severe dents in The Race Experience's bodywork. This is by no means a terrible game; the handling has a definite charm to it and the content, if you're determined to stick with it, will keep you locked in for ages (the game's credit-based system rewards you for every race type, as well as decent additional touches such as the amount of overtaking, so there is always incentive to play on). But unless you cannot live another moment without getting behind the wheel of the latest – and some of the greatest – Ferraris, then it could be worth putting your Ł12 deposit down at another dealership.
Ultimately, Ferraristas deserve better; Ferrari's creations deserve better. Developer Eutechnyx may well have the passion, but it lacks the production timeframe and budget to pull off a creation worthy of the world's most revered car manufacturer.
If you want to sit in a virtual cockpit which lets you feel the Alcantara, you'd better wait for GT5. If you'd rather race Maranello's finest in an arcade setting, there's always OutRun Online Arcade (although tragically, for those that don't have it, it's no longer available on PSN). And if you're just after a great racing game, the list of suitors is as long as the Scuderia's history. There is a Ferrari experience here, as long as your idea of the Ferrari experience is a Toyota MR2 with an ill-fitting F355 replica bodykit.
Ferrari don't make video games... but perhaps they should.
6 / 10
Ferrari The Race Experience is available to download now on PSN.