Reviewed: November 2, 2006
Released: September 19, 2006
Those of us from Michigan know that the Ford Motor Corporation – as with all US car manufacturers – has been having really difficult time keeping afloat the past five or six years. Massive layoffs and plant closings have really had an impact on Michigan’s economy, and many blue collar families are suffering as a result.
In attempt to generate auto sales, Ford has been trying desperately to change its image – steering away from the large luxury sedans, police cars, and work-trucks of old, and instead turning its focus towards a line of sportier, flashier and more exciting vehicles.
Likewise, Ford’s marketing has began to focus on the younger crowd – with television commercials featuring bluesy American Idol crooner Taylor Hicks and sporting marketing slogans like “Bold Moves”.
In Europe, Ford has always been quite successful in the mortorsports arena; Colin McRae made Ford and their two-seater Focus a powerhouse in the World Rally Championships for three years running, and Ford even plopped a redesign of their signature muscle car – the Mustang – in to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, even nailing a respectable finish out of the venture.
Given the popularity of these European motorsports within the video gaming world, it was only natural that Ford would sponsor a videogame. Well, Ford went above and beyond – and has actually made a veritable franchise out of their racing games – for better or worse.
Over the past three or four years we have seen a succession of fairly cookie-cutter racing titles come out of the Ford lineup. While each has been technically sound, none have really been all that exciting – but at the time, when most PS2 games ran $40 or more, Ford’s budget pricing (anywhere from $15-$20 new) generally made up for lacking features.
But as we begin to focus on the PS3, and developers wrap up their unfinished PS2 projects, the $20 budget game is becoming more and more common of an occurrence. Considering there is also a library of $20 Greatest Hits games available for purchase – the $20 budget game suddenly has higher standards to live up to.
So, for this years release – developer Empire Interactive, and the new publisher Eidos, have decided to pinch a few of the more inventive features from the competition’s recent releases (NASCAR, Need For Speed, etc.) and have incorporated them in their newest offering, Ford Bold Moves Street Racing.
Bold Moves Street Racing features a best-of of Ford Motor Corporation’s production model automobiles ranging over the past 40-plus years. Everything from the early Mustangs and Escorts to the newer European-influenced Focus and Le Mans styled Mustangs are accounted for.
Overall, the racing is fairly generic street-style fare. The game features the requisite arcade, career, and multiplayer modes – but the basis is always the same; a player faces up against a half-dozen surprisingly challenging AI opponents on a series of closed circuit short-lap city courses and forced to fight for the top spot across the finish line. Been there, done that.
Where Bold Moves tries to actually make a bold move or two is in the way it not only incorporates some of the more creative innovations recently unveiled by the competition, but actually breaks a few cardinal rules of licensed video game development. The result of all this is that it actually breathes a bit of life into the stagnant, and frankly mediocre, racing franchise.
The first addition is the Maximum Team Control® – which is blatantly pilfered from EA Sport’s ever-popular NASCAR series and it’s Total Team Control®. It’s so blatant in fact, that I’m surprised that Empire and Eidos would could even secure a trademark for their version of what is virtually identical to EA and Tiburon’s invention.
Regardless of trade marking issues, Maximum Team Control® works on the identical principle to Total Team Control® - allowing the gamer to morph back and forth between the two vehicles in the team, constantly working both cars to the front of the pack. Morphing is performed with a flick of the D-pad and is represented by a momentary freeze in the action while the camera zooms from one vehicle to the other. Once inside the second vehicle, the action resumes where it left off.
This Total, er.., Maximum Team Control® was one of the best additions to come along in the roundy-round of NASCAR 06 (and now 07) – and it really does at least help to cut the overall monotony of the racing in Bold Moves (we will discuss this later).
As for the cardinal rule that was broken – get ready for this…Ford Bold Moves Street Racing features real time damage modeling. Yes, for those who don’t know – it is a very huge deal for a car manufacturer to actually allow their showroom clean vehicles to show damage. Why do you think Polyphony historically only has tire wear in their Gran Turismo games? And why do you think Burnout doesn’t smash up production vehicles? Licensing, that’s why.
Well, manufacturers have been becoming more and more conscious of the idea that the kids want realism in their games and think it’s even cooler when their cars get squawked and still can kick it around the track, and many game makers have been able to work this stuff in their games – EA’s Need For Speed Most Wanted, Midnight Club DUB Edition, and the Xbox’s Forza Motorsport and Project Gotham all have damage modeling on production vehicles. Not all of these games let the damage affect the handling – Bold Moves included– but the simple fact that the cars show damage is a step in the right direction.
Still, there’s no glossing over the fact that Bold Moves is an extremely dull racing game overall – especially in this day and age where the game is up against the likes of exciting arcade street racers like Burnout Revenge, and Need For Speed Most Wanted (and the forthcoming Carbon), nor is it comparable top the uber-sim racers like Gran Turismo.
Other then racing through the same old tracks over and over, there is very little e to do in Bold Moves. And without any real incentive to progress – other than unlocking more and more iterations of the same Ford cars, the game just seems to drag on and on. Even with the few newly added features (and surprisingly good visuals), Bold Moves is just plain old boring compared to the competition.
If there is any one area where these “Ford” games from Empire Interactive (as well as the most recent Eutechnyx release) always amaze me, it’s in the quality of the visuals. For budget priced games, they always seem to look like a million bucks – and Bold Moves is no different.
The visuals are truly top shelf quality; beautifully rendered vehicles featuring real-time shadowing and realistic surface reflections all showcased against bright, vibrant background cityscapes and realistic natural settings. Now we aren’t talking Gran Turismo quality stuff, mind you – but saying that Bold Moves borders on the likes of Namco’s Ridge Racer and Sega’s Outrun series is a pretty fair argument.
The framerate clips by at a very solid pace with little-or-no slowdown to be seen, and the short course track structure eliminates any popup or draw-in.
As mentioned earlier, the licensed vehicles feature real-time damage modeling – peeling paint, crumpled body panels, etc.. While the damage does nothing to impact the drivability of the cars, it does look quite impressive and adds a sense of realism to the game.
Whereas the graphics were one of the most impressive aspect of Bold Moves, the sound quality is definitely the worst.
The problem isn’t so much in the sound effects themselves – engines sound like engines, squealing tires sound like squealing tires – it’s more in the total lack of in-game background music or announcing. For a game that features utterly generic racing like Bold Moves does, having zero music doesn’t do much to add any excitement to the constant drone of six vehicles racing around a short course.
Here’s a novel idea to the developers; as a former Detroit-area resident, I know that there are a number of good Detroit garage bands available that would love to have their songs on a video game – and would do it for cheap. And what better video game to feature Detroit music, than one that celebrated Detroit’s most well known export, the Ford automobile? At least then, your racing game might not lull me to sleep like Bold Moves did.
As we end this long reign of the PS2, the $20 game is no longer the anomaly. In fact, most of the top-selling racing games have reached their Greatest Hits status many times over and can be purchased for a pittance.
Regardless of the kick-ass graphics and new gameplay additions, it doesn’t really make much sense to drop $20 on a dull racing game when top-notch games like Gran Turismo 4 and Burnout Revenge can be purchased with that very same wad. Either of those titles is infinitely more exciting than Bold Moves.
Not necessarily a terrible game – just a boring game. And although the game features some cool new accoutrements like Maximum Team Control® and real-time damage modeling, the excitement just falls flat on its face.