Ford Street Racing: L.A. Duel is yet another arcade racing game for the PSP, and as the name suggest, this focuses purely on cars from Ford's garage. With numerous game modes, multiplayer support, impressive visuals and some tight controls, it's by no means an awful PSP game, but some pretty terrible AI and repetitive track design let the game down quite considerably.
Game modes are split between solo and team races, and you're given the option to play in single quick races, arcade races or the main Career mode. The Career mode doesn't really do anything that you won't have seen before, such as earning money for performances and buying new cars, but it's enjoyable enough and sees you progress across a map of race events and challenges. There's very little depth to solo races, as car damage is purely cosmetic and doesn't have any effect on the way the cars handle and perform.
What's more interesting are the Team races, which is another option in the Career mode. Here you'll actually take control of a two-car race team, and switch from car to car during each race. It's a rather novel idea, and works surprisingly well, allowing you to help each car out when needed. Special block and boost moves can also be performed, allowing you to move through the field, but all this is let down by the poor artificial intelligence of the rival racers and your own team mate.
It's bad enough that the other racers seem intent on ramming you and generally driving as poorly as possible, but your own team mate, who is meant to be helping you out, gets in on the action as well, frequently ramming you from behind and hurting your chances of success. The AI problem ruins solo races as well, and because the game uses some kind of rubber-band AI system, it's almost impossible to break away from the pack, meaning you're constantly involved in petty squabbles on the road.
L.A. Duel's other main problem is a general lack of spark. Track designs are somewhat dull and before too long races start to blend into one another, and any excitement you may have had is lost. Racing in anything other than the high performance vehicles is also pretty uninspiring, as the sense of speed you get isn't all that great. It's a shame as the basic driving model isn't bad at all for an arcade racer.
Visually L.A. Duel is surprisingly polished, featuring impressive car models, detailed tracks, excellent lighting and a nice smooth frame rate. The same can't be said for the audio used throughout the game though. The menu music soon becomes irritating and during races you hear nothing but the sound of engines and cars bumping into each other - there's no in-game music at all. Load times aren't bad for a PSP game, but on the whole the presentation is rather uneven.
Ford Street Racing: L.A. Duel is a surprise and a disappointment at the same time. The in-game visuals far exceeded what I was expecting, but the arcade racing soon becomes rather dull and repetitive. Online multiplayer would have removed the AI problems, but with just local wireless support, multiplayer races are unlikely to occur that often. Fans of Ford will no doubt appreciate the collection that offers cars from the simple Fiesta to the Ford GT, but racing fans would be better off sticking to Ridge Racer.