Don't let its title and Midnight Club-style logo throw you off - Bold Moves Street Racing isn't an underground racing game, nor is it bold. Instead, it's a fairly basic, inoffensive racer that liberates some of its ideas from popular franchises like Project Gotham Racing while adding a team racing feature I haven't seen anywhere else that allows you to switch between three cars during a race. Given that, a more apt title would have been “Ford Bold Moves Team Racing”, but since street racing is “in” (albeit not in a way represented here), I guess they went with that name to have the knock-off logo make sense, and maybe get some extra sales out of unsuspecting customers.
Despite that, I've got to give the developers credit for trying something new here. They could have just stamped out a completely generic racer, but they didn't, and their effort paid off. The execution of the real-time teammate switching is superb. Thanks to sharp controls (switching is done by pressing up or down on the d-pad), you can keep all of your drivers in the lead quickly, without losing sight of where anyone is on the track, or where they are in relation to other cars. If the switching controls were at all impaired, and you were at the very end of a race, a slight delay in the controls could easily mean the difference between a first or second place finish. That won't be a problem here, and I'm frankly amazed that it isn't. Since the developers did such a good job, implementing team strategies like blocking opponents and drafting behind your partners for a speed boost is a seemingly effortless task.
Unfortunately, the regular racing controls don't work nearly as well as the ones for teammate switching. Turning is a chore due to unresponsive controls, and braking doesn't work as well as it should either. As a result, your only hope of making a successful turn is to slowly decrease your speed, since you can't rely on the brakes (which can easily cause you to spin out of control when used). Since you'll be turning a lot in this game, especially in team races, this is a major problem with the gameplay. The controls feel too loose most of the time, and it makes it seem less like you're driving a car through a track and more like you're watching one blindly dart through one. Since so many other things were done well, this area being poorly-executed disappointed me greatly.
Outside of the main draw here in team racing, you can race against either a large or small pack of rivals like you would in any other racing game, partake in an overtake challenge (ala the Project Gotham Racing games), take part in a time trial, or venture into a Burnout-esque eliminator race where the person in the last position is gone at the end of a lap. There's also a career mode that combines all of these modes into a s ingle car and track-unlocking entity. It doesn't really expand on the experience much, but it provides a fairly efficient method of gaining access to every car in the game while also allowing you to improve your skills, so it does serve a couple of useful functions.
Visually, Bold Moves has some surprisingly impressive elements. All of the car bodies look meticulously detailed, and the car models themselves are incredibly sharp, which I came to appreciate after seeing the extensive damage models for them. The scenery is also quite beautiful, although it does seem to repeat itself. Buildings show off dozens of reflections as you pass, trees cast street-covering shadows, and even roadside store names can be made out while driving. I expect this level of detail from a high-budget game, and I was amazed to see this kind of care taken with the graphics in a budget release.
The audio could have benefited from that kind of care. While none of the hard rock soundtrack is terrible, it doesn't do anything to make itself memorable. It at least has a fast pace fitting a racing game, and it never gets annoying - it just becomes background noise that doesn't take away or considerably add to the experience. Similarly, sound effects are few in number, but fairly effective. There's a distinct change in sound when you drive into a tunnel, or onto another driving surface like a sidewalk, which helps to make it seem like you‘re driving on a real-world environment. Unfortunately all of the cars' engines seem to have the same very loud rumble, which works at making the races seem more exciting, but it also gets annoying due to how overpowering the sound is - especially when you've got a few other cars buzzing around you.
Despite its derivative nature, this is a well put-together game. It doesn't do anything beyond the real-time car switching remarkably well, and while some elements are run of the mill, nothing is done poorly - a rarity for a budget game. Even give that, it's impossible to recommend this game unless you're curious about the team racing elements. With so many truly great PS2 racers available for $20 or less like Gran Turismo 4, the Burnout series, and the TOCA games, it seems like a waste to buy this ahead of any of those.
This isn't an incredible game, but it is an admirable effort. I came into it expecting something terrible given the reputation of past Ford games, but I ended up with an above average game that didn't really screw anything up, and actually featured innovation - so I'm quite pleased with it. It's far from the perfect game, but for something made on a tight budget and sold as such, I'm surprised they packed so much into it. It's a good game to buy if you're just hankering for a new racer to play, but otherwise, you're missing very little by not playing it. Once this season of top-shelf releases comes out, you might want to look into at least trying this out. Otherwise, it'll just get lost in the shuffle of new games. If you've got a younger relative with a passing interest in racing games, this would be a good buy, as there's a lot of variety in the modes so boredom shouldn't be a problem, and it's got an easy learning curve.
Be forewarned that this comes on a CD, so if your system can't play them, or it's like mine and sounds like it's near death trying to play them, you might want to steer clear or minimize your play. While this is a decent game, no game is worth destroying a system for.