Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews for old/new games and demos

Two steps forward, one step back: A Forza 5 Review

I can safely say, at this point, I have a love/hate relationship with Forza 5.  After playing in career mode and free play mode for nearly two weeks, I think I have my finger on the pulse of the game so here are my thoughts…

It seems like Turn 10 Studios made big improvements to all of the polish in Forza 5.  Little details that heighten the enjoyment of playing are immediately noticed.  The dashboard reflections, blinding sunlight and various dirty effects such as dust/rubber that collect on the car throughout a race are impressive (particularly in photo mode where the dust effect is very subtle but realistic).

Also, Turn 10’s upgrades aren’t limited to what you can see on the screen as massive improvements have been made on the audio side.  Considering how authentic the sound was in Forza 4, I am pretty floored at the level they have achieved here.  Tires squeal and screech more gradually and this actually helps you find the grip limit in the corners.  On turbocharged cars, the spool is more noticeable and it’s different from car to car as are the blow off valve effects.  One other audio enhancement I noticed was how the environments effect what you here.  When you’re near a wall on a closed course, the exhaust noise echoes (especially on a home theater system with DTS processing).   On tuned naturally aspirated cars, valvetrain and intake noise are much more pronounced now, which heightens the impact of modifying cars in the game.

So, things look and sound better than before…great!  So how is the gameplay experience?  Well, I have no complaints about the actual racing experience (aside from the music which can be turned off).  Racing is as intense as ever, and tuning/hot lapping is about the same.  I do think that they changed how mods effect overall class rating, but I can compare that another time.

Unfortunately, what Turn 10 studios removed from Forza 4 is just as noticeable as what they added.  Several tracks are missing from previous games such as the famed Nurburgring, the Fujimi Kaido mountain pass and Maple Valley (my favorite).  I can’t understand why they think removing beloved tracks would sit well with the fans!  In addition, hundreds of cars are missing from Forza 5 entirely and cars that remain are not as tunable as they were in past iterations.  Plus, of the cars that made the cut, most of them can’t even be played in free play mode unless you own them!  Thankfully, there is a glitch around this that most people are aware of (for now).  Also, some body kits from Forza 4 have been removed are the Forza 5.  For example, only the “racing” front/rear wings are available for a 350z!  Moreover, the selection of wheels seem the same as Forza 3, 4 and Forza Horizon.  There are many other wheels on the market, even from the manufacturers they already have licensing agreements with.  I simply do not understand…

The final verdict is that it seems the focus on Forza 5 was to improve the details at the expense of the overall package.  At this point, I’d expect a next-gen title to be able to make marked improvements without sacrifices made to features people already loved about predecessor titles.  I am hopeful that they can rectify many of this with some downloadable car/track packs but I feel apprehensive about paying more to complete what, at times, feels like an unfinished game.  I am still enjoying myself, but I’m also hopeful that Gran Turismo 6 can return to its former glory.  GT6 will be in my hands tomorrow, as will Need for Speed Rivals for Xbox One.  For now, enjoy some pics.

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It has begun…

OK, so apologies to anyone who reads this blog for the lack of stories…starting a new job a few months back really cut into my time to play and get some content up.  With that, PS4 is officially here and while I’m sure some of you are excited I honestly couldn’t be less enthused.  I care about DRIVING games and the list of PS4 launch titles is a major yawn-fest for people like me (or us I suppose).

Leave it to Sony to tease us last year with DriveClub and then delay the release until Spring of 2014, months after the PS4 release.  Sound familiar to anyone??  If you recall, Gran Turismo 5 was delayed several times in the past so I wouldn’t be shocked if DriveClub was pushed back even further as we get closer to the current ETA.  Sure, Need For Speed Rivals is a PS4 launch title, but, like many of the PS4 launch titles it’s really just a port of a PS3 game (which comes out a week later…noodle on that one).

Is there any logical connection between the DriveClub delay and GT5?  No, of course not…it’s not like there is some sort of conspiracy here, it’s just a funny coincidence.  That said, I can’t help but wonder how many racing game fans, itching with next-gen excitement, and will be turned off by the delay and try an Xbox One and Forza 5 instead.  In the grand scheme of things it’s gotta be a small population but still, we do exist.  Perhaps the hardcore Playstation fans will get their fill from the upcoming PS3 release of Gran Turismo 6 but so far the chatter is underwhelming.

OK, so Sony’s disappointment aside, there are some things to get excited about!  Forza 5’s Drivata feature sounds so interesting and innovative and I can’t wait to see how it works!  For those who are unaware, Drivatar is a data profile that learns your particular driving style as you progress/evolve in playing Forza 5.  The game will then use your Drivatar profile as the Artificial Intelligence (or driving opponents) in OTHER players gaming experiences!  So, if you are a fast, successful driver, you can be rewarded for good driving habits when you aren’t even playing!  The idea is to improve the existing AI continually using actual gamers as groundwork – brilliant!  This sparked a bit of controversey as people worried that bashers or prankster profiles who can ruin some online races would screw up with the AI for everyone but Microsoft has ensured everyone that the Drivatar profiling is intuitive and knows what to record and what to ignore in their data mining.

Hopefully, Forza 5 is everything we hope it is and that DriveClub is worth the delay!

LP-700 Craziness

The Lamborghini LP-700 is pure automotive pornography.  In Forza, the experience of “driving” it is exhilarating and boring at the same time…it’s crazy fast, obnoxiously loud and has massive grip.  Plus, it’s just a point and shoot affair in the corners, which is part of what I don’t love about it; it’s too easy to race with.  There is no character with the LP-700…it’s too perfect as opposed to Forzas interpretation of the latest ZR1 which exudes personality and requires skill to drive fast.  I don’t care what car you choose in any racing game, 200mph should be a little scary. Regardless, I got some cool pics!  The interior shot is during a test drive on Le Mans and I love how easy the camera is to use!!

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Real Racing 3 – free racing fun!

By now, most people have a smartphone and a tablet and most of us play games here and there to pass the time at the DMV, or during that awful show your wife or girlfriend can’t seem to miss. I keep hearing how mobile gaming is on the rise which is a trend that has led to the decline in console gaming. Ok, perhaps…but most mobile gaming isn’t very good (especially mobile based driving games).

That said, I approached EA’s new tile Real Racing 3 for my ipad with little interest, expecting it to be another awful mobile gem. Shockingly, this FREE game is quite a bit of fun! The gyroscope based steering controls are easy to use without being dull or unresponsive. With the steering aids turned off, the game experience is just better and not too much harder. One cool idea is that you don’t control the throttle…only steering and brakes. When you brake, the car slows down…otherwise, it accelerates on its own. It sounds odd, but it works well and I hate the idea of tilting my ipad side to side to steer PLUS back and forth for the gas.

Calling this game “Real Racing” is misleading for sure as this is 100% arcade racing. Regardless, it’s a fun game and it won’t frustrate you like most mobile based racing games. Plus, the visuals are pretty slick and the career mode is pretty deep for a FREE game! Yes, FREE!! Check it out…

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Ridge Racer – the original is still the best…

 

It took me a while to get good at Ridge Racer but I never tired of it.  Ever.  That said, I wasn’t always having fun because Ridge Racer is not without it’s faults.  For instance, the announcer was entertaining for the first 5 minutes of play and then he became really, really annoying.  When I wasn’t winning, that voice (and the repetitive 4 or 5 phrases) was like nails on a chaulkboard, taunting me with every word.  The other source of frustration was the “Devil” car…a Black exotic that you will race one-on-one to win the game.  I recall many angry, cursing attempts to defeat him because he is FAST.  One wrong move and you might as well give up to try again.  It’s tough…

The technique that works best for fast lapping is DRIFTING!  This game actually teaches you how to control slides and countersteer properly because the cars slide so easily.  Ridge Racer could actually be the first drifting game (but don’t quote me on that).

I wonder why Ridge Racer isn’t available to download on the xbox arcade or the playstation store.  I believe you can get Ridge Racer 4 on the playstation network, but it’s just not the same.  In my book, the original Ridge Racer is the best.

The wall.  Sigh

The wall. Sigh

 

Initial D PS3

If you’re into the import scene, odds are you’ve heard of Initial D before.  If not, we’ll lay it out for you briefly…Initial D is about the story of a teenager named Takumi who makes deliveries for his fathers Tofu business in an 80’s era Toyota AE86 (known stateside as a Corolla GTS).  HIs father is demanding and after years of practice making quick deliveries at his behest, Takumi has become a very talented driver on the challenging mountain roads in his region.  He attracts the attention of local car clubs and begins competing against and dominating cars that should be much faster.  Over time, Takumi learns more about motorsports and acquires new skills with every opponent he faces until he becomes a local legend.

These stories began as comics in Japan and later became a popular animated series.  This show is partially responsible for the current popularity of drifting and the revival of the AE86 in the classic white/black “panda” scheme.  The DVD’s are best viewed in Japanese as the English dubbing is lame.

So, finally…the game.  SEGA has a number of Initial D titles in the arcade and the PS3 version is largely the same.  You will choose from a variety of cars and earn points to modify them in order to help defeat your opponents in one-on-one battles in the mountains (just like the show).  Unlike the show, there are no english subtitles for the cut-scenes in story mode and that takes away a bit of fun.  However, this is a cool game if you’re a fan.  And whats best is PS3 games are not region locked so you can buy from a number of online sources and enjoy!  Some copies are even available with English manuals…

Onto the review…this game really reminds me of the original Ridge Racer.  Hit the brakes before a corner and the car slides.  If you get back on the throttle mid corner, the car slides.  The one difference is that ANY mistake in this game will cost you precious time and give the advantage to your opponent.  The goal is to maintain as much speed as you can in each corner and avoid the wall.  It takes some time to get used to the driving physics (using the term physics here very loosely).  In game graphics are colorful and cartoony but this game barely uses the PS3’s capability.  Cut-scene graphics are, well…creepy.  They try to make 3D CGI characters in the style of the animated show, but it doesn’t really work.  They would have done better to actually create some animation traditionally and specifically for the game.

The soundtrack is very faithful to the show as each song is of that strange Japanese electronic/dance/rock genre.  It’s weird, but it’s fun and energetic…I know people that actually listen to it in their cars when they go out for a spirited drive!

Overall, this game is most fun for fans of the show.  You’ll encounter classic enemies and battle through some challenging roads on the mountain pass.  Want to drive the AE86?  Of course you do.  But you can also take out Bunta’s WRX or Ryosuke’s FC RX-7…pretty much every car from the show is here.  If you’re NOT a fan, it will be more difficult to get into the game.  However, if you like the original Ridge Racer, chances are you will find some fun here as well and maybe it will get you interested in a show that has a crazy cult following.

3D CGI cut scenes are odd.

3D CGI cut scenes are odd.

The white comet!

The white comet!

Buy upgrades in the garage.

Buy upgrades in the garage.

Bunta's WRX ready to battel

Bunta’s WRX ready to battel

Gum-tape death match anyone?

Gum-tape death match anyone?

Tips.  In Japanese.  Not helpful!

Tips. In Japanese. Not helpful!