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…

image

Forza Horizon’s Saving Grace?

The Rally upgrade is a shining light to the otherwise lackluster Forza Horizon. The game-within-a-game plays more like an arcade title (which is consistent with the rest of Horizon) but it’s a fairly untapped genre on the Xbox360. I tend NOT to count the Dirt series as real rally games because it’s more like an extreme motorsport series. Here in the US, the Rally genre is relatively non-existant for the current consoles. Back in the PS1/PS2 days, Rally games were all over the place and one can argue that these games boosted (pun intended) the popularity of the legendary WRX/Evo rivalry which may have helped get those cars released for sale in our country.

In related news, I picked up a copy of WRC2 for the PS3 as, thankfully, PS3 titles are NOT region locked! I’ll post a full review once I’m deeper into what seems like a long career mode. Until then, the Horizon Rally upgrade fits the bill for a quick blast in a rally car with a better overall experience than say Sega Rally. In fact, I think Horizon could have worked entirely as a Rally game if they ditched the car meet “story” in favor of an amateur US Rally series.

evo rally1

 

Gran Turismo Vs. Forza – the debate.

I won’t beat around the bush – for me, Forza takes the prize.  “Horizon” aside, Forza wins this debate in my book from the release of Forza 2 onward to Forza 4.

That’s not to say I’m not a Gran Turismo fan, I am…in fact, I’ll wager I was one of the first.  The original Gran Turismo was released in late 1997 in Japan and wasn’t available in North America until mid 1998.  I jumped in early  just after release with a Japanese import that I paid about $80.00 for at a privately owned local game store (remember those?).  I went into the store one day and saw a few employees crowded around the manager who was playing in arcade mode.  At the time, the graphics were impressive and the tuning system was pretty revolutionary as was the wide selection of cars.  And the replays were killer…It looked like the Japanese Best Motoring videos I’d seen playing in loops at the local tuning shops.  Even then, games were region coded but this wasn’t a problem for me…

Thankfully, my early SCPH-1001 Playstation 1 was able to play imported games using a little trick…as it was explained to me long ago, the region coding was the first track of the CD that the machine read.  With early Playstations, people were able to load up the Playstation logo of a USA game with the console cover open and a piece of tape on the button that normally tells the machine the lid is closed.  This would effectively load the region coding of the USA game…then when the disc stopped spinning, you could swap in an imported game, close the lid and play.

It took one night for me to get simply HOOKED on Gran Turismo.  A few hours into gameplay and I already had a few cars in my garage.  I remember very specifically building a powerful late model Supra Turbo (a car I’d only dreamed of stock let alone upgraded).  GT1 was just about the only game I played until the sequel came out in late 1999.  I was in college then and it took some phone calls before I found a store on release day that had unreserved stock.  Luckily, I spoke to a KB toys employee who was equally obsessed with the first game and he held onto a copy for me until I made my way to the store.  I skipped classes that day and played GT2 ALL day and well into the night.  The one thing I loved about GT2 was the boost gauge…I know it’s silly, but it was pretty neat.

It was the same story with GT3 and GT4…they were my “go-to” games for years.  At that point, I’d played the original Forza game and wasn’t terribly impressed.  I was SO hardcore for Gran Turismo, I probably didn’t give Forza the time it deserved.  However, once I got an Xbox 360 and Forza 2 I fell in love.  I found Forza easy to navigate…the game just made sense.  The graphics blew GT4 out of the water and the sound of each engine was spot on as opposed to Gran Turismo’s typical “buzz.”  I found each successor in the Forza series to improve on the previous game.  In fact, I was always so impressed that Forza could put out new and improved titles so quickly while all we heard from the Gran Turismo camp is “we’re working on it.”

The Gran Turismo PSP release in 2009 was the first sign that things weren’t going well in the series.  It was a bland game that I regret getting.  The entire appeal of Gran Turismo was building a garage of custom cars in career mode and racing in various events.  Unfortunately, GT PSP was basically Gran Turismo 4’s arcade mode and not much else.  My theory is that they had to pay Jay Leno so much to use his voice in the License test portion that little was left in the budget for actual gameplay improvements.  Again, that’s just a theory from some idiot on the internet (me) so take it with a grain of salt.

When GT5 was finally released I was READY!  I got myself a PS3 and pre-ordered the game and was prepared to be amazed.  Afterall, Polyphony Digital had years to perfect their title and revolutionize the genre once again.  Unfortunately, GT5 was a let down for me.  I can’t understand why evey car doesn’t get the same level of detail in the graphics department (some cars have full interiors, others just silhouettes).  The sound is just as buzzy as ever and while the driving physics may be the most accurate, that doesn’t make for a perfect video game.

Again and again, I go back to my Forza games to chase lap times, race online or just build a car and go for a quick blast.  Maybe things will change with the next cycle of games because I really want Gran Turismo to OWN the series again.

 

 

Project FC3S Time Attack

No, the FC RX-7 isn’t a leaderboard car, and mine won’t run anywhere close to the top times.  That said, I still love this car.  The FC is light, balanced and the stock rotary motor revs like crazy and has a nice flat torqueband useful for powering out of corners without excessive shifting.

This one is built for Class A use and is stripped out, caged and has race tires and about 340hp.  If I had the means, this would be my dream car to build in real life for track use.

Dreamy

Dreamy

Forza Horizon – the verdict.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to expectations.  The demo was a disappointment and the final game wasn’t any better.  This game seems like the ultimate combination on paper but it doesn’t deliver in execution.  Playing through the game is so monotonous.  The Colorado roads all end up looking the same after some time and no challenge I’ve come across feels fresh and new.

The one factor I keep coming back to in my verdict is that I rarely pick it up anymore.  I find myself going back to Forza 4 and Forza 3 much more often.  “Horizon” attempts to blend the arcade style of the Need for Speed series with the tried-and-true Forza racing experience and it just doesn’t work.  I think they were trying to create a new sub-genre here in between being a racing sim and an arcade game, but to no avail.  I know I’m in the minority here, but I just plain don’t like this game.

Also, I think the little things bug me more than the bland racing experience.  Each character looks like a huge DOUCHE in the way they talk and how they dress.  I’ve been to a million car meets and few enthusiasts actually LOOK like this (achem, some BMW/Infiniti owners). It all just rubs me the wrong way and in a few years it will look very dated because guys wearing cardigans and ties is a fashion trend that won’t last.

Sunglasses at night.  Sigh...

Sunglasses at night. Sigh…

Douche throws down a pink slip.

Douche throws down a pink slip.

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!

Time Attack Evo – Old School Cool

Time Attack!  I’m about to break the 1 minute mark on the famed Tskuba Circuit in Forza 4.  Traditionally, this has been the mark of a quick time in real life…

This Evo is pretty easy to control and it will perform power-on oversteer easily and smoothly at will.  It’s nice to be able to drift around tight corners easily, but then not worry about sliding on longer high-speed turns as it grips very well.  There is some front end push that needs to be dialed out a the limit and the gears aren’t perfect for this course but it’s a nice starting point and I’m in the top 2% after maybe 30 minutes of work.

http://s58.beta.photobucket.com/user/jrotaryb/media/rotarybevo1.mp4.html

evo tskuba

 

http://s58.beta.photobucket.com/user/jrotaryb/media/rotarybevo1.mp4.html

You shoulda put a Ring on it…

The Nurburgring isn’t a track I hit often in Forza or GT5 but in a strange car like this it was enjoyable.  It would be interesting to see how a built CTS-V would stack up against say a Lexus IS-F.  I’ll do a comparo in the future!

Check out the Motor Trend article at the link below…it was a good read.

http://www.motortrend.com/features/travel/1208_2011_cadillac_cts_v_wagon/viewall.html

FD Powered Miata

This is just a fun project car…an FD RX-7 Powered Miata.  The combination of the Miata being so light to begin with AND the wide powerband of the 13B rotary motor makes this a joy to play around with.

I like to tweak this car and put it head-to-head with my supercharged Lotus Exige as they are pretty similar kinds of projects.  I’ll post a comparison soon…