Tag Archives: PS3

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!

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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

 

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!

Old School Review: F1 2000

I have a love/hate relationship with F1 games.  You see, I really enjoy F1 racing…I’ve even been to a few races myself years ago (Indianapolis and Montreal).  However, F1 games are generally difficult to master and take lots of time.  Recently, I picked up F1 2012 for the PS3 which is similar to Codemasters previous F1 titles (F1 2010 and F1 2011).  F1 2012 has some new gameplay modes like the “Season Challenge” mode which lets us gamers without hours upon hours to devote in a single sitting to advance in the game without being limited to the “Quick Race” option.  When I get deeper into the game, I’ll post a full review…

So, I’ve been playing all of my F1 games in quick sessions this past weekend as it was an exciting one for F1 fans in the USA.  The new “Circuit of the Americas” track in Texas had it’s first race ever AND it was an F1 race!  The track was slippery which made for some interesting practice and qualifying sessions.  After playing some quick races of recent F1 titles I own for the PS3/Xbox 360, I decided to go old school and pickup my copy of F1 2000 for the PS2 and I was pleasantly surprised…

Call me crazy, but this game still holds up!  The commentating and game screens bring us back to watching F1 back in the day when the Speed Channel was called Speedvision.  This title is still difficult to play and very basic compared to todays titles, but I think that’s why I like it so much.  Controls are limited to throttle, brake and gear changes without the need to worry about managing the KERS hybrid battery boost or the DRS adjustable wing.  I don’t have to change the fuel mixture for more or less power, or adjust the brake bias or tire selection for my next pit stop while I’m driving.  Hell, if I use the buttons rather than the joystick to control the throttle, it isn’t even pressure sensitive.  Again, I think that is why it’s fun to revisit.  Car setup can still be adjusted but this as well is more simple than in F1 games for the current generation consoles.  While driving, there are no full driving lines with braking and acceleration points to follow, but there are some corner-arrows to let you know if the next turn is fast or slow.  Without those modern distractions, I find that this game is easier to jump right into if I only have a short while to play.  The game runs smoothly overall, but moreso when in a solo qualifying session as there can be a bit of slowdown with a full field under certain conditions.  One small bit of the game I really liked was when you are involved in a large crash, the game camera (in a typical TV location) goes full-static.  The cars can be delicate, but you can adjust how much.  If you’re on full sim mode, one small bump of the wall can result in a wobbly wheel which means it’s back to the pits!

If you’re an F1 fan and you still have a PS2 or even an original PS3, you can find this game on ebay all day for under $10.00.  You an keep it as simple as you like with quick races OR go all in and try to take Jensen Button all the way in his rookie season.

Car setup screen

Wobbly wheel – cars can be delicate!

Replay graphics

Start!!

Rally ’round the family – Part 1

In the great family of racing games, the “Rally” sub-genre is kind of the black-sheep.  You can’t really find rallying on TV anymore these days and I’ll wager that few watched it years ago when the Speed channel was called Speedvision.  While I didn’t follow the seasons too closely, I did look forward to the New Years day special that would run the season in a marathon.  When my family held their annual new years day party, I was the anti-social of the bunch who spent more time glued to the TV with my plate of snacks.  It was glorious!

Back then, Rallying was at the peak of it’s popularity and developers made lots of Rally games.  In fact, there were 3 separate series like Colin McCrae Rally, Need for Speed V-Rally and World Rally Championship, each of which spawned a number of sequels.

Unfortunately, there is a real lack of Rallying in games for current generation consoles.  And don’t mention the Dirt series, please.  Yes, there is some rallying in that series but it’s an X-Games title if anything.  The genre is more popular in the UK as WRC2 and the newly released WRC3 is available across the pond, but they aren’t sold by retailers in the US.  What’s worse, if you only own an Xbox360, the WRC games are region locked.  The news is considerably better if you have a PS3 as there are no region locked games so you’ll have to import one.

So, if you want a real Rally fix in your gaming, you will have to go a generation back in terms of polish, but you can still have a LOT of fun. The other day, I spent a couple of hours with V-Rally 3 and I forgot how much they crammed into this game!  Ok, so the car models aren’t as detailed as Gran Turismo 4 or even Gran Turismo 3 and things can get a little pixelated at times when the camera is close to anything.  Regardless, this game is a joy to discover again.  EA games included a really nice damage system and there are plenty of tracks, cars and surfaces to race on.  The controls take a bit of getting use to, but you can tweak the sensitivity of the steering, throttle and brakes to suit your style.  The backgrounds are also large, colorful and have impressive scale.  You can select from a number of front wheel drive cars which are slow but nimber or step up to the all wheel drive cars which are faster and harder to master.

From time to time, we’ll revisit some old Rallying titles for the PS/PS2 and I’ll also get my hands on WRC2 and WRC3 for the PS3 and put them through the paces.