Tag Archives: Xbox

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!

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.



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