Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Gentlemen Deliberate: Our Ten Most Agreeable Wii Games

NintendoWiiThere was a sad piece of news last week as Nintendo announced that it was ceasing production of the Wii. It’s a console that’s divided many, but here at A Most Agreeable Pastime, it’s a gaming machine that we hold close to our hearts.

The Wii has been criticised over the years for becoming a ‘dumping ground’ for minigame collections, but this is unfair to say the least: a quick glance at the Wii’s back catalogue reveals a plethora of triple-A-quality titles, many of which are exclusive to the system. In fact, it’s home to some of our favourite games of all time.

As we say sayonara to the Wii, it’s only fitting that we should pay tribute to its greatest moments, so for your delectation we present our top ten favourite Wii games…

10. House of the Dead: Overkill

House of the Dead OverkillLucius – The Wii was home to some amazing light-gun games over the years, but this was probably my favourite – if only because it was so bloody hilarious. Think Tarantino’s Planet Terror and you’re pretty close. Back in the day I paid tribute to it in my very first (and laughably dreadful) podcast.

Sir Gaulian – I have only played the PS3 version of this, but from all accounts that’s just a prettier version of what was already a spectacular, stylish, gory and tongue-in-cheek light-gun-like experience. Sometimes the simple things in life are often the best, and while House of the Dead: Overkill is simple, it also happens to provide some of the most laugh-out-loud fun available on any system. If the Wii is your weapon of choice, I can’t recommend this one enough, although it’s strictly for the adults.

9. MadWorld

MadWorldSir Gaulian – It’s no secret that I have a rather large soft spot for Platinum Games, and MadWorld for the Wii basically encapsulates what I love about their work. It’s stylish and bloody and never shies away from the ultra-violence that the Wii wasn’t really known for. Playing the game was a blast, and while the game is simple to learn, there’s a real incentive for you to master your approach to the free-flowing combat. Either way, in MadWorld the blood is well and truly flowing freely.

Lucius – Rarely has there been a game as gleefully fun and inventive as MadWorld. Its stylised black and white graphics with gruesome splashes of red still look fantastic today, and the twisted, ultra-violent gameplay is an absolute hoot. It tends to get a little reptitive in the later stages, but it’s still a must-play game for any Wii owner.

8. No More Heroes 2

No_More_Heroes_2_Desperate_StruggleSir Gaulian – Suda51’s crazy first foray into the world of the Wii was a flawed gem, combining slick motion-controlled ultra-violence with a stylish yet simplistic graphical style. No More Heroes was great, but its sequel No More Heroes 2 takes everything that was brilliant about the first game and ditches everything that wasn’t to make what is probably one of Suda’s best. Using a faux-light sabre to cut up scores of enemies never gets old, and the removal of the sandbox elements basically mainlines the player straight to the violence, making No More Heroes 2 a gratuitously gory, must-play Wii game.

7. The Last Story

Last_Story_Box_ArtLuciusThe Last Story snuck out for a European release in the dying days of the Wii and turned out to be one of the best JRPGs in years. Designed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, it’s clearly influenced by his earlier work, but the simplified fighting system makes this game much more accessible than the sometimes fussy FF games, and it looks fantastic to boot.

6. Klonoa

KlonoaSir Gaulian – I kind of pity Klonoa. Namco Bandai’s non-descript marsupial/mammal/rodent seems to have been overlooked at every turn, and this remake of Klonoa’s first adventure on the PS1, Klonoa Door to Phantomile, is no exception. While it may not have sold terribly well, Klonoa is easily one of the best platformers to grace Nintendo’s system. It didn’t revolutionise platforming in any way, and its bright and kiddy appearance may not have sold the masses on it, but Namco Bandai’s remake is well worth tracking down if 2D platforming is your thing.

 5. WarioWare: Smooth Moves

WarioWare_-_Smooth_Moves_CoverartLucius – This was one of the Wii’s first games and also one of the best. It was the perfect introduction to the concept of motion control, encouraging all sorts of wacky gestures. My favourite involved actually putting the remote down on the table – a phone rings on screen, then when you pick up the remote to ‘answer’ it, a voice says “Hello?” from the remote’s speaker. Genuis.

Sir Gaulian – As a long-standing fan of the WarioWare series, it feels like a crime to have WarioWare: Smooth Moves so low down the list, particularly when it’s so outstanding. The originality and outright insanity of WarioWare shines through in this one, although the addition of motion control does slow down the action a bit. But the microgames themselves are so insanely brilliant and original that it’s easy to overlook the fact that this one may not be quite as good as the WarioWares that came before.

4. Little King’s Story

Little_King's_StoryLucius – The Japanese developer Cing is sadly no longer with us, but before they departed they bequeathed one of my favourite ever games. Little King’s Story plays a bit like a cross between Pikmin and an RPG, and it brims with humour and imagination from start to finish. A sequel/remake was released for the Vita a while back, but it failed to capture the brilliance of the original – the Wii is still the only console on which you can play this essential and unique game.

3. Metroid Prime Trilogy

Metroid_Prime_TrilogyLucius – We’ve gone for the trilogy here, but this spot could just as easily have gone solely to Metroid Prime 3 on its own, which in my opinion is the pinnacle of the Prime series, and even gives Super Metroid a run for its money. The motion-control system doesn’t sound like it would work on paper, but playing the game is a revelation – afterwards, playing an FPS with traditional gamepad controls feels clunky and unresp0nsive compared to fluidity and accuracy afforded by the remote and nunchuk.

Sir Gaulian – Unlike Lucius I am of the opinion that Metroid Prime 3 is the lesser of the trilogy, but it certainly caps off what was an immensely entertaining and likely timeless series. Say what you will about Metroid Prime 3 as a whole, but there is no denying that no developer did first-person motion-control schemes as well on the Wii, and if nothing else Metroid Prime Trilogy gives you the opportunity to play through both prequels, which originally appeared on the Gamecube, with Prime 3‘s control scheme. One could write a thesis on everything Retro Studios did right with the Metroid Prime Trilogy, but all you need to know is that it represents the best-value experience money can buy on the Wii. If you can find it, that is.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincessLucius – Shamefully, neither of us have yet played The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (see below), but Twilight Princess more than deserves its place in the top ten. It follows the design of Ocarina of Time extremely closely – no bad thing considering that it was one of the best games of all time – but adds an entirely new dimension with the ability to transform into a wolf, as well as some fantastically realised boss battles.

Sir GaulianTwilight Princess was the game to have at the launch of the Wii (that didn’t come packed in at least), and while time has soured people’s views of it, for me it still stands up as a mighty fine way to spend 40 hours or so. Twilight Princess successfully took what 3D Zelda’s had done before and stepped it up a notch to make what was a huge homage to the games in the series that came before it. A beautiful world and a ‘homely feel’ to the aesthetics are what make this game so memorable; add to that the tried and true Zelda formula and you’ve got an outstanding piece of interactive entertainment.

1. Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2

mario-galaxy-box-artWii_TitlesheetLucius – OK, we’ve cheated a bit here by including both games, but it really is too difficult to choose between them. They are quite simply the best Mario games of all time, each brimming with more ideas in a single level than most games manage for their entire length. Easily two of the most fun games ever made, and probably the best reason to own a Wii.

Sir Gaulian – There is no doubt in our mind that Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 are the picks for the best Wii games of all time. The only question was which one. But to that effect why choose, because both games are excellent examples of creative, fun, precise platforming that are exactly why Nintendo are still at the top of the pack in many respects. Every stage brought with it a level of beauty, polish and perfection that most games only dream of ever achieving. It’s stuff like Galaxy that gives me a sense of almost unconditional hope for the future of Nintendo and its struggling Wii U.

Honourable mentions

We debated for ages about which games to include on our top ten – it turns out there are a helluva lot of great games on the Wii. Here are a few that almost made it on: Sin and Punishment 2, Tatsunoku vs Capcom, Wii Sports, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles, Dead Space: Extraction, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Rabbids Go Home, Boom Blox Bash Party, Deadly Creatures, Project Zero 2, Resident Evil 4, Zack and Wiki.  Sadly even HAL Laboratory’s pink puff Kirby missed out, despite having two absolutely smashing entries during the Wii’s life.  These were the hard decisions we had to make.

Fianlly, we have to mention three games that neither of us have yet played but that almost certainly would have featured in the top ten if we had:  The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Xenoblade Chronicles and Pandora’s Tower.

It’s sad to see the Wii go out with a whimper rather than a bang. It seems like only yesterday that every man and his dog was waiting for stores to restock Nintendo’s motion-controlled market beater in the hope that they could get one to take home for themselves. But it certainly feels good paying homage to what was, for a long time, such a disruptive force in the market.

So what do you agree with on our list? Let us know your own top ten in the comments below.

9 Comments

Filed under The Gentlemen's Awards and Praise

Rayman Legends puts the ‘form’ into platformer

RaymanlegendsWiiUI don’t think I  have ever smiled and yelped with excitement as much as I did while playing Rayman Legends.  Everything from the absolutely beautiful art and visuals of the game, to the inspired locations, the whimsical characters and the toe-tapping musical score is designed to make your smile span ear to ear.  Michel Ancel is the Steve Jobs of smiles and Rayman Legends is quite simply his best invention yet.

Its moment to moment platforming is brilliant, its level design is spectacular, and the game never lets up throwing new and interesting challenges for you to take head on.  It is equal parts pixel perfect platformer and accessible side scroller and is so packed full of content that you’ll see the credits roll hours before you’ve exhausted every drop of content the developers have packed into it.  Reaching the end of each level is just the first step to completing the game – Ubisoft Montpellier have crammed enough collectibles into each level to warrant at least two if not more play throughs of each level.  Some of them are deviously well hidden, while others require quick reactions to be able to reach.  Either way rescuing all of the Teensies is rewarding, and rewarded, by opening up new levels and unlockables.  If you are a completionist be warned – there will be times that your patience will be tested, particularly in the ‘time trial’ levels that require you to maintain a perfect line and pace to the end.  Of course it’s not mandatory to horde these collectibles but if you’re not shy of a challenge you’ll find yourself compelled to do so.

For the most part Legends plays much in the same way as its predecessor, Origins (which I should mention if you’re a big fan of a large portion of its levels are remixed and included in this game).  But new to this game are the  sections where you play as Murphy and (I played the Wii U version) require clever use of the touch screen to guide  through levels.  You’ll move obstacles, rotate levels and remove hazards all using the touchscreen as the AI controlled character, for the most part, makes like a Lemming and walks to the right.  I can’t speak to how this was implemented on other consoles that don’t have a second screen but these levels make the game feel like it is at home on the Wii U.  They’re not the best sections of the game, nowhere near in fact, but the use of the touchscreen is so intrinsic to how these levels were designed that I can’t imagine playing them any other way.

Murphy's (above) sections aren't the game's highlight but they justify the game's once Wii U exclusivity

Murphy’s (above) sections aren’t the game’s highlight but they justify the game’s once Wii U exclusivity

It would be remiss of me not to mention the perfectly placed cherry on top of the game that is the musical levels.  Part ‘runner’ part Sound Shapes, these levels in essence perfectly sum up the approach taken to making Legends a fun, funny, charming and beautiful game. I don’t want to go into too much detail because discovering and seeing these for yourselves is a truly unique experience . Know going in though that those half a dozen or so levels you  will have even the most jaded and angry person struggling to contain their joy and excitement at watching the level and character’s actions time perfectly with the music.

In case you haven’t already cottoned onto it this is one absolutely stunning game.  Its unique and vibrant art style brings the fantastical to life as you make your way through levels inspired by medieval fantasy, modern day espionage and a tropical underwater paradise.  It doesn’t take a connosieur to see the effort gone into making this game as appealing on the eye as possible, as it takes on a painterly quality that no other game does.  If you thought the ‘Starry Night’ inspired level in New Super Mario Bros U was special then you’re definitely in for a treat here.  But its the little details that the artists and animators have added to the game that make it just that little bit more special.  Watching the different ways that the playable characters (of which there are many) animate and move about through the levels is a treat as they all fly, slide and run through levels with unique animations.  Many people won’t notice, but it is the little details like this that take Rayman Legends to a cracking game, to something nearing perfection to the extent that what it puts on the table is appealing to you.  If you like platform games, this game is currently right at the top of the pile.

Every minute spent with Rayman Legends is one well spent.  If its not charming you with flashes of inspirational level and character design, it is making your jaw drop at how gorgeous it is to look at.  At its heart its a platformer but everything stacked on top of that makes it one of the must-play games of the year and I’m hard pressed to think of a game I have had more fun with than Rayman Legends.  Smiles guaranteed.

RaymanlegendsWiiUscreen

3 Comments

Filed under Reviews

‘No More Heroes’ is still absolutely bananas

NoMoreHeroesIt’s been years since I’ve played No More Heroes since which time I’ve held it up as one of the great flashes of inspiration in game design this generation.  It was balls-to-the-wall nuts, it was funny and it was the closest thing to a graphic novel gaming had seen to that date. Suda’s modern classic doesn’t try to be as pretentious or thought provoking as his other works, and that affords the game the freedom to be as bananas as it can possibly be without having to be confined to some greater narrative. Walking in the shoes of wannabe killer for hire and light-sabre totin’ Travis Touchdown was like taking a step into a carnival ride of blood and horror designed by Bill Murray and built by Audi.  It was outrageous on the outside but beneath that surface was a well designed and sturdy and third person melee-based action game.    No More Heroes was an absolute blast to play – flaws and all.

It’s perhaps not good form to talk about the flaws before anything else but I feel they in some ways define the whole experience and so it’d be disingenuous to give them any less attention.  After the first level you’re presented with the  vibrant, colourful and vast open world of Santa Destroy, put on your Akira-style bike and left to your own devices.  Unfortunately the open world serves as nothing more than a glorified way of moving between your side activities and main missions that could’ve probably been better and more efficiently served by a menu.  Sure it is nice that there are distractions  but they’re nothing spectacular and they certainly don’t justify a largely barren open world.  In the end the open world design of the game leads to the other thorn in its side which is its forced progression through a number of side activities (read: mini-games) to access the meat of the game.  Put simply they’re for the most part not very much fun.  And it’s a shame because this overarching structure and flow of the game  will have you at times wondering whether its worth enduring these less than stellar moments. 

The American version was bloody while Europe and Japan enjoyed stylish black clouds which I rather like

The American version was bloody while Europe and Japan enjoyed stylish black clouds which I actually rather like

Persevere though and you will be rewarded.   No More Heroes’ main missions are violent  trawls through  gangs of enemies themed on each level ready for you to eviscerate with your lightsabre-esque beam katana and fancy lucha libre-inspired wrestling moves.  Look at the game any more than surface deep and you’ll see that its no more than a series of elaborate boss-fights strung together with lacklustre corridor-based kill rooms, but doing so would be doing the game a disservice.  The corridors and same-y, the enemies cookie cutter and the combat repetitive.  But the combat is simple yet satisfying and looking beyond that would be missing the point.  An enemy screaming “my spleen!” as you cut him in half or  wrestle him to the ground manages to make a smile purse my lips every time.  In some ways No More Heroes more closely resembles the beat-em ups of the 16 bit era than any popular genre of the modern era. 

Which brings me to the boss fights. Racing your way to the top of the assassin list is the player’s main pursuit in the game and the moments that lead to it are nothing short of brilliant.   While they may lack the scale of similarly ludicrous games such as Asura’s Wrath the boss battles are designed with such finesse that you cannot help but feel a certain sense of accomplishment in bringing down the next-best assassin.  While on paper they boil down to nothing more than pattern memorisation and quick reflexes, the execution of this supremely elaborate set pieces which in combination with Travis’ suite of swordplay tricks is excellent, leaving for some incredibly memorable moments.  Combine that with some extremely ridiculously cool boss character designs and you’ve got a series of ten of the best boss battles of recent times.  Make no mistake these are the main event of No More Heroes.

The bosses are crazy at times.  Although magician Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii takes the cake.

The bosses are crazy at times. Although magician Harvey Moiseiwitsch Volodarskii takes the cake.

No More Heroes represented a couple of things upon its release.  The first is that  games aimed at seasoned campaigners using motion controls were possible .  The second was that ultra-violence on a Nintendo console was okay.  Definitely a product of its time, the game succeeded on both counts and to this day remains a curio amongst a back catalogue of games that range from abhorrently generic to deviously garbage.  It’s not the best game ever made but No More Heroes is a simple, accessible and most importantly outrageously fun romp that deserves to at least be tried if not finished.  Don’t look too closely and you’ll see the game for what it is – the best non 16-bit-16-bit brawler ever made.  Too bad about the sandbox.

Note: Revisiting No More Heroes was tarnished somewhat by the sloppiness by which it was ported over to the PS3, something that should’ve resulted in the definitive version of the game.  Instead what we’ve ended up with is a technically worse game that fails to do justice to the unique motion-controller control scheme, but also looks and perform worse than the Wii game.  I’m also a bit partial to the bloodless Japanese and European version, which the PS3 eschews in favour of the uncensored US version of the game.  If you’re going to play it, seek out the Wii version.  Grasshopper Manufacture were not involved in the development of the PS3 port.

2 Comments

Filed under Reviews

A fossil from when Bricks and Mortar roamed the Earth

JurassicParkLogoIt’s sad to see Brick and Mortar (B&M) retail in such doldrums that spectators have all but pronounced it dead.  Not because the prices were good and certainly not because the service was good, but more so because the retail experience was so full of sensory delights and paraphernalia.  I distinctly remember walking in video rental stores, or dedicated video game retailers and seeing posters everywhere: hanging on walls, hanging from the ceilings and plastered across and behind the counter.  The excitement in the air was palpable whenever a landmark title was close to launching and retailers and promoters certainly had no hesitation in reminding you just how close the next big thing was, and how much you want, nay, needed it.  This is something my theoretical children will probably never see, but I hold onto those memories fondly.

Jurassic Park is a name that needs no introduction.  In the mid 90’s dinosaurs were all the rage largely spurred on by what would become the highest grossing film up to its release.  The video game industry got in on the act and Jurassic Park games appeared on almost every console with any currency.  Needless to say the marketing blitz was on for old and young and I can remember posters everywhere for every incarnation of the video game based on the movie.  SEGA were at the front of that pack, advertising collectively their suite of game products across all three platforms they had in the market at the time – the Mega Drive, the SEGA CD and the Game Gear. CAUTION: DINOSAURS AT PLAY” the promo material read.   Not surprisingly all three games were very different games, both the Game Gear and Mega Drive versions were your industry-staple side scrolling action games, the SEGA of America version was a first person point and click adventure game.  They all probably sold like hot-cakes.

What once hung from the rafters of a popular video rental store, and then hung proudly in my room in my teenage years, now sits idle in the back of a wardrobe covered in dust.  The double sided vinyl poster shown below is a Fossil from a time where  B&M retailers ruled the roost.  Like Dinosaurs though, they are slowly becoming extinct and it is relics like this that in years to come will be all that remains of what once was such an important part of our favourite pastime.

JP-Retail-SEGA

3 Comments

Filed under Pulp, The Cellar (a place for old games)

Are we waving goodbye to budget games?

The first 12 months of the Xbox 360’s life were a bit touch and go.  Hardware failures and a market that wasn’t really in the mood for the shift into a new generation plagued Microsoft well into the life of its shiny new jet-engine of a console.  Add to that a software drought and being an owner of a new Xbox in 2006 wasn’t all smiles.

Its crazy to think of the plenitude of budget software that flooded the market disguised as full-priced at the launch of the Xbox 360 almost a decade ago.  They didn’t review well and for the most part they didn’t deserve to, but they filled an all important gap in the market.  And in that regard it was merely business as usual as cheap-to-develop games sat on shelves for consumers who either couldn’t afford (or didn’t know better to buy) higher-priced triple-A titles or were so desperate for software that they’d probably buy a game about buttocks.  But they played an important part nonetheless, and for many probably characterised their early experiences with their shiny, brand-spanking new HD consoles.  Whether it was the silly fun of Earth Defense Force 2017 or the dogfighting action of Over-G Fighters, budget games were everywhere, and everyone probably consumed at least one in the early days of HD console ownership.   Perhaps not what owners expected when they plonked down 700 bucks for their new toy,  such games represented something to play, even if what was on offer wasn’t perfect.

EDF2017

This wasn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, although the timing of it was unprecedented.  Budget software has always been a part of any console’s life.  What seems like eons ago I wrote about how the latter years of the PS2 were full of some pretty innovative games that took significant risks because of the cost profile of developing for ageing technology.  The same logic, albeit in a slightly different guise, holds for budget games, and so the Simple 2000 series and publishers like Funbox Media, Phoenix and Midas took to the skies with low-budget and often low-rent productions.  Low costs of production mean you can sell at a lower price; and combine that with reduced barrier to entry for consumers with lower prices for hardware and you’ve got the perfect market for  low-budget games targeted at the mass-market.  It has been like this for years and it has been generally accepted as the way of life as consoles enter their twilight years.  But the edge on price that gives these products a viable and commercial place in the market may be at risk of being eroded.

It’s no surprise to anyone who follows the industry that it’s gone through a bit of a structural change over the current generation.  The bigger studios consolidated, those that didn’t want to go formed indie studios, and the middle guys have been starved out of the market as the scraps left by the other two segments haven’t been enough to sustain their businesses.  And this leaves the indies to eat up the rest of the market.  Indie games are often cheap to produce, cheap to distribute and cheap to buy products that are in no way sub-par.  My review of Hotline Miami paints a glowing picture of what the indie space can do at the heights of its talent.  I’m far from a black-rimmed-glasses-wearing indie game elitist, but I appreciate what the indie guys do for the industry (and for themselves).  If often from a distance.  Combine this with the onslaught of cheap offerings on Android and iOS and you’ve got the perfect storm for the death of the budget publisher.

This leaves these dedicated budget developers and publishers in a somewhat precarious position somewhere between n0-mans-land and six-feet-under.  The traditional battleground for budget was physical retail, an avenue that is likely cost prohibitive and perhaps not as lucrative as it once was, meaning that they can’t compete on their one key difference: price.  Leaving them with digital distribution as the obvious method for delivery, a market segment that is becoming increasingly saturated by indies who sit on the very price point advantage previously occupied by budget developers and publishers, and they again can’t compete on price or in many cases quality and are being pushed out of their own market.  What this means is that the actual form of budget games has changed – no longer are they these low-rent, arse-ugly games that prey on an eager and often uninformed market when consoles hit a relatively high install base.  They are different beasts that don’t compromise on quality or game design, but rather skimp on other areas to cut the costs of development.  Budget has been beaten at its own game.

Most people won’t miss them and perhaps rightly so.  But I will miss budget games.  I will miss the satisfaction of uncovering a hidden gem, a diamond-in-the-rough, if you will.  The market will miss them because there is less access to cheap software.  And platform holders will miss them because their absence may result in the tail of their hardware being cut short.  But no fuss will be made, and budget games will die a silent death in what will likely be the first real casualty of the next hardware generation.

Rest In Peace Budget Software.

MidasInt

Follow me on twitter @oldgaulian

4 Comments

Filed under Opinions and Hearsay

Forza Horizon’s open world is fast, furious and fantastic

FH-BoxartColarado is a beautiful place travelling at 300kmph.   The varied locales, from sweeping highways to winding cliffside roads, are all breathtaking vistas that make for  a picturesque backdrop to Forza Horizon’s open-world racing action.  The cars are equally as pretty as they glisten in the light of the sun during the day and the street lights at night. That will be the first thing you notice about Forza Horizon because it is an absolute stunner of a game.

Of course that’s all a fringe benefit really when everything outside of your focal point over the hood of any one of the world’s fastest cars is a blur.  You’re more likely to be focusing on the musical sounds of your engine revving and your tyres screaming as you cruise past opponents or brake heavily and push the nose of your car into the apex of a tight turn respectively.  Feeling your tyres creep toward the edges of their traction limit as you ease on the accelerator coming out of the corner is equally as visceral as the controller rumbles and the rear of your car kicks out and your car slides into the straight leaving a trail of smoke, and hopefully your competitors, behind.  It’s moments like this that make Horizon a truly exhilirating and rewarding experience.

The driving felt so good that it was easy to put it into the back of my mind and focus on the finer details as to how it felt in my hand.  And that’s a great thing because Horizon is packed full to the brim with good racing times.  The game’s premise is that a racing festival, the Horizon Festival, is taking place across Colarado.  It’s a cool premise that lends itself well to the open-world nature of the game. Race events are dotted around the map, mostly made up of circuit and point to points affairs.  It does deviate at times however with some events requiring you to race hot air balloons, helicopters and planes around a circuit, which are much fairer than they sounds on paper.  These are an absolute blast, but in reality they feel like nothing more than cleverly disguised time-trial events.  Luckily they’re few and far between so they never really wear out their welcome and rather make for an interesting detour from the more standard racing staples.  There are also stunt and photography based challenges that upon completion earn you the ability to fast travel between ten outposts. They’re not brilliant but the payoff is worth it and you’ll find yourself growing to love them over the course of the game as you come to better understand the intricacies of the game’s driving model. At the very least you’ll find the ability to fast travel worth the time and effort.  There are a few touches that give you a reason to drive yourself across the map; speed traps and average speed cameras are scattered across the open-world and track your personal bests and compare them to people on your friends list, and you can challenge random drivers throughout the world to point to point races by pulling up behind them. These instances are not terribly compelling or essential but they are quick and dirty fun and sometimes serve to break up the more structured elements of the game.

Forza Horizon is a big game and you’ll need to dedicate a significant proportion of time if you want to see everything Horizon Racing Festival has to offer. And that’s great because when the rubber hits the road, the racing is for the most part excellent. Underpinned by an accessible but deep driving model, you’ll find yourself moving from race to race absolutely oblivious to the passage of time in the real world.  The progression of the game encourages long play sessions as you earn points in order to level up  in pursuit of earning wristbands and climbing your way up the popularity ladder opening new, often faster, events in the process.  It is a simple premise that keeps you going through the game and moving up from the slower hatchback racers to the ultimate in supercar rides, a progression that is more than worth the time you invest on the track.   It’s not all roses though, and in many cases multi-lap races will often come down to mounting a final lap comeback against opponent drivers that seem to lose a few seconds of time over previous laps.   It’s not a deal breaker but it does at times like it’s all a little scripted.  Admittedly though it make for some rather tense and exciting finishes as you draft behind the leader to overtake them on the final corner or on the final straight, so all is not loss regardless of what is behind the quirk.

Forza Horizon perfectly straddles the sim-racing style of its namesake and a more arcade style racing in the similar style of Codemasters’ Grid games.  In doing so it makes it one of the most accessible racers of the generation.  The game is by no means perfect but as a game that attempts to combine the best of both schools or racing thought, Horizon passes with flying colours.  Combine that with that enormous amount of content on offer and you’ve got a game that could well sit in your Xbox 360 for months on end.  Put this bad boy in in the evening and expect to see the sun rise above the horizon the next day.  It’s just that good.

ForzaH_Pic1

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

Calling ‘time’ on GTA V

I really REALLY don’t like GTA V.  Before you go bananas and scream abuse, let me just get this straight: GTA V is a great game.  Everything about the production is absolutely top-notch.  The little details that the internet has collectively circle-jerked over are, admittedly, nothing short of jaw-dropping.  The voice acting for the most part is Hollywood blockbuster quality.  The graphics are stunning.  The gameplay improves on everything Rockstar has done in the past, and then some.  There is no debating that Rockstar have done a bang-up job with this game and it (for the most part) deserves every kilogram of praise lumped upon it by the enthusiast press and the general gaming populous. 

And I appreciate everything it does right.  The game itself plays like the GTA of your dreams did, with characters having a weight to them while still remaining agile and athletic, and cars having realistic-esque physics that don’t let that old chestnut inertia ruin every car chase through busy traffic.  Shooting received a similarly demonstrable facelift that finally brings GTA close to on par with where every other game has been for the past decade. Basically GTA V lives up to all of its promises, its lofty ambition and certainly is a worthy entry into a very versatile and ever-green popular series.

So why am I not enjoying GTA V?  If I can see how great the game is, why has my personal experience with the game largely been one of wanting a mission to end so I can turn the game off?  Every minute I spend with the game I am thinking about what other games I could be playing and the problem is the open-world structure of the game just doesn’t have the lure or the claws to grab me and hold my interest.  The characters are abhorrent, the story (from what I’ve experienced) contrived and the open world absolutely unnecessary.  Its presentation as a parody and satire is just constantly at odds with its attempts at presenting an edgy and adult piece of storytelling, resulting in something that comes across as either intentionally schizophrenic or just poorly planned.  These factors combined have resulted in a game that I not only am not enjoying, but began to actually actively hate spending time with.  Sure maybe its a time and place thing.  Maybe in three, six, twelves months I’ll change my tune and join the collective global orgasm over this great piece of interactive entertainment.

For now though  it is time to call ‘time’ on GTA V.  A great game.  A milestone.  A game I just didn’t enjoy very much.

GTAVscreen

13 Comments

Filed under Opinions and Hearsay