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Gran Turismo 4

  • Category: Games
  • Created on Wednesday, 30 August 2006 11:29
  • Written by Super User

This is the one everyone was waiting for. This was the game that was going to be the definitive auto racing experience. People expected a lot from GT4 and when the release date was pushed back and then pushed back again, the expectations only got bigger. I know mine did. Any game with this much hype is bound to be at least a little of a let down. But even so, GT4 had a lot of potential and made a lot of promises. But it doesn't live up to them. Admittedly, there was a lot for GT4 to live up to, but it didn't just fall short be a little, it fell short by a lot. Especially for a game that's been 3 over years in the making.

The Gran Turismo series has always been held as the best driving simulator on home consoles. The driving model of the previous 3 were all top notch and GT4 is more of the same. You can 'feel' the weight of the cars cornering and the steering gets floaty at high speeds. It's a great feeling. And watching yourself on the high quality replay makes you look like an even better driver than you probably are. When you're alone on the track and hiting the apexes, all is right in the world. But if you have to share the road with the computer AI, the realism facade quickly disappears. Cars will bounce off of you to take their preferred driving line. There's no damage in the game so you won't think twice about scraping a wall. Why call it a simulation if there are so many factors that are removed from reality. And it's not like these are impossible tasks. Most other racing games include better AI and some sort of damage model.

I'm not saying GT4 is a bad game. It's not. But it's not a whole lot different from GT3. And with so much innovation in the racing genre lately, I'd hoped that GT4 would bring something new to the table. What it does have is a solid driving model and incredible graphics. There are 700+ cars available and they all look great. But the car count falls short in diversity. There are numerous different versions of Honda Civics and Nissan Skylines, but no Porsches or Ferraris or Lamborghinis. It's not just Europe that gets shortchanged in car choices. There are a ton of notable US cars that are nowhere to be found. I'm not just talking about missing Ford Fiestas or Chevy Cavaliers. But important/legendary cars like the Thunderbird, or the GMC Syclone or how about the Cadillac CTS-V. No Monte Carlo SS, no Firebird, no Impala SS, etc etc. But Sony managed to pull in over a dozen different RX-7's, and more than 20 variants of the NSX. The more I played the game, the more limited I felt because of lack of car choice. Everone has a favorite car, and with such a large car count, you'd think that it'd be easy to find your boyhood favorite. But I didn't see the underrated Mustang SVO, or any Maserati to speak of. I know it sounds like I'm criticizing GT4 for what it doesnt have instead of praising it for the 700 vehicles it does. But you'll know what I mean when you go searching for a car that you know they just HAD to include, only to be disappointed. The large car count seemed more like and illusion than a feature.

The graphics are stunning. Dozens of tracks come alive with detail and the cars look better than any other game available. Gran Turismo 4 even includes the Nurburging, a 13 mile long German masterpiece of a track that was one of Project Gotham Racing's claim to fame. The 'ring looks great and it seems more detailed than in PGR2. Not only is every turn and bank included, but even the bumps on the track were simulated. Flying down a straight at 150mph is a lot more nerve racking than it was on Project Gotham.

But with that one step forward, GT4 then takes 5 steps back by not including online play. Honestly, a racing game these days can't be competitive without the ability to play against a bunch of other people online. Especially since the AI in GT4 isn't exactly ground breaking. I would love to race against other people on some of GT4's beautiful tracks. And with many of the cars being laughably underpowered or just plain wierd, the only time you would really want to use them is in a novelty race with friends. How many times would you drive a Model T around Sebring? After half a lap I was bored senseless. But with 8 other people in Model T's it might be fun. But I'll never know. Without online play, GT4 is crippled.

And since you can't play online, that leaves the single player mode to hold up the entire game. But it's essentially the same as Gt3. License Test, Race, Upgrade car, repeat. This time they included a few PGR style driving missions to spruce up things but it's too little to make a dent. If you lose a race, go dump another turbo in your car and race again. Repeat until you win. This means you never really have to improve your driving skills. You can bump pass all day long. Head into a corner too fast and hit a wall. Doesn't really matter a whole bunch. It would have been interesting if you had to pay to get your car repaired after each race. Then there would be some incentive not to drive like a maniac. But this brings up another fatal GT4 flaw. No damage. No matter what you do, you car will not show damage and it won't drive differently. This really hurts the 'simulation' part because once you realize that you can do whatever you want, you start doing whatever you want. The game stops being fun real quick.

To sum up, GT4 has looks incredible, has great tracks, and good car physics. It has no online play, a one note single player game, limited car selection, and no damage. After all this waiting, what we got was an upgraded GT3. And nowadays, that's just not enough.

 

 

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Forza - Project Gotham Racing 3 - Need For Speed Most Wanted

  • Category: Games
  • Created on Monday, 30 October 2006 11:23
  • Written by Super User

 The new Xbox 360 is in stores and along with it come the next generation of racing/chase games. The question is how does the new blood stack up to the previous generation's best?

Forza Motorsport(XBOX):

The Xbox wasn't going to get a version of Gran Turismo 4 and it's best racing game, Project Gotham Racing 2 was showing it's age and leaned a lot more toward being an arcade racer than a simulation. So Microsoft decided to create it's own version of GT4. They did a pretty good job. In fact, in a number of ways, it beats the crap out of GT4.

The basis of any driving game are the cars and Forza delivers a pretty good selection. Ranging from Honda Civics to Lemans GT race cars. Like GT4, you can upgrade the cars with engine mods, suspension, body kits, wheels. And once you have the new parts on your car you can tweak them to get the best performance out of your ride. You can even adjust the tire pressure. Nice. But the large selection of cars and being able to tweak them isn't what makes Forza stand out. The games goes a step further and lets you personalize your car with a custom paint job and decals to basically put whatever you want on it. Superman logo on the hood? No problem. Want to mimic the style of your favorite race team? It's easy. The tools to create custom paint jobs are easy to use and pretty soon, you'll be able to make just about anything show up on your car. This makes the idea of 'owning' a virtual car more real. When you watch a replay and see a blue Audi taking a turn, it doesnt feel as good as when the blue Audi has your own design splayed across the side. The custom paint jobs carry over into the online races, also, so it's rare that you'll go up against a car the looks just like yours.

Forza offers more than great just looking graphics. It also has a great physics and driving engine. It's right up there with GT4 as far as driving realism is concerned. The cars 'feel' like they should. But where Forza takes it to the next level is it's damage model. When you tap a wall, your car shows it. Bounce off enough guardrails and you'll finish the race with a magnificently destroyed piece of junk. That's if you finish at all. The damage isn't just visual, your car's performance will suffer as it gets more beat up. The steering will pull to the side, the engine will lose power, the transmission will drop gears. This all forces you to become a better driver and brings more depth to races.

Forza has an online mode where users are pitted against one another based on car classes. Thankfully, the class you race in depends on your cars current performance, and not it's stock trim. Since you can race your upgraded custom cars against others, it wouldn't be fair to take your twin turbo charged, race prepped VW GTI against a stock GTI. So the game will bump that car up to the next class. It's great to see a customized Civic racing neck and neck with an Aston Martin or a Corvette. Not only does the game try to keep the match ups fair, it also means that you'll see a wider variety of cars. In other games, online racers eventually migrate to the 'best' car in a class and eventually every race contains the same car, negating any reason for a large selection of vehicles in the first place. But this class method makes it possible to keep a decent mix of cars racing.

Forza's tracks consist of many real life tracks, a couple of city courses, mountain roads, the Nurbugring, and some fantasy tracks. All of the tracks are gorgeous with lots of detail.

There are some throwaway features, like the Drivatar, a mode where the computer will driver races for you while you wash dishes or go out into the sunlight. But it's a waste since not many people buy a game to sit there and have it play itself. There are 'driving clubs' which is like a modified Friends list. It was supposed to mimics Quake style clans but in the end, no one really uses them.

At the end of the day, Forza not only dethrones GT4, it set a new standard that every driving game will be set against.

Project Gotham Racing 3(XBOX 360):

I expected a lot from PGR3. Especially since I waited I line for an XBox 360 because of the incredible trailers that promoted the game. When I popped in the disc and started playing though, I was underwhelmed. But then I remembered to toggle the HDTV option on the 360 and things got a lot better. But I still thought it could be better.

The cars are beautiful. Outstanding even. But they still have a glossy, bright look that makes them look less than realistic. It's suttle, and by looking at it, you'd be hard pressed to explain what was wrong, but it's there. The cars are just a bit too clean. It was a long way from the outstanding scenes from the ads. But then I switched to the in-car view. Oh. My. God. All of a sudden I was placed inside the Aston Martin DB9 I had selected. The steering wheel, the gauges, the leather, everything was there and looking incredible. The view out the windshield was almost photorealistic. Driving over the GW Bridge in New York, the sun blasting over the hood, temporarily blinding me as a Ferrari pulls a head of me, it's high revving engine screaming to my right over the roar of the DB9's V12. It was a good thing. The in-car view on PGR 3 is so superior to the outside views that I think they could have ditched them all together and forced everyone to sit behind the wheel.

The honeymoon was shortlived though. The developers of PGR3 said they only wanted to include cars that could top 170mph. Thats a cop out. It's an excuse for the small car selection. Many of the favorites from PGR2 didn't make it into the game. No BMWs or Audis, no Porsche Carrera GT, only a couple of muscle cars, and no pocket rockets like the GTI, Civic Si, or Focus RS. But there are more than a few concept and specialty cars. The Skyline Concept is here, along with the Ultima GTR, and the Ruf Concept. But I want to drive an BMW M3, I want sit in an Audi RS4. They were in PGR2, why not PGR 3?

The online racing in PGR3 is seamless and easy to hop into. The Online Career Mode has a selection of race types that are restricted to certain classes. This creates a problem because the classes (ranging from A to E) are very lopsided. Each class has about a dozen cars, but only 3 are really competitive, and many times, 1 car will outsine the others. For example, if you race Class A with anything other then an Ferrari F50 GT, then your chances of staying with the pack are slim. Class D is owned by the TVR Sagaris and Ferrari 360. If you like some of the 'lesser' cars like the Lamborginia Galardo or Chevy Corvette, you'll rarely see a checkered flag. It's unfortunate that the classes aren't more balanced because that means a lot of the great cars in the game will rarely get used. The Ferrari Testarossa and Dodge Viper are rendered with an excessive amount of detail, but there's little chance they'll see more than a few races. In PGR2, the classes were more varied and balanced, which is lacking in the new version.

In PGR3, you buy cars, but cant upgrade them and the color choices are limited to what are actually available from the manufacturer. Which means you'll be seeing a lot of red Ferraris, and some cars only come in 1 color. On a next gen System like the 360, I would expect the type of customization that the Xbox's Forza allows, at least when it comes to the cars paint job.

The cars are supposed to have visual damage(but it wont affect performance). These cars are built like brick walls though, and nothing short of slamming head into a building at 100mph+ will even dent them. Once again, it seems like the game should offer more. The physics and driving model is definitely aracde style but it has enough of a sim feel to be satisfiying. That feeling dissapears when you bounce off a wall without even a scratch.

PGR3 has many of the same skill challenges that PGR2 had, including cone races, passing challenges, and street races. New modes like 'Eliminator' and 'Capture the Track' were also added.

What PGR3 does, it does well. But it's what's lacking that stays with you. The lack of options on the online races is disturbing. The way you can go through the entire game and only use 2 or 3 different cars is disspointing. PGR2 forced you to grow into different cars and by the time you finished the game, you've driven compacts, trucks, and exotics. But in PGR3 most of those cars don't even exist.

Pluses include the incar view, Gotham TV(allowing you to watch other online races) and a very smooth online game. When a car moves to the next generation, it should gain features, not lose them.

Need For Speed: Most Wanted(XBOX 360):

I was going to do an in depth review of NFS: Most Wanted, but in all honesty, I got bored with the game about a half way through. Most Wanted starts with a bang. You're in a street race, get caught by the cops, and have to start from the bottom of the street racing scene to work your way back up and regain your ride. The cutscenes were great and the story was okay. The graphics had a grungier look than PGR3 but in a way, it looks better. The cities are fully modeled with traffic and even a have few Burger Kings and donut shops. You can drive just about anywhere in the city and the destruction you can cause is massive. Some crashes will trigger an external cut scene so you can really appreciate the havoc that you just created.

The meat of this game are the chases. While you're in a race or performing a task, you're bound to break a law or two. And if the cops see you, a chase starts. And it's a great chase. If you've seen it in the movies, you can do it here. Drive the wrong way on the interstate, cut through a parking lot, hide in a garage, great stuff. You can hear the chatter on the police radios, too. You're really pulled into the game during the chases. But then, it's over. and boredom sets in.

The game fills time with different races, but after the 50th race, they are all feel the same and it's just tedius. And the great cut scenes that were there at the beginning of the game all but dissapear. They're replaced by text messages and audio phone calls. You can customize your car with different upgrades, paint schemes, and body kits. It's not as elaborate as Forza but it's a lot better than PGR3. As you progress up levels, you are forced to upgrade to faster cars. The car selection is ok, but not great. The cars range from Fiats to Mercedes. Your in game rivals have customized rides that you get to keep when you win them. The question is though, if I just beat this guy with my car, why do I want his?

The physics are pure arcade and you'll be drifting, jumping, and crashing through things like nobody's business.

The cars take visual damage, but it wont hurt performance too much. But every once in a while you take a hit that the game decides is just too much and you'll screech to a halt. This isn't consistent though. Sometimes you can take on a truck head on and other times it'll end your run.

The police chases are the best part about Most Wanted. And it should have pumped in more story, more chases and less forced racing. Because a chore to do all the required races, just to get to the fun police chases. It got to a point where I didn't even want to play the game anymore.

Overall:

Forza Wins. It's the best game out of the three. More Features than PGR3 and more well rounded than Most Wanted. But it's still PGR3 that I've spent the most time with. I guess good look will overshadow depth most days.

Forza
PGR3
Need For Speed: Most Wanted

Forza Motorsport 4 (Xbox 360)

  • Category: Games
  • Created on Thursday, 26 January 2012 00:16
  • Written by Super User

Forza4 LogoEvery year, a couple of the local Mercedes dealerships get together and rent out the Richmond International Speedway. They then spend a full day attempting to convince ‘VIPs’ to buy a new overpriced luxury car. They do this by letting you speed around in an assortment of Mercs on an assortment of courses specifically designed to make you want one right now. And being a VIP just means that they’ve sold you a car in the past or they’re pretty sure they’re gonna sell you one on the next week or so. Today, I was a VIP. So that there’s no suspense, I’ll jump to the end. I didn’t leave that day with a new Mercedes. I’m very happy with my Crown Vic, thank you very much. But I did leave with the knowledge of what it means to love driving.

Read more: Forza Motorsport 4 (Xbox 360)

Forza 3 Review (Xbox 360)

  • Category: Games
  • Created on Monday, 14 December 2009 15:44
  • Written by Super User
FM3_EuroSport_33_2
The Nurburgring is a 13-mile-long race track in located Nurburg, Germany. Nicknamed the "Green Hell", it was built in 1927, has 72 corners, constant elevation changes and is considered one of the most dangerous race tracks ever constructed. And for about $15, anyone can drive on it.
A lot of games have included the Nurburgring on their list of locales to simulate. The latest is "Forza Motorsport 3," which claims to be the most "realistic racing experience ever." "Forza 3" gives Xbox 360 owners the option of taking on the Nurburgring and dozens of other tracks in a collection of SUVs, exotic sportscars and purpose-built racers.
My brother and I had flown to Germany for the express purpose of driving on the legendary track. And we'd do it in a rented Mercedes C230 sedan.
Once you arrive at the public section of the Nurburgring, also called the Nordscliefe, there's an unassuming booth that stands between you and the track. I walked up and handed the attendant 75 euros and received a license that allowed me four laps on the track.
That was it. No lengthy safety lecture. No car inspection. It would have been harder to get on a roller coaster at Universal Studios.
Safety lessons weren't needed, though. On the drive up to the track, we crossed paths with a tow truck carrying the remains of a Porsche 911. The front end was nonexistant, and the roof was crushed from an obvious rollover. While Turn 10 Studios has improved the collision model in "Forza 3" over the previous installments, even on the highest setting, a rollover won't result in the carnage featured on the back of that tow truck. That's the sort of damage Forza 3 doesn't simulate.
I drove to the entrance of the Green Hell and waited for the yellow-clad track worker to give the "go" signal. The gate lifted and I headed down the first straight. This was it. I was on the 'Ring. My brother sat in the passenger seat as we sped by the series of cones that guide the cars down the first part of the track. After I left the coned area, I was tentative about speeding up. Part of me didn't believe I was actually driving on my dream course, and another part kept picturing the metal carcass or the Porsche.
When I got to the top of the first incline and headed into the initial collection of twists and turns, I began to feel at home. I knew the corners well. Games like "Forza 3" take pride in how closely they can recreate real-world tracks. A long downhill straight opened up in front of me and I pressed the accelerator to the floor. The 2.3 liter engine of the Mercedes pulled the car up the hill, gaining speed. The curve at the top looks a lot less severe than it actually is, a lesson learned from "Forza." I lifted off the throttle and eased the car into the corner. It hugged the road perfectly, the body rolling to the outside while the tires stayed planted on the tarmac.
"Nice," my brother said. I agreed. That gave me the confidence to launch into the next corner, a sweeping right-hand 90-degree curve, at full speed.
I aimed for the inside of the turn. What happened next was a sharp reminder of the difference between a game and real life. "Forza 3" gives you the option of putting a colored line on the road, telling you when to hit the brakes. There's even an option to let the game apply the brakes for you, making it accessible to just about anyone who can hold a gamepad.
I didn't have those helpful lines here. Nothing was going to step on the brake pedal for me as I hurtled towards the trees that bordered the turn. I heard the screeching of the rear tires as they struggled for grip. I heard the sound fade away as they lost that struggle and began to slide toward the outside of the corner. The sensation of unexpectantly facing one direction while your body travels in another is eye-opening. Thankfully, the C230 regained its composure quickly. While it doesn't have all the driving assists of "Forza 3," it does have traction control, and that stepped in to cut power to the rear tires, ending the slide.
The sequence only lasted a split second. But for a split second I was drifting on the Nurburgring. For a split second I was out of control on the Nurburging. For a split second -- I was terrified on the Nurburgring.
I maintained my speed down the decline and back up into a set of 'S' turns that I looked forward to tossing the car into. A motorcycle was ahead of me, and I had to rethink attacking the corners. I was right up on his tail as we entered the turn and there was little room to manuever around him. Instead of risking an incident, I decided to just follow his slow lead into the section. When we exited, I pulled out beside him and passed. At anytime, there can be dozens of other vehicles on the Ring. Even though "Forza 3" excels in allowing diversity in its multiplayer offerings, the fact that a maximum of eight racers can share the road is disapointing. Add to that the fact that unless you have enough people to create a private match, your multiplayer experience will be limited to the scant few modes available in the game's matchmaking system.
I sped around the cyclist and headed into the next set of curves. I glanced to the left and was greeted by a bright blue sky. It was a beautiful scene. "Forza 3" has some of the best graphics ever seen on the Xbox 360, but even they wouldn't have compared to the vista that spread out from the edge of the mountain. Then it dawned on me that I wasn't just driving on a road or a track. Beside me was a cliff. A cliff elevated a few hundred feet into the air. And there wasn't a lot to stop me from going over the side of that cliff.
I checked the rental car's rear-view mirror and saw an A-Class Mercedes storming up behind me. I figured I'd just need to stay in front of the minuscule vehicle for the next few turns, and once we hit the upcoming straight, I'd easily pull away. I was wrong. The nimble car was on my bumper before I reached the final turn entering the next straight. My ego tried to convince me that the tiny A-Class had more than the standard 100hp that it's born with. Maybe the owner had taken a page from the "Forza 3" book and modified the engine with a large turbo, added racing tires, and tuned suspension parts, transforming what was once a normal automobile into a fire-breathing racing machine. But it was more likely that the Mercedes A160 was simply being driven by a better, more experienced driver. I clicked on my right turn signal and moved over to let him pass.
Up next was the Karussell, a banked section of the track that almost begs you dip into it. It's a turn that can do one of two thinggs: Help you traverse it's hairpin radius at an insane speed aided by centrifugal force, or launch you up and over the guardrail like a ramp.
I knew this turn was coming, and I knew how dangerous it was. I told myself earlier that if I didn't feel comfortable, I could always stay on the outer, non-banked section of the turn. I didn't feel comfortable. Still, I dove into the banked section of the Karussell. I could feel the suspension compressing and pushing the car into the road as it was cradled around the curve. My brother and I both let out a scream of joy. "That was awesome!"
Again I checked the rearview mirror. In the distance, I was able to make out the distinctive white silhouette of the "Ring Taxi." The Ring Taxi is a service run by BMW, where for 200 euros, you can be a passenger in a 500hp V10 BMW M5 driven by a professional race driver. Currently, the Taxi was far behind me, but the race-prepped M5 would be on top of my borrowed C-Class grocery hauler soon. I concentrated on the sharp corners ahead, hitting the apexes and accelerating out of each one. The motions were smooth and fast. I checked the position of the Ring Taxi again, expecting him to be a few corners behind me. Instead, the shark-like grill of the BMW loomed impossibly large in the mirror. It was right behind me. How fast was that car? I knew I had to get out of the way as soon as possible.
The next turn was a narrow left-hander and afterwards was a fairly straight section that would make it easy for the Taxi to get around me. I planned on taking the corner as fast as I dared, staying wide, setting myself up to end the turn on the outside edge and thus, giving the fierce BMW a lot of room to pass. But halfway through the maneuver, I looked to my left. There, I was surprised to see the white and blue markings of the BMW M5, taking the inside of turn at twice my speed. I didn't see the driver, or the passengers. I was looking at the rear of the M5.
It was going through the corner sideways.
I can't explain the feeling that went through me. What I can do is describe how my brother and I both yelled as we saw the BMW beside us. I can explain how the instant rush of adrenaline felt and how my accelerated heart rate made time seem to slow to a crawl. But the feeling itself? I was in Germany, on the Nurburging, in a Mercedes, on the edge of traction, and less than 3 feet beside me was a roaring BMW M5 with the combined power of 500 horses harnessed by a professional driver going double my speed, sideways.
It felt ... incredible.
And we still had 5 miles left to go in the lap.
"Forza 3" has a lot to offer driving enthusiasts. It's as close to a simulation that you can find on the Xbox 360. It goes to great lengths to welcome players in with numerous assists and customization options. Theres still something missing that I don't believe any game will be able to capture -- the visceral look and sounds of driving on the edge. I doesn't convey the fear of knowing that you cant lose concentration for a second. For many people, that's probably a good thing. But I remember the feeling of losing control for a moment while heading toward a tree, glancing over the side of a cliff and knowing only a quarter-inch thick guardrail was protecting me, and seeing that BMW sliding past me close enough to touch. You can't simulate that.
We drove a total of four laps during the trip. We had flown 4000 miles, and driven another 150 miles on the autobahn, just to go around a 90-year-old stretch of road four times.
I would do it again.
Score 8/10

The Nurburgring is a 13-mile-long race track in located Nurburg, Germany. Nicknamed the "Green Hell", it was built in 1927, has 72 corners, constant elevation changes and is considered one of the most dangerous race tracks ever constructed. And for about $15, anyone can drive on it.


A lot of games have included the Nurburgring on their list of locales to simulate. The latest is "Forza Motorsport 3," which claims to be the most "realistic racing experience ever." "Forza 3" gives Xbox 360 owners the option of taking on the Nurburgring and dozens of other tracks in a collection of SUVs, exotic sportscars and purpose-built racers.
My brother and I had flown to Germany for the express purpose of driving on the legendary track. And we'd do it in a rented Mercedes C230 sedan.

Read more: Forza 3 Review (Xbox 360)

MotorStorm Pacific Rift Review

Reviewed by Martin Bigg (Star Wars Fanatic)

PosterIt’s fair to say that MotorStorm was one of the main reasons that I bought a Playstation 3 at launch. Developed by Evolution Studios, who are formerly known for the acclaimed WRC series, MotorStorm’s unveiling at E3 back in 2005 instantly sealed my attention, and I was subsequently longing for the day of its eventual release. Predictably, after finally being released alongside Sony’s shiny new plaything in 2007, it instantly won me over and rapidly became one of my most favourite racing games, thanks to its refreshingly rampant racing style. And yet, despite this, the game somehow felt unfinished, as if it was cut short in time to become Sony’s showcase. Mercifully however, the sequel continues where the original left off, adding with it a slew of additional content and features, whilst simultaneously remedying some of the original’s shortcomings - but is this enough to cement MotorStorm’s legacy?

 

 

 

 

Read more: MotorStorm Pacific Rift Review