Game On!

It’s pretty much always gaming season now, I’ll be honest about that. I don’t devote hour upon hour upon hour to gaming, by any means, but when I have the chance, I still sit down and happily fight my way through the game du jour for eight hours at a sitting. It just doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

Or, rather, didn’t. The stopping point last year was the sheer volume of attention a new puppy needs.

But, these things change.

This tormenting, pointy-toothed, time-sucking minion of hell:

Zaphod the Pointy-ended Menace

Has now become this:

Zaphod, REALLY chillin' out

A fully formed, adult, sometimes calm, occasionally-time-and-attention-demanding-but-happy-to-snore-on-the-couch-next-to-you ninety pound lump of soft pudding.

He also makes an excellent pillow.

But I digress.

Gaming season is upon us, such as it is. The fall is the time when the majority of the big releases hit, the franchise games that sell solidly and are eagerly anticipated by hardcore and casual gamers alike.

Today, I’m talking about my obsessions. Later, we’ll get to wants and desires.

Right now, the biggest time suck I have is Forza Motorsports 4. It’s absolutely dominating my time. And, I’m seriously impressed with the improvements that have been made. For the time, Forza2 was blindingly good. As much as I enjoyed it (and I did) Forza3 was beautiful, technically near-perfect, and… still lacking something that Forza2 had.

Forza4 brings that something back. I care about it. It raises my pulse. I’m battling it again, rather than just running races.

Part of that is, without doubt, the new online component. Let me be clear, I’ve still not jumped in directly in an online game, competing on the same track with other live players. No, what I’m talking about is “Rivals” mode.

Rivals mode is a serious of motorsports events, some of which change on a monthly basis. When you jump in, the first challenge in any series is another player’s already set time, and a reward. The more you win, the lower the times get, and the higher the rewards get. But you ‘know’ at least some of the people. It draws from your car club[1] and your friends list and pits you against those people first. When you win, you get to see your time in lights. What’s really dragging me in is that you get a message when someone ‘challenges’ your time and wins. Ahhh, but there’s more! Because you can run fast and dirty, or fast and clean. But slow and clean always beats fast and dirty! Dirty is when you hit a cone, a wall, another car, or go off track. Clean is just that, a clean, on-track run where you didn’t hit anything

You combine this with some of the other features, and, well, the rivalry grows, and becomes obsessive.

Let me give you an example. I ran the Nurburgring Grand Prix Circuit in a Class C car. I ran a fairly respectable if not quick: it was my first time running AutoCross: I hit a couple of marker cones, and turned a 2m46s or so.

About an hour later, a message comes in:

“b000zysmurf: your time has been bettered by sChocolate”.

Worse, Choccy gifted me a video replay of him beating my time. With a fairly significant 4 second margin. Needless to say, I felt the replay was unnecessary, until I had one to send to him. Which, an hour later, I had. 2m39s. Which I sent with the message “It’s going to be like that, eh?”

He came back with a 2:36.173, which I fairly promptly (and by fairly promptly, I mean after tweaking suspension rates, camber, bump stop, spring stiffness, toe-in, and tire pressures on my car) I sent him his next video, of me turning a great-for-me 2:24.113.

There has been no response as of this writing.

But this illustrates my impressions of the game. Not only is it perversely beautiful, detailed, and deep (they call it “car porn” for a reason), but its compelling. There’s no story line except for the competition. And I appreciate the ‘rivals’ scene far more than racing online directly against others: there’s always one douche who gets off on either cheating, or competing way out of his ability, and screwing it up for everyone else. There’s always the guy who equates “leaderboards” with “being best” and sees no problem with actively cheating the system to find a way to get an S class car into a C class leaderboard, and being the fastest by thirty seconds.

Rivalries take all that way, while still making you compete. You know the time you want to beat, but at the end of the day, you’re racing yourself, and the track, more than anything. You’re finding the best way to get you around the track with no other impediments.

And then using that knowledge to tromp your friends hopes and dreams.

You know, the way it SHOULD be.

The car guys (like me) can, without doubt, get lost in the minutia of car tuning. And honestly, the game is deep enough now that you can’t be seriously competitively fast without tuning. But you can still jump into stock classes in whatever scene, set the difficulty where you want it, and have fun without tuning. And it’s a spectacular balance.

My only gripe with the game so far is the AI still is not there. In career, I’m blazing through races, getting gold every time. I know that, in any given career race, I’m going to win unless I do something stupid.

Waaay back up there, I said “biggest”. But not only time-suck. I picked up Rage on the advice of an old friend/FB contact, and I’ve not been disappointed. Smooth as silk, beautiful as the day is long, and looks like a good story line. I had been searching for something of this ilk as I’ve finally about done with Borderlands after two years, and am waiting for Borderlands2 in the spring.

And Rage definitely fits the bill. But with the time I’ve been putting into Forza, it’s just not been happening for me yet! I do love me some story-line based first-person shooter though.

Which leads me to: “What do I want next?” And there’s plenty, but that’s a story for another day. And a list. Mostly a list.

[1] Car Clubs are another great addition to the game. In my case, it’s an extension of the club (http://www.gencoupe.com) that I already belong to, because of my beloved Genesis Coupe.

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One Response to Game On!

  1. Pingback: Are Leaderboards Healthy? « Life, the Universe, and Everything

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