Forza: Horizons 2 Review

Ok, so Forza:Horizons 2 has been out for ages now. I didn’t bother with it on Xbox360, because it was effectively castrated for that system: the only real way to play it was to do it on Xbox:One. And, I wasn’t buying an Xbox:One right away, because I need wheel/pedals to make it worthwhile for me.

But then a deal came along, and I bought a used Xbox:One, with Forza:Horizons 2, Forza 5, HALO: Master Chief Collection, and Destiny. Now, I was definitely not interested in playing Forza 5 without a wheel/pedals, but as I just ended up with a copy of Horizons, I figured I’d give it a shot.

I’m coming at this from negative space, right from the start. I didn’t like Forza:Horizons in its first iteration on the Xbox:360. I saw the Forza name on it, initially and thought “awesome! Open-sandbox simulator/racer! This is evrything I’ve been waiting for from Forza!”. And then it wasn’t. My general review of Forza:Horizons was “If I wanted an Need For Speed game, I’d have bought one”. The physics were arcade-y at best, sloppy at worst, there was none of the modification (parts) and tuning (set-up) that Forza is rightly famous for. Car’s didn’t feel particular different, and the modelling was pretty “meh” in general. I’m a car guy: I expect a lot from a brand who’ve made a name for doing car games, and specifically, a car SIMULATOR spectacularly well.

And Horizons wasn’t it.

So, enter Horizons 2.

I…

I LIKE IT, OK???

I said for months, I wasn’t going to bother, it’d just be more of the same, because Horizons sold well, so they weren’t going to fuck with the model that worked: NFS-style apparently had a market in the Forza world. Depressing, but there it was.

I was wrong.

That’s not entirely true.

The physics are not FORZA 4 or 5 accurate. But the Forza franchise is a spectacular evolution by Turn10, and Horizon isn’t made by Turn10. However. Turn10 do have a stake in it, and it’s primarily developed by PlayGround Games. It uses a heavily modified version of the new Forza Motorsports 5 engine. they physics are GOOD. They’re not awesome, but they’re good.

Upgrades.

Upgrade and tuning system is identical to Forza Motorsports. GIMMIE HALLELUJAH! This was my big thing: Forza Motorsports allows very specific additions and changes to the cars, it’s what makes it fun for me. I tend to opt out of the super-, ultra-, and exotic-cars, and racecars. They’re not that fun for me. I get the appeal for people, but again, I’m a car guy: I get more out of making something slow, fast, than just having something fast from the factory. Which means I’m far more likely to pick a 1967 Fiat Abarth 131 (Class D) and build it my way to Class A, than to buy a 2014 Corvette (Class A), in game. Tuning is the same thing: I choose my gear ratios, suspension settings, etc based on experience and knowledge, (and, honestly, I learn a lot from doing it too, about what works and what doesn’t). I want the Front Wheel Drive car I’m using to drop some of its understeer and rotate a little in teh corner? Take a few pounds out of the front springs and sway bars, add a few pounds to the rear, and remove some rear downforce, then test drive. Drive, tweak, drive, repeat.

And that was the bailiwick of only Forza Motorsports.

The good news is, that’s all now in Horizons. you don’t HAVE to do it, to win races. But if you want it, it’s there.

Better, if you’re a fan of the franchise, it’s familiar. The parts and tuning segments are lifted wholesale from previous Forza games. Awesome! So, I can make an All-wheel-drive car that balances perfectly in the corners, and I can make the same car oversteer madly if you look at it funny. Last night, on a super-tight street course, I had to turn my final gear ratio up from 3.56:1 to 6.5:1. Why? I wasn’t getting out of 3rd gear, and the engine was bogging down. I finished the race in second (just too little power to really pull it off) and was using 3rd, 4th, and 5th gears for the majority of the race, keeping the revs in the powerband.

Yes, the tuning is just THAT good, and that accurate.

The environment is beautiful, and put together brilliantly. YEs, there are “hard walls” occasionally, where they don’t want you to go. But most items are deformable (ie. you can hit them with a car and destroy them) and if they’re not, they’d realistically not be in real life (ie. you’d deform the car first). The sandbox is staggeringly huge. I’ve not seen all of it yet, and I’ve covered well over 1000 miles / 1400km. The roads are well thought out for free roaming, but also tighten down into courses really well. There’s a solid breakdown of on/off road races, and you really have to think ahead before you go into a race. This is where the tuning comes in: you’ll want to have at least an on-road and an off-road tune, for any car you use regularly: you can load the tune at the start of the race, and it swaps in tires, suspension, etc, that’s appropriate to the race you’re doing. Trying to do a cross country race on road race tires is an effort in absolute futility. Speaking of racing and free-roam, the AI is excellent too. I don’t really know how the whole “Driveatar thing works, but it really DOES work. I’ve built up rivalries with AI “Players”. Some of us just get “bumpy” with each other in races.

So, where does it fall down?

Like I said, the physics aren’t Forza Motorsports good: they’re probably… I’m going to say 70% of Forza Motorsports, and 30% NFS/Arcade. Which, honestly, broadens the appeal. I don’t have an issue with this, as long as it doesn’t flop over into the simulator that is Forza Motorsports. I think having the two products is a really good idea. So, not really a failing, just not as hard-edged as FM5.

The interface.

one of the “challenges” specifically is both really fun, and incredibly irritating, all at once. Early on, you’re assigned an easy to way to make a few bucks: take pictures of unique cars: you get credits for each one, and a bonus for every twenty.

The problem is that it takes forever to get in and out of camera mode! And you might do it three or four times on one stretch of road. It’s incredibly intrusive on the game play.

Example.

You see a Ferrari you’ve not collected yet.

You hit “pause” to go to the menu.
Across twice to “camera mode”
Wait while it loads.
move the camera sight around to get your shot.
Click the shutter.
Click “OK”
Wait for it to save.
Click “B” to go back to the camera
Click “B” to go back to the menu
Wait for the menu to load
Click “B” to go back to the road
Wait for the game to reload itself and put you back in the drivers seat.

Now, do this 200+ times (I’m currently at 218 cars captured on film).

Given how important the camera usage is within the game, there must be an easier way to go in/out of camera mode that doesn’t take up five minutes of your time.

ON a personal level, for me, the game still loads too heavily to “high end” cars, as well. I’d love to see more low end stuff, and have challenges specifically for it. The game is definitely directing me to start higher and higher, if I want to progress, and I’d rather work one car up from the bottom. I’m probably in a minority in that, however, as most people just want to get in and go.

So, all in all, it’s a good game, if not a perfect one. I can see it go either way in terms of the sliding scale between arcade and simulator. Obviously, I’d love to push the slider closer and closer to “simulator”, but at the end of the day, I’ll be happy if it just doesn’t go any further back to “arcade”. That was the primary failing of the first game, on the Xbox360. The simulator side of things is what really makes this special, I think.

I’d give it a solid 7.5/10. There’s some flaws, but they don’t ruin the game by any means. there’s also room to improve. But this is a seriously solid bridge between arcade and simulator, and should continue to do well, and attract both sides of that coin.

I retract my previous statements about the Horizons franchise. I like this game, they’ve done well.

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[gaming] It’s Coming to Gameathon Time Again!

In the same way that some people love Christmas, I love October/November. Why? Because it’s time for the Extra-Life.org Gameathon again.

I’ve organized this for two years now, and I think we’re going to do it again this year. I really do love the event, and as the money raised goes to the Children’s Miracle Network, and then funnels down to your local Children’s Hospital (CHEO, in our case), and 100% of the proceeds go to the cause, NOT to administration?

Yeah, it’s a good cause.

There is only ONE glaring problem. It’s at halloween. Specificlly, October 25th (two days after my birthday, and six days before Hallowe’en night.)

And these are my friends:

To Infinity, and Beyond 2

Bane 2

Yeah. There’s more of them, but you get the idea. Halloween is the most important day of the year, for them.

So, what to do?

Screw it. We’re doing the 25th. Yes, it IS the final-push weekend for costume creation. However,

The other thing I want to do is, make everything bigger.

Because that’s what Team Bombshelter does.

Ok, here’s the first year. See? Looked pretty cool, right? And, apparently, I never did a write-up for the second year (dunno how that happened!). But, somewhere, I do have pictures. I gotta find ’em, but they’re there.

Again, pretty sweet. We tried to do something different. A single Forza4 race. It turns out that the longest Forza4 race you can set up is about 8 hours (Class B, modified, running 200 laps of the Nordschliefe). We only made it about an hour in before SketchedOut ruined all our cars by flipping his. So, after that, we ran some shorter (10 lap) races on smaller tracks. There was also the inevitable HALO free-for-all-deathmatch, Rockband in the basement, and gaming PC’s all over the house.

I kinda want to make it bigger again this year.

I’d like to do the big race.

Scratch that. I REALLY, REALLY WANT TO DO THE BIG RACE. Especially if we’re going to be in a situation where the majority of the console gamers are going to be car guys (more on that later), due to the costume folk celebrating THEIR holiday the same day(s).

SO, I’m thinking about bringing other car clubs and/or regions/sections of car clubs in, to see if they’ll do the same thing. IF they will, and we can get a sizable group together, I want to see if Turn10 will host the race on their own servers/hardware, and broadcast it. I’ve talked about this before. But there’s not been any real sense in actually trying to do it, with only seven or eight drivers. We can do that locally.

BUt if we had, say, 32 drivers, willing to be on their xboxes for eight hours or so, maybe Turn10 WOULD in fact get involved and help us out. This is what we did last year, and I’ll be planning the race for this year, too, but I’ll do that later.

The only bad news is, I’d love to do it on Forza5, but I don’t have the hardware (xbox:one, wheel/pedals) yet. And, I don’t think enough people have new One’s yet to make it viable.

For those who’re taking part locally, I need to know:

a] that you’re coming!
b] what you’re bringing. If you’re bringing a console, you need a TV and/or Monitor, too. Gaming PC’s, same deal, right? We can help with transport if you need it.
c] How much you plan on fund raising. It’s seven weeks to the event, lots of time to bother family, friends, and co-workers for five bucks. Go sign-up on the Team Bombshelter team page at Extra-Life.org, then get to it!
d] if you’re out of town… (and this is mostly for the car community guys & girls) are you just gonna start your own team and compete with us? 🙂 If so, go to Extra Life, sign up, and create your own team.

All in all, this started as a fun thing for me to do with friends on my birthday, and ended up being a charity we raised (in two years) just about five grand for our local Children’s Hospital. I’d love to see that jump to seventy-five hundred total this year (so, team fund raising goal of $2500 for this year). It’s a good cause, and a large number of families I know have made use of the facilities at CHEO. Even five, or ten bucks helps.

Three months to go, so more details will follow, obviously.

Also, you’re welcome to Sponsor me, directly. GO SPONSOR ME NOW, I COMMAND IT.

[GAMING] Extra-Life.org 24-hour Gameathon – Plan Version 2

Well, this is getting crazy.

Right now, it looks like we have the previously mentioned ultimate rockband set-up happening.

Additionally, I’m setting up at least one table, possibly two, for PC gamers.  At least one person is bringing their desktop rig, three or four are bringing their own Alienware laptops, and it appears we may get to borrow some machines directly from Alienware.  WTF??  How does THAT happen?

The xbox thing continues to grow, I think.  The three are guaranteed, with a 32″, 42″, and 47″ TV to run ’em on.  We may also have another 42″ TV showing up, in which case, I think the second 42″ will join the 47″ and first 42″, and the 32″ will go upstairs with the Wii, where there will be a MarioKart Tournament.

Problem now is, where do we plug all this stuff in?

And the problem is solved by the arrival of at least one, but possibly two 8-port switches, an additional router, and… Hunh. I guess I need to see if we’ve got enough CABLE for all this, too, although I’m sure a bunch of the PC’s will be able to hit the wireless just fine.

It also occurs to me I’m gonna need a ‘charging station’ area for people’s phones/tablets, etc.

On top of all that, we’re now sitting in the “closing on $1000” range in donations for the team, so if I might respectively bug anyone who’s reading, once more, for a donation? I’d LOVE to see the team break that threshold, with only three weeks of fundraising.

marks donation page

Or, you can go to the Team’s page, and make a donation to anyone of the team members: team bombshelter donation page

As of this writing, we’re at $661 showing.  HOwever, Jeremy “The Senatron” Strydonck got in costume last weekend and wandered around downtown soliciting small-change donations.  He came up with a hundred and thirty bucks.  I also know I have at least another hundred bucks coming in donations, as long as everyone who’s promised a donation makes one.  That puts the team around nine hundred dollars (and semi-officially at $791).

With four days left to go, I’m CERTAIN we can break a grand.

WON’T YOU THINK OF THE CHILDREN?