Saturday, June 23, 2012

Need For Speed, Burnout, DiRT Showdown, Innovation: Thrown In The Trash

So anyway, Electronic Arts's creep continues to expand throughout the Orlando region as they had a big announcement in the FIEA building early on Friday morning (damn you EA for making me wake up so early).  This included news cameras, University of Central Florida guys, and even Florida Governor Rick Scott who made an appearance (I shook his hand while the petty lib gamers stood way in the back).  But whatever you think of politicians, we can all agree on one thing and that is Electronic Arts sucks.

EA is opening up an "Innovation Lab" right down the hall from the FIEA headquarters (we're housed in the same building as some other arty-farty UCF programs).  EA and innovation...two words that sound awkward together, huh?  Innovation for what--new Madden touchdown celebrations?  The small studio (with desks for 20 employees) had some nice digs though.  EDIT: If you're curious, here's a Joystiq article on the new studio.

But nevertheless, EA is slowly creeping up on us.  They plan on building even more studios across from us where the demolished Amway Center once stood.  Sorry, EA, but a couple of fancy buildings and IKEA furniture isn't going to make us like you even more.  Money can't buy friends, but a focus on true quality and respect for the individual (BOTH employees and consumers) does, plain and simple.  BTW, EA's stocks are going down, I love it, cocky EA taking a hit for once.

But I'm not talking about EA anymore.  God forbid I actually have to mention the letter "E" followed by an "A" ever again.  They wouldn't bother me so much if A. the games industry still had some credibility left (i.e. the Japanese games industry--Sega in particular--was still competitive and not everything revolved around cinematics/production value/uber-violence instead of solid gameplay) and B. if I weren't trapped in Electronic Arts Land down here in Orlando, FL.  Seriously, why doesn't EA open up a theme park already?  Might as well at the rate of "innovations" they've made in the "entertainment" industry.

BUT IT GETS EVEN BETTER!!!  I feel bad for the Need for Speed series--I really do.  You could call it decent up through the Underground series but now, it's a joke.  Since Black Box did such a crap job turning NFS into a movie (see Undercover & The Run), Criterion is now in charge of any future iterations for some unknown period of time.  In other words, NFS is now Burnout with a different name.

What happened here?  Why couldn't EA just let Criterion make Burnout games?  Were they that obsessed with that fetish-ized name "Need for Speed" that they needed to recycle not just the same name but also the same subtitles (Hot Pursuit, Most Wanted)?  Can't they keep the Burnout name so I can more easily identify Criterion's dreck?  Oh, and that NFS movie?  They're seriously going to make it now.  I have no expectations for this "summer blockbuster flick."  If they have that Razor Callahan dude, then maybe it'll be entertaining but I doubt it.  Lord Have Mercy on the Need for Speed brand since it's now a circus act for everyone to mock & ridicule (you heard it from me a while back!).

But hey, at least Forza is now Need for Speed!  You know, Forza Horizon looks like the old-school Need for Speeds but it still irks me somewhat.  However, as gaming evolution would have it, I wouldn't be surprised if in 5-10 years Forza turned into a crashing arcade racer too.  All modern-day racing series start out great.  Then they eventually...Burnout.  YYYYYYEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Anyway, one more racing game before I call it quits.  This is Dirt Showdown.  I saw this on Giant Bomb's quick plays and what the hell, let's check it out.

The first thing that grinds my gears is the Twitter hashtag you see RIGHT THERE AT THE TITLE SCREEN.  WHY IS THIS NECESSARY???  ARE WE SO EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED TO OUR SOCIAL MEDIA THAT WE NEED TO STICK IN EVERY ONE OF OUR GAMES IN SOME WAY???  Putting that aside, the rest of the game's not shocking.  The color hues are still screwed up enough to make me nauseous.  The racing looks okay but the Miami track they chose is this incredibly confined strip of road that barely does racing justice at all.  The Gymkhana/Tony Hawk "complete these goals" levels are okay, I guess.  Needs more pyrotechnics and "bro-sif" Ken Block stuff I guess.  Oh, and there's demolition derbies too.  The wrecks are incredibly tame which is guess is nice but any wrecking mini-games (ripped right out of Big Bumpin) come off as very plain.  In other words, I'm not offended by this game but I'm underwhelmed just looking at it.

I assume DiRT Showdown didn't sell well at all.  Can you blame 'em?  This isn't rally racing like we know it (play Sega Rally instead, you bastards).  I've mentioned this conundrum several times but here goes again.  A lot of racing games have come out recently that have bombed in terms of sales and/or quality--Split/Second, Motorstorm, Blur, Dirt Showdown, Sonic Riders (G-D Kinect), Fuel, Grid, the "bad" Need for Speeds, et. al.  Even though I don't really like many of these games in terms of style, gameplay, or some other reason altogether, am I still somehow obligated to buy them because I'm a racing game fan?  Or should I sit back and watch as our beloved racing genre continues to flail like a fish out of water?  Will the failure of mainstream racing games result in even fewer ones being made in the future?

A lot of racing games can't do straight-up traditional racing well so they coat it with all this fancy crap that seems to fail.  We only have one hope left and that is Sonic All-Stars Racing 2.  If this game bombs, then we're finished.  I have no faith in a future run by Burnouts--err, Need for Speeds, wannabe-poser racing sims like Forza, and Mario Karts.  It's a mess.  At least Sonic All-Stars 2 looks okay so far but the whole Danica thing is awkward.  Just stay tuned for more details and pray for Sumo to deliver in spades.  Amen.

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