Sunday, October 28, 2012

Forza Horizon: YOLO!!!

Forza Horizon is out.  And as you'd expect, the gaming media has already proclaimed it the greatest racing game ever made.  Well, there's a few defectors who gave it less than the fabled 9/10, but a lot of people did including our beloved Giant Bomb.  Seriously, with this and the Lazily Named NFS: Most Wanted, that's it--we racing aficionados are set for life.  Sega might as well pack it in now cause they will never topple Forza Horizon and Need for Speed: Most Wanted.  Cause those are the greatest racing games ever made.  It's like the American Idol Randy and the stupid judges always proclaim "yo dawg, you're the best singer we've ever had" to every singer and "talent-wise, this is the best season ever" every season despite the fact that ratings have been going down and the AI contestants have sold fewer albums each passing year.  That makes sense.

So what do I care what these people think.  When I think of gaming media, I think of honest intellectuals like Geoff Keighley who were not paid off or bribed in any way:

EDIT: Before I go on, check out my buddy RStyle's Forza Horizon demo opinions too.  They are much kinder than mine, lol.

So anyway, I downloaded the bigass 1.5 GB Forza Horizon demo. Let's give this a spin. After watching the wonderful cutscene full of women, energy drinks, and bad hiphop/dubstep, I enter the free-roam world of a faceless white guy driving a yellow Dodge Viper. Drive down the road to the first race and pick the Mitsubishi Lancer and go dirt racing. Wow, I've never played a racing game on dirt, groundbreaking stuff there, Forza. Then I came in first, won some credits, and drove the Viper in free-roam some more. Plowed into a PT Cruiser, both cars came to a dead stop, and eventually the Viper started nudging the PT Cruiser in reverse. It was then that I realized this game is a f***ing waste of my brain cells.

Ok, that was harsh, I admit, this is actually a good game that has some limited value.  But I'll be damned if this isn't another Need for Speed clone, minus the obligatory cop chases. You know the phrase "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, it must be a duck?" Well, this is a Need for Speed game for that same reason. The car handling is old-fashioned unresponsive NFS-style as my car sort of just "floats" forward as I try to follow that stupid green line. I don't care if this is "realistic" or not--it drives me nuts that this is how every mainstream racing game handles these days.

I need a citation for this, but I believe it was Shigeru Miyamoto who said about the original Super Mario Bros., "When you press A, we wanted Mario to jump. Not 'sort-of jump'. Not 'starting to jump'. But JUMP instantly." Which probably explains why SMB is lauded as revolutionizing the platform genre. And when I press left or right on the joystick, I want the car to turn left or right, not drift in that direction with the incentive of a Lazy College Senior.

I don't think this game has manual transmission either. Maybe if I sifted through the Dirt Showdown style menus with the stupid cyan-magenta-orange burnt-in hues, then maybe I can find it but I didn't have the incentive to look. Really, right after the demo, I fired up Forza 4 and I thought the handling was more responsive in F4 (with normal cars, not fancy R1 cars). Hey, at least Forza 4 runs at friggin 60 fps while Forza Horizon settled for 30.  Yes, I know Sega All-Stars Racing runs at 30 fps too--I dealt with that enough in the past.  So I just cannot call Forza Horizon a Forza game, I'm sorry (then again, I'm not really crying over one less Forza game either...don't we have enough racing "sims" as it is).

I was thinking about the game in a nutshell. Here you are, a bunch of underground free riders breaking all sorts of laws at some "speed festival" with fridge buzz over the radio as you go free-roaming through the forest/desert dodging traffic in the same typical lineup of sports cars doing drifts for "epic points."  Why there are no cops ANYWHERE in the vicinity is beyond me.  And then it hit me--this game is a fad.  Might as well market it in Hot Topic since that's all it is.  Today's "flavor" of racing game is the Need for Speed model with meaningless stunts and bad music.  The whole game is derivative.  Seriously, what does Forza Horizon do that is revolutionary?  You race at night?  Wow, brilliant, I've never played a night racing game before.  Oh, but you can also race against the plane!  Surprise, this is a driving game, I couldn't give a crap about the plane.  By the way, both those things you could do in OutRun 2, a game that came out eight years ago.

Look at it this way.  Take Daytona USA (again).  I assume most everyone reading this blog likes this game.  Well, take note of when it came out.  1994 ('93 if you want to get picky but that was a limited Japanese release).  Daytona USA is 18 years old and we are still talking about it.  We like the handling, the music, the multiplayer.  We clamored about it enough to get emulators and official ports of it many years later!  Same thing with Crazy Taxi, OutRun 2, Sega Rally, Scud Race, Daytona 2--ports are coming and more people are getting the chance to find out about these "gems" (DAE PLAY DIS GAEM???) and they like them.  And it was because the content of these games are original.  Sure, arcade racers with drift mechanics were popular in the 90's, but I can tell you when Nagoshi-San and the AM2 sat down at the roundtable to discuss Daytona USA and others, it's apparent their first thought was "let's make a good racing game" as opposed to "let's make a marketable racing game."

Now how about Forza Horizon.  This game was released in 2012.  Let's assume that society is still intact in 2030, 18 years from now.  Do you think we're gonna give a damn about Forza Horizon then?  Or will it be another one of those derivative racing games that we got hyped up about but stopped caring a year later?  I'm willing to bet the latter.  And the same thing will happen to Need for Speed: Most Wanted too.  Hence the term "YOLO!!!"  Cause you're dead in a few years, Forza & Need for Speed.

That's why I'm hoping and praying for Sonic & Sega All-Stars: Transformed.  Cause at least it's not a total clone of its main influence (Mario Kart).  And it's why I'm sick and tired of racing games these days.  I'm done.


  1. Oh how I love that picture of Geoff Keighley! This is the legacy of game journalism: a man sitting comfortably with an all-too serious look on his face, flanked by a table of several servings worth of Mountain Dew and Doritos.

    But anyway, Forza Horizon. I posted my impressions of the demo on my own blog, which is linked in my username, but basically the gist of it is that while Forza Horizon doesn't try anything new, it does do certain things well that other games in the past have attempted and failed at.

    The biggest problem with open-world driving games, as you talk about in this post, is that they are designed to be marketable. They aren't meant to appeal to a niche audience that really cares. They have always been the video game equivalent of a Transformers movie: loud, accessible action that is ultimately dull, flat, and uninspired.

    Given the direction Microsoft has gone with the television ads I've seen, Forza Horizon doesn't appear to break the mold. On the surface, it looks like another dubstep-infused who-gives-a-fuck romp about, the likes of Split/Second or Need for Speed Underground. But when I actually played the game, I realized that's not what it is at all.

    First off, it has the best physics of any open-world driving game I've ever played. This continues to be the number one problem with most arcade racers these days, developers screw up the handling. Burnout, Test Drive Unlimited, Midnight Club, Blur, Split/Second, the list goes on. Even NFS Most Wanted, which I've bought and am enjoying, still gets it wrong. Feels like you're driving a dump truck, and then you press the handbrake button and you're sideways all of a sudden. Horrible.

    I love the environment, too. In every other open-world racer, I feel like I'm driving through Cleveland. Gritty, flat, boring, right-angle intersections. Test Drive Unlimited was excellent in this respect, but ultimately irrelevant because every other aspect of the game was broken. Horizon's Colorado is a place I'd actually want to drive explore. This, to me, seems like a very Sega-ish aspect of the game. Sega's racers were always set in beautiful, sunny, vibrant locales, and Horizon is very similar in that respect.

    I could go on about this forever and a day. I do agree that arcade racers aren't even half as decent as they once were. The great thing about the late '90s was that you not only had Sega and Namco, but also a bunch of studios coming out of left field and pumping out hits (not hits in the sales sense, but in the sense of being freakin' awesome). But, I would give Horizon and even Most Wanted a bit more credit. They aren't Sega caliber, but then what is?

  2. Thanks for your input dude. My review was a bit callous and I could've played the game longer. Even if I say "waste of brain cells," I suppose I'm talking about how the game isn't for me. The game is good, as it should be for a triple-A studio.

    As for the environments, yeah, the game is beautiful. And I totally agree with you about other games looking like Cleveland ( because cities have been done to death in racing games.

    But what I'm saying is that there's always a "most beautiful racing game" every couple of years. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Burnout 3 (I guess, wrecks are nicely done after all), etc. That's not to say I hate beautiful racing games (well look at Sega racers, they're beautiful) but saying "it's beautiful so it must be bought" is kind of dumb, especially since I could just wait a few years and a more beautiful game comes out. There needs to be other redeeming factors and you mentioned them--the physics are outstanding--I mean, maybe. I didn't have much fun playing the game and I'm about to try out a 1-month iRacing trial soon so if I wanted great physics, know where I'm going there.

    Forza Horizon will sell well for a racing game (mediocre compared to action/FPS games but oh well) and it'll be good. You make a lot of good points but from my point of view, eh...the game kinda sucks.

    BTW, with marijuana legalization in Colorado, let's add a bunch of tokers and Taco Bells to the game, that would be hilarious :D