Those games are all the same? Good and Bad

I was lucky enough to get 4 great xbox games for Christmas this (I mean last) year. They were on my wish list as I had not got around to some of them in the whirlwind of 2012.
The games were Halo 4, Far Cry 3, Need for Speed : Most Wanted and Forza Horizons. So at face value and in the “let classify everything into a genre” categories there are two first person shooters and two driving games. They are however very different. To a non gamer (assuming there are any left) it may seem like duplication if things are resolved to being “just a game” and not a complete experience.
Take Forza Horizon.

It is a free roaming driving game and a follow up to Forza 4 where up to now all the Forza games have been track based. It has given a different feel and a background story to the reason you are collecting fast cars and razzing them around some fantastic Colorado scenery. Forza has always had very convincing physics models for the cars and this is greatly enhanced with a force feedback steering wheel. The wheel also makes life more interesting in making manual gear changes feel right. Driving around the cars feel big and substantial when you slide or drift you feel you are probably on the edge of something bad about to happen so you try and drive just right (at least with the steering wheel). It is actually just nice to drive around the huge area in your favourite car listening to some tunes. Having oncoming traffic and other road users makes it a bit more tricky to go flat out without wrecking. It feels like driving and racing. For me it makes drags me into a reality. I am sure you can sit back and play it like bumper cars but that does it a dis-service.

Need For Speed : Most Wanted on the other hand is a free roaming driving game that instills a very different yet equally enjoyable feeling. in NFS you go flat out most of the time, skitting around cars, performing drifts to earn crazy nitrous boost flicking in and out of traffic working on pure reactions. Pretty much every bit of driving has you diving left, right left, thinking yes I am in the zone, then kaboom a massive crash with sparks and shards and physics engine components working over time. Recompose yourself and then blast off again. It is a game where you look for unusual ramps and signs and work out how to get to crash through them like a hollywood stuntman. It is of course really just Burnout Paradise II but as that was such a fun and amazing fast experience thats no bad thing. I do remember the original Need For Speed games way back that were actually more like Forza in their realism. It was the first game I remember hearing the thud thud of running of the cats eyes as you crossed the white line in the centre of the road to overtake a slow moving car whilst being chased by the police. Now we have the police chases but it is not one or two cars but an army of them like Blues Brothers or Smokey and the Bandit.
So they are both very different experiences, invoking very different emotional responses. Of course if you don’t like cars they probably will invoke the same eye rolling not again response.
There is one similarity though that is a bad attribute. That is the way having bought the game you are constantly bombarded in game with the opportunities to buy new DLC (downloadable content). Clearly with cars and car models wanting to collect more makes sense to a fan. However Forza on its main menu has an option for Horizon Rally, this makes it look like it is part of the game, but click it and it guides you to buy quite a pricey extra add on. It’s another £14 and is already there. It is worse in NFS though. As you drive around you discover new cars to drive, that is part of the game mechanic, however sometimes you arrive at a car and there it is, the model is already in your game sat there but it then says you can go and buy this form the shop to unlock it.
Both these tactics are annoying, they probably work a little but it seems that the concepts of freemium are being applied to things that are already full price. That’s not really very fair. When predlet 2.0 plays NFS which he loves he is playing on his own non xbox live account. i.e. he is not connected to the shop. Playing NFS he still sees these cars so he is being shown something in game that he can never really attain.
I know these things cost a lot of money, I do buy DLC to extend games but it seems just a little bit shabby when the rest of the experience is so much fun.
On a positive note both games use Kinect voice recognition to let you engage with menu’s whilst driving though it does seem a little bit sensitive when other people are in the room talking and it triggers thinking you have said “rear view”… crash….
Also Horizon has a Smartglass application with it which means on my iphone (or on another tablet) you can get the GPS map up on the phone whilst driving around in the car. This second screen type of experience is becoming more popular and accessible. It will be interesting to see where it goes.
What abut Halo 4 and Far Cry 3? well so far I have only played a little bit of Halo, but it seems pretty much business as usual, wandering between set pieces in a defined order. It does look fantastic. Far Cry 3 though is proving a much more interesting experience, but I think that needs a post of it’s own next time 🙂
****Update
Wasn't imagining it
I am not sure if this is NFS being clever and looking at names or if this is built in and just a coincidence but I was pleased to see Hughes Park in NFS:Most wanted and equally surprised that there was Reynolds avenue leading to it. The reason for this resonating was that back in 06/07 @rooreynolds and I, and quite a lot of the eightbar members had areas names after them in Second Life. We had adjoining marina’s 🙂 It was a great honour for that to happen. So this was a great gaming flashback 🙂

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