May 20, 2005

More Forza Thoughts

by peterb

I'm still not ready to give my full review, because I'm still evaluating the game.

That being said, I have spent the past 2 hours saying "well, just one more race," and my heart is pumping in a way that it hasn't been since the San Francisco tracks of the original Project Gotham Racing. So I would be remiss if the last thing I left you with for the weekend was my cryptic "Hmmmmmmm" from yesterday.

Visually, the game is unrivalled. Even though it obviously borrows a lot from Gotham 2 in terms of the game engine, it looks better. A lot better. The palette is richer than in PGR2, which was a game that was unremittingly swathed in the dark gray concrete of street racing. Good use is made of different times of day and sunlight and shadow. The cars are lovingly modeled, although they can look a little plasticky, at times.

Part of why I'm liking the game more than GT4, so far, has nothing to do with the game itself, but with the controllers. The Xbox controllers are a joy to use in driving games. The buttons on the PS2 controllers, while technically "analog" have so little feel that they might as well be digital. The Xbox has long triggers with deep throws, that are perfect for feathering through sharp corners. I'm convinced that the Controller S is the best possible hand-held controller for driving games.

The music sucks. But fortunately, it supports soundtracks, so I can drive to Los Straitjackets or Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, instead.

But at this point, I think I'm on the verge of saying too much when I haven't played enough to be sure that I'm accurate. Rest assured, I'll be spending the weekend driving and writing, to give you the full scoop next week.

I just won a Lancer Evolution VIII from a hill climb race, and it's time to take it for a spin.

Posted by peterb at May 20, 2005 10:07 PM | Bookmark This

Out of curiosity, how are the courses? How is the Nordschleife? And do you plan on getting a wheel?

Posted by Chad at May 21, 2005 08:46 AM

I haven't tried Nordschleife yet. Of the real-world tracks, so far I've raced Tsukuba, Road Atlanta, and Laguna Seca. I'm enjoying them a lot. The city tracks are fun (I've tried New York and Tokyo so far), but not as good as the racing circuits. The use of bump mapping on the tracks is great, and there's a real feeling of elevation changes that is somehow missing from most of GT4. (To be clear: plenty of tracks in GT4 do have elevation changes. You just _feel_ them more in Forza.) The roads have a texture that you can feel.

I've also done the transcendent Mount Fuji hill climb. I don't actually have words to describe how incredibly super-fantastic this track is. It's like they took all of the hill climbs from Rallisport Challenge, put them in a pot, and then boiled away the nonessentials to leave you with the absolute perfect essence of the ultimate hill climb track.

And the downhill, well -- let's just say if you've seen _Initial D_, you know what the downhills are like.

I won't be getting a wheel. There are two reasons for this. First off, I already own a USB force-feedback wheel that I bought for my PC which works great with the Playstation. I am offended by Microsoft's egregious breaking of the USB connector standard for the Xbox; if they hadn't been jerks, I would just be able to use my existing wheel. Because they were jerks about this, they expect me to drop another $100 (or however much) on another huge controller that I don't actually have space for, even though that controller is basically exactly the same as the one I already own, but just with a different shaped adapter on the end of its USB cable. Thanks, but no thanks.

Second, even though I have the wheel for the PS2, I never actually use it with that system. The simple fact is that a steering wheel setup is designed to be used in a certain position: the position you'd be in if you were sitting in a car. If the pedals and the wheel aren't aligned just the same, then it ends up being a completely different experience. Since I don't really want to squander the space to attach the force feedback wheel to a frame with the correct orientation, it's controllers-only for me. (When using the PC, I can attach it to the desk; no such luck with the Playstation). (There are some people who are able to enjoy using a steering wheel with the base in their lap. I ain't one of those people; I find it intolerable).

Posted by peterb at May 21, 2005 09:18 AM

Hm, since I'm a HUGE fan of Initial D (going back all the way to the early fansubs), that comment about downhill racing almost kinda made me want to get an Xbox. Can you do it at night?

I understand about the wheel and pedals setup. Guess I'm one of those people who is perfectly happy with the rubber floor grips and the lap base. ;)

p.s. did you hear about Mission 34? Background (if you haven't played it): Driving Mission 34 is by far the hardest thing in Gran Turismo, including all golds in the GT3 license tests. Perhaps the hardest thing I've ever done in a game period. You're in a really poorly tuned Mercedes SLR McLaren on the Nordschleife and you have to catch up to an SL300 that has a two-minute head start on you. In one lap. Polyphony Digital SOMEHOW managed to give the PAL and NTSC versions of the game different handicaps. In NTSC, you start 123 seconds behind. In PAL, you start 115 seconds behind. In addition, *some* of the PAL versions, depending on where you get the game, have the 123 second handicap! I don't know if it was an honest mistake, but damn. ALSO, you have to wait the ENTIRE TWO MINUTES while the other cars start EVERY TIME YOU RETRY.

After days of running the ring *and* cutting the grass twice (I didn't ride the wall, at least), I _barely_ won: 200 milliseconds lead at the finish (out of a nine minute test).

Posted by Chad at May 21, 2005 01:15 PM

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