Lameazoid.com Rotating Header Image

XBoxOne

Forza Horizon 4 (PC, Xbox One)

Microsoft – 2018

The Good

  • Stunning Visuals
  • Gameplay has a ton of variety and courses and cars
  • The car Livery system is pretty great

The Bad

  • The PC version is a pretty mediocre port of the console version
  • There are a lot of bugs.
  • The Online Scene isn’t great

Racing is a genre of games that I don’t really obsess over but I often come back to. It’s quite possibly my secret favorite genre. I bought an N64 so I could play Cruisin USA, I played a ton of Gran Turismo 2 on my Playstation, I played a bunch of Need for Speed games. the only X-Box 360 title I have played with any amount of play time was Forza Motorsport 4.

I’d been kind of looking at trying one of the Forza games in the Windows 10 store, though I was a little apprehensive early on because, well, it’s the Windows 10 store. I’ve used Windows 10 enough that I can say I’m ok with keeping it around some so I went ahead and decided to dive into Forza Horizon 4, which is the newest title in the series. It was on sale and I had a bunch of Bing Rewards credit so I picked up the Ultimate Edition for a steal and have been playing it pretty regularly since.

So, Forza consists of two core series. The Forza Motorsport Series is a more traditional “Pick a race and run it” style game, the Forza Horizon series is a more open world experience. Each of the Horizon games take place in an approximation of a different real world region, Forza Horizon 4 takes place in the countryside of the UK near Edinburgh. It centers around the Horizon Festival, which is a sort of gathering for racers to show off their skills in different types of racing. The point is, there is some sort of vague plot to this game, you meet with some of the organizers and they give little cut scenes occasionally. Each race type culminates in a longer showcase event, that one of the characters has been building up to. It’s not going to win any writing awards, but it’s there. There are sub stories as well, though it all amounts to an excuse to drive a car and win some sort of race.

For example, one of the sub stories is a series of events hosted by a Vlogger who is showing off cars that appeared in video games over the years. Like the Ferrari from Outrun or the
Lamborghini Countach from Test Drive. Another has you participating in a series of outlandish stunts as you work do some side work for a filmmaker as a Stunt Driver. There are a series of special event races which culminates in a Halo themed run driving a Warthog. Another has you race a massive hovercraft as it storms over the terrain.

These are all in addition to the more standard races that make up the core Horizon Festival series. The Horizon races are broken up into types you might expect, Off-road racing with trucks, Street races with lots of tight corners and turns, Road races which are a little more forgiving than street races and have a few more straightaways. You start off with only a handful of events available but unlock more as you level up your skill in each type of race. Eventually the entire map is essentially covered in events.

The map itself is pretty good size. It can take a pretty good while to circle the entire area, and even just traveling across it can take five to ten minutes, depending on how much you go off road or what car you’re driving. In addition to race events, there are all sorts of activities on the map itself. Speed Trap challenges to achieve a high speed at a certain point, Drift Zones where you accumulate points by drifting around a series of turns, or Danger Signs where the object is to see how far you can jump your car. Like regular races and mini stories, doing these activities, unlocks other activities.

When all of this gets old, there’s also the hourly Forzathon events, which are sort of impromptu gatherings of players who all work to do the world activities for accumulated points. These, admittedly, get a little old, they last 10-15 minutes and it involves doing the same speed trap or danger sign jump over and over and over and over while a meter inches upwards for the group. It really feels like these could be given some more variety, maybe a series of checkpoints for everyone to race through that span the map or something. These events give special Forzathon Points which can be used to buy special weekly exclusive items.

Thinking of buying, the game’s other progression system is through accumulating cars and player outfits. You can’t exit your vehicle but your avatar appears on race start and completion screens and shows up in your car driving. You earn clothes and cars through a variety of methods, winning races and leveling up the different race types is one. You can outright buy cars with your winnings. You can also win prizes through Wheelspins which are earned from victories and leveling up your character. These are pretty much what they sound like. A big prize wheel spins and you get an item afterwards.

It’s notable to add that there is no real world cash shop. You buy the game, and that’s it. The Wheelspins especially feel like something that would normally be a “pay $1.99 and get a wheelspin” item but there is no way to buy extra wheelspins. They must be earned by racing. This is good because frankly, micro transactions are kind of hurting the game industry. It’s a little frustrating since it means you get a loot box that you can’t control and may get some garbage emote out of it instead of that rare car that happened to show up as an option. Fortunately the game pretty much showers you with Wheelspins.

So, while there aren’t any micro transactions, this does lead into my first complaint. I purchased the Ultimate Edition on sale, so it didn’t seem too bad, but the game kind of feels like it almost needs the $99 Ultimate Edition package, for anyone who has any intention of seriously playing the game and the expansions. In addition to including the current (Fortune Island) and unknown second expansion, the Ultimate Edition comes with a ton of cars and the VIP Pass, which includes a bunch of perks like double experience and free wheelspins and whatnot, all things that make the progression of the game fly by.

My other major problem comes from how shoddy the PC port itself feels. The game itself plays well and looks great and on the whole, I am happy, but it has a lot of weird quirks and a lot of bugs that feels like they stem from the whole “Windows 10 Cross Play Xbox experience” or whatever it’s called. For example, there is an elaborate and nice Photo Mode in the game, but the only way to get the photos into a useful sharable format is to first share them to your Forza Profile on the Forza website. I mean you can print screen them, but the actual export produces a much nicer quality image.

I also feel like the lack of a user defined radio stems from this weird Xbox wrapper. The in game radio is all right but gets a little old after a while, having the ability to point a user radio station to a folder of MP3s would be amazing. You can play whatever music you want of course on something else, but the game is really bad about auto turning to a new radio station during races and the console version apparently doesn’t have a way to permanently mute the radio at all on the volume slider. Between this missing feature and the lack of screen shots saving to the drive, it’s like the game just doesn’t have access to the file system. It’s more of a Windows 10 problem than a Game problem, but it’s kind of a problem.

On Windows 10 problems, I have also had problems getting updates to take and the game to launch, a problem others have had as well. Sometimes it just doesn’t launch with no helpful errors. I also had to do a complete reinstall to get the Fortune Island DLC to take.

I also kind of hate the complete lack of in game chat, which i understand is also a side effect of the cross play aspects with the Xbox One. The text chat is all done via these little emote meme phrases and you can only “equip” 4 at a time.

Most of these problems, aside from the literal game breaking updating issue, aren’t game breaking. The pluses really outweigh those negatives. Racing games aren’t for everyone, but this one is pretty awesome. It’s visually amazing and the lack of micro transactions despite how easy it would have been to add them is really great. I’d definitely recommend the game, especially if it’s on sale.

Review – Overwatch (PC, PS4, X-Box One)

The Good

  • Fun Team based Gameplay
  • Loot system that never feels like you need to buy anything (though you can)
  • Large variety in game modes

The Bad

  • No way to trade duplicate item drops with other people
  • Game can feel a little repetitive after a while, several maps feel like facelift copies of each other
  • Social aspects could use some work

In Depth

It’s really hard not to compare Overwatch to Team Fortress 2.  They have vaguely similar art styles, the game play is the same sort of class based team shooter game, and the whole attitude in design is sort of “fantastical cartoon” without seeming overly kiddified.  Having played more TF2 than probably any other title except possibly World of Warcraft, I will say they are definitely similar and definitely gunning for the same audience.  Overwatch takes some different queues though in how it works things, which help to differentiate itself a lot from TF2, which leaves some space for both titles.

If you enjoy Team Fortress 2, you will very likely enjoy Overwatch, especially if you’re like me and got driven away from TF2 once the whole economy thing became the focus of the game more than playing the game.  This touches a bit on both a good and bad aspect of Overwatch.  Item drops come in the form of loot crates, which each contain 4 items, skins, sprays, emotes, voice lines, etc.  Nothing that drops is game affecting in any way, it’s all cosmetic.  The things that you’re likely going to care about the most, ie skins, are more rare than things that are kind of useless like sprays.  As of this time, there isn’t anyway to trade items with other players.  Extra items are converted into in game currency that can be used to buy different items.  This is a good thing and a bad thing.  It’s kind of bad because I’d much rather trade an extra rare skin for a different skin I want rather than converting it into a tiny pile of coins.  It’s good be because it helps keep Overwatch from developing an economy, which personally, kind of ruined Team Fortress 2.

You can also buy Loot Boxes, they aren’t a super great price, but they aren’t overly expensive.  Unlike Battlefield 1, you get a lot of them just by playing the game, and each contains 4 items.  You get a free box for every level you gain on your account, and you can get an additional 3 boxes each week for 9 wins in Arcade Mode.  There are also seasonal ranked matches which I believe give some kind of reward in the form of loot.  There is also the currency you collect in game through drops and duplicate items, so you can simply save up and buy the specific cosmetic item that you are after for your favorite character.  The point is, you can more than get away with getting plenty of items just by playing the game.

But enough about loot, it needed mentioning, but it’s also kind of an aside to the game.

The real core of the game is of course, gameplay, and with it, the roster of characters.  It’s also where Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 really differ.  Team Fortress 2 has 9 classes, though each of these classes can be set up through different loadouts to have different play styles.  Demoman for example, plays differently than Demoknight.  Overwatch instead simply has, more characters, 23 of them, with more being added over time to add more variety.  For example, both Sombra and Ana were added after the game’s launch.  Each character is surprisingly unique in play style and design and for the most part the game is pretty well balanced.

For the most part.  Some characters are definitely more played and more powerful than others.  That isn’t to say that you won’t see every character at some point while playing.  However you’ll see way more D.Va and Roadhog than Zaraya for the Tanks.  Also, each character gets an Ultimate Ability which can be unleashed after filling a meter by dealing and taking damage and even just over time.  Ultimates such as D.Va’s exploding mechsuit are super useful at wiping out an entire team, while other’s such as Sombra’s EMP or Tracer’s lame little grenade are kind of less useful.

There is definitely enough character variety to suit any preferred play style.  Also, except in certain game modes, characters are limited to one per team, so no need to worry about having a dozen snipers hanging around in the back ala Team Fortress 2.  There’s only one real sniper, (two but one is a healer), so you’ll only have one useless player hanging around 500 miles back.

Speaking of game modes, there’s the regular Quick Play, and Arcade.  Quick Play works as you might expect, select a character, then play in one of several pretty standard play modes, control points, push a cart, king of the hill, etc.  There’s also Arcade Mode, where things get a little more varied.  Most of the maps work the same, but there are elimination modes, where you die and don’t revive, unlimited mode where there aren’t limits on how many heroes can be on a team, 1v1 matches, or even specialized holiday maps.

That said, some of the maps can get a little repetitive.  The basic designs tend to be pretty different but many of them feel like there was a punch list of features to be added, main path, side path to the right, one upper platform.  It’s kind of subtle but there’s several that feel like at a base level, they are the same map.  Like if you took out the buildings and just made everything squared out walls, you’d have identical layouts.

Things like the arcade mode really help to break this repetition up a lot though.  There are several modes available and they cycle occasionally on what’s available.  Things like Mystery Heroes, where you get a random hero each death, or All Brawls, where all sorts of crazy rules come into play.  Some of the All Brawls limit teams to certain types of heroes such as all offense only.  Some let you pick only Genji and Hanzo, the two brothers.  One of the craziest is This is Illios mode, where Roadhogs and Lucio’s battle it out over  giant pit, the goal is more to throw your opponent in the pit than kill them.

Possibly my chief real complaint is that the social system seems kind of crappy, especially coming off of Team Fortress 2.  Granted, I was admin on a Team Fortress 2 server with a forum and a community and a clan, but Blizzard as a whole just has a pretty mediocre social set up next to Steam and Valve.  This is more of a complaint with Battlenet of course than Overwatch.  For example, I can’t just friend someone by saying I am “RamenJunkie”, because Battlenet adds these lame numbers so I’m “RamenJunkie#1476”.  There also just feels like there is less of a community in Overwatch vs Team Fortress 2.  No one uses voice either, which makes things feel a little lonely.

The bottom line is, Overwatch is a lot of fun and a great game.  If you’re not into FPS games you may not like it, if you prefer some gritty “realism” FPS games you may not like it, of course, but it is a good game.  I picked up Battlefield 1 and Overwatch around the same time period, and while Battlefield 1 started out as my preferred of the two, it grew really stale, while Overwatch has grown on me as being a lot more fun, and feels like it’s going to ultimately have more staying power of these two FPS titles.

Review – Shadow Complex (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

2009, 2015 – Chair – 1 Player

The Good

  • Metroidvania games are pretty much awesome by default.
  • Interesting use of 2D and 3D
  • Fun gameplay and puzzles

The Bad

  • Not a lot of enemy variety.
  • Controls can be frustrating at times
  • Bosses are kind of a joke

tl;dr Review

I, like many others I gather, often have a pile of games from bundles that never end up getting played.  Recently Shadow Complex appeared in a Humble Bundle and came recommended, so I opted to actually give it a shot.  I was really surprised just how good it ended up being.

I was also surprised that it’s a Metroidvania style game,  That is, it’s a side scrolling, room based platform game full of puzzles and upgrades and the repeated need to retread old ground with new abilities.  These sorts of games, as a whole are pretty fun.  And Shadow Complex is no exception.  It’s also somewhat unique being a modern day sort of setting for such a game.

It’s not without it’s flaws though, the enemy soldiers get repetitive quick, there’s maybe a half dozen varieties.  The bosses are all kind of same-ish giant mechs and aren’t particularly frequent.    Some of them are extremely easy to pattern out and defeat as well, there’s one in particular which jets in a circle around the room that I found stupidly easy since it never once tried to enter the one corner of the room.  All that was needed was to stand there and missile it each pass.

The controls are also a bit frustrating at times, particularly when you have to do several things at once, like multi jumping and grappling.  The puzzles revolving around the speed run effect are also frustrating due to the dodgy controls while speeding along.

These negatives aren’t super bad though, particularly with the frequent save points.  It’s a fun platform exploration game and worth checking out.

In Depth

So, like I said, platform exploration.  Seeing this game was a modern era game with guns, I pretty much expected “FPS Shooter”.  Which also translates to, pretty much completely unoriginal.  I didn’t expect to really enjoy this game at all, but I was expecting a completely different game.

The basic plot follows Jason as he works to rescue his girlfriend Claire from a hidden base of radial soldiers.  Jason and Claire are out camping and they stumble on an underground complex, hidden complex, a … Shadow Complex, if you will.  Claire is kidnapped by soldiers and Jason sneaks into the complex to find her.  Over the course of the game, the larger goals of the army are made clear, they intend to overthrow the US government.  Knowing there isn’t much time, Jason works to take down the secret base and army.  Along the way he finds a super powered soldier suit and upgrades it over time to gain new abilities which allow him to reach new areas of the complex.

The game also takes place in the same realms as a couple of novels written by Orson Scott Card, called Empire and Hidden Empire.  These books are part of a universe owned by Chair who licensed the world to Card for the books.

I mentioned Metroidvania, this is a term that is commonly used for this style of game, it’s a combination of the names of the games Metroid and Castlevania, which both pioneered and made popular this style of game.  Shadow Complex has a lot more in common with Metroid than Castlevania, but the same basic play style is the same.  Honestly the similarities to Metroid are possibly part of it’s negatives as well.  Many of the powers gained through the super suit are pretty much lifted right out of Super Metroid, the Missiles, The Speed Boost, the Grappling hook.  Granted, there are all sorts of other examples of these abilities in games, and the speed boost works a bit differently with it’s running up walls and ceilings bit, the core mechanics are the same.

Probably the biggest problem of this game is getting around the map.  One key component that makes a good Metroidvania title is that the map work.  Generally speaking, this means some sort of central zone that easily access all or most of the other zones.  It should easily access each one as you unlock new abilities as well.  This makes traversing the map for return trips to collect power ups less of a trudge.  Shadow Complex has a severe lack of this.  Having to repeatedly complete the same simple puzzles to go back and collect some grenade upgrade gets really old the 4th or 5th time it’s done.

There’s also some dodgy points on the controls.  Some of the more complex puzzles involve, for example, double dumping around platforms and grappling to walls while avoiding instant death bits.  Sometimes while trying to aim the grapple it can be tricky to keep the direction of your jumps going the proper direction.  More annoying is trying to time the speed run jumps and flips needed to solve some of the running puzzles.  The speed moves too fast and the screen zooms in too much to always know what’s coming soon enough to make a proper jump.  This often means failing, then trying again, then failing again because you passed the first bit but now there was a second bit you didn’t know about and didn’t have enough notice to properly react to it.

I’m not saying it should be a cake walk, just that you aren’t even given a chance to make it a cake walk.  It doesn’t really hurt the game, but it can lead to some needless frustration.

One interesting aspect is the use of 3D in the 2D world.  The whole game is a 2D platformer, Jason only exists in one plane, but the world around you is in 3D, enemies will attack from platforms in the distance, sometimes you will find gun emplacements that let you switch to a stationary 3D view.  Your player will automatically shoot into the background when targeting enemies in the background.  It does lead to some odd moments, like why you have to scale a set of spiral stairs by leaping from landing to landing instead of just, you know, walking up them (the stairs are in the background).

In the end, Shadow Complex was a surprise but of fun to be sure.  I don’t stick around with games for long when it becomes clear I won’t enjoy them, but I played all the way through Shadow Complex once I started it.