Lameazoid.com Rotating Header Image

PC

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 – The Binding of Isaac (PC)

So, the makers of Super Meat Boy, Team Meat, apparently have an old school Nintendo Fetish of the worst kind.  First you have Super Meat Boy, which has vague connotations of Super Mario Brothers.  Though the reality is the name is all it really has in common with Super Mario Brothers, that and being a side scrolling platform game.  The Binding of Isaac is sort of like this, only with The Legend of Zelda.  It sort of has the same cadence and style in name and shares a lot of game play style.

The reality is, other than the basic interface design, The Binding of Isaac shares very little with The Legend of Zelda.  The presentation is similar but the game itself is a rogue-like.   This game’s primary gimmick, and the source of it’s possible lone flaw, is it’s randomness.  It can be extremely cruel at times.  The ability to complete the higher levels tends to be closely associated with the items and upgrades you find.  These upgrades tend to be pretty random and are also often dependent on if you have enough coins to buy them.  This can lead to some rounds where you manage to become an overpowered juggernaut and others where you’re essentially the same guy on Level 3 as you started out.

Assuming you can even make it to level 3 without upgrades.  There is also the problem of keeping yourself alive in this random mess.  Some rounds, enemies will almost always drop hearts and coins, others you’ll get nothing.  There does seem to be some level of algorithm in place to keep things fair, it just could use a bit of tweaking.  The game does do a pretty good job of keeping the earlier enemies easier and the later enemies more difficult.

It also is surprisingly not as frustrating as it seems like it should be.  This was a trait shared by Super Meat Boy.  It also becomes easier as you become accustomed to how the enemies act and move.  Now, granted it does start to shove curveballs at you like nobody’s business later in the game, like having the laser blasting aliens with small corridors to navigate, and swarms of flying spitting creatures in a room full or rocks.

Despite the frustration, the gameplay is pretty solid, and decent.

The real likely turn off to some people is the game’s somewhat grotesque nature and it’s somewhat mocking of religion gameplay.  The Binding of Isaac is a story from the Bible where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  The basic plot of the story is that Isaac’s mother is told by a mysterious voice that her son has become corrupted and he must be taught humility, or something along those lines.  There are numerous references to biblical elements.  This is mixed in with what is essentially a horror house of bloody enemies often based on bodily organs.  Often enemies spew blood pellets or drop piles of shit on the floor.  It’s generally something that people who have a more sensitive disposition will probably find offensive.

This game has one final really great point going for it, it’s cheap.  It’s almost like some sort of experiment in marketing but the game is only $5, which is hard to pass up.  It’s frustrating as hell but it’s fun enough that it’ll keep you coming back, assuming you’re not turned off by the slightly disturbing imagery involved.

The Binding of Isaac is available on Steam here.

Review – Saints Row the Third (PC, Xbox360, PS3)

2011 – Volition – 1 Player (Campaign) Multiplayer (Online)
PC, PS3, Xbox360

The Good

  • Loads of fun Gameplay
  • Reminiscent of classic GTA
  • Amazing custom character creation with voices and interactions not just “faceless”

The Bad

  • The missions are kind of just a repetition of a handful of mini games
  • Kooky level may be too much for some people’s taste.

In Depth

Saints Row really has a comeback story behind it. The first game is apparently rather terrible. the second game is better but not great. It’s already saddled with being a “GTA knockoff” by default no matter what it does. Somewhere Volition has managed to get something really right because Saints Row the Third seems to be quite a hit among gamers. So much of a hit that THQ had decided to focus more on games like Saints Row over things like it’s failing Wii Tablet thing (U-Draw).

This thing is pretty long and image heavy, so you’ll have to click through to get the whole thing.

(more…)

Review – American Truck Simulator (PC)

The Good

  • Strong Developer Support
  • Sprawling environment to explore
  • Straightforward Gameplay

The Bad

  • Free drive could be more flexible
  • No official online multiplayer
  • Repetitive gameplay

There are a lot of Simulation games out there covering a crazy array of subjects from Farming to Forklift driving.  To some extent, some laws regarding video game content in some European countries can be blamed for this trend.  It’s also nice to be able to do even simple things that you can’t normally do.  A lot of these simulation titles are flat out garbage, with mediocre graphics and very little realism in terms of game play, the few that are decent though really tend to be shinning stars to some extend in the gaming world.

Two of the best example of good Simulation titles are the Farming Simulator and the Euro Truck Simulator titles.  What really sets these games apart is the depth they go to simulating not just the basic aspect of doing some job, but also the nuance of running the entire business.  Euro Truck Simulator is particularly popular due to just how much of Europe has been recreated in a virtual environment for players to cruise around in delivering their cargo.  The creators of Euro Truck Simulator have set their sites on recreating a second continent for Truck Driving, with American Truck Simulator.  They have stated that their plan is to do all of the United States in various DLC packs (I’m not sure if they are including Hawaii and Alaska).  The base game includes California, Nevada and New Mexico.  It’s not a 1:1 experience or anything but the basic idea is there, which is great.

This plan has been put on hold a bit however since the developers are currently working to rescale the world they have created to allow for more accurate interchanges and a better feeling of long range driving.  Essentially, they are remaking what they have already put out to make the entire experience better, which just goes to show how dedicated they are to their cause.

There are a ton of little details to help complicate the experience that contribute to the Simulation experience.  A low powered truck won’t be able to effectively pull a super heavy load.  Over time, you will run out of gas unless you stop to refuel your fuel.  You also will grow tired, which causes you to briefly “black out”, unless you stop at a designated rest area to sleep.  You lose points (money) for running into other vehicles and walls, if you speed and get caught by the cops you get a ticket, though it’s often possible to speed and not get caught, especially on “the back roads”.  When you arrive at the destination you get a chance to earn bonus experience by just dropping off the trailer, or executing a perfect back in maneuver.

The real enjoyment of this game comes from it’s laid back gameplay.  There isn’t any real pressure, you aren’t racing against a bunch of other vehicles or having to worry about who will shoot you as you cruise around the world delivering various cargo trailers.  Once you’ve earned enough money to buy your own truck you can even free drive at your own leisure.

The free drive mode is nice, though it kind of feels like it could be better.  While free driving, you don’t carry a trailer, which kind of makes the Truck part of the game a little less fun.  You also still have to worry about the game’s mechanics, such as speeding tickets, refueling, and paying for repairs.  This can all add up pretty quick if you are a poor driver.  It would be nice to be able to turn all of the game off and just goof around in this expansive world.

It also takes a while to “unlock” free drive mode as well, since you’ll have to save up a hefty chunk of change in order to buy even a cheap truck.  Over time though as you earn money you can buy bigger and nicer trucks, as well as trick them out with custom paint and gear.  You can eventually start hiring other drivers to run jobs for your company as well, to earn some passive income.

All of this is a little moot though since there isn’t a built in way to play online.  There are 3rd party methods but it would be nice to have an official way to cruise around the US with your friends, or even see strangers cruising around in their fancy trucks.  I imagine there would be issues with griefing where other players just run around trying to wreck people.

It’s also possible that I’m expecting too much out of this title, it is a Simulation game, it’s not “GTA with Semis”.  Also don’t take too much stake in these complaints, they are issues that could be better, but the basic idea and game is pretty fun and it’s a good low pressure experience.  If the developers stick to their plan to do the entire US, it could definitely turn into something really interesting, as you could virtually cruise from Los Angeles to New York.

 

Review – Fez (PC, PS3, XBox 360, PS4, Vita)

2012 – Polytron Corporation – 1 Player
* Review is based on the PC Release

The Good

  • Neat and well executed 3D rotation Gimmick
  • Interesting and reasonably complex puzzles

The Bad

  • Some of the puzzles are a little too complex and not obvious that they are even there.
  • Drives to be a community experience but the community has kind of dried up.
  • Navigating around the world is tricky and can get confusing.

Review

Fez Fez is a platform game centered around a 3D rotation gimmick. The core game play is simple platform mechanics. Walk around, jump and climb, with moving platforms and such thrown in. There aren’t a lot of enemies to contend with which doesn’t really matter because dying has no consequence anyway. The trick is, that Gomez, your character has been bestowed with the Magic Fez (or whatever) and can rotate the world 90 degrees left and right. This changes the layering of some objects allowing previously inaccessible paths to be accessible. The object is to collect these cube things. There isn’t much of an actual story.

It’s something that kind of has to be seen to really be understood but the general idea is, that say, there is a platform floating off to the right that you can’t jump to. Rotating the world may bring that platform in front of your current platform. You can then jump to it as if it’s in the same 2D plane. You can then rotate the world back and you will have no cross the gap that was previously not crossable.

Fez Keeping track of the 3D environment can be tricky if the player is poor at spacial logic. The other puzzles all tend to revolve around learning (read Googling a key) for the multiple in game alphabets. These are little symbols that show up from time to time. Sometimes they look like Tetris pieces instructing the player to enter a certain button sequence, sometimes they are little riddles that you must answer. They are basically cryptogram puzzles. I probably would have figured it out eventually but I didn’t even know these factors were a “thing” until i went searching for answers online, which is kind of a problem of game design. It’s not a bad idea, it’s just not presented in a way that is overly intuitive to the player.

Fez This is also a problem with the in game map. I went through almost the entire first half of the game before even knowing there was a map. a map that not only makes navigating the 3Dish world much easier but tells me when I have cleared out an area. You might think “how can you blame your own stupidity on the game?” Because it’s, once again, poor design. I played most of this game using a controller with at least a dozen buttons. Not one of the buttons was mapped to the map. Both the right shoulder buttons were mapped the same and both the left shoulder buttons were mapped the same, yet I had to press escape on the keyboard to open the map. In a game with such redundancy in it’s controls I would expect something as almost necessary as a map to at least be on the Start or Select button, it was not. This is likely not an issue on console versions of the game which don’t have a keyboard.

FezThe game itself also has a few bugs, at least one pretty substantial one that I uncovered (though I am sure I am not the first). One of the puzzles involves cubes which only shot up on certain time intervals, the longest of which is every 48 hours. Firstly, any puzzle which requires player intervention at such a specific time period is pretty shoddy to begin with. This can be “circumvented” by futzing with the time settings of your PC (or console). Doing this seemed to screw up my save file though. I ended up resetting my play time. Not a huge deal. I did however seem to reset several cubes that I had collected, sort of. The map showed them uncollected and I could rediscover them, but at some point I had collected “everything” and could still get more cubes. It didn’t increment my cube counter though. and I could complete the game as if I had everything.

Fez I believe in my searching for clue to complete the puzzles I read that you can collect all of the cubes in one play through but finishing the game once unlocks a FPS view mode which is required to see several hidden codes. It also unlocks a flight mode which basically turns the game into “easy mode”.

Completing the game a second time unlocks a Red and Blue 3D view (which can be disabled). I am not real sure how effective this mode is as I don’t have any 3D glasses floating around to test it with.

Anyway, it’s an interesting game. If you like the idea of combining cryptographic text puzzles with a platformer in a slightly confusing 3D environment then by all means give this game a go. Frankly, I probably enjoyed this game less than i should have. I don’t have the time or patience for this sort of puzzler so I ruined half the fun by just looking up the answers. I did find the 3D rotation gimmick enjoyable though.