Thursday, March 28, 2013

Great. Not now.

My taste in racing games can be described accurately as schizophrenic. There are franchises that I enjoy and ones that I won't touch and it is difficult for me to articulate why. For example, the Project Gotham series is a favorite of mine but I have not played a Need For Speed game since the first one on my 3DO. Midnight Club Racing was a huge no but I liked GRiD. Blur was boring but Split Second was awesome. Most damning of all are my feelings for Burnout. I was completely on board all the way through Burnout Takedown but Paradise drove me insane. I hated not being able to restart a race without driving back to the beginning, something they fixed in an update after I quit, and the Burnout physics didn't sit well in an open world.

On the slightly more realistic side I enjoy Forza but am ambivalent to Gran Turismo. Sony's racing flagship may have been more real but Forza looked better thanks to production values that went beyond 'here is your car, isn't it shiny?' Forza 4 brought on a little series fatigue but that has been completely relieved by Horizon: Frankenstein's racing game built not of the dregs of racing kind but of all the primo bits.

The car handling is lifted from the previous Froza games and sits right between Project Gotham and Gran Turismo. Not too easy, not too hard, just right and and adjustable if you like it easier or harder. There is a kudos system similar to Project Gotham and Burnout that rewards the player for reckless driving. This makes the trips between venues worthwhile: the player never stops generating points and credits. The open world is a cross between Burnout Paradise and Motorstorm: the party is more live at red rocks than post-apocalyptic burning man and the world feels a little smaller but there is no shortage of things to do. The races them selves are a nice mix of street races, point to point rallies, off-road circuits and ridiculous one offs like racing a plane or hot air balloon.

Horizon is a complete package. It has everything that I want in a racing game all tied up with a non-intrusive story and avoidable multiplayer. It could not have arrived at a worse time. How the hell am I supposed to split time between this and BioShock Infinity?

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