Thursday, October 9, 2014

Meeting in the middle

It's well over a week since my last entry of substance. I have so much to talk about and I fear I am forgetting most of it. Let's start with things that have pissed me off recently. Being good and mad at video games should get my gears turning again.

Velocity 2X has been my go to game when I only have a few minutes to play. Due to its handheld roots it worked quite well in short bursts. A few levels and I had played my fill. It has been more than good enough to deserve being played to completion, which is exactly what I intended to do last night. I would have, too, if the game has decided that it wasn't going to let me.

Each completed level is graded based on time, collectibles and score. I almost always maxed out on the collectibles, rarely missed the score and came in about the second threshold for time, meaning I came away with around 90% of the available points. New levels were unlocked based on the accumulated points and I had always been fine, so much so that I stopped paying attention. On level 42 the game decided that I was not good enough to continue and that I had to go back and clean up my previous efforts. The deficit was small so I did so by replaying the first level. Satisfied, the game let me play level 43.

The gap to level 44 was in the hundreds of points, to which I say: fuck you. Save that shit for score attack or post game. Let the player see the whole game without having to jump through asinine hoops. My initial comparison to 'Splosion Man was unwarranted. 'Splosion Man was an excellent game. This might me but it is determined to not allow me to see it all.

Speaking of games that I did not pay for, I have managed to catch up on at least trying all of the free offering for PS+ and Xbox Live and it was a disappointing month. Chariot, the lone new game on Xbox One, look and plays like a glorified flash game. The entire concept is as follows: drag a wheeled coffin through levels to accumulate loot. I was bored after three levels.

Spelunky is a true rogue like. Rogue Legacy was fun because it created either constant advancement or at the very least the illusion of advancement. Spelunky does not. I did not feel bad for turning it off before surpassing the first area.

Pix the Cat is Chu Chu Rocket crossed with Snake and dosed with Space Giraffe. I get it, I think, but I am not sure that I need to play it. Work gives me enough headaches, I don't need another source.

Now, the main event, a game that pleased me to no end but that I am already done playing. Forza Horizon was my favorite racing game of the previous generation. Expectations for Horizon 2 were sky high and the game beat them all. Every box is checked: the game looks awesome, the way the cars feel is a nice midpoint between Gran Turismo and Project Gotham, the world is huge, events do not repeat for the first several hours, the soundtrack is a bit meh but you are able to turn it off, it is just about the perfect racing game.

The game goes out of its way to make sure the player is having fun. For example, every few championships there is a special race that pits the player against some ridiculous opponent. There are five of these, ranging from 45 hot air balloons to a giant cargo plane. They are races that feel un-winnable but each time,  be the thinnest of margins, I came out on top, and I am pretty sure the game let me.

This is not the AI rubber banding. I can attest to there being no such assistance for the drivatars in the actual races because I destroyed them on most occasions. This is the game modifying a meaningless race to keep it exciting. They feel almost scripted, and if I tried harder I probably could have lost, but all five of them, from the train to five jets, ended in a visually stunning matter with me on top by around a second.

I have no proof that this was intentional but it felt to good to be random. If it was by design I have no problem with it, in fact I applaud it. This is a racing game meeting the player half way, creating a special, exciting moment by bending the rules a bit in a race that doesn't matter anyway.

After winning the Horizon Final I tried to start another season. My gaming wanderlust was in full effect and I was unable to continue, the pull of Middle Earth or Aliens was too strong. All in all I saw about 15% of the total races. There are entire classes of cars that I never drove. Next summer, when the list has dwindled and I am complaining of nothing to play, I will come back to Horizon 2.

Hell, I might even purchase the damn game.

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