the first few/last few hours: Forza Horizon, Dishonored

Before I get started, I want to sing the praises of the WordPress spam filter, which does a great job day in and day out of filtering out all the nonsense.  Like, literal nonsense.  Whoever’s coming up with the text for these spam comments is out of their minds.   Sometimes, though, the spam robots get lucky – and like the 1,000,000th monkey who typed out a Shakespearean sonnet on his typewriter, today’s comment is a thing of beauty.  Just know that my apprehension at inviting sort of spam recursion loop by pasting it here is outweighed by my desire to spread joy and love and poetry wherever I go.

You know what I’m talking about.I quit!A barking dog doesn’t bite!Most people eat, write, and work with their fight hands.You’re welcome.A bad workman quarrels with his tools.Do you realize that all of these shirts are half off?It appears to be a true story.We are divided in our opinions.It feels like spring I’ve been here before

There’s so much to love here.  And not just because “fight hands” yields a marvelous synchronicity with my new favorite iOS game (which just came out last night), Punch Questalthough that is a wonderful touch.

Anyway.  I needed to share that.

As for GAMEZ, I said goodbye to Dishonored last night, and said hello to Forza Horizon.

I had a bad feeling about Dishonored going into last night’s session, to be honest.  I was already in a weird place about it, and there was a part of me that knew that putting it down for 3-4 days wouldn’t soften its edges.  So, yeah; I played for about 20-30 minutes or so and quickly realized that I just wasn’t ever going to get back into it.  The magic was gone.  It no longer felt like an organic, natural environment; I was simply recognizing patterns and exploiting their weaknesses.  The story wasn’t ever compelling enough to keep me moving forward, either – especially since every review more or less panned the ending – and so I decided that I didn’t want to spend my time feeling bad about not liking a game anymore.

I remain in awe of the many things the game does right.  And I salute the developers for taking a chance with a new, bold IP at this stage of the hardware cycle.  I do feel guilty for not finishing it, for whatever that’s worth.

*     *     *     *     *

It took a little while for Forza Horizon‘s charms to become apparent to me.  As much as I love driving games, I don’t really care about cars or car culture, and would never willingly find myself in the middle of the desert at some car/music festival, which is the game’s central premise.  In fact, there’s an awful lot of cut scenes in the beginning of the game – perhaps too many – that go out of their way to sell you on the concept that you’re in this amazing place, doing this amazing thing, meeting all these amazing people, etc.  Say what you will about the problems with silent protagonists; I could not identify with my dude, nor did I ever have any intention of doing so.  I wanted to drive.

And about 30 minutes later, I found myself in driving game heaven.

Once the game removes the tutorial training wheels, you will find yourself on a stretch of open road, free to do whatever you want.  And the game keeps track of everything you do, so even if you’re mindlessly driving (and admiring the gorgeous scenery), you’re also earning points and money simply through the act of drifting, driving on the opposite side of the road, crashing into special signs (that unlock discounts at the garage), narrowly avoiding traffic, etc.  There are also Horizon Waypoints (or something like that – I can’t remember what they’re called) which enable fast-travelling, should you not want to drive to the other side of the map for an event.  Each waypoint features 3 mini-events, the completion of which reduces the cost of fast-travelling.  But that’s besides the point.  The point is that the simple, pure act of driving – not racing, not doing tricks – yields tangible rewards.

love this sort of thing.  This is very much why Burnout Paradise was such a revelation – you were given a huge world to explore, and you were encouraged to explore it.  It wasn’t just window dressing; there were valuables hidden away in every nook and cranny.  I’m not sure how deep Forza Horizon travels down this particular rabbit hole, but the time I spent with it last night was very encouraging.

This is just the kick in the ass the franchise needed, I think.  The regular games are still fine, best-in-class, sure, but they’re also very repetitive – you race the same tracks in the same cars year after year, with marginal graphical improvements and subtle tweaks to performance.  There is an audience for that kind of game, certainly; I’m somewhat of a member, having bought each edition.  But Forza Horizon feels fresh and new and invigorating, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be seeing more of it in the future.

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