The First Few Hours (for real): Xbox One, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2

1.  Before I get into the topic at hand, a confession:  I haven’t written for NaNo in 2 days.  Nor am I sure I’m going to pick up where I left off, if in fact I do decide to keep going; the subject matter is a bit more emotionally loaded and intense than I’d thought.  If I’m going to successfully fictionalize it, I need to understand it first, and boy oh boy am I not emotionally prepared to do that at this present moment in time.

2.  And in keeping with things that make me feel depressed, I can’t help but notice that my writing just sucks these days.  Even just emails to friends, FB status updates, and twitter replies – they all feel like they’re coming out wrong.  I’m feeling very much like Salieri; I have a tremendous passion for writing, but I feel that I lack the natural ability to do it as well as I’d like.  I may very well end up taking more classes.

This is all to say that trying to write a novel about super-intense emotional stuff when I’m feeling like I can’t even write a simple declarative sentence that’s enjoyable to read is discouraging, and depressing, and ugh.

3.  It’s November, which means that it’s time to start getting to work on year-end Top 10 lists.  To that end, I’ve been making it a priority to listen to all the 2014 albums I’ve saved on Spotify that I’ve never actually got around to listening to.  I’ll be putting out a playlist of my favorite songs soon enough; but there are also some albums that I’m loving the hell out of that don’t necessarily have one stand-out song.  Case in point:  Adult Jazz, “Gist Is”, which is (to me) a beautiful, melodic mixture of the avant-garde songwriting structures of Dirty Projectors and the latent melancholy that dwells within certain Vampire Weekend songs.  I can see why some listeners might find it incredibly pretentious and off-putting, but it’s been hitting me really deep of late.  Another case in point: the new Deerhoof album, “La Isla Bonita”, which might be the best (and most accessible) album they’ve put out since “The Runners Four.”  Likewise, Run The Jewels 2 and Flying Lotus’ “You’re Dead” are both utterly amazing headtrips, and near-impossible to pick just one or two tracks that stand out from the rest.

4.  So:  when I got home last night, both Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 had finished downloading.  I’m enjoying both of them, but it’s also entirely possible that my current weird, depressive mind-state is making it difficult for me to fully engage with either game.

I appreciate Sunset Overdrive’s over-the-top lunacy, it’s vibrant color palette, and that it’s breaking the fourth wall at every possible opportunity, just to show you that it’s not taking itself too seriously.  To that end, it’s also possible that being self-aware of how un-self-aware you are is also a form of overt self-awareness, and so the more bananas it tries to be, the more silly and toy-like it becomes.   It reminds me a great deal of Crackdown – it’s similarly graphically vibrant, non-linear, and you basically jump and soar and fly and blow shit up, but I don’t feel like I’m moving as quickly as I’d like (I suppose that’s something I’ll be leveling up at some point); it also reminds me a great deal of Sony’s Infamous games (especially the grinding and other traversal maneuvers), except that the traversal in Sunset Overdrive feels a bit more convoluted and non-intuitive – two button presses to grind, plus shooting?  I get the hang of it, but I don’t feel like I’ve mastered the controls as quickly as I should.

I’ve only dabbled with one or two events in Forza Horizon 2.  It’s astonishingly gorgeous – far better-looking than I expected – and I’m also really happy with how the Xbox One controller feels while driving.  The rumble is pleasingly intense, the buttons are well-placed, the triggers feel responsive; unlike in Sunset, I felt in control the entire time.  I may end up spending more time with this one, which is fine with me; I loved the first game, and this one looks like a bigger and better model.

As for the Xbox One itself?  I like it.  I like the system.  The dashboard is overwhelming at first but it does make sense, and it’s fun to engage with in ways that the PS4 isn’t.  My wife and I got rid of cable and we have a Roku3, so I don’t think I’ll be using the TV functionality all that much, but that’s fine.  I will still more than likely continue to use the PS4 as my primary console (especially as long as multi-platform releases continue to perform better on it), but I’m glad to be back in Xbox land, and I kinda forgot how much I liked earning Achievements.  (Sorry, Sony – trophies just aren’t the same.)

Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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