Tag Archive: racing


It’s never easy to try to find a foothold in an established field like racing simulators. Despite entering a market already dominated by Forza and Gran Turismo, however, the original Project CARS was able to not only compete from a technical perspective in terms of the racing experience it provides, but offered up a unique enough take on how you would approach races to carve out a slice for itself amongst gearheads. Building on that initial success, Slightly Mad Studios went to work on a sequel, and after my hands-on last week at CXC Simulations here in Los Angeles, Project CARS 2 is primed to move into the pole position of this genre.

It needs to be prefaced that my time with the game will likely not be quite indicative of the final experience most people will have, since I got to try the game out via Oculus VR on a $50,000 simulation rig that CXC offers to professional racers to prepare before big races. (That was the beauty of this demo, however.) Already loaded and ready to go for us was one of the brand new tracks featured in Project CARS 2, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, just days ahead of the actual race itself was to be held. While being jostled around as if I was taking hairpin turns at breakneck speeds was definitely new, the immersion I felt from the VR was even more intense, showing off the meticulous detail Slightly Mad has given to this new track.

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I also got to run the course in two different cars—the Acura NSX GT3 and the Dallara Honda Indycar—and moving from one car to the other was a tremendous extreme. It was hard enough learning a brand new track in VR (although I was able to adapt after a few laps), but the Acura’s top speed paled in comparison to when I sat in the driver’s seat of the Indycar, as turns came up faster and I had to be far more cognizant of my shifting as I reached higher speeds more quickly. But while new tracks and cars are always expected with any racing sequel, it was the last machine I hopped in that was particularly exciting.

Projects CARS 2 unveiled Rallycross mode to us for the first time. Yes, the off-road sprint-oriented series of races will debut this go around in Project CARS 2, and that means not only even more new cars and tracks, but new paths for your career drivers to take and brand new surfaces to drive on. Gravel and dirt will combine with asphalt on these tracks just like in real life, and although Rallycross tracks are smaller that most other tracks, the shifting terrain combined with how differently the cars handle will provide entirely new challenges for players to overcome—and I can speak from some limited experience.

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If going from the Acura to the Indycar was night and day, going into a rally-fitted Honda Civic Coupe was like going from April to August. Drifting at high speeds is a must here, and as unintuitive as it may be, taking corners almost sideways can actually be beneficial (and even preferred) in order to best position yourself for the next straightaway. But knowing how to take those turns is only the beginning, as your car will handle completely differently on dirt than gravel or asphalt—and it’s extremely easy to spin out if you’re not careful or underestimate the ground beneath your wheels.

When you combine this new mode with the realistic tire degradation and fine vehicle tuning of the first game, you’re starting to get into the grittiest of details that will have you almost smelling the engine grease on your hands. Adding Rallycross on top of new tracks and cars is a huge boon for Project CARS 2, and if Slightly Mad gives this mode as much attention as they gave everything from the first Project CARS, then this racing series will have more than earned its place at the table alongside Gran Turismo and Forza—and may even be in position to get ready to overtake them.

At this point, we know that the Wii U had a ton of shortcomings. If there was one good thing to come from that console generation for Nintendo, however, it was when they really threw their doors open and welcomed indie games full-bore. We can look back at titles like Runbow and Shovel Knight and know those wonderful experiences helped solidify Nintendo’s indie-friendly stance. None may have been more impactful, though, than Fast Racing Neo—a sequel to the Wii’s Fast Racing League—that gave gamers everywhere the closest thing we’ve had to a new F-Zero in what feels like forever. The love for that game made it a no-brainer then for developer Shin’en Multimedia to continue the franchise and deliver us Fast RMX on day one with the Switch.

In a lot of ways, Fast RMX is Fast Racing Neo 1.5. It touts all 24 tracks Neo had with its DLC, but with six brand new ones also in tow, upping the total to 30. Meanwhile sharper graphics, Switch functionality, and a new “Hero” mode help beef up the experience of this hardcore anti-gravity racer. There isn’t really more than that, but that’s perfectly fine in my book. You just hop into the cockpit of one of three different vehicles (there’s 12 more to unlock as you race) and aim for the finish line. Depending on where you place gives you points, similar to Mario Kart, and the racer with the most points at the end of the three-race circuit is the champion.

The hook for the racing is in the name. Every vehicle averages top-speeds well over 1,000 MPH as you soar through locations both terrestrial and beyond. There is a bit of strategy here as well as different-colored speed strips—activated by changing your exhaust stream with a press of a button to match the color—which can give temporary boosts. Collecting power orbs also allow you to fill up your personal boost meter, giving you that necessary edge in long stretches without speed strips, and again placing a pure emphasis on going as fast as possible. Playing smart and finding the perfect paths between boosts is a must.

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And, if you’re going fast enough, you can bump your rivals out of the way too. Fast RMX should be commended for never pulling its punches with its AI; right from the first race, you’ll be fighting all the other racers and jockeying for pole position, as your opponents will use boosts just as much as you while definitely not being afraid of bumping you off course. All of this means that, as the game progresses, unless you pull off a near-perfect race you’ll be more and more likely to lose. I’d never been so happy over a third-place finish before by the time I had reached the Platinum circuit.

You’ll find the 30 courses in the game take place in myriad settings, cutting through rainforests and glaciers here on Earth or zipping around space stations and asteroid quarries. The course locations are absolutely gorgeous, with the amount of detail surrounding each track hinting to a spectacular future where these circuits can take place while also taking your breath away.

If only the tracks themselves were as consistently inspirational. Some definitely take advantage of the anti-grav future premise the game is built around, and will make you audibly utter “wow” as you swirl around the course’s curves. And, if you’re not careful, you can fly off an edge, crashing and burning just as easily as soar ahead of other racers for a victory. There are plenty of shortcuts to be found on some courses, and knowing your vehicle’s capabilities as well as the track could lead to shaving precious seconds off your lap times.

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Other courses are very straightforward, however, and don’t push the envelope nearly as much. What’s worse is when it felt like the game tried to make more simple tracks far more difficult by adding obstacles—particularly around blind corners. For example, one track is observed by giant, insect-like robots, which randomly decide to cross the street with no rhyme or reason, crushing your vehicle. It didn’t make the game more difficult as much as it felt cheap at times as a crash all but guaranteed a less-than-stellar finishing position and likely some forced replays until you learn where everything is by heart.

In terms of the game’s modes as well, I wish there was a bit more depth. You start with your standard series of championships and classes. There are 10 three-race championships to start, and three different classes ranging from Subsonic to Supersonic. Although having all 30 tracks available in a single race class was a lot of fun at first, it quickly became repetitive with the minimal increase in difficulty change once it was time to move up in class—and my motivation was lacking since I had already seen all there was to see. It would’ve been better had some championships been relegated to each class, giving a sense of identity to them, and marking a more obvious increase in difficulty between courses.

There’s also the noticeable absence of time attack mode. What could’ve been a great way to learn tracks for championships and improve your times will be patched in later as free DLC, but it being absent at the moment is disappointing to say the least. In its place is the mentioned-above new Hero mode. This is meant more for after you’ve already learned the courses, since your boost meter is also your shield meter here, and it’s much easier to crash—and if you crash in Hero mode, the race is over. If—for some reason—you want Fast RMX to be even harder, this mode is for you.

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It’s not just racing against the computer all day in Fast RMX, however. There’s a local multiplayer option that supports up to four players, with each player taking a Joy-Con and linking it to the Switch. There’s also online multiplayer, which works fine at this point, but it lacks certain amenities like online friend support that Shin’en has again said will be patched in later.

Fast RMX is the better version of an already good racing game. If you’re looking for something that will challenge your reflexes and get those competitive juices flowing, then this is a great game for you. The fact that some modes missed launch is disheartening, as is the inconsistent track quality, which can lead to as much frustration as fun at times. We may not ever get another F-Zero game, but the Fast series is doing a great job at trying to make claims to the title of its successor.

Publisher: Shin’en Multimedia • Developer: Shin’en Multimeda • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 03.03.17
7.5
The fact that some of Fast RMX’s modes like Time Attack missed launch is a bummer, and track design can be a bit inconsistent in terms of quality, but if you’re looking for a pure arcade racing experience, this heir apparent to F-Zero will definitely do the trick.
The Good A constant challenge from the first race. Each racing location is absolutely gorgeous.
The Bad Time Trial mode is absent at launch. Course design feels a bit uninspired. There are only incremental differences between cup modes.
The Ugly Just clipping an obstacle and watching as your racer careens off a cliff in a fiery heap.
Fast RMX is a Nintendo Switch exclusive. Review code was provided by Shin’en Multimedia for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

When Forza Horizon first launched four years ago as a spin-off of Forza, many of us were pleasantly surprised by how it was able to tone down the seriousness of the main series while still making an extremely competent racing game. As time has gone on and we’ve fallen into an annual cycle of Forza followed by Forza Horizon, what once was a spin-off has now turned into a series all its own—one that now rivals its parent in every way. And, with the release of Forza Horizon 3, it may even surpass the mainline series in key areas.

For those who might be unaware, the Forza Horizon games are set up around a traveling fictional festival called Horizon that’s like a cross between Woodstock and Top Gear, and this year’s game is headed to a land down under. Whereas the original saw you rise up the ranks to dominate the event, and the second one had you as king of Horizon from the start, Forza Horizon 3 basically just makes you the festival’s God this go around.

From what radio stations can be heard at the festival’s hubs throughout Australia, to what part of Australia Horizon will expand to next, all the decisions are yours. You can even customize your license plate and what your assistant will call you via a list of names. Yes, I admit I enjoyed the fact that my assistant actually called me Ray and all my cars’ license plates said “Carsillo” on the back—it’s a little thing, but that added hint of personalization was a nice touch. Unfortunately, it also made the fact that you can then only choose from a dozen or so generic, hipster-looking avatars to represent your “face” just as disappointing as the license plate customization was fun.

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These are only minor details, however. The heart of Forza has always been the cars, and Horizon 3 does not disappoint. Over 350 cars are available at the game’s launch—the most in Forza Horizon history—and, as always, plenty of car packs will be coming in the future. The game also maintains the series’ high standard of stunning car models that contrast terrifically against the picturesque backdrops inspired by an amalgamation of Australia’s coasts, forests, and deserts. The big additions this time around aside from the usual list of new supercars are dune buggies. Since a quarter of Horizon 3’s mashed-up rendition of Australia is the Outback, dune buggies are great for crossing the desert terrain at high speeds and pulling off crazy stunts to fill up your score meter.

At first, the buggies took some time to get used to, because they handle completely differently from any other car in Forza’s long lineage. By the time I was done with the game, though, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough races inside these off-road masters, bobbing up and down through the countryside, and was actually disappointed when I was placed back in a luxury car or sporty speedster depending on what race I was doing.

Speaking of racing, it remains at the core of what you’ll be doing in Horizon 3. There are 63 tracks set up across the game for you to unlock and play through, with more unlocked by expanding and growing the festival. This is done by earning fans, which you can do through winnings races, completing one-off special objectives in 30 brand-new bucket list courses, winning showcase events against unusual race opponents like speed boats and fighter jets, and completing “PR stunts” like daredevil jumps and burning rubber through drift and speed zones.

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Each individual race location not only has the standard single race, but later you can also unlock three-to-five race championships with new themes for each course. For example, a single exhibition race in the Outback might have you racing off-road trucks like the Ford F-150 Raptor, but the same course’s championship might be themed around rally legends like the Suburu Impreza, giving each track more replayability as you race different vehicles.

If that wasn’t enough, Forza Horizon 3 also introduces the new Blueprint feature to both racecourses and bucket list events, which allows you to set your own stipulations that you can then share with the Forza community. You could create a perfect storm of racing nothing but high-end supercars like the Lamborghini Centenario along the curving coastline, or punish people by sticking those same sports cars on an off-road track in the rainforest and see if they can’t maintain their traction. The same goes for the bucket list Blueprints, but like most other games where you can create your own courses, you have to be able to beat your own challenges before uploading for others to play. In theory, you could have an endless stream of fresh content coming into Forza Horizon 3 long after this initial launch window.

Another major addition to Forza Horizon 3 comes in the form of its online multiplayer. You’ve always been able to take on friends head-to-head, but Horizon 3 adds it so that you can now experience the construction of a Horizon festival from the ground-up together. Campaign co-op, which is also available in cross-platform play, allows you to join a friend’s game or vice versa in order to help each other complete objectives or find hidden bonuses like landmarks or barn finds to fill out your worlds. Any progress made in each other’s games carries over to your single-player game as well, so there’s no need to do something twice if you don’t want to.

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The emphasis on co-op doesn’t end there, however. Even if your friend isn’t online, the new Convoy feature means their Drivatar can ride with you and help you, too. By winning street races against specifically marked Drivatars, you can add up to three Drivatars to your Convoy. And if you want to replace someone in your lineup, simply street race another person and fire one of the old drivers. Having and riding with a full Convoy means not only a better chance for you to find hidden secrets and earn more credits, but your friends will be earning credits even while offline.

Of course, more online-driven endeavors has meant more server strain that normal in the Forza community. Even a week after launching, there are still occasional connection issues in regards to things like leaderboards, some of the Blueprints, and finding strangers online to race with or against. Groove Music—Microsoft’s digital music streaming service that has been added to the game to allow players a chance to finally have custom music playing while driving—works only about half the time, too. I’m driving a million dollar car, and the damn radio is broken.

These online hiccups aside, Forza Horizon 3 is a racing lover’s dream. The insane stunts and off-the-wall challenges remain hugely entertaining, and being able to incorporate your friends more into that has only added a new wrinkle of replayability to the game. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete racing experience than this one, and in many ways has possibly eclipsed the mainline Forza series in terms of fun and enjoyability.

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Publisher: Microsoft Studios • Developer: Playground Games • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 09.27.16
9.5
Forza Horizon 3 pulls out all the stops to provide one of most fluid and enjoyable racing experiences out there. A must have for casual car fans and hardcore gearheads alike, Forza Horizon 3 may even surpass the mainline series in terms of fun with this effort.
The Good Gorgeous looking, excellent handling, and more content than ever before in one package.
The Bad Occasional issues with connecting to people and features online.
The Ugly Constantly forgetting that Australians drive on the other side of the road and getting into lots of head-on collisions because of it.
Forza Horizon 3 is available on Xbox One and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

GTSport_PreviewHeader

Sony’s flagship racing franchise, Gran Turismo, has been a staple for video game gearheads for almost two decades now. The series is known for the great lengths it will go to in order to try to deliver the highest-quality racing experiences possible while keeping its finger on the pulse of today’s gaming culture. Because of this, it’s no wonder that the series’ next secondary release, Gran Turismo Sport (due out on November 15 as a PS4 exclusive) will again look to push racing in several ways. Here are the top five things you should be looking forward to in the new Gran Turismo Sport.

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#1: The game will center on eSports and competitive racing

Everyone is trying to get a piece of that eSports pie nowadays, and Gran Turismo looks to take pole position in the racing genre’s competitive scene. Teaming up with FIA—Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body for Formula One and World Rally Championship racing—Gran Turismo Sport looks to usher in the first-ever FIA Gran Turismo Online Championships, with players actually being recognized and licensed by the racing group as they compete for one of two cups. The Manufacturers Cup will see racers represent their favorite car brands over the course of the year, whereas the Nations Cup will have them represent their home country, with the winners honored at FIA’s annual prize-giving ceremony in Paris. There will also be live competition components to each cup season, and various online events and components similar to GT Academy being held on a regular basis.

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#2: Brand new tracks keep the experience fresh

Although the number of tracks is only a fraction of what we see in full GT entries, the 19 tracks and 27 layouts present in Gran Turismo Sport are the most in a secondary title yet. The best part, though, is that Polyphony Digital continues to create new courses and layouts for the series. So, while there are already old real-world favorites in the six tracks revealed thus far like Nurburgring and Willow Springs (each rescanned to capture even the slightest detail on PS4), new tracks include an oval called Northern Isle Speedway (I hope you like left turns), and a high-speed urban track full of narrow corridors called Tokyo Expressway (based on the actual highways of Japan’s capital city).

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#3: Most realistic and detailed car models yet

Even with GT6 serving as somewhat of a swan song for the PS3, the series continued to push the limits on creating the most realistic and detailed car models available at the time. Gran Turismo Sport plans on continuing that tradition both by utilizing the power of the PS4 and by performing brand-new scans of the most powerful cars from every car manufacturer. GT Sport touts 140 fully remodeled cars, and although that number pales in comparison to what is available in the mainline titles of the series, it is by far the most cars from a GT secondary title—not including the PSP Gran Turismo.

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#4: New braking and driving assists are being introduced

Gran Turismo has long had the reputation as the most true-to-life racing game series out there, with minimal assists for players in order to help them better grasp just what it takes to race on the most famous tracks in the world at the fastest speeds possible. In an attempt to help expand its audience and make the game more fun for less-intense racing fans, new driving and braking assist options have been introduced to help you get into a groove before you start trying to see if you have what it takes to truly become a racing legend. While you’ll need to not use these assists if you ever want to have a hope of competing on the world stage of GT Sport, they should help lower the barrier of entry for the franchise like never before.

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#5: Sport is the deepest secondary title in Gran Turismo history

Gran Turismo Sport will feature the deepest suite of modes yet for a secondary title in the series, making an argument for being more of a full standalone title—unlike the GT Prologue games. Sport touts a time trials mode, local races against the AI, and online races with up to 20 drivers at a time. There’s also a fully fleshed-out Campaign for those simulation-loving drivers who prefer playing alone, and a Sports Mode that takes advantage of the competitive racing scene Gran Turismo naturally lends itself to. Gran Turismo Sport will also be fully compatible with the PlayStation VR headset when released, meaning you can truly feel what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a Formula One car (or the like) for the first time ever.

Leaving the competition in its dust

Forza has become the Call of Duty of racing games. Every autumn for the past five years, a new entry in the franchise—counting the Horizon spin-offs—has been released. So, I was worried this year’s entry would simply be another mediocre improvement over the past couple of games, and that it might grow boring without the open-world gimmick or festival backdrop of Horizon. I was wrong. Just like how Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or any other annual franchise is sometimes able to overcome the limitations that inherently pop up from a 12-month release cycle and knock one out of the park, Forza Motorsport 6 similarly takes the series to new heights.

As soon as you start the game, you’ll be introduced to the first major change in Forza 6: its Career mode, which is broken up into two separate parts. The first is “Stories of Motorsport.” Here, Forza 6 takes it upon itself to explain how much racing touches our lives, while guiding us on a tour through the world’s greatest tracks and hottest automobiles. Beginning with street legal sports cars, Career moves through five separate volumes. In each, you’ll race through three different series comprised of four to six tracks before being allowed to advance to the next volume, which feature progressively more impressive and powerful cars.

A nice touch in helping to get the message across is the history you’re given of the cars you’re driving, why they appeal to people, and what to expect over the course of your circuit—all narrated by guest commentators ranging from Top Gear’s Richard Hammond and James May to winners of IndyCar or the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I came to look forward to the little tidbits of info each intro gave me before a race, like Watkins Glen holding the first pro race post-WWII in the US, or that the tower at Circuit of the Americas is 251-feet tall.

Stories is a great twist on Forza’s Career, and the loose narrative really helps pull you through the mode—especially when the same tracks start to repeat. For me, though, the real fun began with the second part of Career: the new Showcase events. Showcase events originally debuted in Horizon as special one-off races in ridiculous but fun scenarios where you’d race planes, trains, as well as automobiles.

In Forza 6, the Showcase events are actually 10 different series of themed challenges. Some, like those inspired by Top Gear, are more light-hearted, such as bowling with a Jaguar F-Type or racing against the “Digital Cousin” of the Stig. Others are more purely race driven, such as passing challenges or turning trials inspired by those you’d see at the Bondurant High Performance Driving school. There are even endurance challenges where you’re asked to go literally dozens of laps in one race. Similarly to Horizon’s showcases, each of these special challenges will put your skills to the test in ways that are anything but dull.

Forza 6 didn’t just focus on the single player when it came to changes, however. Multiplayer remains a big aspect of the game, and it starts by making the online experience a lot less intimidating for folks. While there will always be those in the online community who care more about crashing into other players than actual racing, Forza 6 is trying to help serious racers find better-quality races through a new online mode called Leagues.

Leagues run races over a period of time and will be broken down into a variety of car types. The more you race in a given league over the time period it’s open for, and the better you place, the more likely you are to win the league and get a nice payout of credits. The main difference between Leagues and traditional multiplayer is that everyone in these league races are ghosts. You are still racing live players, but the fear of an untimely collision costing you a pedestal position is gone. Leagues offer players a chance to still play other like-minded racing fans, but the competition falls squarely on how well you can or cannot drive, without affecting anyone else around you.

This is a brilliant move for Forza, and should only help the competition aspects of its online features. Leagues also shouldn’t affect the traditional multiplayer audience too much, as they’re locked into certain car types when created. Traditional multiplayer, meanwhile, will let you customize each individual race on the fly, still giving players a sense of freedom—even if all they want to do is see a BMW M3 T-bone a Corvette.

These changes to single- and multiplayer should add a lot of replayability to the game. But, they’re only one part of what makes this a great racing package. Forza 6 continues the series’ legacy of great driving physics and gorgeous graphics. Plus, the game is launching with 460 cars and 26 tracks on disc, far more than were available at release for Forza 5. Each race can now support 24 cars both in online and offline modes, making for some epic 24-player multiplayer League sessions—which I tested and saw working without any issue whatsoever. Of course, this was a week prior to the launch of Forza 6, so it’ll be interesting to see if everything holds up on day one.

The most impressive part about the gameplay now, though, has to be the night and rain aspects. Although both were introduced in Horizon 2, they’ve been revamped for Forza 6 in ways to make each track that supports them feel completely different in those variants. Puddles now accumulate on asphalt, forcing you to brave plowing through them or altering your course to steer clear, as hydroplaning is a legitimate concern. The gleam of headlights in your rearview mirror at night can become a distraction, with light sources acting dynamically in ways we’ve never seen from a racing game before. And different surfaces will react in distinctive ways to each one, as dirt becomes muddy in the rain, and track barriers may throw off unexpected glare depending on what angle your headlights catch them at. For those tracks where these new options are available, driving in the rain or at night keeps the experience feeling fresh, and makes each track variation feel like an entirely brand new course.

Not every track supports rain or night, however—and since many tracks are being carried over from Forza 5, you’re likely to get an unwelcome case of déjà vu with courses like Laguna Seca that remain entirely the same. Sure, some such as Rio have reverse versions, and it’s more realistic since not every track will run at night or in the rain, but it would’ve been nice to pull back on the sim a little and give every track at least one of those variations.

Speaking of toning down the sim, also returning is the bevy of assist options to help customize your racing experience, boosted with two major additions. First, you can now adjust Drivatar AI when racing offline. This means that if you don’t feel like facing particularly aggressive drivers, you can now dumb down the Drivatars so you have a more civil racing event.

The other major addition comes in the forms of Mods, which can be purchased as packs in the same way as you would new cars. Some Mods make the race more difficult, like lowering a car’s stats but rewarding you with more credits and XP at the end of a race. Others give cars boosts to stats or improve payouts. How you utilize them is up to you, and depends on what experience you’re looking for.

And while on the subject of credits, the final major change we see in Forza 6 this go around is with the game’s economy. There are no microtransactions at launch; whether or not this means they’ll be added later is another story, but at the very least, everything you get on day one is earnable in Forza 6. And with the Horizon 2 prize spinner coming over—now with a Press Your Luck game show flair instead of a slot machine motif—it’s easier than ever to earn credits, with huge bonuses coming your way when you level up both your driver and your car affinity. Admittedly, it still takes some time to grind for those really expensive, seven-digit price tag cars like a Bugatti Veyron or a Chevy IndyCar, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was in previous games.

By taking and improving on elements from the Horizon games, re-vitalizing the Career mode, introducing new modes like Leagues, and adding night and rain to the gameplay, Forza Motorsport 6 is without a doubt the best game the series has seen yet. If the franchise continues to grow and change at this rate, then it’ll be a welcome sight on the annual list of autumn game releases for years to come. For this season, though, Forza 6 is a must-play for all racing game fans.

Developer: Turn 10 Studios • Publisher: Microsoft • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 09.15.15
9.5
Forza Motorsport 6 is a welcome shot in the arm for the series. Easily the best entry the franchise has produced, Forza 6 introduces tons of new online and offline gameplay that should make players want to stay in the driver’s seat for as long as possible this fall.
The Good Rain and night provide enough variation and new challenge to forget about the repetition in tracks. Superb graphics and physics.
The Bad Can still feel like a bit of a grind when saving up for the most expensive cars.
The Ugly Having someone other than a member of the Top Gear team introduce The Stig.
Forza Motorsport 6 is a Xbox One exclusive. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review.

When you start up Forza Motorsport 6‘s Career Mode for the first time, you’ll have to prove that you’re ready to handle the tracks it’ll throw at you by taking part in three qualifying races.

These races will show off the game’s newest features, while also giving you a prime chance to get those tires warm again and earn some easy credits to start filling out your garage with the 460 cars that will be featured at launch. Here are those three races, as I ran them, in their entirety.

If you want to learn more about Forza 6 before it comes out, check out our interview with Turn 10 Studios’ Content Director, John Wendl, as we got to talk about how rain affects the gameplay, the new Mods feature, and more.

Forza Motorsport 6 will be available exclusively for Xbox One on September 15th.

A dose of déjà vu

Like many gamers my age, I grew up with a bevy of great and quirky titles developed by Rare. What I didn’t realize until I sat down with Rare Replay—a celebratory compilation of 30 games developed by the company since its inception in the mid-80s—though, was how much they grew up right alongside me. From thumb-numbing affairs like R.C. Pro-Am for the NES to more refined efforts for the Xbox 360 like Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Rare Replay is a magnificent showcase of one of gaming’s more beloved developers and how they’ve evolved over the years.

At its core, something like Rare Replay is admittedly nostalgia driven. While reviewing the collection, hours flew by in the blink of an eye as I rediscovered titles like Cobra Triangle (my personal first Rare game from 1989) and Battletoads. And in many cases, the games played just as well now as they did back in the day, with muscle memory taking over after only a few moments—which wasn’t really all that hard considering I only had to remember two buttons usually.

Rare Replay even touts an awesome “behind-the-scenes” series of never-before-seen interviews and features that are unlocked the more you play. These fun “Rare Revealed” unlockables give you insight into your favorite titles and how they came to be, and why certain creative decisions were made—like how Conker became the foul-mouthed squirrel we now know and love, or what the genesis of Battletoads really was.

Of course, even while being swept up in the memories of my childhood and teens, it quickly became evident that not every game in the compilation stood the test of time. My rose-colored glasses cracked a bit in particular when playing Killer Instinct Gold or Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll, but that’s also to be expected to a degree when covering such a large swath of gaming history.

Where Rare Replay shines brightest, however, isn’t just in how it lets you take a stroll down memory lane. Since it’s unlikely most people have played every title in this compilation, the best moments are really when you discover a game you might’ve missed the first time around. Suddenly, you have another favorite in your gaming library, even if it’s coming from a game older than you are. In my case, that game was 1983’s Jetpac—technically developed by Rare’s eventual founders Tim and Chris Stamper and not the studio itself—that kicks off the collection with some classic early-80s arcade action.

Now, it would’ve been easy enough for Rare to just pull these games together and call it a day, but Rare Replay tries to offer up a slice of originality, too, in the form of the game’s “Snapshots.” All of Rare’s older titles come with five Snapshots—mini-challenges from a specific slice of each game—that will put a player’s skills to the test. Whether it’s defeating a boss without losing a life, earning a high score in less than a minute, or cumulatively playing a game for a certain amount of time over your career, the Snapshots try to offer up something new to pull you back into the NES era if you need some prompting.

While an interesting idea, I would’ve loved for Snapshots to be more varied. You’ll always have a cumulative one, a high score one, a combat challenge, and then maybe a couple that are more specific towards the given game. The most curious decision with Snapshots comes from the fact that not every game has them, though, and they stop altogether once you reach the N64 generation of Rare’s library. If Rare was going to try to implement something new, they should’ve done so uniformly throughout Rare Replay.

And the same goes for a special “Replay” feature in those older games. Similar to the “Rewind” option you see in games like Forza, by pressing the LT button you can actually replay the last few seconds of your game to avoid losing a life and keep going for that high score. A novel idea—even if it somewhat defeats the purpose of those older arcade games—but it’s only available in the older Rare titles.

As fun and as nostalgia-driven as this collection may be, Rare Replay is actually about a lot more than just Rare’s history. A more subtle benefit of the collection may be how it helps pave the way for the highly anticipated backwards compatibility for Xbox One. While you’re downloading and installing the bulk of the collection, separate downloads then start for games that were on the Xbox 360 like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo: Elements of Power, and more. It ends up being nine separate Xbox 360 downloads, plus the Rare Replay collection of the remaining 21 games for 10 downloads total.

The one downside to this is, for the time being, you can only access the Xbox 360 games via Rare Replay, which acts as a sort of emulator launcher—even though each game takes up space separately on your hard drive (close to 50GB for all 10 downloads). That’s supposed to change when backwards compatibility fully comes to Xbox One sometime this fall, and in the meantime, if there are Xbox 360 games you don’t want, you can delete them apart from the main collection. At the very least, the transition between Xbox One and Xbox 360 is quick and relatively smooth after the first time you try it, and by simply holding the menu button, you can switch back to Rare Replay and the Xbox One whenever you want.

Rare Replay is a tremendous collection of great games that show how integral Rare has been to game development for the past 30 years. It may not offer up a lot that’s new gaming-wise, and it may lack some of the company’s biggest hits due to licensing issues (most notably Goldeneye 007 and the Donkey Kong Country series), but there’s plenty here that should still be celebrated. If you’re a Rare fan, there’s no better way to do so than with this compilation.

Developer: Rare Ltd. • Publisher: Microsoft • ESRB: E – Everyone to M – Mature (varies by game) • Release Date: 08.04.15
8.0
A great collection of classic games. Whether you’ve been a fan of Rare for three years or for thirty, there’s something here for everyone, with plenty of gems waiting to be discovered for the first time.
The Good Whether a Rare game junkie or a relative newcomer to their brand, everyone should find something to enjoy.
The Bad Snapshots don’t provide a lot of variety and aren’t available for all titles. Not every game stands the test of time.
The Ugly Even after nearly 25 years, I still can’t beat the Clinger-Winger stage in Battletoads. Damn you, Hypno-Ball!
Rare Replay is a Xbox One exclusive. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review.

A beautiful game

For more than a decade, one of my favorite TV shows has been the BBC series Top Gear. I’m the furthest thing from a car nut, but I’ve always enjoyed the insane stunts they pull. On more than one occasion, the program has played soccer with a variety of cars. So, even though I had never played Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, the predecessor to Rocket League, I expected to be able to immediately jump into the concept.

Funny enough, my hunch proved correct. Rocket League’s entire premise is just playing soccer with cars. You try to deflect a massive ball into your opponent’s net more times than they knock the ball into yours before the 5-minute clock hits all zeroes. What I couldn’t predict, however, was just how damn addicting it would be. Sure, it might not sound like a lot to hold your attention, but its simplicity is why this is one of the best off-the-wall, arcade-inspired experiences you’re likely to find on new-gen consoles. Not to mention, it’s easy to pick up and play but difficult to master—an often-defining quality for games that have a habit of sucking you in as Rocket League did.

This leads me to Rocket League’s greatest strength, its controls. The cars handle like most vehicles in other driving games, with the triggers serving as the accelerator and brakes.

With the face buttons, you can perform a variety of moves normally equated with a traditional soccer game, such as boost, slide, or even jump. You can flip your car to perform bicycle kicks; tackle your opponents at high speeds, causing them to explode and be taken out of the play for a couple of seconds; and even hurtle yourself across the goal line before the ball crosses it to make last-second saves.

I found it difficult at first to do anything beyond just blindly ramming into the ball. But after a dozen or so matches, I could control my car as if it were an extension of myself, stopping on a dime and performing acrobatic feats that shouldn’t be possible in a 2-ton car. I even used the walls, which you can drive along at high speeds, to bounce and re-direct the ball in mid-air.

The problem with performing these stunts, however, is that the game’s camera can’t keep up. It can be set to follow either the player or the ball, but neither option is as effective as I’d like. When it follows the player, the camera hugs the rear bumper pretty tightly, so it’s easy to lose track of the action when I’m taken out of the play or I shoot past the ball.

If the camera follows the ball, the controls change, making it far more difficult to control the car. You can switch between the two on the fly, but the herky-jerky transition isn’t pleasant. Instead, you’ll probably have a better time taking your chances with the default camera. A wider camera option, or even one locked at midfield, would have been a nice solution.

On the other hand, Rocket League excels at offering customization options. Although the choices are only cosmetic in nature, the game offers more than a hundred unlockable items ranging from new car chassis to the color of your boost stream. And something particularly pleasant is that you receive one randomly after each match you play, online or offline, win or lose. After only a few matches, you can make your car look as unique or as generic as you desire.

Unfortunately, the game modes themselves have far fewer options than the vehicles do. The single-player mode matches you against nine computer opponents that you can choose to face one to four times each. The mode doesn’t give you a reason to care, so it only serves as another way to warm up before taking on human opponents online. Both online and offline modes only feature your standard versus match, with the single variation coming from how many players—from one-versus-one to four-versus-four—you want to play with.

Even without many game-mode variations, though, the sole option Rocket League touts is a good one. Most folks probably won’t need more than your standard versus mode, especially if you start playing online with your friends, which is where this game really shines. At the time of this review, the early server issues that were reported seem to have been resolved; I experienced no connectivity or matchmaking problems during the past week. So, if you can look past a wonky camera and put the time into mastering the controls, Rocket League looks to be a nice hidden gem of a game that would make for a great way for you and your friends to get through the dog days of summer.

Developer: Psyonix • Publisher: Psyonix • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and older • Release Date: 07.07.15
8.0
Despite a few camera issues and lack of modes, Rocket League is a fun, addicting experience that will keep players engaged for a long time.
The Good Plenty of options for customization, surprisingly tight control, and tons of fun when playing with people.
The Bad No depth to the single-player; camera can be a nuisance at times.
The Ugly How badly it shames soccer games with humans.
Rocket League is available on PS4 and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Psyonix for the benefit of this review.

Kicking the tires

The ideas of open-world exploration and story aren’t usually synonymous with racing titles. A spin-off game from Microsoft’s popular Forza franchise, Forza Horizon, bucked the trend, though, and delivered a fun, fresh take on the genre back in 2012. It was welcomed back then as a breath of fresh air, so it’s no surprise that high hopes surrounded the follow-up, Forza Horizon 2.

Primary developer Playground Games committed themselves to making sure Horizon 2 was bigger and better in almost every possible way. Moving from the Rocky Mountain roads of Colorado, the Horizon music and racing festival has now set up shop on the Italy-France border, creating a fictional space that’s not only far larger than the first game but also more diverse. Whether it’s the beach resort town of Nice, France or the fields and old-world charm of Castelletto, Italy, each of the game’s six regions feel unique and exude an authentic Western European vibe.

Also, as we’ve come to expect from every Forza, the cars look absolutely spectacular. The game’s cover car, the Lamborghini Huracán, the 1960s Chevy Corvette Stingray, or even something like the Volkswagen Rabbit—along with more than 200 others—have been crafted to look exactly like their real-world counterparts, and they all shine brilliantly on the Xbox One.

Each car also handles much like you’d expect they would in the real world, but a new addition to Horizon 2 pushes that handling to the limit. Along with the returning day-night cycle, a new weather system makes its debut here. Rain not only changes how your car drifts and takes turns in races and out in the open world, but roads remain slick well after the rain has stopped, providing not only a major new hazard for racers to contend with but also a little welcome variety.

Speaking of variety, each region features wide-open spaces that just scream for you to take your car off-roading and cut corners between winding roads. While you could do that sometimes in the first game, far fewer boundaries will impede you here as fields of roses, wheat, lavender, and dry brush dot the landscape. It became a guilty pleasure to carve crop circles into each respective field, racking up my wreckage multiplier, and then hightailing it back onto the road, looking in my rearview at the carnage I’d wrought. These off-roading segments are also the theme of many races and provide a true sense of freedom, since no barriers hem you in or tell you how to reach the next checkpoint (yes, there’s a suggested path, but you’re often better off ignoring it).

There’s more to do beyond just traditional racing at the Horizon festival, particularly since the game offers rewards for exploring the nooks and crannies of the map with the return of Barn Finds, 10 hidden gem cars scattered about the game world. Forza Horizon 2 also features six new showcase events, allowing you to race head-to-head against a train, several planes, hot-air balloons, and more. The most interesting addition, though, may be the new Bucket List—30 different challenges spread around the map that offer special objectives ranging from the simple, such as driving along the coast in a certain amount of time in a Ferrari, to the maddening, like driving a Bowler Wildcat through a forest back to the Horizon Festival main tent.

On paper, Forza Horizon 2 offers plenty more to keep you occupied compared to the first game, and there’s no denying that it plays wonderfully. The addition of Drivatar AI opponents even adds a little extra flair, with the knowledge that when one of my friend’s avatars tries to squeeze me into a sideboard on a track when we’re up against each other, that’s what they’d actually do if we were playing together. That said, playing the game on Medium difficulty and with only a couple of braking assists, I was still able to take first place in every race I was in and found the clock in Bucket List challenges to be far more of an opponent.

But there’s one thing missing this time around that left me horribly disappointed: the game’s heart. To begin with, the story mode is a shell of its former self. This iteration offers many more races (nearly 700 total across 168 championships, though you only need to clear about 65 races over 15 championships if you want to get right to the final race), but all the charm’s been sucked out.

Much like in the original Forza Horizon, your objective here is to become the champion of the festival. In the first game, however, you had to knock off other championship contenders who specialized in particular cars. They offered a rarity in racing games: nemeses with personality and panache. Here, they’ve been replaced by nothing more than the Horizon organizer telling you how many more races you have to win to qualify for the finale. It becomes just a mundane, soulless countdown of championships—punctuated by the same, dull repetitive commentary—that starts to feel more and more like a grind as you move from region to region, choosing which of each area’s respective 28 championships you wish to take part in.

The popularity aspect of single-player portion has also been removed. In the first Horizon, you had to perform tricks and win races to move up in the popularity standings of the festival. This was another way to prove if you were worthy of a championship run. Here, in order to help streamline the seamless transition to multiplayer, you have a pair of XP bars that can be filled in both single-player and online. As you gain levels from tricks, you receive skill points that can be spent on unique upgrades—of which there are only a couple dozen, and they aren’t nearly as satisfying to acquire as moving up the popularity leaderboard. As you gain levels from winning races, you get new wristbands, just like in the first game. In the original, though, these opened up new races; here, they do nothing except change the color of your XP bar—a sad attempt at carrying over aspects of the first game that have now lost all meaning.

I will say, at least, that the multiplayer transition is impressive. Mind you, it should be noted that I played with only a handful of others online, and it worked fine, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the servers when the game actually launches with, I’d imagine, many more people populating them. The idea, though, is that with a simple button press from the menu or map, you can start searching for online games. When you find enough people, it becomes an impromptu race to one of the game’s six regions if you select Road Trip, or you can simply Free Roam with your friends and challenge others on the fly.

If you do Road Trip, when everyone gets to the destination, you begin a series of four events to determine the winner and see who takes home the online championship. You can also play the returning Playground Games, a group of offbeat multiplayer challenges that are less about racing and more about surviving—like Infected, which declares that the last person to be hit by an “infected” car wins.

In many ways, it’s clear that Forza Horizon 2 is definitely bigger than the original. It’s a great racer in terms of gameplay and chock-full of content that could potentially keep you busy for months on end. But gutting the story—and taking away one of the key pillars that made the first Forza Horizon so special—to blur the line between single- and multiplayer left a sour taste in my mouth. If all you care about is getting behind the wheel and scenic European vistas, though, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better experience.

Developer: Playground Games/Turn 10 Studios • Publisher: Microsoft Studios • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 09.30.14
7.5
Bigger doesn’t always equate to better. Forza Horizon 2 definitely delivers a gameplay experience a step above its predecessor, but gutting story mode leaves the single-player soulless and more akin to a grind.
The Good A larger, more beautifully detailed world to explore; seamless multiplayer integration.
The Bad The story is nearly nonexistent.
The Ugly Tons of new music tracks—and still nothing good on the radio.
Forza Horizon 2 is available on Xbox One and Xbox 360. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Microsoft for the benefit of this review.

Ray Carsillo goes one-on-one with Forza community manager Brian Ekberg who reveals more about the upcoming sequel and gives new details about the super-charged Xbox racing title Forza Horizon 2! Check out our special video interview from the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con to learn more about this amazing new driving title.