Last week Microsoft released a free to download – for a limited time at least – mini version of Forza Horizon 2, with Fast and Furious franchise branding and a chunk of Nice to explore (not the biscuit, the place in France). It was a great move as it not only promoted the upcoming seventh film in the F+F franchise, but it also gave people a demo of Forza Horizon 2 that dished out achievements for certain actions. This is key to making a demo work in my mind as it encourages a player to experiment with a range of options and events rather than – in the case of the previous demo – just offering an open world that can be explored. The game was released on both current generations of Microsoft’s console stable, but are they different?
Short answer is yes. Long answer is available after the jump…
So I started off with the Xbox One edition – which may have been a bit of a mistake (more on that later) – and was immediately impressed with the size of the map on offer. I expected a very compact map, perhaps with some notable ‘race track’ layout at the heart of the design, but instead I was presented with a decent sized chunk of the south of France. The game is broken down into a story mode that tasks you with collecting some cars for a ‘friend’ and then delivering them to an airfield in a mad dash at the end of the story. Beyond that there are bucket list challenges as well as speed traps/zones and a handful of discoverable collectibles. Now I won’t go into too much detail, as it really isn’t necessary as this is simply the Forza Horizon experience with a Fast and Furious tinge, but the game is diverse, has a certain degree of challenge and thanks to the Xbox One being able to record gameplay footage, lends itself well to making some quite exciting video clips via the Upload software. All in all the run through took me about six hours to get all 1000 gamerscore (yeah, it has gamerscore) and I enjoyed almost every second. Weather effects were on show during certain events, affecting gameplay in a satisfying sense and the now expected ‘race a thing that isn’t a car’ events on offer (plane and a helicopter) were challenging, but not to the point of frustration. The game was easier to complete with the assists turned off – great big tick in the plus column there – and the additions of Drivatars ensured that I could still hate Postman Gav. I have to say the whole experience was a joy and had my finger hovering over the order button for Forza Horizon 2.
Then I decided to get myself another 1,000 gamerscore and installed the Xbox 360 version.
Now. At this point it is worth explaining that the following ‘rant’ is unfair. I know it’s unfair but it’s also accurate to my experience. Which was self-inflicted and no reflection of the actual game.
So, the Xbox 360 version is horse-shit!
It’s reproachable crap, that makes me glad that my 360 is relegated to the front room. In fact it made me consider throwing the console at a goose.
So I installed it and it loaded up looking pretty much like the shiny Xbox One version, only lacking some of the visual finesse that you expect from the new-gen machine. That’s fine though, because there was never going to be such a level of polish on the game, and I had no issue with that. I did have an issue though, once I started on my first race, namely the fact that for no apparent reason I did not have the luxury of having nitrous boosting as I had relied on in the Xbox One version. Now maybe I’m wrong here, but that’s kind of a staple for street racing games – let alone Mario Kart/Sonic Racers etc… – and has been for some time. More importantly it was a major part of even the first Fast and Furious film and the fact that the developers opted to cut the feature out – presumably to make the sun shinier or something – confused me to the point of annoyance. Also I noted that the Drivatar system wasn’t part of the game – which is fair enough – but it resulted in the AI drivers simply not offering the diversity I was used to from it’s new-gen brethren.
So I persevered and started to also notice a lack of movement from the sun. Whereas the Xbox One iteration was full of sunsets, rain storms and night time the 360 version seemed almost permanently stuck at high noon. Again, I appreciate that there are some limitations, but a day/night cycle is also a fairly commonplace situation for a racing game.
So while I started to concentrate on the haves and have nots, I came to a stark realisation. This game was the first time I had become a new-gen snob. I was being elitist. I was the problem. I found myself unable to enjoy the game on it’s own merits, and instead kept getting frustrated with the lack of boost and other features. Ultimately the final mission, a mission which I managed to complete on my first run on the Xbox One took me over an hour to complete. The timing had to be perfect as the lack of boost meant that any notable mistake resulted in a failure of the entire event. So then I did something that kind of finished the experience off like an old man walking his dog to the copse at the back of his farm, slowly loading a single cartridge into his shotgun and sobbing. I hit ‘rewind’.
The bane of racing games in my opinion, removing the need to have elements of skill and giving everyone the sort of power usually only reserved for Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Slightly off the racing line? REWIND! Clipped the tree and lost three mph? REWIND!! Looked at your children as you’ve spent thirteen hours this weekend playing the same game on two consoles to then sit down and write an article on a blog that no-one will ever read and then rear ended a truck? REWIND!!!
I became one of ‘those people’ who present a Mario speedrun, but one that was achieved using a quick save system. I cheated. But I didn’t use some workaround, I used a feature in the game design. A feature that seems to be the Holy Grail for completing the damn game as I ran through and beat the bloody plane. I had no sense of exhilaration as I had when I inched across the line 0.2 seconds ahead of the transport plane on the Xbox One version, I simply felt relief that I’d not have to try the mission again. So why leave that feature in, and not nitrous? Surely the boost is the ‘you fucked up, here’s a chance at redemption’ that also sits within the remit of real world racing?
So I spent more hours completing a game with less features, and I hated the experience from start to finish. So maybe that is the game’s fault. Or maybe it was my narrow opinion, enhanced by the fact that I hadn’t played the last-gen version first. I essentially ate the Smart Price Cottage Pie (heated in a microwave for three minutes on full power, and then for a further two and a half minutes to finish off) after returning from an all you can eat banquet night where I ate fried chicken from the back of specially trained monkeys and enjoyed donuts that were offered on the horn of the last remaining unicorn.
So maybe the Fast and Furious experience on Xbox 360 is not too bad, if viewed from the correct perspective, but for me it is total horse shit and should never be offered for real money (as it is now, as the free period has ended). Maybe people should ignore this rant and enjoy it on it’s limited merit. But I wouldn’t advise it, unless you’ve drank five cans of Blue Rat. Then go for it, it beats shaking all those snowstorms.