The Only Forza Horizon 3 Review You Need to Read


I understand we’re extremely late with our review of Forza Horizon 3, as the game has been out for almost an entire month, but this isn’t due to our own laziness. At launch, none of us actually had the Windows 10 operating system installed on our PC’s, neither James nor Maple wanted to take the plunge on a controversial package that had been routinely making headlines for all the wrong reasons, and I personally had an exam that quite simply deserved a significant portion of my attention. When I finally did get around to purchasing Forza Horizon 3, both for my own enjoyment and to review on, two consecutive patches released by Playground Games turned Forza Horizon 3 into an unplayable mess, to the point where the task of finishing the game felt more like a chore.

I really wanted to enjoy what Forza Horizon 3 has to offer, but Microsoft, Turn 10, and Playground Games have pushed out an unreliable piece of software that coughs, hacks, and stutters its way through a beautiful rendition of Australia’s Gold Coast – an experience that is simply unacceptable in 2016, and does not reflect the traditionally polished product one could expect when purchasing a Forza title in the past.

Landing simultaneously on both the Xbox One and Windows 10, Forza Horizon 3 was introduced to the gaming public on September 27th, 2016; the first time a major Forza release has been offered to PC gamers, as the franchise has spent the past decade operating solely as an Xbox exclusive. On Windows 10, Forza Horizon 3 cannot be purchased through retailers or in any third party online shops such as Steam, requiring you to install or upgrade to Windows 10, open the Windows Store app, navigate to the Forza Horizon 3 store page, and purchase the game through the dashboard. Horizon 3 is massively over-priced in the European Storefront – going for a whopping $76 US after currency conversion, whereas the North American version is the standard $59.99. I tried going the route of purchasing Horizon 3 through various other countries’ stores, but the application continued to give me an error message that said they could not process the payment, and I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I was paying a lot more than anyone else outside of Europe.

Downloading and installing Horizon 3 was a pain in the ass, as we’ve documented in detail here at The only way to download Horizon 3 was through the Windows store, which as an application is prone to frequent crashing, freezing, or randomly aborting downloads. It doesn’t display at what rate the files are transferring, nor does it inform you how much time it’ll take to finish the download. Sometimes the store is in the process of downloading an app – visible through the task manager or your Ethernet driver – but the progress bar is frozen, leaving you extremely confused. Choosing a simple install location is more or less impossible as well; you’re only allowed to choose the hard disk drive you want to download apps, and nothing else, which results in three or four different folders suddenly appearing in your home directory. Windows 10 doesn’t even create a folder in which it puts the different sub folders. Quite simply, it’s a mess.

Virtual cancer

Forza Horizon 3 immediately lets you know that Microsoft and Playground Games have no idea what the fuck they’re doing on the PC, as the game opens in a windowed, borderless state – as do all Windows 10 games downloaded from the Windows Store. It is still currently impossible to run Forza Horizon 3 in true full screen mode. Now despite the automatic options analyzing my system and recommending me to select High visual settings, in reality this meant that I’d be subjected to a below-average 30 frames per second; less than ideal for a game intended to show off what my PC can do through the backroads of Australia.

speccy october 2016

Initially, the performance of the game was quite good, apart from the weird, rubber-banding feeling you’d get through Horizon 3’s frame smoothing option when you arrived at a particularly detailed area within the game world. On highway segments and in races through the countryside, Horizon 3 remained locked at the 30 frames per second I told it to remain at, as unlocking the framerate would make the game feel like chewing gum. It was as if Horizon 3 was slowing down in order to compensate for the fluctuating framerate, and it was all sorts of fucked up to watch in motion.

The first of the three major patches seemed to increase performance and eradicate most of the framerate drops I had been experiencing – even getting rid of the weird rubber-banding effects in high traffic locations – but the two most recent updates turned Forza Horizon 3 into an unplayable mess for myself and many others. The second major patch introduced a bug that would break my explorer.exe process every time I launched the game, rendering the task bar absolutely useless and limit my ability to bring up the Start menu. The only way to fix this was to restart my PC, as simply shutting down the process and restarting it wouldn’t rectify the issue. The third update, which didn’t drop too long ago, was the final straw for myself, as the performance took a drastic nosedive, barely reaching 30 frames per second, stuttering all over the place, and reaching single-digit FPS values. I had to massively decrease my visual settings in order to make the game playable, which I find totally unacceptable given the game worked relatively okay after the first update.

The game also intrusively pushes something called the Groove Music Service on you during normal gameplay, trying to bait you into a free 14-day trial via the way of annoying pop ups, but thankfully in my experience I was able to click away from these and never had to deal with them again. Other people haven’t been so lucky.

After several patches, Forza Horizon 3 finally has decent wheel support, however this is one of the few racing games on the market that performs perfectly fine with a standard console controller as well. The application automatically detects both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers, so you aren’t even required to use a third party plugin like Input Mapper or DS4Windows as Matt Orr has talked about. You can change all sorts of deadzone values for your wheel, select the steering ratio, and a whole bunch of little oddities that are typically found in hardcore racing simulators – which was really nice to see. Horizon 3 also offers multiple sets of driving physics, but I found the Normal settings to be more realistic than the Simulation selection, as the latter suffers from an artificial decrease in tire grip that makes catching most simple slides almost impossible.

FH3 settings

With the settings you see above, Horizon 3 actually drives incredibly well for a casual-oriented mass market racing game. It feels extremely close to the Codemasters DiRT series prior to the ultra-Hardcore DiRT Rally, which in this case is quite the compliment. You can provoke slides and drift as long as you want provided you’ve got enough horsepower, different tire compounds make a tangible difference on how your car handles at the edge of the tire, and when it rains, there is a massive change in your driving style required to be successful. Horizon 3 packs an abundance of the almighty Simulation Value we often joke about here at into what on the surfaces is a decidedly lighthearted package, and I really appreciate the overall direction this title is aimed in.

There are several kinds of surfaces in Horizon 3, such as wet sand, desert sand, gravel, tarmac, mud, and grass, and your car always behaves differently on each of them, but never in a way that’s canned or unrealistic. When going from tarmac to sand, for example, it becomes much harder to accelerate or corner, but at the same time, drifting becomes extremely easy. Unfortunately, the AI doesn’t appear to play by the same set of rules compared to the player car, as they’re virtually unbeatable on tarmac thanks to an excessive amount of assisted grip and the way Horizon 3 consistently places you far from the front row on the starting grid.

Gaps between yourself and the AI cars on Unbeatable difficulty are almost impossible to make up fairly, requiring you to smash and bash your way to the front – which doesn’t do any favors for the mentality of the average virtual racer when they test out online races. However, when the AI takes a trip off road, they’re absolutely fucking horrible, especially in lower class cars. You can easily stomp them by two or three seconds per lap, an insane amount of real estate compared to how they decimate you on tarmac, and this is really noticeable once you start fooling around in the numerous Hypercars and dedicated race cars offered in Horizon 3.

bad ai

Despite Horizon 3 offering a mammoth version of Australia’s Gold Coast to explore, the game doesn’t actually require you to do a whole lot of driving compared to other open world racers such as Test Drive Unlimited or Need for Speed Underground, as you’re given the ability to warp to the game’s festival sites – which serve as your garage, paint shop, aftermarket performance tuning center, and overall central hub at any given time. It’s a bit of an odd design decision; Horizon 3 gives you a sweet open world to roam at your desires, but couldn’t care less about you exploring it. The game also allows you to spend a lot of time messing around with in-depth tuning and upgrade options, but many “Quick Upgrade” buttons exist to simplify the process and really discourage players from diving deep into what Horizon 3 has to offer on that spectrum of the game. The livery marketplace returns from previous Forza titles, allowing you to apply a pre-made wrap from the community almost immediately after purchasing your car, though the entire customization process – whether we’re talking about the livery screen or upgrading your vehicle – is plagued by performance issues which make navigating these menus extremely painful and time consuming.


The story of Horizon 3 is almost non-existent, but as this is an open world racing game, I don’t mind it at all – especially considering titles which have experimented with heavy narrative elements like The Crew and Test Drive Unlimited 2 haven’t been received very well. Unlike the previous games, where you’ve been competing in this sort of Soundwave-like street racing festival, Horizon 3 now assumes you’ve played the previous two entries and allow you to assume the role of organizer thanks to your veteran status, and for the first time in the series you’re able to customize your identity. Along with traditional circuit and point-to-point races, the offshoot events from previous Horizon titles focused on drifting, destruction, scoring style points, and competing against random gimmick vehicles have all returned, making for a very familiar experience. You essentially are given free reign of the map to complete events, purchase cars, and earn experience points – which the game calls “fans” – giving you the task of upgrading the numerous festival locations around the map in the way you see fit. It’s not a linear form of progression by any means, but it’s not a complete sandbox, either.

Australia as a game world is a lively one, with pedestrian traffic cars and fellow racers populating the world, though what really stuck out to me was the total lack of diversity in the traffic cars I was whizzing by in my travels – according to Playground Games, everyone in Australia owns a BMW X5, Abarth 500, or Holden Ute. This lack of diversity is also reflected in the “drivatars” – virtual representations of real players that roam around as AI vehicles in your campaign. I’m not sure whether it’s due to the abundance of teenagers playing Horizon 3, or if it’s a poor algorithm calculation, but nine out of every ten drivatars I run across are piloting a Koenigsegg when you’re sitting in a hypercar. The drivatars can also be quite scripted at times, as when you’re competing in an offshoot event like the aforementioned speed challenges or drift competitions, there’s a sharp increase in the number of AI traffic vehicles. You can circumvent this issue by going into a private online session – removing all drivatars from the game world – though it’s a pain in the ass on the end user.


Visually, Australia is absolutely beautiful, and I’m really pleased with how diverse the map in Horizon 3 is compared to Colorado and Europe in the first two games. It consists of several different biomes such as the outback, the rainforest, a suburb, and even a major city, meaning there isn’t a central theme surrounding the game compared to the original Horizon’s reddish-brown hue that was present at all times. I personally wish a bit more effort had been put into fleshing out the game world in terms of fauna and Australian citizens roaming city streets away from the major festival sites, though I’m sure the lack of pedestrians is one of those things that had to be omitted for licensing reasons.

For the time I was able to invest in Forza Horizon 3 before my game became crippled with technical issues that shouldn’t appear in a flagship Microsoft product, I’m able to confirm that this is one of the best arcade racers ever made, and really brings me back to the days of Need for Speed Underground 2, where top to bottom the complete package offered an extremely enjoyable experience. The same enthusiasm I felt for Underground 2, and how perfectly the car physics had been massaged back then to appeal to multiple crowds, is how I feel about the raw driving experience in Horizon 3. Events are short, sweet, and enjoyable provided you stick with an AI difficulty level that doesn’t outright cheat, and the introduction of incredibly diverse biomes finally justifies the extensive roster of cars you accumulate throughout the campaign mode. Had the horrible patches not broke Horizon 3 for me, I’d feel comfortable giving this game’s equivalent of a perfect score, but those who are on the fence about this game should continue to monitor the community message boards and Forza Motorsport Subreddit until there’s a unanimous consensus that everything has been fixed before taking the plunge.

Auf Wiedersehen

Say Hello to Automobilista’s First DLC Package

ams-2016-10-25-16-03-26-45For sim racers who proudly fly the Reiza flag on their desktop, this week has been an exciting one, as the first batch of premium downloadable content for Automobilistadubbed The Brit Pack – has arrived on Valve’s online marketplace. Bundling a trio of laser-scanned circuits from the United Kingdom, as well as a handful of cars which represent the greatest machinery the island has to offer, the new content is the first in what’s set to be a line of post-release packs which serve to elevate Automobilista from the status of a niche South American racing simulator with last-minute additions into something much more diverse. Yes, Patrick Giranthon has done phenomenal work fleshing out the track roster, and an increasing amount of solid car conversions have turned Automobilista into what’s objectively the best simulator on the market, but it’s always nice when the developers themselves are putting new stuff into the game; they know the platform better than anyone else.

ams-2016-10-25-16-02-39-80Personally, I’m not too impressed by the package from a critical standpoint, but most who own Automobilista will undoubtedly purchase it anyways, as more content is always better when it comes to simulators from Reiza Studios. To their credit, these guys rarely fuck something up, and with Niels spearheading the physics operation on the vehicle performance side, and it’s a safe bet anything these guys touch will be modeled accurately.

The three laser-scanned locations included – Cadwell Park, Oulton Park, and Brands Hatch – have all previously appeared in Project CARS, to the point where I believe they’re using very similar scan data, if not the same. Not that this is a knock against Reiza Studios; the fidelity of the tracks is astounding and they fit nicely into the choice of circuits, but the wow factor isn’t really there if you’ve invested any time into Project CARS. Worth the money, however? Yes. I’m not the biggest fan of Cadwell, but Oulton and Brands are both top notch locations for stuff like the Holden Commodore, Marcas touring cars and Porsche… Sorry… Boxer Cup, sliding naturally into place alongside Montreal and Austria as international offerings.

Vehicle-wise, the Brit Pack is an extremely hard sell. I’m not captivated with any single car offered in the DLC considering the abundance of Caterhams and the set of Ultima GTR variants, which many will struggle to drive. The one shining moment I found was with the MCR 2000, which partially acts as a low-end replacement for the set of Radicals you’ve grown accustomed to in other, more accomplished simulators. It’s a fun little ride, although it’s really fucking ugly and visually doesn’t look up to par with other car models found in Automobilista. If you guys need a setup for this thing to make it a bit more lively, you can download it HERE.

The tracks are very nice, but you’ve driven the exact meshes before in a different game. The new cars all drive as they should, but it’s a very underwhelming set of additions when you consider Automobilista shipped with a fairly diverse set of vehicles from the get-go. All filler, no killer.

ams-2016-10-25-15-55-51-75My biggest gripe centers around not with the content included within the Brit Pack, but the recent update Reiza Studios have introduced to the base application. As I’m a single monitor racer, I’m traditionally forced to dig through vehicle folders and manually adjust the cockpit camera view “eye point” to be closer to the front windshield, almost to replicate a Ferrari F355 Challenge camera view. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s part of the reason I love PC sim racing – if you want something a certain way, you can physically dig around in the game’s files and do what you want.

Automobilista would let me tweak the camera on every official Reiza car, as it’s not a performance hack by any means, I just want to ensure as much of my monitor as possible is used to look out the front windshield, rather than stare at the internals of the cockpit. The update bundled with the Brit Pack DLC has caused the game to ignore the Cockpit Info INI file and rely on something that’s presumably encrypted into the untouchable MAS file and, thus totally disallow me from making camera adjustments. On some cars – such as the Porsche – I can still run my custom camera. With the Holden Commodore or Ultima GTR, I can’t. And it sucks, because I’d prefer to be driving from the front seat, not staring at the awkward end of the steering column and my non-existent legs.

ams-2016-10-25-15-59-44-11As we always say whenever we talk about Reiza Studios and Automobilista, there isn’t much of anybody playing online, and the offline experience very much resembles a polished rFactor, putting DLC for Automobilista just barely into the obscure sim racing payware mod category rather than a traditional piece of DLC. Make no mistake, you will be driving this content offline, as it has done little to spike the number of active players.

Most of the smart sim racers among us have bought into the Season Pass, meaning this rather underwhelming and unexciting list of cars alongside three laser scanned locations isn’t too bad of a deal for five dollars – with much more on the way between now and Reiza 2017. It’s not the most exciting start to a series of downloadable content, but Brands Hatch and Oulton Park are solid playgrounds for the vanilla content. The rest of the new vehicles? Meh.

Why is Someone Starting a Sim Racing TV Channel?

wtfI’m fully aware that a portion of the greater sim racing community can be a tad delusional at times, but I think this example right here isn’t going to be topped anytime soon by virtually anyone with a functioning brain. Earlier today, I received an anonymous message from someone using a temporary email address notifying me of the upcoming Sim Racing TV station, a legitimate television channel you’ll be able to check out in the near future as part of the basic Freesat package so long as you’re paired up with Sky UK as your telecommunications provider.

Totally disregarding the fact that SPEED Channel – a 24 hour motorsports network focused on real life auto racing – was taken off the air due to slumping ratings and restructured as the all-encompassing Fox Sports, someone within our community believed that an entire station centering around virtual race cars aimed at a drastically smaller audience than those who loved Speed Channel in its prime – would somehow be successful in any way, shape, or form. At the moment, they are focused on selling advertisement space.

Good luck.

unnamedThis is by far the stupidest fucking thing anyone has ever done in our community; an incomprehensibly bad idea that will go down as little more than the result of too many Red Bulls consumed in too short of a time span. I understand that occasionally, we run into sim racers with more money than brains, but there is no logical reason as to why Sim Racing TV would even have a partial chance of success. And rather than continue to throw out insults at the creators in a late-night tirade, I’ll instead explain why there were at least four reasons this idea should have never left the drawing board.

ttvYouTube exists. I have no desire to wait until a very specific time in the evening to watch an EmptyBox commentary, or a review from Shaun Cole of The SimPit, and have their work split up with intrusive commercials. YouTube lets me catch an iRacing event a few friends are racing in as it’s happening, or, even better, I can dig through the archives to view the entire broadcast at my own leisure.

Traditional television doesn’t let you do that. And if a league is streaming their race in high definition via YouTube, yet the commentators suck or the racing itself isn’t very competitive, I can turn it off and find another sim racing-related video that does entertain me. That won’t happen on a dedicated TV station. You’re forced to sit through it until the next program comes on, and given how long some of the GT endurance races can be, you’re looking at basically the entire day consumed by one virtual race.

fvNot all sim racing-related content is created equal. Let’s be real here – a whole bunch of leagues broadcast their online races, but not all of them do a stand-up job of it, to the point where I feel like chilling on the sofa and taking in an online event as a spectator. In fact, most live events range from barely acceptable to downright horrible, as commentators fight with poor audio quality or suspension of disbelief issues, such as deciding whether to pretend obvious server issues are “rain delays” in an effort to save face for their developer of choice.

Finding unique quality content to fill an entire 24-hour cycle will be next to impossible for Sim Racing TV, especially considering a lot of guys within the community – myself included – produce content in their spare time and don’t adhere to a set production schedule compared to something like Mythbusters or The Simpsons. From a logistics standpoint, this is going to be a pain in the ass for SRTV overlords, and given sim racing doesn’t have a huge following, you’re looking at trying to woo a fraction of a fraction of auto racing fans.

Jun 27, 2015; Fontana, CA, USA; General view of spectators in attendance as IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud (22) and Helio Castroneves (3) lead the field before the start of the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The popularity of real world auto racing is in a sharp decline. Above is a shot from the 2015 IndyCar event at Auto Club Speedway in California. Despite establishing itself as the greatest IndyCar race ever and setting a series record for the number of lead changes, just take a look at those grandstands. If the target audience of Sim Racing TV is downright indifferent to the existence of auto racing in general – whether it be on television or in real life – how in God’s name do you expect these same people to care about virtual racing featuring a bunch of faceless nerds on an iRacing server?


Sim Racing as an eSport has simply not taken off to the extent of other competitive online games. Look, I enjoy watching my bros participate in streamed league races regardless of the sim they choose to drive, but let’s be realistic about the audience numbers – I’ve tuned into iRacing Peak Anti-Freeze Series broadcasts on Tuesday nights, and seen the number dip as low as 250 active viewers. This is pathetic, and simply does not warrant a dedicated television channel.

There are more people involved in the actual competition – such as stewards, spotters, setup builders, and livery designers – than there are spectating the event. Factor out the number of family members, teammates with an iPad next to the monitor, and/or close personal friends viewing these broadcasts for the hell of it, and that number drops below 100 on the official account of the simulator itself. On the flip side, League of Legends – what many consider to be the most popular eSport at the moment – saw 8.5 million people tune into the 2013 World Championship matches. notes that this number was almost sixteen times the amount of viewers than the 2012 London Olympics received a year earlier. Based on that data alone, who do you think deserves a television channel: Sim Racing, or League of Legends?


Now to ensure we’re not manipulating numbers and intentionally misleading people about the overall popularity of sim racing, some events, such as the Mercedes-Benz sponsored RaceRoom Racing Experience DTM championship, were broadcast live and reeled in an impressive number of viewers on Facebook.

However, this is largely in part due to the one-off spectacle the German car manufacturer held, placing participants in identically prepared pretend cockpits, and leveling the playing field by refusing to allow custom car setups – a staple of competitive sim racing. With the stream appearing on the prestigious brand’s official Facebook page, it’s no wonder over two hundred and fifty thousand people took a gander at the commotion – every small European child with a Facebook account probably “Liked” their page out of boredom. The chances of a large promoter holding an entire season of these events is slim to none, relegating simulator broadcasts to the depths of YouTube. Coverage and support of most online competitions simply doesn’t look like this.

rfactor2-2016-02-06-20-32-36-96Sim Racing just isn’t popular. I genuinely love this hobby, but we can’t deny that we’re an obscure niche interest compared to first person shooters or real-time strategy games. Piloting a car around a race track next to a handful of other opponents is difficult, and doing it without any seat of the pants feeling thanks to sitting in front of a PC monitor is even more challenging.

There are traditionally only 2,500 people on the iRacing service at any given moment, and most of the individuals currently racing on this lovely Monday evening are the same who populated the servers in the spring of 2012. This genre is a hard sell to virtually anybody. You buy a bunch of expensive hardware, only to crash in the first corner. The common masses which flock to Call of Duty or League of Legends, they don’t like that. They will never like that. It will always be Ray Alfalla and Greger Huttu stomping around on iRacing; there aren’t a thousand people who practice every day to take their spot – hell, there aren’t even thirty.

We aren’t an eSport. We’re lucky if a modern simulator eclipses one thousand concurrent players at the same time. You basically need to sign up for a league to race other human opponents, as public lobbies are virtually non-existent in isiMotor simulators. If we were swimming in viewers, and sim racers were being recruited by amateur racing teams en mass, then sure, a dedicated television station is by all means justified. But none of this is happening in the slightest.

We don’t need a sim racing TV station. There aren’t enough potential viewers to make it a viable option. It’s a complete nonsensical decision, and I genuinely feel bad for anyone delusional enough to sink money into this endeavor. If you are curious about checking out the full advertisement pitch, you can download the PDF File here:



My Summer Car: Welcome to Early Access

14555631_935693083241528_348919626_n-pngI’m not sure what attracts the people of Finland to; maybe it’s our shared understanding of harsh Northern winters, our love of alcohol, or our dark sense of humor. Regardless of the fact that we’ve almost gotten half of their country banned off the iRacing forums for simply posting topics discussing articles, we’ve somehow still managed to get our hands on a copy of My Summer Car shortly before it hits Steam’s Early Access platform thanks to Johannes from Amistech Games.

To be honest with our readers, I’ve been looking forward to the release of this game ever since I saw the first Twitch streams that our friendly iRacing Finns shared on the official forums. Our first glimpse of the game came over a year ago with what looked like just a basic backroads driving simulator, with the ability to get hammered and flip people the bird at 100 km/h like I assume Kimi Raikkonen or Jari-Matti Latvala had done ever so frequently in their teenage years. Along with the hilarious commentary from Johannes himself, it looked like this really niche, obscure, odd-ball indie title that nobody knew they wanted, until they saw it in action. Above all, it looked FUN, something that’s been missing in sim racing for an exceptionally long time.

I’m happy to report that the game itself is extremely enjoyable once you invest yourself in the premise; a game that capitalizes on the niche appeal of Gearhead Garage with the added bonus of a proper plot, actual gameplay, and unique brand of humor from a country who is incredibly proud to be who they are.

You begin the game with every part you need in your shop aside from a fan belt, and you need to physically walk to the store to keep your character replenished with food, as well as purchase essential fluids for your vehicle. It’s a bit of a goofy gameplay element, but I enjoyed the fact that I always had something to do within the game world. The guide located on the game’s quasi-official Wiki gives a pretty easy set of instructions to build the car, even if you know nothing about cars, and also gives you ever wrench/spanner size needed for the project – and I think it’s really good Amistech have provided this, as let’s be honest – not everybody knows how to build a functioning vehicle.

During the process of building your car, you’ll receive random phone calls for side missions, which pay well and can be used to upgrade your vehicle, and these are quite nice as they serve to flesh out the game world and feel like you’re living in a dynamic environment that’s had some serious thought put into it. Some of these missions, such as the Sewage truck event, aren’t always clear on what you should be doing, so unfortunately I was forced to look up YouTube tutorials just to progress through these events, but overall, the quirkiness of the project offset some of the design elements that confused me.

maxresdefaultOnce you’ve finished building the car, you can configure your toy steering wheel and take your creation for a test drive, and treat the game world like an open sandbox from there on out. Physics-wise, the car drove very nicely, and despite the fact that I couldn’t get my force feedback settings configured properly – something that will surely be fixed in a future pass once the masses openly discuss it – the vehicle dynamics themselves didn’t feel all that far from reality, and it didn’t do anything unexpected.

This was the biggest shocker I found while putting time into My Summer Car; the car actually felt decent in terms of physics, and the change between surfaces is very noticeable – which increases dramatically during a storm as well. It really impressed me for such a simple game to see how much detail was put into the driving model itself, and for those worried that it’s more of a first person adventure than a driving game, you have no reason to fear this title – the hard work put in building the car at the beginning of the game gives way to a very satisfying driving model. The best part of My Summer Car by far is completing the project and using the open world around you – a mix of rural trails and paved highways – to rip around like a hammered Finnish teenager, and then physically fixing the damage you’ve done on your joyrides after you limp it home to the garage.

map_v1I’m extremely optimistic for this title for these reasons, as the overall premise and gameplay elements work well together as a cohesive unit – it’s definitely not a flavor of the week indie game. Additional missions, a multiplayer element, and heavy third party mod support would go a long way to extending the game’s replay value. It’s not so much a basic unity game that promoted itself well through a goofy YouTube video with hilarious commentary, but instead a really creative and well thought-out Finnish automotive Minecraft.

I didn’t start any proper missions until after the car was built to earn some juicy upgrades, and although pretty repetitive and a bit of a grind, the missions aren’t too bad, the payoff in being able to upgrade your car offsets the time spent breezing through side quests.

But, of course, being in pre-Early Access, there are a few problems, and it’s only fair to talk about them so people know what they’re in for.

14800291_935693243241512_1278731660_o-pngFirst things first, the version of My Summer Car I’ve been privileged enough to evaluate was receiving a daily dose of patches, and was pre-Early Access, so some of the problems I’m about to report on are probably already fixed. However, one thing annoyed me to no end – there are always fucking mosquitos in the background. It doesn’t matter whether you’re working on the car, taking a piss, or getting hammered; the mosquitos are still there, just begging to be killed, but you can’t. The store clerk agrees. I’m sure this is typical Finnish humor, but there are a few instances, as is the case with the mosquitos, where the joke overstays its welcome and doesn’t translate all that well to an international audience.

Another problem I’ve dealt with, is the overall hitbox on some of the nuts and bolts when working on your car. Yes, you’re basically building a vehicle from scratch in My Summer Car, manually turning wrenches on the thing in a kind of endearing restoration project. I don’t mind this concept, I think it’s really unique, but it’s super difficult to hit some of the bolts. It would be greatly appreciated if some of the parts, such as the radiator hoses and exhaust, had a bigger hitbox for placement, especially when filling up the car with fluid – which was a massive pain in the ass to find the sweet spot.

When it comes to driving physics, there seems to be a ton of chassis flex to the point where if you hit 120 km/h in the van, the whole vehicle went into an uncontrollable speed wobble. Considering perma-death is a very real possibility in My Summer Car (with an equally quirky game over screen), this is something I feel needs to be fixed, as otherwise it’ll be a quick game over if you consult your inner Sebastien Loeb while behind the wheel of the van rather than the car.


The only other major problem I’ve had with My Summer Car, is with some parts physically vanishing out of the game world. First, my clutch went through the floor when I dropped the engine block on it, causing it to transcend our universe and migrate to another plan of existence. None of the disappearing parts happened on my second play-through of the game, but that could have been a quick patch rectifying the issue, or a careful set of hands ensuring I didn’t make any major mistakes.

For those wanting to invest some serious time into My Summer Car, SAVE OFTEN, especially after trips to the store – as they can take a while – or any key part of your car build. In my case, basically anything that could go wrong, did go wrong, and nothing is worse than being two hours into a game and losing a key part of your car that forces you to restart. It’s not a very big game, but it’s a complex game considering you’re building a car from scratch, and one minor glitch can fuck up your entire progress.

Overall, this sneak peak at My Summer Car was incredibly enjoyable, and I say that as someone with a background in building and maintaining race cars. It’s fairly simple to build your vehicle in a couple of hours provided you’ve got the size chart handy, and driving around to test out the fruits of your labor is extremely satisfying thanks to the overall competence of the driving model. I was particularly impressed with the size of the game world and the abundance of options given to the player, especially for an Early Access title created by one guy in his free time. You shouldn’t expect an AAA title out of this, but for what it is – a small game from the heart of Finland – it does a lot of stuff well, and can be either super rewarding or immensely frustrating based on your style of play. For once, we have a car game that actually punishes you for being too aggressive, and I think it’s a really neat idea to explore the concept of forcing players to manually turn every bolt and physically make repairs after an off-track excursion. If this game receives any sort of multi-player component, we’re looking at the ultimate sim racing time waster. I’m really impressed in how well My Summer Car works as a game.


In Memory of Nintendo

nintendoswitch_hardware-0-0My, Nintendo, how you’ve changed. The Japanese entertainment giant once spent almost a decade on top of the console gaming industry by following up the legendary Nintendo 64 with an equally impressive system in the Nintendo GameCube, but it appears the brand as many of us 90’s kids knew it no longer exists. Riddled with batshit insane decisions which saw the prolific video game company ship not one, but two misguided attempts at a modern home console by pushing gimmicks over gameplay, the new Nintendo Switchunveiled yesterday – is the pinnacle of poor choices which serves to highlight Nintendo’s fall from grace. This is a very different company than the one which helped propel Mario Kart 64 into the living rooms of basically anyone under the age of twenty five, and I can’t imagine these guys will be around for much longer.

Sure, the under-powered Wii sold a metric tonne of units after it was first introduced on store shelves back in the fall of 2006 – capitalizing on casual-oriented titles such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit to reel in a new audience at the expense of loyal fans –  but an incorrect assessment of market trends saw Microsoft and Sony utterly destroy Nintendo’s offering once the masses indicated Call of Duty was here to stay. Essentially, most people did rush out to buy a Wii, only to realize there wasn’t much substance behind the experimental controller, and permanently went back to the other console they owned within less than a month. Playing catch-up for five straight years, Nintendo partially attempted to rectify the obvious gap in performance and capabilities compared to their competitors by releasing the Nintendo Wii U, but once again, a reliance upon gimmicks that nobody really cared for in the first place relegated the system to the status of an expensive paperweight. Hell, aside from Lego City Undercover, and Need for Speed Most Wanted, there weren’t any racing games on the damned thing.

Rather than build  a traditional gaming experience to directly compete with what Microsoft and Sony currently offer, Nintendo is set to push out their third gimmick in ten years, completely failing to realize that the market doesn’t give a shit about this stuff anymore. Nintendo’s stock dropped 6.5 percent on the day of the Switch’s reveal, with market analysts downright confused at Nintendo’s business decisions. Simply put, Nintendo is finished.

errorsAnd that’s a shame. The company which single-handedly revived the video game industry in America after the 1983 crash is now hardwired to self destruct; the indisputable greatness of their four most prominent consoles now relegated to the pages of history books and Wikipedia articles. Sure, we’d been given a not-so-subtle warning beforehand that things at Nintendo had gone haywire – such as their public relations manager moonlighting as an escort – but physically seeing the string of bad decisions manifest into something so utterly useless as the Nintendo Switch is a sight to behold.

rappThe controller looks uncomfortable and clunky, nobody in North America wants a spontaneous game of Madden on a tiny screen in a dingy park when everyone’s been in a competition with their friends to build the most luxurious entertainment center, and given that Nintendo hasn’t actively tried to compete with Sony and Microsoft in terms of performance since 2001, it’s too risky to buy a console that could potentially be less powerful that what you already own and have sunk money into. For those three primary reasons, the Nintendo Switch will be a failure of which the likes we’ve never seen before. It’s going to kill the company. In a world where Grand Theft Auto V earned a billion dollars in revenue within the first 72 hours of the game arriving on shelves, you simply cannot stick your fingers in your ears and instead build something so preposterously nonsensical.

It’s certainly strange to be talking about Nintendo in this manner, as the twenty year period spanning from 1985 to 2005 were basically dominated by Mario’s home system. Yes, you can make an argument that the PlayStation 2 sold more units, or that the Microsoft Xbox was the most powerful console in terms of hardware, but Nintendo systems traditionally featured the highest concentration of games you wanted to play. While Sony’s original PlayStation struggled to maintain 30 FPS in all but a handful of games, busting out the N64 on a mid-range TV was gaming on an entirely different level. And there’s a reason people are still playing Super Mario 64 and Luigi’s Mansion on modern PC emulators, while Crash Bandicoot is relegated to being an obscure relic from a bygone era – Nintendo games were worth every penny of the retail price.

Nintendo systems were also a safe way to enter the world of console gaming without really knowing exactly what you wanted from your gaming experience. Nintendo paid close attention to the types of products arriving on their consoles, meaning the library of games available were never too graphic or too obscure for the general public. The best part of owning a Nintendo console during the final ten years of their dominance, was outright sucking at first-person shooters, yet knowing you could take a chance on something like Metroid Prime at random and still come away totally satisfied with the experience. If you couldn’t deal with the super-serious tone of FIFA 07, whether it was because you were too young at the time, or needed a simple multiplayer co-op sports game for your buddies, Super Mario Strikers was a valid alternative. Each game for all four of Nintendo’s golden systems, regardless of whether it was developed by Nintendo, or an unrelated third party entity, just seemed right for the console it was released on.

So for today, what I’d like to do here on is to take a look at the five best racing games for Nintendo systems which capture the spirit of Nintendo’s classic consoles – driving games that you could recommend to someone who doesn’t give two shits about race cars or motorcycles in the slightest, yet they could sit down for a day with the title, and at the end of their session say “I get it now, this shit is awesome, I want more.”

I’m aware that F-Zero GX is the greatest racing game released for the Nintendo GameCube, but let’s be real here – it’s too ridiculously difficult for the common gamer. And given our hardcore background, I’d love to write yet another article praising NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona for all that it managed to accomplish as an oval racing simulator almost fifteen years ago, but I won’t. Kart racers also need not apply, as their lessons in socialism lead to a scenario where skill simply doesn’t apply on the track.

So in our farewell piece to Nintendo, let’s talk about five racing games that fully understood what a Nintendo console was all about.

freekstyle#5 – Freekstyle

The introduction of the Sony PlayStation 2 onto the market saw Electronic Arts in a bit of a bind. Traditional sports games like Madden and FIFA had become infinitely more complex than the developer had ever anticipated, turning off several early PlayStation 2 adopters who were overwhelmed by the in-depth control schemes. The solution was to create an offshoot brand that took a more lighthearted approach to the flagship franchises, resulting in the creation of EA Sports BIG. You’re most likely aware of these guys thanks to the astounding popularity of the SSX franchise, yet the brand covered an impressive array of both traditional sports and auto racing disciplines, including soccer, basketball, football, snowmobile racing, rallycross, and even freestyle motocross.

Freekstyle was EA’s spin on the growing popularity of freestyle motocross, which has only expanded since the death of the EA Big brand with the likes of Nitro Circus and Red Bull X-Fighters becoming household names. While motocross games already existed on the Nintendo GameCube platform from developers such as THQ and Acclaim, Freekstyle didn’t require any knowledge of the sport to enjoy the title; opting for extremely simple tracks with ludicrous jumps allowing you to execute hyperbolic tricks in exchange for copious amounts of boost, much like the SSX franchise a few years earlier. Rather than including a cast of fictional characters playing up on motocross culture stereotypes, Freekstyle opted to include real world riders such as Brian Deegan and Mike Metzger to flesh out the personality of the fictional game environment, a move which turned Freekstyle into this really wild rust-filtered post-apocalyptic motocross carnival.

The end result was a phenomenal arcade racing game which draws heavily from the SSX franchise without appearing to be a straight rip-off. The simple gameplay that didn’t ask users to perfectly time jumps or plan their lines through a corner, mixed with radical track designs and a cohesive art direction, was a welcome addition to the GameCube’s vibrant library.

54284-the-simpsons-hit-run-windows-screenshot-guess-what-s-in-the#4 – The Simpsons: Hit & Run

Nintendo has traditionally been extremely weary of adult-themed games appearing on their platforms (despite their old PR lady turning tricks on the side), meaning that GameCube owners in the fall of 2003 were shit out of luck when Grand Theft Auto: Vice City took the world by storm. While older gamers primarily used the playground Rockstar Games had created to act out their inner psychopathic fantasies and challenge themselves to outrun a never-ending supply of SWAT team members, a key element to remember is that open-world driving games were still relatively new at the time, and many flocked to the 3D Grand Theft Auto offerings to merely test drive a massive variety of vehicles and explore a fully-rendered world at their own pace.

The Simpsons: Hit & Run offered a solution to the distinct lack of Grand Theft Auto’s presence on the Nintendo GameCube. While not a racing game in the traditional sense, as virtually everyone who’s heard about this game is well aware that it’s a straight up copy of Grand Theft Auto, Hit & Run centers largely around the driving aspect of open world crime sandboxes thanks to the complete eradication of any actual violence. If you strip out everything except the vehicle based missions from Grand Theft Auto V, and insert the absolute best writers that have ever worked on an episode of The Simpsons, you receive a surprisingly competent product in Hit & Run.

With a campaign mode that featured an abundance of memorable missions, an overall plot that was as deep and interesting as some of the show’s best twenty-two minute episodes, and a structurally sound open world package, Hit & Run was a seriously solid interactive version of Springfield that you could explore at your own free will. Given how popular The Simpsons had been as a television show in 2003, picking this one up was a no-brainer and fit in perfectly with the theme of licensed GameCube games.

nfs-underground#3 – Need for Speed: Underground

Yes, there were indeed a string of Need for Speed titles released for the Nintendo GameCube, but what most people don’t tell you is that many of them suffered from design flaws or massive performance issues. Hot Pursuit 2, released a year earlier, was developed by EA Seattle and paled in comparison to the superior PS2 offering, while Underground’s sequel included arguably more content at the cost of mammoth framerate problems which saw the title’s score slide heavily on Future Need for Speed iterations on Nintendo’s small purple box were met with a drastic decline in texture quality to maintain a base level of performance standards, meaning that 2003’s Need for Speed: Underground is really the only entry in the NFS franchise that could be experienced in its full glory on the Nintendo GameCube.

Underground had been released at a time when the popularity and general absurdity of the Fast & the Furious franchise had skyrocketed to instant cult classic status, and the import tuner scene had been thrust into the spotlight. While not an officially licensed tie-in with the movies that inspired it, Underground was seen as the unofficial video game counterpart – and basically everybody knew why Need for Speed had suddenly dropped Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s for Honda Civics and a robust customization feature.

However, as someone who’s played through the game three times over the past thirteen years, it’s not just the comprehensive customization element which catapults Underground into the number three spot. From a raw driving physics standpoint, Underground’s controls are incredibly tight, and the track layouts were all somewhat memorable thanks to a reliance upon dedicated levels rather than the open world seen in the sequel. Despite appearing to be spontaneous street circuits, Black Box had crafted the circuit layouts in Underground by hand to ensure they were not a series of random corners, but flowed in a way which were enjoyable to drive, meaning you rarely had to rely on checking the map or smashing head-on into a wall to learn a circuit. Whether you were on the track, or in the garage menu, Underground was a solid game, and the simplicity of the racing element combined with the expansive car customization meta-game which capitalized on a new and exciting pop culture trend made for an easy purchase for Nintendo fans. Pretty much everybody with a GameCube owned, or at least tried, Need for Speed Underground.

burnout-2#2 – Burnout 2: Point of Impact

Many credit Electronic Arts for helping to thrust the Burnout franchise into the limelight, but it’s important to remember the series was once under the guidance of Acclaim Entertainment, and Criterion Games had been seen as underdogs tasked with pushing a relatively obscure racing game into a market dominated by Electronic Arts and the aforementioned Need for Speed franchise. While the yearly renditions of Need for Speed on the Nintendo GameCube obviously sold more copies, Burnout 2: Point of Impact was by far the better game. After a lukewarm reception to the original title – which attempted to experiment with cinematic car crashes when the player fucked up – Criterion jacked up the special effects and sense of speed for Burnout 2, creating a game that was both notoriously difficult to get right, and incredibly hilarious when you got it wrong.

Criterion knew people would intentionally want to see their revitalized damage model in all its glory for Burnout 2, so the team included a special Crash Mode in the sequel to their completely average arcade racer, allowing players to fling their sports car at an intersection full of traffic in an effort to cause the most damage possible. What was intended to be an otherwise goofy diversion from the main campaign mode turned into an extremely strategic high-speed chess match, captivating fans who had taken a risk on Burnout 2. As a result, word quickly spread that this was the best racing game for the Nintendo GameCube, and Criterion were eventually picked up by Electronic Arts once Acclaim Entertainment went bankrupt a few years later.

The quintessential high-speed arcade racer, which drew upon the sloppy handling of Daytona USA as inspiration while inserting an endless wave of commuter and commercial traffic to navigate through, Burnout 2’s frantic battles, iconic knock-off vehicles, and vastly superior level design compared to the original, all contributed to the game being incredibly well-received by those looking for some kind of pick-up-and-play arcade racer that couldn’t keep up with the pace of F-Zero GX. Burnout 2 was absolutely fucking crazy, and it’s exactly what the Nintendo GameCube platform needed after it was clear Mario Kart Double Dash wouldn’t have the lasting appeal of Mario Kart 64. You could give this game to virtually anyone, and a big smile would stretch across their faces the very first time they hopelessly smashed into a bus at 150 mph. It was that kind of game, and Criterion continued to make more of them for the next five years.

hot-wheels-turbo-racing-05#1 – Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing

It’s extremely difficult to gauge the quality of a Nintendo 64 game in 2016, as most of our collective opinions have been tinted by the fanciest set of nostalgia goggles imaginable. I’m one of those guys who continues to maintain a set of fifth generation emulators on my PC to revisit games that used to kick my ass when I was younger, and unfortunately I’m slowly starting to realize that a vast majority of titles on both the Nintendo 64, as well as Sony’s original PlayStation, simply aren’t as good as I remember them to be. Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing, is not one of those games. In fact, it’s the one ROM worth re-installing Project64 for.

With the Nintendo 64 not adequately equipped to handle the performance requirements of a Need for Speed entry, and the audience far too broad for the market to support a traditional Cops vs. Racers approach, Electronic Arts changed their ideology when creating products for the Nintendo 64, opting to push well-made family-oriented driving games rather than an orgy of 90’s supercars. Beetle Adventure Racing was a bit of a mixed bag, but Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing resonated with the audience, offering what’s undoubtedly one of the best arcade racing experiences ever created for a Nintendo console. The vehicle roster was diverse and drew heavily from the fictional line of Hot Wheels toys rather than flavor-of-the-week replicas, locations were fine-tuned to include mammoth jumps and alternate shortcuts to capitalize on the unique capabilities of each specific car, and the physics engine actually made you wheel the damn thing.

Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing succeeded because the game used the Mattel license to reel people in, but was a ridiculous challenge once you hit the track and forced you to be a better driver. Each car had a very different set of handling characteristics, meaning a big, burly tow truck or jet semi required a significantly different driving style than an open wheel grand prix car or futuristic twin-engine monstrosity. Locations didn’t cater to any specific vehicle on the roster, forcing players to make trade-offs and carefully plan their route around the circuit each lap, otherwise the AI would simply decimate them. Last, but most certainly not least, the game’s basic physics engine allowed you to perform flips, rolls, and spins while flying through the air, rewarding a successful landing with brief shots of turbo – which was necessary to even remain competitive on the higher difficulties. Turbo Racing was an arcade racer at heart, but it didn’t let you win in the way most arcade racers would. The packaging indicates Turbo Racing is a kids game, but make no mistake – it continuously tries to kick your ass.

And that’s what Nintendo games used to be about. Not this shit.

Rest in piece, Nintendo. You were pretty cool at one point.