Driving & Racing Xbox 360 Games
Need For Speed: Shift (Xbox 360)
Need For Speed Shift - Xbox 360 -- I was never really that much of a fan of driving games and to be honest, the more hyped up a game is the worse it usually turns out to be. For instance, I find 'Gran Turismo' and 'Forza Motorsport' absolutely abysmal. I did like 'Project Gotham Racing 4' and found it enjoyable. I ... am also a fan of 'Race Pro' and 'Grid Racer'. They are all good examples of a good driving or racing experience.
After playing those I tried the 'Need For Speed' franchise of games. 'Need For Speed Most Wanted' (the original) was a great game; (see my review) and so was 'Need For Speed - The Run'. I tried some of the other NFS games and enjoyed those too. I had always noticed but not fancied 'Need For Speed - Shift' because I felt the franchise was doing well with themed type games and not standard racing games, but I saw it for less than ten pounds and thought 'why not'?
I am really glad that I did because I have been playing it for months on end now and have not tired of it. I have recently purchased 'Need For Speed - Shift 2 Unleashed'. But I haven't tried it yet as I am still getting enjoyment out of the first game.
I found that this game is one of the more exhilarating race games available, if not the best. You can race in a variety of cars on some of the best race courses in the world. You can really feel the speed and the handling of the cars is superb.
The game is produced by Electronic Arts, which is probably better known for its sports games, such as 'Tiger Woods' and 'Fifa' amongst others. It was released in 2009 with the follow up released in 2011.
The fact that it was released four years ago and is still such a great experience speaks volumes.
NFSS is really a revamp of 'Need For Speed ProStreet'. ProStreet was a racing game similar to shift but it had a story mode to it and was more arcade based. Shift is an arcade racing game but is more based on a proper racing simulation than the franchises earlier efforts. Shift is a lot more realistic when it comes to the cars handling and overall is head and shoulders above its predecessor.
The Game Plan
You can play NFSS in single player mode in a variety of scenarios. There is a standard 'Quick Race' mode where you can just choose a car and track and begin racing.
The main game is the 'Career Mode', which is a realistic reconstruction of what it would be like to test drive cars, race for teams and be invited to events to win prize money and cars in order to further your career.
Career Mode is based on four tiers of driving and your aim is to gain enough experience points in each tier to open up the next. The ultimate goal is to gain enough experience points in tier four to progress to the 'NFS Live World Series' and ultimately go on to win it and become the world champion.
Tier one consists of average cars and races that are not too demanding. Tier two contains performance cars and the challenges get bigger. Tier three consists of Super cars and again the challenges become more demanding. Tier four is the last tier before the World Series and contains hyper cars and the biggest challenges.
There are sixty cars divided through the tiers and the more prize money you win the better your chance of buying a higher performance car.
You can also customise your cars in a variety of ways in order for them to compete with higher rated vehicles. You can change wheels and tires, tune gears, align the brakes and cars properties, and play around with the cars differential and aerodynamics. You can also paint your cars in virtually any colour and as your driver level gets higher new decals become available to pretty-up you vehicles.
This really is a great driving experience and even G-force plays apart in the realism. The cars movements and handling are very realistic. As with all driving games the only unrealistic thing is the ability to carry on after a heavy smash; but saying that, the car does show damage and the crashes are realistic. When you experience a heavy hit, the screen becomes blurred to replicate the driver's blurred vision and shaken body and head.
When you start the game, you start as a level one driver and you start your racing and career in tier one. You have to collect stars in order to progress to tier two. Let's, for example, say that you needed fifty stars to open up tier two. Your fist race in tier one might consist of a standard three stars for finishing on the podium. You would get one star for third, two for second and three for finishing first. As the races evolve you might come across a race with six stars up for grabs. This could comprise of the three podium stars as mentioned and an additional three stars, which could be gained by fulfilling certain tasks during the race. These tasks are numerous and could be anything from mastering corners, keeping the race line, receiving minimal damage, reaching top speed or any number of other scenarios.
You can also build you stars and your money up by taking part in invitational events.
As well as collecting stars to open up the next tier you also gain experience points that increase your driver level. The ultimate goal is to reach driver level fifty. I am currently on thirty-six.
As mentioned the further you progress, the more challenging the races become. Tier four has some momentous endurance races in it and they are great to take part in.
Both the tier races and the invitational events contain different race modes and scenarios. You can race in European, US or Japanese events and take part in time attacks, elimination races, endurance races, drift races, hot laps, one on one challenges and all sorts of others that are equally as enjoyable. Some events will require you to own a certain car, so you may find yourself unable to enter them until you purchase the required car.
You also own a garage that holds your vehicles but to start with it is small and only holds a few cars. By increasing your driver level you will gain extra garage spaces.
Another part of career mode is badges that you are awarded for different tasks. These badges are in the game to gain achievement points. You get achievement points for gaining five, ten and fifteen bronze badges and the same with silver and gold. Then there are minor badges to collect and master badges.
You might gain badges for driving a certain amount of kilometres in a certain car or doing a certain amount of clear laps at a certain track. There are a lot of different scenarios and it is fun and challenging, trying to complete them.
There are nineteen tracks to race on in the game, including Donington, Silverstone and the formidable Nurburgring in Germany. The race tracks are exact and if you're a Formula One fan, like me, then you will appreciate the realism and the work that has gone into creating these tracks. It took two years to develop this game and you can see why.
Online play consists of standard races against one to twelve other drivers. The points accrued while playing live count towards you career experience points.
Online play is fun and a real rush when you are racing full out against players of a similar quality to your own.
It is also another testament to how good this game really is that there are still players online after four years and especially as there is a sequel to the game out there now.
You can customise races by creating your own race room and determining the track, number of laps and car performances or level permitted. Or you can join a game in a room that someone else has set up and then choose a car according to their permitted levels.
The graphics in this game are top-notch. Driving a long straight at nearly two hundred miles an hour at the Nurburgring is exhilarating enough, but when the sun is shining and turning into dusk it looks amazing and you would be forgiven for flying off the track due to admiring the scenery.
The cars look realistic and it's great to drive one that you have totally customised.
You can view the game from the standard 'behind the car' mode, from the cockpit or from a few other different viewpoints. I prefer the standard view from behind the car. The cockpit view is impressive however and the graphics look slick. You can see the driver shift gear and adjust mirrors and it looks so realistic. I just can't drive that way though.
I think the makers of the game deserve massive credit for the look they have achieved as it really is superb.
Various patches and add-ons became available during the year the game was released and indeed, the year after in 2010. Extra cars were added and a whole new Ferrari experience as well as an exotic car and race pack. I purchased the Ferrari pack recently and have had some great fun with it. I have included the details to the Ferrari pack below but couldn't really comment on the other packs as I don't own them yet.
In 2010 NFSS players were able to download a content pack that delivers 10 extraordinary Ferrari cars including the 430 Scuderia and the ultra-rare FXX and F50 GT. Now, Need for Speed SHIFT players will feel the rush of being in the driver's seat, realizing the true driver's experience of being behind the wheel of a Ferrari car.
In addition to 10 new cars, the Ferrari Racing Series also extended NFSS's career mode with 46 new Ferrari specific challenges designed for the Ferrari cars to participate in including hot laps, eliminators, endurance races and a world tour. Completing the perfect Ferrari package an additional 125 gamer points as a reward for undertaking various exciting challenges is available. All Ferrari cars can also be taken online where players can prove who has the skills to master the top-end Ferrari machines.
The Ferraris available include:
1996 Ferrari F50 GT
2005 Ferrari F430 Spider
2005 Ferrari FXX
2005 Ferrari Superamerica
2006 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano
2006 Ferrari F430 Challenge (Online/Quick event only)
2006 Ferrari F430 GTC (Online/Quick event only)
2007 Ferrari 430 Scuderia
2008 Ferrari California
2008 Ferrari 16M Scuderia Spider
You need a live account to download this pack as you do, of course, to play on X-Box Live. The Ferrari pack cost 800 Microsoft points.
As already mentioned, I am quite a fan of this game because it has given me hours upon hours of enjoyment. It is a great stress reliever to say the least.
The graphics are crisp and the gameplay is excellent and smooth. It is also quite easy to pick up but can be demanding the further you progress. I prefer this to be honest because too many racing games are set up as too easy on the 'easy' mode. I like to start off on 'normal' mode and then shift the level up if I find I am mastering it.
I also like this game because of the different scenarios involved. One minute you can be racing in a twelve car race at Silverstone and the next you can be talking part in a drift race in Japan. The elimination and time attack modes are exciting as well; especially the elimination mode because you have to stay out of last place and be the last car running, which on a challenging level can be quite edge of your seat stuff.
Most people buy a racing game and think it is too hard and give up on it after a few hours but I find that if you stick with this game and build up your garage and cars and get used to the different tracks and trials, then you definitely get your monies worth longevity-wise. Another review states as a disadvantage that it was over too quickly. I find that statement mind-boggling off as this game offers hours upon hours of entertainment (if you play it properly). You have the career mode and the invitational events, not to mention an online mode that you could play indefinitely.
The tracks are very true to life and ultra-realistic. It makes you wonder what they'll offer with this franchise on the next generation consoles.
I would recommend this game to any racing game fan as it is one of the best, of not the best, out there.
I give Need For Speed Shift five out of five stars.
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Far Cry 3 (Xbox 360)
Farcry 3 is a great game. Do I need to say more, yes but I shouldn't have to. You play as a young man who goes on holiday with his brother and friends. It all starts going wrong when they are kidnapped. The game then throws you head first into the open world with you trying to escape the kidnappers camp. I don't want to say to much about ... the story as this is best experienced.
The great thing about the game is you don't have to do the story missions straight away. You can explore the world and hunt. Yes you can hunt the animals on the island. This can be a little gruesome so not for the light hearted. There are radio towers located all over the island and you need to activate these to reveal all the locations and hunting areas on the map. For each tower you unlock you also get access to free equipment in the shops which can be very helpful.
The world can be very dangerous and it can get very hot if using the flame-thrower. If you use this be prepared to burn down local grass fields and you may need to run.
The game's controls work really well and are very responsive. The aiming takes a little to get used to especially when using the bow. So really plan your missions before running in guns blazing.
The game also features a crafting system in which you use the skins you collect from your hunting. This adds another fun level to the game and encourages you to explore all the areas.
I have spent countless hours on this game without even playing the main story so in my opinion this game is well worth the money.
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MotoGP 09/10 (Xbox 360)
I'm a very dedicated Motorbike enthusiast, I own a motorbike (mind it's only a 125cc, as I can't ride anything larger...by law...yet), I 9/10 times can tell you what the make and model of a motorbike is going past and I love the MotoGP and the Isle of Man TT and essentially anything involving 2 wheels and an engine. Although I usually ... miss it due to work on the weekends, I'll stream it later to see what happens.
So the obvious choice for a game would of course be a MotoGP game, and I got MotoGP 09/10 before the newest (to date of review) one came out which is MotoGP 10/11, just like Fifa games, they tend to update them every year to include new changes in the game. Considering MotoGP 10/11 has been out for a couple of months (to date of review), and I'm still playing MotoGP 09/10, must mean I am either cheap (well yes) but could also mean this game has got a lot to offer to keep a regular gamers like me entertained for months! Well I wouldn't say entertained but more determined to beat the game than anything else, even though it is near impossible.
When you first get into the game, you are created with the typical Developer/Publisher intros and an Intro video for the game, basically showing all the bikes going around and excitement, explosions and things as such. Then a very simplistic menu comes up where you get to choice which game mode you'd like to go into, Championship, Career, Arcade, Time Trail or Multiplier (Online), all these are basically very similar to each other with minor differences in who you progress through the game and what the goals are of each mode, but if you are looking to milk some achievements from this game, the game requires you to spend a decent few hours in each mode.
This is the first mode I went into when I started up the game. You basically create some Team by selecting a country, your team colours and what bike you want to start off with, since the aim of this mode is to progress through to the high ranks, you start of in the 125cc category and progress through to Moto2 and MotoGP. Have numerous tools to your disposal, this being the team you can build up of Engineers and Press Officers. The Engineers are assigned by you to upgrade your bike and the Press Officers to find you sponsors to pay you money, so you can afford the staff and upgrades to the bike. But what does really annoy me, is the fact that you barely get anywhere with any bikes before the MotoGP part of the career, you'll upgrade about a quarter of the bike and have to dump it for a faster one to participate in the bigger CC Engine events, so honestly, save your money and don't bother.
There are numerous races in each season, each race consisting off a Practise, Qualify and Race. The first 2 aren't necessary but if you wish to rank up to a higher level, they earn you more points, so it's a good idea to do them, and you don't have to sit there for 5 (or however many you set) laps and do them, just 1 is enough to get a grade.
Speaking of grades, yes, you get graded in your performance on the track, it all comes down to if you come first, crash or keep colliding with other racers, if you do good and make nice clean turns (following the line), you'll get an "A" and hence a good amount of points, if not a "C" or a nothing, which is a bit of a waste. It all really depends on how dedicated to the game you are, if you want to just complete it, get the complete career achievement, don't bother but if you want to get a few involving upgrading your bike fully and getting to level 30, I'd start doing them practises.
One major thing in the Career Mode is the fact that you can't Restart a race, once you're in a race, qualifying run or the practice, you're in there until you finish or quit. You've got a "Second Chance" which allows you to rewind the race before you crashed or whatever you wish to skip back on, which is pretty cool as you don't have to keep redoing the whole race, however this does effect you're grade at the end. You may not have crashed (technically since you went back); however the penalty for using Second Chance is as bad or worst in negatively affecting your score.
Overall the career does take a long time to complete, depending on the difficulty setting you choose (the harder it is, the more points you get at the end of the race), it could be from a week or 2, or if you're like me, a good month and a bit of daily play to just complete the career, never mind the Level 30. It does get boring and you've got to be a little mad to stick to it for so long.
This is basically what the whole 2009/2010 thing is about since each game updates the riders and Teams as well as bikes they ride. The concept behind this mode is you select a team you want to race for from the different classes (125cc, 250cc and MotoGP), and once selected you follow the team through the racing season of 2009 or 2010 but you're responsible for their fate since you're racing.
Basically it's just racing through the season and seeing where you come in the end, quite simple.
Unlike Career Mode however, you can "Restart Race "and "Second Chance" isnĀ't present in this mode.
Arcade Mode is quite interesting as I expected it to a basic copy of Championship Mode, however I was happy to see something new in the game which is quite fun in all fairness. Basically its racing (fancy that!) but you've got to keep within the given time, Outrun style, so if you're too slow to get to a checkpoint, you'll be out of the race.
Once again you get to select from different engine sizes and the rides within them teams, exactly like championship mode in essence but the aim of the game is slightly different.
It's quite fun for an experienced player as you can be challenging you're skills as you can't afford mistakes at all within these races, if you fall on your behind, there is no Second Chance or Restart here at all so you've got to suck it up and hope you can make it up.
Speaks for itself really as all you do is exactly like Championship and Arcade mode, select the Engine size of the bike, the team, the track you want to time trail and off you go trying to get the best time possible on the track. There is an achievement involved with this mode, being to get a specific time on a specific track, and that is basically all the experience I have on this mode as it is not something I'd spend my time doing.
---Game Modes Thoughts---
As you can probably tell now, they are all very similar, Career Mode being the most worthwhile doing as it does offer some kind of procession as you can rank up and move up in bikes and have money to spend on things so gives you the Management experience. The rest of the Modes are basically copies of each other with minor differences, I doubt unless you are after some extra achievements that you'd even do more than 2 races in each, as it gets very repetitive, especially if you've just completed Career Mode!
The weather does change quite a bit in this game; you can be racing in nice sunny weather, with dry roads, or maybe slightly wet roads if not a full thunderstorm with the track basically being a puddle. However I have not noticed any different between a drenched track and a dry track in terms of handling, this could be down to me only playing on Moderate difficulty for almost all races, but the difference in minimum if any. Unlike you'd expect, you won't go flying off the bike if you take a turn to sharp or press the brake too much in the wet as much as you would be in the dry, mind this could be down to the difficulty and I could be proven incorrect when playing on insane difficulty.
But nevertheless it's nice to see the weather change on different tracks, as you could be doing a practise on Silverstone in sunshine and be doing the actual race with dreadful rain (typical Britain).
---Quality of Controls---
The controls are quite simple and similar to any other racing game, you press RT to accelerate and LT to apply brake, mind with a motorbike its separate controls for back and front as is carried here with "X" being back brake and LT being front, "A" is to improve aerodynamics (lay on the tank) and of course the Left Analog to steer.
All controls are responsive and do as they should, I can't complain at all as just like with real motorbike racing, your responses are crucial in your success, and you'll eventually get a hang of using the different brakes, although it is easily to get the concept of the back brake being weaker and the front stronger (70% / 30% in fact), but it is a great way to learn.
Manual Gear controls are something else on this game, even though I ride in real life, I could not get the hang of these gears, I think all logic from reality is missing as the gears don't function correctly at all, and will case you to get frustrated even if you're doing it correctly. If you wish to do the Manual Gearing achievement, I'd go on the easiest track (the German one) and the easiest difficulty with 2 laps, you being pole position; otherwise you'll not get anywhere!
Overall, the controls are good (exception of Manual gear changing) and easy enough to understand, the vibration feature being as expected, vibrates on the intensity of the braking or if you go on gravel, and basically everything works fine.
Now this is what the motorbike enthusiasts are after and people who wish to experience racing with as much realism short of actually getting on a bike and doing it.
I can say, that this is just like any racing game, it gives you 2 options, ride the bike in a technical manor, following the guide line showing you when to brake and accelerate (on the easier modes), or you can go off Rambo style and race however you want, which I find being much more effective.
Even though technical riding is much better and you feel you have a better grasp of the game, as you're doing exactly what the real racers are doing, it doesn't get you anywhere fast as you'll be stuck in the gang and getting continuous fines for Collisions as the controls couldn't possibly be sensitive enough to prevent you from touching someone an inch away from you in a turn.
So I've recommend the method only viable in a video game of flooring it before any corner and insure you brake in time at an upcoming turn as not to get on the gravel. This will cause you to drift your bike, you pull a stoppie at almost where turn and to wheelie it on every straight (getting you loads of Showboating points), but I never see this in a real MotoGP race, so my suggestion is, if you want to win every race (or the good majority), race like you would in a GTA game.
There is an online feature on this game as you'd expect, it allows you to start races with other online members and really test your skills in comparison to other players, could find the answer to which riding style is better (madness or technical). Once you find other players you pick the map and rules and set off in the race.
However due to this game being quite old and a more updated counterpart being released, it is hard to find people online. In my short time there, I managed to play 3 people, 2 being new and as bad as me...actually much worse as one just stayed at the starting line and was attempting to do burn outs and donuts, and the other just crashed and gave up, whereas the 3rd guy simply owned me beyond anything. I suspect it is near impossible to get the Full Grid achievement requiring you to enter a race with around 20 players as I doubt there 20 players online at one time, or ever!
Basically, this game is not good for online play. It does however feature some downloadables, such as a bikes/maps pack and the 2010 update for the Championship which I didn't bother with, so can't comment.
On the Xbox 360 there are 50 achievements with about 30 of them achievable in Career Mode, which is pretty good. But I must say, although some are quite each easy and unlock from progressing through the game in Career Mode, others can be quite difficult, or time consuming to do, for instance the 100 Races Achievement (Centurion), I've completed Career Mode and MotoGP within that Mode numerous times, yet it still seems not to be enough, and the fact that you can't find out the statistics of how many races you've done, so keep going (Unless you fancy counting how many from the start). Others include finishing a race separate from your bike, which I did accidently once and was surprised to get 20g for my mistake.
The online achievements are near impossible. Winning 21 (Black Jack) races online is doable of course with a lot of dedication as well as the 69 (Nick Hayden) wins online too, however getting a 20 human starting grid is going to be near impossible!
Some achievements for instance finishing a race with each rider in the game (Doppelganger) for 5g is highly dull and the reward is awful, although you only have to finish the race and not win.
Well, MotoGP is surely has its ups and has it many downs, it does look good and gives you a decent experience of Motorbike racing, but it also lacks a lot, the weather being a big downside as it would be nice to have the bikes respond to the weather as they should, possibly giving you a better score at the end of Career Mode if you've done it on a wet track rather than a dry one.
However even though it is greatly flawed in many aspects I will continue to play it and coming back to it as I enjoy the simplicity behind it and personally I like to get some music in my headphones and play this game, thinking about stuff, as it gives me a sense of multitasking, and this may be why this game will continue to sell.
It will be interesting to see how MotoGP 10/11 compares to it, but I don't think I will be investing in it just yet as I want to completely use up MotoGP 09/10 as I'd expect them to be near similar (as you'd see with Fifa releases).
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