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Expectations

In my last post, I mentioned that “what you get out of the experience depends greatly on what you are expecting.” I have found this to be especially true in the case of the most recent three games I purchased.

Before I buy a game I read reviews and view trailers and gameplay samples. All three of these popular games are favorably reviewed, but much like any piece of art or entertainment, the mood of the audience greatly affects the way the piece is experienced. To illustrate, I will use the following three games: Forza Horizon 2, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel and Destiny and myself, my family and friends as the audience.

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Forza Horizon 2

To be completely honest, the first Horizon did not blow me away. While I am a huge fan of the main Forza series, I have always preferred driving games that focus on the realistic experience of driving as opposed to those that concentrate on the nightlife, street racing and party car culture. While I much preferred the original Horizon to any of the Need for Speed titles that I own, I still liked the on-track Forza 5 better. My sons, however, have always liked driving open world games, especially ones that allow the user to drive almost anywhere. That’s why they liked Test Drive Unlimited 2 and Driver San Francisco (though in truth its world is not entirely open). They all like Horizon 2, especially like the barn finds.

The new Horizon improves on the first in every way. The resolution and attention to detail both in the cars and the environments are impressive. The art direction, lighting and weather systems help elevate this game greatly in terms of its style and mood. In fact this game comes very close in depth of mood to my favorite of all – Colin McRae’s original Dirt. The gameplay is smooth, the handing is realistic and completely adjustable to match the user’s skill level. Horizon 2 takes all of Forza’s best features, the handling of the cars, the ability to make the game as easy or challenging as desired and allows you to drive some of the most exciting cars in beautifully crafted southern European settings. I mean who wouldn’t want to drive a vintage Ferrari through Tuscany?

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Borderlands The Pre-Sequel

Those of you who have read my posts before know that the Borderlands series is one of my personal favorites and I often mention its humor and its bravery in what the developers chose to include. So it is surprising that I have spent little time with the game thus far, something telling in itself.

How is it possible that the sequel to my favorite game is out and I am not playing it? Here it is: I am more interested in playing Destiny. Really? Destiny? A game made by the same studio that created the Halo series that I knock for not having a soul? Yes, things seem to have changed.

My sons also awaited the release of this latest version eagerly and have played more extensively than I. They defend the game and say that I need to give it another chance. I will do that, but I am not alone in feeling sluggish about this title. Some of the people I game with most often have echoed the sentiment.

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Destiny

So what is it about Destiny? The simple truth is that while it’s not a game that aspires to make you laugh, there are beautiful, quiet moments as well as intense firefights and overall, it is a great, solid game that keeps you coming back.

I have not played Titanfall since getting this game. I love Titanfall and have regenerated many times. In Destiny, I am on my third character, with a nearly level 28 hunter and a level 25 warlock and somehow even going through the story mode three times is not boring. I have assembled my own personal strike team and we play every chance we get. We are very much looking forward to the newly announced downloadable content pack, The Dark Below due to come out December 9th, regardless of the fact that as Xbox players we will not get access to all of the new material. Please see Destiny‘s New DLC Kinda Screws Over Xbox Players for details.

The Destiny season pass also includes the second scheduled DLC pack, House of Wolves, which should, along with special events like the Queen’s Wrath and Iron Banner, keep the game fresh and in active rotation while other new titles are released. Considering that the competition includes the well-reviewed Sunset Overdrive, not to mention Call of Duty Advanced Warfare, gamers everywhere will have their hands full and so will we.

My Cousin Finny, Smartphones and Drive-Ins

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Yes, I’m getting older and it’s true that there was a drive-in theater not far from where I grew up and we did go a few times, but the heyday of the drive-in, the symbol of the baby-boomer’s car-centric teenage culture, was long over. Still, the car was what provided the freedom that made being a young adult fun. Most memories of my teenage years revolve around a car.

Admittedly I am a “car guy” and always have been, but I can completely understand those who feel that cars are just appliances to get you to where you need to be. The same can be said of clothing and food I suppose, but there are entire industries that exist only to provide haute couture and haute cuisine for those who want more.

Over the last year or so there has been much attention paid to the Generation Y’s apparent indifference to driving. There are many reasons for the feeling that cars do not represent what they did to previous generations.

Gen Y has been dubbed Gen N, as in Generation Neutral — which is the way some describe how millennials feel about car ownership. Studies have shown that fewer young adults have driver’s licenses, that this group  hates the traditional car-buying process more than other demographics, and that they prefer urban living and socializing online and therefore  have less need for cars.

The Great Debate: Do Millennials Really Want Cars, or Not? | By Brad Tuttle | Time

“That moment of realizing that you’re a grown-up — for my generation, that was when you got your driver’s license or car,” said Tony Dudzik, a senior policy analyst of the Frontier Group, a California-based think tank that has studied this phenomenon. “For young people now, that moment comes when you get your first cellphone.”

America’s Generation Y not driven to drive | By Deborah Zabarenko | Reuters

The economy is also a huge factor. Many young people face soaring tuition costs, and the money they’re earning in their part-time, summer and first jobs is going to pay for school and rent. Even if they can afford cars, insurance is expensive, and just getting a license can cost hundreds of dollars in driving instruction fees. 

Why Generation Y Sees No Need To Get Behind The Wheel | by Micheline Maynard | Forbes

In an effort to attract young people to cars, automakers have set up shop in Silicon Valley and are looking to the digital world as a way to lure them.

What the savvy people in the car business say is that they have to look outside their industry to learn — from cellphones, apps, computers and video games.

“We can make the car that’s becoming part of your digital life,” says Chuhee Lee, the deputy director at Volkswagen’s Electronic Research Lab in Belmont, Calif., a little town at the north end of Silicon Valley.

Volkswagen’s vision boils down to this: bring its cars into the digital world and make them an extension of all the services millennials already love.

“The car should be intelligent enough to interact with other intelligent systems around you, like a smartphone being very intelligent about … your schedule, trying to propose and make arrangements for you,” Lee says.

Lee describes turning your whole car into sort of a voice-activated system like Apple’s Siri. And GM’s (John) McFarland says his company, like VW, is working on cars that learn your habits — your schedules, destinations and radio stations. And, McFarland says, ideally, these cars get better with time.

“We think there’s opportunity to make it so that the day you drive it off the lot is the beginning, and you continue to personalize it and customize and add new content just like you do with a phone,” McFarland says.

To Attract Millennials, Automakers Look To Smartphones | Noah Nelson and Sonari Glinton | NPR

While I applaud the integration of many of today’s technologies into most parts of my life I recognize that sometimes advancement is in the eye of the beholder. I do not need a car that drives itself. I like the feeling of being in control and feeling the road. It is important that the tactile sensations of driving are not lost on the younger generations and what better way to lure them then with racing? I regularly play driving and racing games with my sons and their friends. Some of our favorites to play together are the Forza series, especially 3 and 4, Driver San Francisco and Midnight Club LA.

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This last week, we had Josefina or “Finny”, our fifteen year old cousin from the Czech Republic staying with us. She was drawn to our Xbox racing wheel and spent many hours driving, racing, crashing and having a good time. Whether smashing a Bugatti Veyron into the back wall of the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans in Forza 4 or clearing traffic amid the constant sound of breaking glass and crunching steel in Driver San Francisco, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  She tried to outrun the cops all over Los Angeles in Midnight Club LA and tried not to get hit by our various projectiles in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. We even tried motorcycles playing MotoGP 2006 and 2007. I was looking for the Prague track but I think that it is in a different game, so we settled on Brno. We took to off-road motorcycles and ATVs in MX vs ATV Alive and while we played we talked about driving. She has none of indifference displayed by teenagers in this country. She really made my day when she said that in America drivers seem to all prefer automatics. I reminded her that my car has a six speed manual and many of my friends still prefer them as well.

I guess that I have never realized how much of my day is spent thinking about cars. I was recently stunned to learn that Fox removed the Speed channel from my FIOS line up. I watched Speed more than any other channel and there is nothing to take its place. Although Fox has apparently stated that the majority of the racing content would remain on other Fox sports channels, every time that I have tuned in they have been showing football.

After visiting some of the more typical tourist attractions we thought that it would be fun to try go-cart racing at Pole Position, a local indoor track. A great time was had by all. Here is a short excerpt from one of the races. No, I do not have flesh-eating bacteria on my legs. I am recovering from sunburn.

We didn’t even get to try our slot cars. Next time I guess.

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