Letter from America: I love Gran Turismo 6
Even with its microtransactions.
Last week I professed my love for Forza 5, but my disdain for its microtransactions. Ultimately, my beef was with the way that Forza 5's microtransactional model has influenced the fundamental design of the game. This time around, in-game currency is earned far more slowly than in prior Forza editions. Couple that with the fact that all its races require you to drive specific - and in some cases very expensive - cars, and you have a game that makes you work unduly hard to enjoy everything it has to offer. Or, as seems to be the point of these changes, you can avoid the grind by spending real money to temporarily boost your earnings back to pre-Forza 5 levels and buy the cars you need.
Of course, nobody is making me buy anything. But what I don't like is that Forza's established game structure that I've enjoyed four times previously and that seemed to be working absolutely fine has been cynically modified in the name of profit. I can understand this sort of thing in a free-to-play game from whence this kind of business model came. But to jam it into a full priced game seems wrong.
So when Sony announced that Gran Turismo was going to feature a similar 'opportunity' for players to spend real cash to boost their acquisition of in-game vehicles, I was concerned that its design would be similarly compromised. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. There's been a minor change in the volume of cars that are awarded for completing races, but the cash earnout for racing is, to all intents and purposes, the same as it was before. I'm certainly happy with that and, indeed, feel that perhaps that's the way it should be. I get to play my game, business as usual, while some rich dude who doesn't have the time to play can pay a premium to enjoy everything I enjoy with making any effort at all. Frankly, I couldn't give a toss if there was a 1,000,000 horsepower car with superglue tyres that you can buy for $100 and win everything. As long as it doesn't compromise the game I'm paying for, it's no skin off my nose.
As for the game itself, it's phenomenal. This latest instalment of PS3's greatest driving game is flawed, but overall it's really quite remarkable. In some sense it's like a classic British or Italian sports car. It's temperamental and it sometimes breaks down, but it's got bags of character and you just can't help but love driving it. Having played both Forza 5 and GT6, I'd actually give the latter the nod in terms of being a more fun and entertaining driving game. Forza is graphically superior, technically stunning and delivers an incredible racing experience, but it's also fairly limited in size and scope. Gran Turismo goes all-out to create an automotive theme park with a mind-boggling variety of things to do and, for the most part, it hits the nail on the head. It takes you from Goodwood to the Moon. That says it all, really.
While most of us have been focusing on the latest and greatest games, this week also saw a veritable jamboree bag of old-school goodness being unloaded on 3DS.
Firstly, everyone's favourite blue hedgehog hit Nintendo's kid-eye-melting handheld. I'm not talking Lost World. This is a downloadable gem simply called 3D Sonic the Hedgehog. If you enjoyed the old Mega Drive games the first time around and you have a 3DS, you'll love this. I most certainly did.
Going even further back in time are a pair of crusty old Sega arcade classics. 3D Space Harrier is really quite good, and playing it with a stylus, as indeed you can, is without doubt the best Space Harrier experience I've ever had. Definitely better than the arcade game, which had a huge and wobbly walking stick of a controller. From the same era is 3D Super Hang-On. This version uses the 3DS' tilt mechanism to replicate the original sit-on-a-big-plastic-motorbike-and-sway-left-and-right-like-an-idiot coin-op. Really clever, and even though Super Hang-On is a simple arcade racer, it's a blast to play it this way.
Ninja Gaiden 3 also got a second lease of life. This version has been fettled a tad to make it a little more palatable to modern tastes by not requiring mythical gaming skills to avoid death by arbitrary pixel. It's a fun trip down memory lane, but not really a must-play.
And lastly on the retro front (or should that be neo-retro front), we took a good, long look at the upcoming Strider. Is it going to be a "true" Metroidvania? Is it going to be a "futuristic murder-flavoured Sonic the Hedgehog"? That's the sort of questions we're pondering. Either way, I just hope it goes as well as it shows. I loved Strider back in the day and would be delighted if he came back in style.
Oh, and I almost forgot. If I haven't talked about 3DS enough already, we compiled a list of the best (and our personal favourite) games on that system. It was fun compiling it, and a good reminder that while Wii U continues to struggle (or not as the case may be), 3DS really is a killer piece of kit with some absolutely knockout games. It's definitely not a system for hairy-chested gamers who want photo-realistic blood-and-guts games. But if you like your gaming straight-up and traditional, 3DS (or 2DS if you want to be cheap and cheerful) it's the biz.
See you next week.
Jaz Rignall is editorial director of USgamer.net, a left-hand drive version of Eurogamer.