Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 26th August 2018.
ACE developer Ralph Fulton reckons it was a no-brainer for the Forza franchise to hit Scotland — because the roads are just brilliant. Forza Horizon 4 gives racers the chance to charge through Edinburgh or take the more traditional road trips through Glen Coe and past the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Fulton, from Ayr, has been a major player in the new game, but the creative director insisted the change of scenery was NOT down to him. He said:
“I don’t want anyone to think that it’s in the game because of me. We went through the same process as we have with every Horizon title in that we look at what we want to deliver to players in terms of driving and visuals and beauty of the scenery. But, talking to other Scots, there is an enormous sense of pride. It’s something the whole team felt was just right, but it’s not just Scotland. There are bits of Wales in there too. Britain was just the right place to set the game.”
“Horizon games have traditionally been set in places that you would go to for a dream holiday. What we have learned over the course of this project is that what an incredible place Britain really is and how many interesting and beautiful locations there are as well as great driving roads, which Scotland has. For me, as someone who lived a long time there, grown up there — and I also worked in Edinburgh for a good couple of years — it’s a special thrill to see places that I know really well, and have driven, in a game. My wife is from the West Highlands so driving through Glen Coe is a thing I have done many times. Driving past the Glenfinnan Viaduct is part of that and I get a real tingle every time I see it in the game. Also, we have always had wildlife. It’s deer in this one — as well as sheep. There are moments when you’ll be driving along and your headlights will just pick up a stag as it gets startled and runs. That, for me, is a beautiful moment.”
Fulton was not so happy to miss out Glasgow in the game, but admits the roads were just not up to scratch. He laughed:
“You are trying to get me into trouble. Glasgow is where my heart is but I don’t think I would ever say it’s more beautiful than Edinburgh . . . certainly aesthetically. Glasgow has the famous grid system in the centre then the M8 just runs right through it. That is great for transport but not really so good for the sort of driving we do in Horizon. But Edinburgh also has this ancient Gothic beauty in the architecture and, because it’s built around the castle, it has great roads on the hill and the new town. There are some really interesting natural layouts. You can race with others down Princes Street. We have the trams, but a lot of people said they hoped we wouldn’t. It adds to the gameplay. If you drive over them you’ll feel them the same way if you drive over rail tracks in the open world. That’s the level of detail we go down in in the game.”
The game’s poster car is the awesome McLaren Senna, which was on the stand at Gamescom in Cologne. Fulton said:
“McLaren have been dream partners. They have been so forthcoming about the Senna. It is a race car for the open road but its performance and downforce really make it stand out from a lot of other cars.”
Fulton is already expecting community involvement from painters, tuners, photographers and racers. He said:
“You can do your painting in more places than ever before, but I think the biggest thing in terms of creators in the game is that we have set up the campaign — Horizon Life as it’s called — which is set up to celebrate what they do and reward them for that. So if people download your liveries or like them, that will translate into progression in the game which will push you up the ladder and level you up. And the overall goal is to become a Horizon superstar. That is where we take a step back and say ‘You can do it however you want’. If racing is your thing, go race. If it’s drifting, go sideways . . . but if painting is your thing then you can become a Horizon superstar just through painting. The same goes for tuners, photographers and streamers. We are trying to be as open and flexible as we can.”
Forza Horizon 4 is out on the 2nd October 2018.
Here are a few of our picks (and pics) from the Gamescom show:
Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One & PC)
START your engines and burn some rubber. The Gamescom fun fest gave us the chance to get hands-on with the new Forza Horizon 4 game. It was a demo build, but it was the perfect taster for a game that will be a massive seller when it comes out in October. It started with us getting behind the wheel of the powerhouse that is the McLaren Senna then ripping up a small part of the English countryside. The demo was just one race, but it was broken into the four seasons. We started in summer then worked through autumn, winter and spring — with all the weather changes you would expect.
This brief test drive whets the appetite for the full game. We were drifting around country lanes and smashing through stone walls, dodging Fulton’s famous flocks of rogue sheep and trying not to lose the back end in the snow. They have kept that fun arcade vibe, while the season system ramps up the fun factor to 11. It all adds depth to the driving experience that puts a smile on your face. We also got a taste of what showcase events will be like. We went up against a team of moto crossers in a souped-up Ford Fiesta rally monster. It was all breakneck speed through a forest in a desperate bid to get the upper hand and avoid catastrophe over a number of huge jumps. And all the while fighting to stay upright on the mud trails. The demo may have been short but it was sweet. We were clamouring for more. If the full game keeps up this level then bring it on. October will be a looooong wait.
CoD: Black Ops 4 (Xbox One, PC, PS4)
IT wouldn’t be a big gaming show without some CoD news . . . and this year’s Gamescom was no different. Black Ops 4 was on show, but, unfortunately, it was only the multiplayer — NOT the new Battle Royal mode, Blackout. But what we got to see was a new map set in a futuristic weapons factory which has plenty of fast-flowing combat opportunities as well as choke points where teams can dig in and defend. We also got a taste of some of the specialists — including the gruff, bearded Scot, Torque, with his shield and razor-wire abilities. He’s ideal for objective game modes.
Tomb Raider: Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One, PC, PS4)
LARA’S back — searching for tombs and kicking ass. But this is a much darker tale than you might expect but she still takes the fight to the enemy. She is in Latin America hunting for a Mayan relic that could save the world. There is less combat than previous outings. There is more puzzle-solving and action, but don’t let that put you off — it is without doubt great fun and we solved the hidden tomb puzzles. Get us.
Overkill’s: The Walking Dead (Xbox One, PC, PS4)
CO-OP is the name of the game as you walk into the much-loved world of the Walking Dead. There is a very strong Left 4 Dead vibe at its core. You and three friends team up to do a number of first-person shooter missions while, basically, trying to stay alive. The level we played saw us trying to find where a transmission had come from. We had to work our way through zombie- infested streets. You get two options — go as quietly as you can, with melee weapons so you don’t alert them, or charge in all guns blazing and kick the hornet’s nest. That sounds like fun unless you run out of ammo. It all boiled up to a tense 15-minute taster with puzzles to solve and severe bash-the-zombie sessions. But the face-off with other humans meant a subtle change in tactics. It makes you think. The game had been due out in November but word is it will be delayed until February.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Switch)
BY far the biggest draw at Nintendo this year had to be the new Smash Bros. It is what it says on the tin — the Ultimate — because it is packed with goodies that the hardcore fans will lap up. It’s also a really easy to pick up and play fighter. It is sheer fun, especially with four players. You get to pick from a huge section of Smash fans’ favourites as well as a few new faces entering the fray. It’s also a neat touch to know you can use the classic Gamecube controller. A must-buy for all Switch owners.
Lego DC Super-Villains (All platforms)
LEGO fans are used to being the hero and saving the day, but Traveller’s Tales is set to flip that on it head. Lego DC Super-Villains gives you the chance to fill the boots of some of the best-known bad guys in the DC universe. We got some hands-on time with a special level just for the show. It lets you take control of a gang of five characters, including Lex Luther and Captain Cold, as they go in search of Gorilla Grodd. The gameplay was very much the standard Lego format — smash everything and collect studs while solving a few light puzzles along the way. But it all comes with Lego’s signature style of comedy. Winner.
Control (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
THE first multi-format game from Remedy in some years. The Oldest House — HQ of the Federal Bureau of Control — has been invaded by a force called the Hiss. New boss Jesse Feden has to save the day. It’s a neat mix of Twin Peaks and Annihilation as it treads the line between action and thriller. More action-focused than past Remedy titles, but Control could be a surprise hit.
Dying Light 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
IT’S 15 years after a virus almost wiped out humans – leaving many as zombies. But, this time, the parkour slash-em’-up is more about choices. You have Peacekeepers, Scavengers and Degenerates. Each can change the game for good or bad. But, in a neat twist, there is NO right or wrong choices. If Techland can pull it off, this will be a super game.
The Division 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
SWAP snow-covered New York for Washington, fast forward seven months — and go. The gameplay has changed — less places to hide and more emphasis on teamwork in the fights. We played an epic battle against a well-armed enemy force. It was tough but you have a few tricks like an attack drone as well as each agent having special skills, which encourages teamwork.
Battlefield V (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
DICE have taken their shooter back to its roots with a Second World War fight. We played a level where we had to capture the streets of Rotterdam. This is a stunning-looking game, and the level of detail gets even better once things start going boom. There is a decent arsenal of weapons and the V2 rockets are game-changers.
Rage 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
BETHSEDA and Avalanche Studios’ post-apocalyptic FPS is a blast from the first shot to the last. It’s pure ID software — think Doom and Wolfenstein. You’ll be pulling knee slides into rooms and taking out mutants with shotguns. Add in a solid vehicle combat system and a mix of backdrops and Rage 2 is shaping up to be one of the stand-out FPS games of the year.
Just Cause 4 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
RICO Rodriguez is back with a bag of new tricks. The huge open world is the same size as Just Cause 3, but it now has different levels of vertical gameplay from inside mines to mountain tops. But this is all about blowing stuff up — and there’s plenty of that. Then there’s the new extreme weather system with tornadoes, which ramps the fun up a level.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
ANOTHER year another Creed. We are in 431BC. This builds on last year’s Origins. We tried a lengthy quest at the show — everything was powered up to the highest level. There was a neat twist because the rescue mission turned into a flight of fantasy as you go face-to- face with Medusa. Not your normal enemy. It looks and feels like a great addition to the series.
Devil May Cry 5 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
THE public playing debut for the game. It is fast, frantic and stylish — a hack-and-slash feast. The combat felt fresh with a mix of swordplay and guns as well as a new robot hand. Add in a battle against a huge monster boss who gets tougher and tougher and you know you will have to stay on your toes to complete this one.
Metro Exodus (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
WE played Metro in London a few months ago so seeing a new section in Cologne was a treat. We got a forest in the dead of night where a number of things went bump. You had to sneak into a camp with a variety of dangers. Stealth was the name of the game as you attack a pirate force looking to hijack the train the heroes are using to cross Russia. This will be a title to look out for.
Dakar 18 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
IF you love offroad racing and sim racers then Dakar 18 will float your boat. The official game doesn’t hold your hand. You are in the iconic rally and have little else but the pace notes. There are five types of vehicles from rally cars to bikes and quads and even racing trucks. And the world is huge — racing the length of South America.
There wasn’t just games on display, there’s top tech too!
Razer Raiju Ultimate
COOL cats want Razer. The firm was everywhere at the show. The the highlight was the Raiju Ultimate PS4 controller with wireless and wired connectivity, upgraded ergonomics and MASS customisation. A dedicated mobile app lets you play with more than 500 customised profiles to fit play styles with gaming genres. The Chroma system lets you map the LED so it lights up when you want. Interchangeable thumbsticks, Mecha-Tactile action buttons. OMG.
Razer Thresher for PS4
RAZER also had the Thresher for PS4 — solid audio and comfort as well as wired connection and wirelessly via a 2.4 GHz connection. It has 16 hours’ battery life, wireless range of up to 40ft, on-ear master and microphone controls and an unidirectional boom mic. Also compatible with PC, Nintendo Switch and other devices with a 3.5mm audio port.
Turtle Beach Elite Atlas
TURTLE Beach’s Elite Atlas headset could be the new benchmark for esports audio on PC. It has a sleek metal headband, ProSpecs glasses-friendly design and blocks out external noise. Shut up! Pro-tuned 50mm Nanoclear speakers and the removable high-sensitivity mic with TruSpeak technology means great communication with teammates. Oh, it is also good on the go thanks to its 3.5mm jack.
Nvidia RTX 2070, RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti
Check out the new graphic cards from Nvidia. The show had the firm’s latest productions — the RTX 2070, RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti. RTX refers to real-time ray tracing which is all about modelling light bounces between reflective surfaces in games. It will start at £569 for the RTX 2070, £749 for the RTX 2080 and £1,099 for the RTX 2080 Ti.
I’ll be back with more from not in Germany next week. Catch ye’s…