Focus on the road with racing ‘Forza Horizon’

Car-racing games such as “Forza Horizon” make me a better driver in real life. I’m serious. My goal in car games is: Don’t die. I can’t win if I die.

So while you, my friends, are speeding in real life past people who cut you off, I’m using my game-sharpened skills to avoid you and to use peripheral vision to live longer.

“Forza Horizon” in particular helps me focus on the road. I drive across open highways and dirt roads in a fictionalized version of Colorado.

I bump rival cars out of my way (that’s arcade-ish). And if I fall behind in a race, opponents slow down to let me catch up (that’s arcade-ish).

Arcade or not, “Horizon” feels somewhat like a driving simulator, because I must drive very fast – yet very carefully – around corners and dodge oncoming cars.

The big challenge is wheel handling, and many cars have terrible handling. If I turn the steering wheel even a tad too much, I spin out, which drops me behind other cars and can nearly ruin a whole race.

Like all car games, the first few hours allow me to drive only economy cars. As I win races (over the course of 20 hours or longer), I earn faster behemoths in the vein of BMWs, a Speedster and Lamborghinis.

The online multiplayer is a much harder bump-and-grind for car fetishists. If a rival bumps me just once into a tailspin, I will lose.

My main knock against “Horizon” is that since this game has no weaponized cars or turbo boosts, there is a sameness in racing up and down roads.

Driving in real life is a chore to me. Driving in a car game is a glorified chore if it’s not glitzy, and “Horizon” is not glitzy.

But if you’re looking for a solid arcade-sim synthesis, “Horizon” is big, pretty, well-crafted, and it gives you great GPS warnings about approaching curves.

A WORD ABOUT HEADPHONES

I rarely review peripherals, such as headphones and hand controllers, because accessories rarely merit special attention.

However, I have fallen in love with a peripheral: Sony’s new Pulse Elite wireless stereo headset.

They are expensive: $150. But wow. They make my fancy Grado headphones sound puny.

Pulse Elite are wireless and feature a rechargeable battery. I plug a separate universal serial bus connector into my PlayStation 3, or into my computer if I want to listen to music. That’s right, these headphones work off of USB, but can be converted to a 3.5 millimeter cable.

The sound is epically, massively crystal clear. The headphones include a volume slider, a bass slider, a mutable microphone for online gaming, and a button that changes the sound from stereo to game to Blu-ray equalizing.

The only downer: It takes three hours to recharge the battery, which lasts only several hours. That makes these headphones a luxury item. But holy shmoley, I’m lapping up the luxury.

(“Forza Horizon” by Microsoft retails for $60 for Xbox 360 – Plays fun. Looks good. Challenging. Rated “T” for drug reference, language and suggestive themes. Three out of four stars.)

(Pulse Elite headphones by Sony retail for $150 for PS 3 and computers – Sounds incredible. Easy plug-and-play. Rechargeable battery. Durable. Four stars.)

Contact Doug Elfman at
delfman@reviewjournal.com.
He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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