Roundup: ‘Need for Speed,’ ‘Gran Turismo Sport’ and ‘Gear.Club Unlimited’ vie for racing-game dollars

Roundup: ‘Need for Speed,’ ‘Gran Turismo Sport’ and ‘Gear.Club Unlimited’ vie for racing-game dollars

In the final month of the year, new games continue to roll in at a fast pace. “Forza Motorsport 7” and “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” are the leading titles in the racing game category. The two are standouts in an otherwise ho-hum year for the genre.

Although they lead the pack, a few late entries have made a run at them, and some have been more successful than others at catching players’ attention. Here’s a look at the recent releases:

Need for Speed Payback” — Electronic Arts’ long-running racing series has gone through several iterations, but each entry has wrapped itself around a story of a lone driver. With “Payback,” Ghost Games revamps the formula by introducing players to a racing crew.

Tyler Morgan, Sean McAlister, Jess Miller and their mechanic Ravindra Chaudhry steal a million-dollar supercar, but they’re betrayed by their partner Lina Navarro. After being nearly arrested, the gang scatters, but after a few months, the chance for revenge brings them together. The crew starts from the bottom and earns a reputation in racing leagues around Fortune Valley.

The three main characters specialize in different driving events. Tyler specializes in street and drag racing, while Sean knows his way around offroad and drifting contests. Jess does the dirty work as the runner who deals with escaping police and knocking pursuers during missions.

“Payback” has a variety of missions in an open world inspired by the Las Vegas area. Although casual fans may appreciate the “Fast and Furious”-style action scenes, the game — like the voice acting — feels lifeless. It’s as if this series is just going through motions while the crew takes down Lina and her employers, a criminal syndicate called the House. It’s a disappointing chapter for a franchise whose efforts have been hit or miss.

Gran Turismo Sport” — This entry is an unusual offering for the venerable racing franchise. It’s not a full-blown sequel, and it offers substantially more than “Gran Turismo 5 Prologue,” which was almost like an amuse-bouche to the eventual sequel.

“Sport” retains some core concepts of the series. It’s one of the few games that teaches players about the racing concepts. The driving school is an excellent teacher for the concepts of understeer, oversteer, passing and cornering. The problem is that “Sport” is a strict headmaster and the learning curve can be frustratingly steep for players just looking for a good time.

The game locks a lot of the content behind the campaign and its driving school and missions. If players have the discipline and endurance to finish each lesson, they will be able to compete in the online modes, the meat of the experience.

In other areas, it seems the developer, Polyphony Digital, is finally catching up to Turn 10 Studios and the “Forza” series. “Sport” includes a livery editor, so now players can more fully customize the looks of their drivers and cars. Moving beyond that, Sony’s team also adds more forward-thinking concepts in “Sport” with the inclusion of virtual reality support.

The VR is a stripped-down experience that pits a player against an AI opponent. Polyphony does a good job limiting the nausea for players caused by quick acceleration. Despite the care, though, some courses will leave players feeling woozy. But for every unsettling feeling, there’s an impressive one that will make players feel that VR is the future of the genre.

Gear.Club Unlimited” — The Nintendo Switch doesn’t have many racing titles, and there are even fewer that cater to core racers. This title from Microids and Eden Games fills that niche.

It’s a decent racing title that’s more “Ridge Racer” than “Gran Turismo” as players compete in several contests. Each time they win, they earn money and experience points that go into expanding a garage, so the players can further modify their vehicles and buy new ones.

The racing is somewhat varied with rally competitions and time trials, but the track design isn’t complex. It falls short of games like “Need for Speed” but it’s definitely a step above titles such as Gameloft’s “Asphalt” series on mobile.

Nevertheless, “Gear.Club Unlimited” scratches that racing itch for players who want that role-playing game experience in their racers.

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Published at Thu, 07 Dec 2017 00:00:16 +0000