All posts by Travis Young

I somehow managed to turn my doorman job at The Improv in Dallas TX into a writing career for CBS. When I'm not adding my geek culture to your favorite sitcoms I'm slowly adjusting to California life and enrolling in just about every racing driving school available. So far I've driven NASCAR, Indycar, F1, and Rally Off-road and like to compare the "real thing" with video games.

WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship Review – PC

Earlier this year I reviewed DiRT Rally 2.0 and my main takeaway was that the game “Closes the gap between game and reality”. Here we are only six months later with yet another off-road rally racing game, this time the latest installment in the WRC franchise, and I can say without a doubt that WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship not only achieves reality, it surpasses it. I play dozens of racing games each year and I’ve have reviewed hundreds but nothing comes close to the level of complete and total immersion you will find in WRC 8, not just in the actual driving of the cars, but in every facet of what goes on behind the scenes of a profession race team.

For those looking to be dazzled with numbers, there are 50 teams you can drive for as long as you can maintain a good reputation and don’t get kicked. There are 14 rallies and 100+ special events spread across the world of racing in 14 countries rendered to near photo-realistic quality, and with dynamically generated weather, your racing experience can change at a moment’s notice, not just visually, but in how your car handles and performs.

There are numerous ways to play WRC 8 although at the time of this review the online multiplayer Competition mode is still not available. There are, however a few other ways to play online in competitive events that run for a duration and allow you to race and log your best times on the leaderboards. There is also a split-screen local mode, which makes for a fun way to compete with someone sitting right next to you.

A majority of the content resides in the single player section of the game that includes Quick Play, Season, Training, and a Test Area, and of course, the Career mode. Quick Play grants you access to any of the rallies with your choice of car and weather conditions, while the Test Area lets you play around with various car setups and try them out. Training is a set of training exercises on a closed track while Season mode is basically the core races of the Career mode without all the crew management, but for those looking for the ultimate immersion look no further than the epic Career mode; a mode so vast and complete there is an extensive tutorial that will follow you through the first several weeks of racing, by which time you should have a good grasp of all the elements that go into this comprehensive mode.

Before we dive into the Career mode I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the robust options and settings for this game; not just in technical tweaking but also in the level of racing realism that spans everything from casual arcade to ultra-realistic – I’m talking the “Permacrash” option where one good wreck can take you out of the race. You also have adjustments for ABS, TCS, steering assist, and whether damage is cosmetic only or if it will impact your performance. You can toggle a variety of instruments on the HUD and pick from numerous views including an ultra-realistic cockpit cam. I normally go with the cockpit view in all my racing games, but this game was so brutally realistic, both in limiting my view of the track combined with the weather effects on the windscreen, that I “cheated” and went with the hood cam – not that it helped.

Additionally, there are pages of visual tweaks for lighting and shadows, textures and particles, draw distance, vegetation and crowd density and even water quality. It took some experimenting to find a perfect set of conditions for both my ultra-wide monitor and my RTX2060 Super card, but I was able to get a locked 60fps and if I uncapped the framerate I was hitting the 120-130 fps range with most options set to medium or high.

The only other setting left before playing is your career difficulty, which determines the race times of your opponents as well as how many “restarts” you get; unlimited for Easy and four tries for all the rest. Keep in mind that you won’t be racing actual on-track cars. This is authentic rally racing where cars are released at intervals and you are merely racing the clock. One nice feature for returning WRC players is the ability to pick your entry point into the competition. Seasoned veterans can attempt to qualify for the WRC 2 Privateer – you get three tries, otherwise you can opt for the Junior WRC, which eases you into the experience and offers the overall best experience.

Next up is picking your contract with a manufacturer, which also comes with its own set of side objectives that follow you throughout the career. Completing objectives along with winning or placing high in race events will boost your reputation with manufacturers. With all your settings in place you’ll find yourself in the workshop, the hub of all activity between the actual races. In this menu-driven interface you will setup events in the calendar, recruit and hire crew members to fill specific slots on your race team; everything from a meteorologist to help predict weather for upcoming races, to publicity agents, a financial director to save you money, mechanics for mid-race repairs, and even a physiologist to help bolster team morale that is sure to plummet when you fail to finish in the top three. You can get driver stats, check your email, get new race info and offers, and pay your repair bills.

There are all sorts of systems in play in WRC 8. You’ll need money to pay salaries and repair your car, and your manufacturer reputation and crew morale are all dependent on how well you perform in the rally events. Thankfully there are numerous non-rally events like challenges and historical races that give you plenty of chances to boost your stats, often while driving someone else’s car, so you aren’t even responsible for damages. There are also ongoing side objectives that can earn you bonus cash and XP for observing certain conditions or restrictions; things like not using hard tires for two races or not spending more than 35 minutes on repairs during a rally.

You’ll also be earning skill points which all feed into this massive R&D skill tree, a web of unlockable icons that will boost all elements of the racing experience spread across four unique branches; team, performance, crew, and reliability. You’ll typically unlock two new skills per race, which can help reduce repair times, earn bonus XP or cash and even help minimize team depression when you lose a race. And yes you will lose. In the first month of my race career I only placed 1st in one phase of one rally event. I would usually average 8-10th place with a final finishing position of 9th or 10th. I won’t lie; this was a huge blow to my ego as I consider myself pretty good at these games. Dropping the difficulty to Easy instantly got me those first -place finishes but they felt empty and unearned.

WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship is a serious racing simulation, and while it can be setup and enjoyed by casual race fans this game is clearly intended for diehard racers. The game is playable with a gamepad but not easily winnable. The new attention to weather and dynamic road conditions require the smooth analog inputs of a racing wheel and pedal combo. The difference between a gamepad and my G29 racing combo took me from 10th place to a podium finish. Using the trigger on a gamepad to throttle or brake on slippery road surfaces is next to impossible, even with assists turned on.

I just started driving in rally events a few years ago in real-life and it is unlike any other type of racing, especially after 15 years of paved circuit racing. There is this butt-clenching feeling you get when you are just on the edge of control, when you’re not quite sure your tires are going to stick, or your car might go tumbling over the edge of an un-railed hairpin turn and WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship captures that feeling flawlessly. One of the first rallies in the game takes place on the snowy roads of Sweden, and that loose traction and slipping around turns trying not to overcorrect is fantastically authentic; it’s a feeling that carries over into sandy and rocky terrain with just the right amount of tactile variance in the vibrations you get in a force feedback wheel or even an Xbox Elite controller (to a lesser degree).

WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship is more than a video game, its part lifestyle simulator, part driving simulator that can only be bested by doing this in real-life. My only minor quibble is the omission of a true competitive online mode (coming soon). Arguably, real-word rally racing isn’t about grinding bumpers on a NASCAR oval. Rally racing is about you versus the clock. It’s about man vs road; memorizing every twist and turn, and listening to the callouts of your co-pilot- which are particularly outstanding in this game; clear, concise, and perfectly timed. And while fighting for leaderboard superiority certainly has its own addictive appeal, it would be especially awesome to have some sort of multiplayer component with 8-16 player head-to-head racing, even if it defies the reality of the sport. But as the ultimate solo rally simulator and a fantastic new entry into the world of esports racing, it doesn’t get any more real than WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship. Are you up for the challenge?

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Wreckfest Review – PC

I was playing Wreckfest long before it released in 2018, back when Bugbear was using the working title, “Next Car Game”. I was already a big fan of their FlatOut series and eagerly followed every update and patch leading up to its official renaming and launch. While still rough around the edges, Bugbear has been diligent with its upgrades, patches, and fresh content, and the Steam Workshop community has been amazing with all sorts of new mods. Recently, Wreckfest released for the Xbox One and with it came a fairly substantial upgrade for the PC version; substantial enough to revisit my original review and make some updates.

For those that haven’t read my other reviews I enjoy getting to drive race cars in real-life; everything from Indy and F1 to NASCAR and rally cars. The one thing you never want to do is crash one of these million dollar machines, so playing a game where the main intent is to smash into other vehicles goes against every fiber of my being, even if you are driving a piece of crap held together with duct tape and chewing gum. Wreckfest fills in the niche of a true demolition derby game and does so brilliantly with all sorts of race modes, track designs, and a massive garage of vehicles ranging from cars and trucks to riding mowers and farm equipment. You can even drive a motorized couch!

Wreckfest offers a comprehensive solo career mode as well as some crazy multiplayer action. The career mode is divided into panel events that can be either a solo race or a short series. You’ll earn points for finishing in top positions and there are star challenges available that will really test your ability to smash and dash while still trying to win the event. You might be asked to spin out a car or crash them out of the race or merely inflict x-many damage points to the other racers. Some crashes might even trigger a rivalry with a specific racer.

Events take place on a variety of tracks with a mix of dirt, mud, and pavement. Most tracks are circuit designs but there are some figure-8 tracks tossed in to clench your butt cheeks when driving through an intersection with high-speed cross traffic twice per lap. And there are open arena designs like fields and parking lots or mud basins for those nerve-wracking last man standing events. The demolition derby battles are surprisingly strategic in that you need to stay alive until the end but also need to inflict enough damage to meet any star challenges and make contact with cars often enough that you don’t get disqualified.

In a world where casual racing games seldom depict damage I was blown away by the physics and damage model in Wreckfest.   Cars are constructed from individual parts which dent, crush and fly off, but they also impact car performance. If you bend a wheel expect your car to pull to the side. If you damage your engine expect your speed to decrease. Pop-up alerts indicate when damage occurs and a visual indicator shows damage on all parts of your car, so when that front bumper eventually falls off you might want to start driving in reverse.

The driving physics are really good, tipping in favor of arcade versus sim, but the vehicles definitely have a weight about them that makes each a new experience to drive. You can see cars tip on their suspension in tight turns and it’s easy to wipeout on a hairpin if you haven’t braked properly before getting there. There are some turns at the top of a rise where my compact will simply roll over if I’m going too fast. This same level of physics applies to collisions as well, which are some of the best and most realistic I’ve seen.

Driver AI ranges in quality with one or two cars always racing ahead giving you something to overpass while most of the pack falls quickly behind. Of course when you have goal that require crashing into other cars you can’t simply race to the lead and hold it. You have to let a few drivers get past you so you can smash, crash, or spin your way to those stars. Rubbin’ is racing so use those other cars as buffers or mobile guardrails on tight turns.

Wreckfest has a vibrant mod community and there are some wonderful add-ons for the game you can install, but these can only be used with a separate executable that will restrict your online rankings and leaderboards. You’ll find plenty to keep you busy if/when you ever finish the expansive career offerings or get tired of crushing the competition online. While I have no aspirations of becoming a game designer, the toolkit for Wreckfest looks to be feature-rich and easy enough to figure out.

From a technical perspective Wreckfest looks fantastic with scalable support for 4K resolutions and all sorts of visual tweaks to lock down that 60fps that all racing games want. There are moments of photorealism in the game, especially in those golden hour moments where the sun is shining just right and the lighting and shadows are popping.   Tires leave tread marks, dirt and dust kick up behind the cars, and I never get tired of smashing into a stack of tires and watching them go flying and bouncing onto the track. You can drive from multiple views, and while I typically prefer the cockpit cam when using my racing wheel, all too often car damage can obscure your view and make the game virtually unplayable. Speaking of wheels and pedals, my GT29 setup worked well enough on the faster circuit races but a standard Xbox 360 gamepad offered more enjoyment for the demolition derby events, and once I started using a gamepad for those I ended up just using it for the entire game.

The audio was a bit off for me on this one. The engine noises for most of the cars were okay and varied enough, but didn’t really change with any of the upgrades you install; especially manifolds and exhausts, etc. The riding mower engine sounds nothing like any riding mower I’ve ever heard; more like a blender on margarita night. The soundtrack is purely subjective and personally I didn’t enjoy it but I didn’t mind it either. I turned that section of the sound down to about half and tuned it out. It’s mostly this angry heavy metal and grunge rock, which I suppose is appropriate for this genre, but in the back of my mind I wanted to hear the Dukes of Hazzard theme song.

The big update in August brought several changes to the game; not all of them for the better.  The entire feel of the game has tipped even more toward the arcade side, although you can still restore the game to its former sim-status by tweaking options.  Car handling and physics also seemed off, but again, that can all be reverted back using the robust options and settings.  Load times have been reduced to 30-40 seconds per event and restarting a race is instant.  Those who have been playing Wreckfest for the past year might have to tweak some settings, but newcomers to the game will find a fun and challenging arcade experience that closer matches the Xbox One version.

The last true demolition derby game I can remember is Destruction Derby back on the PC and original PlayStation in 1996 (damn I feel old), and while many other racing games have included their own variations of the sport, Wreckfest is the first game in decades to embrace the sport of demolition derby and high-speed crash racing. If you’re tired of flashy supercars and pristine racing venues with towering grandstands then you might be ready for some true redneck racing where, depending on the event, your only goals are to finish first or finish last.

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DiRT Rally 2.0 Review – PC

Since my last off-road racing review back in 2017 I have managed to get behind the wheel and experience dirt racing, both on a track and in a rally-style situation. While the former isn’t that much different than tarmac racing once you learn to compensate for traction, rally racing is a unique style of racing that requires a whole new mindset.   My two-day weekend driving school consisted of both driving the car and taking on the role of co-pilot, mastering the art of calling out all of the upcoming curves and approaching road hazards. It’s not as easy as it looks, and it gave me a whole new respect for the guy not driving the car.

Having actually driven a rally car on multiple types of twisting terrain helps when it comes to determining just how realistic DiRT Rally 2.0 represents the sport, and while the game’s presentation is a major factor in that realism a lot of your immersion will have to do with your own personal gaming situation. If you are sitting on the couch with a gamepad then this will certain feel like a game, especially the console versions, but if you are playing on a high-end PC with 4K, 60fps graphics and a giant 4K screen and a quality racing wheel and pedals then you are going to come very close to experiencing the real thing; minus the expense and stress of potentially wrecking a six-figure rally car.I’ve been playing Codemasters’ rally games since the days of Colin McRae, and while the series has gone through numerous name changes and various levels of content and quality, each new installment has always seemed to better itself in some way. DiRT Rally 2.0 comes with all the expected modes; Career Rally, Rallycross, Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Challenges, and online multiplayer, but before you even get started you need to pick your racing avatar from a selection of nine faces covering both male and female and a sampling of races. You’ll create a race team to hone your vehicle and your racing strategies, as you visit six real-world racing locations including; Australia, Spain, New Zealand, Argentina, Poland, and the USA.

If regular racing is the PvP side of the sport then rally racing is PvE, given the fact that you are seldom actively racing with or against other cars. Most of the time it’s just you vs. the stopwatch and the environment, accompanied by the rhythmic callouts of your co-pilot. Unlike other racing games with tracks short enough to memorize, you come to rely heavily on those co-pilot cues, anticipating a sharp turn or a bump in the road that might send you airborne. The physics are ultra-realistic and there is fantastic feedback that translates every nuance of the driving surface into your rumble-quipped racing wheel or gamepad.  On the G27 racing wheel you can literally feel when you are losing traction and ease of the gas.DiRT Rally 2.0 features more than 50 rally cars spanning multiple eras of the sport, so you can revisit history in some iconic classics or get a taste of a modern day rally racer like the Camaro GT4-R. All of the cars utilize a realistic damage model that not only affects the way a car looks but how it handles and performs. If you smash all your headlights and your next racing stage is at night, prepare to drive in the dark. Sideswipe a tree and bend your rim then prepare to have your car pull to the side until you can get it fixed. If you’re playing from the cockpit view (as you should) then prepare for dirty, wet, or broken windshields that will have you struggling to see the road ahead.

Things get much more exciting and a bit more traditional when you tackle the Rallycross mode that puts numerous cars on the same track as you attempt to shave those precious seconds off your lap times. I did find the AI a bit dumbed down in this mode; perhaps to ease newcomers into the experience, but the difficulty does rise and eventually spike the further you advance.  Rally racing requires meticulous precision and harmony with your environment while rallycross lets you open up and drive wild.I reviewed DiRT Rally 2.0 using a GTX1080ti card with all settings maxed, and the game was buttery smooth at 60fps on my 4K OLED. There was a perfect amount of motion blur that enhanced the sensation of speed, and the level of detail in the road and trackside environments was often distracting. I really appreciated the reflective puddles of water on the road or trapped in the ruts of previous tire tracks. The HDR lighting was on point with gorgeous sunlight, lens flares, god rays, and detailed shadows that made driving through heavily forested areas that much more intense.  The audio was equally awesome with pleasing music in the menus and load screens and powerful engine noises and vehicle sound effects during the race.

My only real issues with DiRT Rally 2.0 are the sparse amount of tracks and destinations and the way some of them are gated behind the season pass. Those core six countries only have 12 stages each and these are often reversed or remixed versions of a longer section of the course resulting in some déjà vu a few hours into the game. While my review copy included the season pass I have heard from others playing just the core game that many of the community events require access to content you might not own, and these daily events are often crucial to many racers as a profitable means to earn in-game currency to hire team members and maintain your stable of cars. Thankfully, there are fun and historical freeplay races that pay out additional game bucks.With the scales tipping heavily toward simulation versus arcade fun, DiRT Rally 2.0 is not for the casual racer. This game is targeting those who really enjoy the niche appeal of off-road and mixed-surface racing along with the casual bout of rallycross as well as all the minutia of managing a well-oiled race team.  As with most detailed simulations of this type, you’ll get as much out of DiRT Rally 2.0 as you put into it. A killer PC and a quality racing wheel will certainly help, but it’s going to take hours of patience and practice to become a rally legend in this ultra-realistic sim. 

F1 2018 Review – PC

If you have read any of my previous reviews here at Game Chronicles you know I am a super-fan of racing, both in real life and in video game form. I’ve participated in various racing schools for nearly every style of racing from Indy Car and NASCAR to Rally and my favorite, F1. Strapping into the cockpit of a formula car is as close as it gets to flying a fighter jet without leaving the ground, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone with the means and opportunity to try it. Sadly, F1 racing for an average Joe off the street is also one of the more expensive hobbies you can undertake, so thankfully Codemasters is here to bring that experience to life on your PC with stunning realism, both visually and in the immersion of all the stuff that goes on outside the cockpit.

F1 2018 is easily the most realistic F1 simulator out there, upping the ante on some areas of improvement from last year including an overall better driving experience, some aggressively smart AI competition, new tracks, new cars, an updated roster, a network-quality presentation, and a cool look at the business of racing as well as all the optional fun you can have tweaking your car in the garage. There is something here for every level of race fan in both immersion and realism, and for those seeking the ultimate challenge, there is a Pro Career setting that changes the weekend structure to include full-length sessions as well as disabling all vehicle assists.

The main menu offers up all the standard variations of gameplay, allowing you to dive into a single race, a Championship season, Grand Prix, Time Trial, Event, or for those looking to settle in for the long-haul, check out the Career mode where you get to sign with a team and immersive yourself in the lifestyle of a real race car driver. Considering the multiplayer portion of F1 2018 is currently a total mess and unplayable (in my opinion) I gave up after a few days of dipping my toes in the festering waters of a generally uncivilized online community of griefers who think this is NASCAR, or even worse, bumper cars. I strapped into my G27 cockpit and settled into the Career mode and never looked back.

I launched my career by signing on with Ferrari. You get to choose a team but they also have to accept you, and later on in the game when you decide to switch teams, or in my case, when I got fired, you get to negotiate new contracts with variable demands/request for other teams to consider. Some cool new features in the career include maintaining good relations with your teammates. You will frequently get interviewed after practice, qualifying, and race events and your answers will directly affect the relationship with one or more factions of your crew. There is usually one safe diplomatic answer buried in the multiple choice responses; the trick is finding it.

Maintaining good relations with your team helps to shave development time off your R&D projects. You are constantly designing new tech to improve your car’s stats for future races. The R&D tree is divided into four sections; Powertrain, Durability, Chassis, and Aerodynamics, each with numerous bits of researchable tech (71 in all) that either you can choose or have your engineer recommend. These projects can take weeks to research before they can be added to your car setup, but based on your relationship with each division will adjust your development time accordingly. Morale also factors into cost and even the chance of failure.   After blaming the downforce of my car in one post-race interview my aerodynamics team got angry and my new front wing gurney flap R&D failed, and I had to start over.

As with most F1 racing games you are given the standard weekend format for racing, which includes three practice sessions, a hot-lap qualifying run, and a variable length race based on realism settings. I’ll admit that in most prior games once I learn the track I tend to skip practice laps and go straight to qualifying, but F1 2018 gives you a great incentive for spending as much time in each of the 30-minute practice sessions as possible. Your team has a list of tasks (or challenges) that they would like you to cross off while you practice. Additionally, there are several Practice Programs you can choose from, each with various tasks and rules. Every Practice session has a “learn the track” mode where you simply try to hit all the entry and exit gates to master the apex of all the turns on the track. Then you have programs for tire, fuel, and ERS management, as well as Qualifying, Race Strategy, and Team Objectives. Not only are these challenges extremely fun, they will make you a better driver, they will help you earn that pole position, and they will help you win races. Plus it potentially adds 90 minutes to every race weekend; all the while earning you valuable resource points you can spend on future R&D.

Between races you’ll find yourself at a computer terminal inside your team’s HQ where you can cycle through all the behind the scenes stuff, check your emails, and basically prepare for the next race. You will also get invited to various challenge races and events between official race weekends. These mini-games are great fun and often give you the chance to drive cars from outside your team brand. Speaking of cars; F1 2018 brings the car count to 20 while delivering all 21 circuits from the 2018 season including Circuit Paul Ricard and the Hockenheimring.

The improved car physics are impressive and while nearly all of my gameplay was done using my G27 race wheel I did play a few non-career races using an Xbox Elite controller. While I would never risk my career mode to the less-than-realistic gamepad I was impressed with just how well the game played using one; albeit a $150 Elite with super-precise analog sticks and butterfly shifters for my gear changes. For casual race fans you could probably get by with a standard gamepad, but honestly I don’t think F1 2018 is targeting “casual” race fans.

Technically, F1 2018 is visual perfection, and my GTX1080ti was able to maintain a solid 60fps at 4K resolutions with all the details set to max. You can drive from multiple cameras including front, cockpit, TV pod, and chase views. Obviously, using the cockpit will provide the ultimate in realism with its working instrument cluster, but it does limit your view a bit more than it would in real life. The game does support Tobii Eye Tracking, which helps, as it allows you to look into the turns by syncing your game view with your head position. It’s certainly a better alternative than VR, which is expensive and would severally impact the visual quality of the game.

On the audio side you have a great soundtrack, fantastic commentary, and a quirky fun news girl that is constantly trying to interview you in the garage. The voice acting is exceptional to the point where I felt genuinely ashamed when I got called into the office to find out Ferrari was canceling my contract. The highlight of the sound design is easily the realistic and distinct roars of each and every engine on the track, and there are plenty of options for how many speakers and how big.

From start to finish F1 2018 sucks you into the world of F1 racing with all the modes and variable difficulty you could ask for. The Career mode excels at creating a somewhat realistic look at the business and tech of racing, and the network quality presentation just wraps up the package and puts a bow on it. Truly, the only downside is the horrendous multiplayer that you might be able to bypass with private game sessions or simply wait for Codemaster to fix the matchmaking, lobbies, and provide a way to filter out the jerks who want to wreck rather than race. Personally, I prefer to play alone and the new and improved AI has provided me with ample human-like challenge in nearly all of my races.  Even if you never touch the multiplayer there is plenty to keep you racing F1 until 2019 gets here.

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Forza Motorsport 7 Ultimate Edition Review – PC/Xbox One

Hey race fans!

It’s a great time to be a gamer if you love racing titles. With mega-hits like Project Cars 2, Forza Motorsport 7, and Gran Turismo Sport all releasing within weeks of each other there are some tough decisions to be made. While platform preference might make that choice a bit more obvious, for those with access to both consoles and a killer PC, you might need to dig deep into what each of these titles offer.   Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of the Forza franchise; the numbered games for the classic track racing and the Horizon series for massive open-world arcade racing. I’m still playing Hot Wheels.

Turn 10 Studios has created a stunning technical masterpiece when it comes to their seventh installment in the series.   Forza Motorsport 7 is available on both the PC and the current Xbox One, and will definitely be a showcase title for the upcoming Xbox One X system in a few weeks, but until then racers with a beast of a PC can enjoy some of the absolute best 4K/HDR/60fps racing action ever created. Even the Xbox One turns out an impressive experience, albeit at lower resolutions and half the frame rate. The game supports Play Anywhere, so your digital purchase gets you both Xbox and Windows 10 versions that you can bounce between seamlessly with a cloud save.

There is no shortage of content in the core game, with over 700 cars to collect and race across 30 famous real-world locations. The career mode is massive, spanning six Champion banners, each with ten events that contains multiple races; 200 races in all. Expect a solid month of racing to knock all of these out, and that’s before you ever even go online.   Each championship banner contains themed events that feature specific car types. As you win races you earn credits and XP that will level up your driver, but in an odd twist of design your actual progression through Forza 7 is now structured around car ownership.

Each car you add to your garage has a tier rank and a certain amount of points.   The more cars you add, the faster your tier meter increases, unlocking higher tiers giving you access to better/faster cars and new events. A good example are the two Tier 4 events in the Seeker banner that you can’t even activate until you have Tier 4 car access, which in my game was about halfway through the Breakout banner hours later. This means you’ll need to return to previous events later in the game for full completion status. You can add cars to your collection by simply buying them, but there are also prize cars awarded each time you level-up, either for free or a substantial discount. Each banner also has a few Showcase events that will reward you with the car assigned to that event.

Forza 7 has an interesting dynamic about it in that you don’t really stick with any one car for much longer than the event you chose it for. While you can tune the cars there is no customization and in fact, the game has this homologation system that levels the playing field so no one car has an unfair advantage. This means the only significant way to actually alter the difficulty of a race is to tweak the Drivatar AI, which does grant you bonus points if turned up higher than average.

Forza has always had a great scaling realism system thanks to numerous assists, and Forza 7 is no exception with plenty of sliders and toggles to make this game as easy as arcade pie or a tough-as-nails simulator, or anywhere in between. The more stuff you turn off the more realistic the racing experience and the more credits you get when you finish.   Some choices are binary like ABS or traction control on or off, while things like the racing line can be off, on, or on just for braking in the turns. The latter is most useful until you learn the tracks.

Forza 7 also introduces Mods, three of which can be assigned prior to each race, but these are not car mods. Instead, these are underlying rule changes or restrictions you self-impose as challenges such as getting six perfect passes in a race, or turning off the race line and not going off track, or maybe getting four good turns, etc.   You basically have three slots and you fill them from a deck of Mod cards you collect from…wait for it…LOOT BOXES.

I’m going to keep this short, sweet and confined to a single paragraph, so if you are as sick of hearing about loot boxes as I am then skip ahead. Forza Motorsport 7 is completely playable and enjoyable without ever spending a single dime for loot boxes or the content found within. Loot boxes contain mod cards, bonus credits, the occasional car, and driver gear. Driver gear is a ridiculous prize since you only see your driver on a few random splash screens before and after races. Even the option to choose male/female seems inane. Currently you can’t even spend real money to buy loot boxes, but that is sure to change. Meanwhile, for those who like the rush of buying into blind prize giveaways, you can certainly spend your hard-earned credits on a variety of loot boxes or just save up and buy cars. The whole mentality and construction of the loot box system is to reward you with mod cards to allow you to enhance your races to earn more cash to buy more loot boxes to…well you get it. I’m not going to crucify this game because Microsoft/Turn 10 is trying to make a buck, just as much as I am not going to give them an extra cent to spin the slot machine. I don’t feel the game is broke because of the loot boxes, although I can definitely seem some design choices to “encourage” their use; the most obvious of these being the VIP pass. In all games before, VIP got you double winnings for the entire game; a nice way to accelerate your income, but now you get five cards with fives uses per card, so for $20 you can double your winnings 25 times, along with some VIP cars and driver gear. This makes the VIP DLC a bad deal – save your money and apply it to the Car Pass.

One interesting note is that I am writing this review nearly two weeks after release and there are still lots of things in the game that aren’t even available such as the Marketplace, Auction House, Leagues, and Forzathon. It’s not that there isn’t enough to keep you busy. I had to force myself away from the career mode to even experience the online multiplayer for the sake of reviewing.

Multiplayer racing is not that different from Forza 6 with the same reliable net code, functional lobbies, and random assortment of jack-holes that would rather smash into everyone than run a clean race. Heading online will hopefully improve once some of those “Coming Soon” features unlock, but until then, racing online is about the same experience as racing some quality Drivatars.

Forza Motorsport 7 delivers a topnotch presentation with graphics that will make you glad you own a 4K display. While my PC supports HDR I was having issues getting it to work, but I did play on my Xbox One S and the HDR definitely enhanced the lighting in significant and superior fashion. Even so, I would gladly trade HDR for the consistent 60fps and 4K resolution on my PC, and HDR should be working on my next driver patch.

While Forza 6 introduced rain and night driving, Forza 7 makes those elements dynamic in that you can start a race on a cloudy day only to have a storm break out on lap two soaking the track and effectively changing the traction. It’s amusing to see the AI start to slide around trying to deal with real-time changes to the track. The same for night racing in that you can start a race in total darkness only to have it finish as the sun starts to peak through the silhouette horizon. Obviously, since most races are only a few laps these events are accelerated, but no less impressive to see happing.

As always, there are numerous camera views to race from and watch the replays. There is a new driver cam that has quickly become my favorite – it’s a secondary cockpit camera that is pushed up slightly closer to the windshield, offering a much more realistic view out the car; especially if you are using your own wheel/pedal setup. This cockpit cam (along with the hood cam) seems to offer the best sensation of speed – something this game seriously lacks in all other camera views.

As far as any serious issues; during my 30-40 hours of racing on both the PC and Xbox, I had two crashes to desktop on the PC, one lock-up trying to download a paintjob, and during one race the asphalt texture turned transparent allowing the skybox to show through, so it was like driving on a glass mirror. I’m not sure what caused it, but it hasn’t happened since. The Xbox One has been flawless and I look forward to reporting back on updated Xbox One X performance next month. Forza Motorsport 7 works with my Logitech racing wheel, and the PC version even worked with an older ThrustMaster Ferrari wheel that I let my nephew use. A wheel is certainly recommended if you are playing this as a sim with the assists turned off, but for casual and moderate race fans, the Xbox controller is fantastic for either PC or Xbox use – very responsive and great vibration feedback in the triggers.

Forza Motorsport 7 is clearly the best looking and most comprehensive racing game out there for the mass PC/Xbox audience.   With its scalable difficulty and realism combined with jaw-dropping visuals, a massive car library, plenty of tracks, dynamic weather and lighting, a huge community of skin artists, and so much attention to detail both inside and out for these cars, it’s easy to see Turn 10 Studios loves cars as much as I love driving them, and Forza Motorsport 7 is still the best place to do just that.

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DiRT 4 Review – PC

After several weeks of losing myself in DiRT 4 I am confident in saying this is easily the best DiRT game in the franchise. Codemasters has refined their existing formula that perfectly blends arcade fun and hardcore enthusiast, catering to both the casual racer and someone like me who dedicates an entire weekend to a marathon session of the career mode.

There are numerous ways to enjoy DiRT 4, but I recommend you head to the DiRT Academy where you will learn all the skills needed for winning events later one. Even this old dog learned some new tricks. Joyride is basically the free-play area of the game where you can complete various challenges and hone your skills. Landrush brings it home for me with short-course dirt racing in buggies and trucks set in California, Nevada, and Mexico. I’ve done some of this in real life and was amazed at how well the game captures the intensity of the real sport.

Of course this is all leading up to the comprehensive career mode where you not only get to drive the car but also micromanage your entire racing team. Your team represents the variables in a complex behind-the-scenes spreadsheet of formulas. Hiring better people might cost you a larger percentage of your winnings, but do you really want to skimp on a mechanic who may not be able to fix your car in the allotted time? This system of progression goes beyond people. If you want to equip higher level parts on your vehicle you’ll need a higher level parts department. Progression is a mix of leveling up through earned XP and reinvesting your winnings.

While all of this non-driving stuff might turn off players who just want to race I actually appreciated all of these underlying mechanics that served as tangible reasons for my racing. It was like I was supporting my own little family rather than just plodding my way through a checklist of events and races. My success was their success, as we earned new sponsors, received more invites, and ultimately earned more money.

A racing game is only as good as its controls and physics and DiRT 4 shines in both areas. The first half of my review time was spent on my PC with triple-monitors that for some reason are still not supported by the DiRT franchise. You can play on three monitors but the image is stretched and looks weird; a sacrifice I endured because I wanted to play with my G27 racing wheel, which honestly is the only way to play this game…with a wheel.

But as the proud owner of a new LG 4K OLED and a 1080ti card, and the fact that DiRT 4 supports 4K resolutions I rearranged my game room to play on the 65” display. For the first few hours I played with a gamepad – because my wheel and pedals aren’t easily moved – and I have to admit that the game isn’t entirely unplayable with an Xbox controller. There is still a lot of oversteer and it’s way too easy to go all or nothing on the gas, but the game looks amazing in 4K, revealing all sorts of details in the scenery and the cars themselves, especially when the dynamic damage starts to stack up. Plus, I found the experience of playing on a 65” just as immersive as triple screens.

The audio package is very good with surround support and dynamic audio that changes based on your chosen view. I really enjoyed the voice work; especially that of my female co-pilot who not only called out my turns with accuracy and perfect timing, but also offered words of encouragement between events. The soundtrack is a fantastic mix of contemporary tunes that fit the theme of off-road racing without being overly stereotypical of the genre.

DiRT 4 has some realistic physics that start off a bit floaty until you start tweaking the settings, but once you lock it down this game can be pure sim. A dynamic weather system can also affect track and driving conditions, which can all be countered by pre-race tuning. I did enjoy the fact that if it rained in one section of an event the track would be wet with puddles in the next. There is also an improved damage model for both superficial body damage and various key car components.   Repairs cost money and time and you can either have your mechanic recommend repairs or go through and pick each repair individually. If there is too much damage you may have to make some hard choices.

There is a wealth of content in DiRT 4 starting with more than 50 authentically modeled and gorgeously rendered cars from the off-road racing world. I was disappointed in the overall lack of racing venues. There are only five countries; Australia, Spain, Sweden, USA, and Wales, and while they claim these five areas offer millions of routes, any two races in Michigan looks nearly identical. But I guess we aren’t here for sightseeing. Admittedly, each of the countries that are here provides some epic vistas and intricate track design opportunities.

Adding near infinite replayability is the new Your Stage tool that allows you to create countless stages at the press of a button. Just pick the location and set the route parameters and the program does the rest, then you can set your best time and challenge your friends to beat it. But that is only the tip of the multiplayer racing in DiRT 4. An entirely new Racenet experience provides improved access to cross-platform leaderboards, live ladder, leagues, and tournaments, and a state-of-the-art CREST telemetry system. Matchmaking is surprisingly fast and there seems to be a growing community of drivers nearly a month after release.

DiRT 4 is a stunner, both with its 4K visuals depicting some of the dirtiest racing ever brought to a video game, as well as the surprisingly deep underlying systems and formulas that go into running a racing team. We’ve come to identify the sport of racing by a sponsor logo or a driver’s name, but it takes a group effort to put a driver in a car and have him win races. DiRT 4 taps into this concept perfectly while maintaining the perfect balance of driving and non-driving gameplay. Fans of the old Colin McRae Rally games or any of the previous DiRT games will appreciate just how much this series has matured and evolved into the outstanding off-road racing game Codemasters has delivered with DiRT 4.

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FlatOut 4: Total Insanity Review – PC

I love racing games and I love spectacular crashes, so it’s no surprise that Burnout and FlatOut are two of my favorite franchises, and I was tremendously excited when I heard a new FlatOut game was coming. Past FlatOut games offered all that redneck racing action along with demolition derby arenas and everyone’s guilty pleasure; the Stunt mode, where you would launch your ragdoll driver in a series of addictive mini-games. The good news is that all of that is back in FlatOut 4: Total Insanity, but somehow this just isn’t as fun as I remembered.

Let’s start with content…oh so much content, but sadly most of it is locked through progression gates so unless you are super-patient and diligent you likely won’t experience it all. From the opening menu you are given several options including the massive career mode, FlatOut mode, Quick Race, and Multiplayer which can be either online or local hot seat. Quick Race offers racing, arena, and stunt options. FlatOut is an extensive mode consisting of 42 events all locked with a point gate system, so you have to earn points in earlier events to unlock later ones.   These events include; Deathmatch, Beat the Bomb, Carnage, and Stunt. Stunt is the party game mode where you launch your driver in crazy games of Cup Pong, High Jump, and Destruction; a big hit with Angry Birds fans.

There is so much to do from the opening menu it might be hard to settle in for the 60+ hour career mode that starts with three options; Derby, Classic, and All-Star modes, each requiring a certain class of car. Your starting cash allows you access to the Derby and you’ll need to earn at least $30k to enter Classic, and $57k for All-Star. To put that in perspective at the 12hr point I had earned a total of $24k and spent half that to fully upgrade my starter car. It took nearly another ten hours before I could sample the Classic mode.

Breaking it down even further, the Classic mode consists of 16 events including Derby, Time Trial, and Arena (survival) modes, and occasionally the regular racing mode may turn into Assault mode and toss in weapons. While this may sound fun believe me it is not. It is “total insanity” and not in the good way the title may have you hoping for. You have four weapons; bomb, shockwave, bollards, wrecking ball, and using any of them consumes a portion of nitro. For those thinking, “I’ll just use my nitro to boost into first place” that just means you have seven other drivers all gunning for you in races that have not been this unfair since Mario Kart. You’ll spend a good portion of these combat races dying in slow motion then dropping into last place while you wait for your car to reset on the track. Not only is Assault mode unnecessary, it nearly ruins the game.

Time Trial is racing at its purist, and with nitro disabled it is all about knowing the track, its shortcuts, and having a properly upgraded car to hit that gold cup time. The Arena is also great fun, relying on your ability to hit the other cars while avoiding getting hit yourself. Randomly appearing power-ups help with this giving you all sorts of scoring and destruction perks as you try to be the last car running and hit the top of the scoreboard.

Of course the big party favorite is Stunt mode where you launch your rocket car for a short distance then launch your driver through the windshield as you attempt to steer his flailing body into assorted mini-game targets. Games like Destruction really showcase the game’s fantastic physics engine, and all of these mini-games are super-addictive whether you are playing in competitive couch mode or just trying to climb the leaderboards.

The big issue I had with FlatOut 4: Total Insanity is that the career mode quickly turned into a grind. After the first three or four gold cups you will have earned enough cash to fully upgrade your starter car, so there is nothing left to aspire to except to earn enough money for a new car. Perhaps the most annoying observation was that even with a fully maxed out car, every other AI racer was always faster than me. In most racing games you reach that point where you zoom out to an early lead and never see the competition. In this game you’ll be racing for your life and if you’re lucky win by a fraction of a second on your 23rd attempt.

Speaking of trial and error, about halfway through the Derby series you’ll reach a difficulty wall that will have you racing every race anywhere from 10-40 times before you secure that first-place finish. You’ll quickly learn to know when it’s better to hit Restart than to waste your time trying to finish. There is no rubber band AI or throwaway victories in FlatOut 4: Total Insanity. You earn every trophy with blood, sweat, tears, and blisters. In some races it literally gets down to the point where you strategically have to plan out which parts of the environment you are going to smash on which lap to fuel your nitro boost.

Surprisingly, nitro does more harm than good. Earned by destroying the environment or smashing into other cars, when you kick in the nitro and the screen blurs you are likely going to end up in a ditch unless you know exactly where and when it’s safe to use it.   Plus the temptation of smashing trackside objects is often offset by the danger. While you can smash through smaller trees, telephone poles, wooden fences, a glass storefront, or even an entire house, hitting a tiny orange traffic cone can send your car flipping skyward. WTF!

As far as presentation, the graphics are a messy mix. Some levels look great while others; not so much. It seems the more objects there are the fuzzier the details, and things get blurry and muddy. Most of the cars are ugly; both in design and textures, and even applying unlockable skins cannot hide their rust-bucket origins. And when you do unlock some cool new cars later; actual race cars with blowers sticking out the hood, you are still getting beat by junky trucks and something that looks like a Model-T roadster.

The winter tracks look great, and the races through the warehouses and sewer drains are crisp, mostly because they lack all the excessive textures of tracks like the lumber camp or any of the races that snake their way through dense forests and dry riverbeds. I’ve only played the game on PC, but it seems like I am only able to get console-quality visuals, even with a GTX1070 card on a high-end gaming PC. The framerate wavers between 50-60fps, usually dipping when there are multiple cars in front of me or during those insane Assault modes where everything is blowing up all the time.

You can race from chase, hood, and bumper views, but there is no way to set a preferred view so every race starts in chase view and you have to change the angle if you prefer another. I normally like hood view, but FlatOut 4: Total Insanity has the annoying tendency to stack debris on your hood totally blocking your view until you slam on the brakes to send it flying off. I suppose it’s realistic, but it’s also annoying to penalize a player solely on their view preference, since chase view drivers aren’t affected.

The soundtrack offers a nice selection of indie tracks, but the 35 tracks will start to get repetitive after a few hours; especially in a game where you are constantly restarting which also cues up a new song, making it hard to hear an entire song. The music volume is also too loud by default, blurring with the aggressive engine noises to create something quite painful to the ears over time. It does seem they are pretty proud of their soundtrack, as there are three volumes of music currently available as DLC for $10 each.

FlatOut 4: Total Insanity played much better in my mind before it released when all I had to go on was screenshots and trailers. Now that I’ve played the final product I can only say I am disappointed. While all the elements are here, there is something just off about the game. I don’t mind repeating an event 30-50 times if it’s a Stunt mode event, but when it takes me 43 (yes, I counted) attempts to win the third race of the fifth cup series, I start to get annoyed. And having all your content locked behind progression walls of cash and points may turn off the more casual gamers.

Available on console and PC, the Steam version does get some nice exclusives that make the $40 price tag seem like a better deal. In addition to all the “Steamy stuff” you also get an exclusive arena (Ice Lake), two exclusive drivers, and two exclusive vehicles, and Steam Workshop support is about to launch, which may add tremendously to the longevity of the title if the community support stays strong. Given how hard it has been to find people playing this online over the past weeks, I fear the game may lose its momentum before Workshop support is available.

At this time I personally cannot recommend FlatOut 4: Total Insanity to anyone who is a fan of insane racing or the previous FlatOut games. The graphics are a mess, the Assault mode is totally broken, the AI is brutally hard and unrealistic, and there is just too much trial and error involved to even win a race. The Stunt mode offers limited entertainment, but even that isn’t as much fun as I remembered. For $5 less you can buy the deluxe version of Gas Guzzlers, which offers nearly all the same content (minus the Stunt mode), and that game looks and plays infinitely better than this. With so much content and no motivation to experience it, FlatOut 4: Total Insanity sadly runs out of gas long before it’s over.

Riptide GP: Renegade Review – Xbox One/PC

Nothing gets me more nervous than a mobile game getting ported to console, so imagine my complete surprise when Riptide GP: Renegade not only turned out to be good; it’s actually one of my favorite casual stunt-racing games of recent memory.   Blending elements of the Nintendo classic, Wave Race 64 with the look, feel, and presentation style of Hydro Thunder Hurricane (now an Xbox 360 backwards compatible game), Renegade takes a somewhat disposable tablet racing game and crafts it into an addictive and surprisingly challenging stunt-racer that will continually test your skills both in its lengthy single-player career mode as well as 4-player split-screen and online racing for up to 8 players.

Riptide GP: Renegade even throws in a story, told with disposable (and skippable) story panels between the races about a racer kicked out of the league and trying to make a comeback. It’s a nice distraction from the minimal load screens, but once you’ve read the panels you’ll be mashing the skip button on future races. The game uses the 3-star reward system and requires you to earn at least one star on the previous race before allowing you to advance. It’s pretty standard mobile design fare, but that is where all similarities end.

Featuring some amazing graphics, original environments, cool special effects, and a thumping soundtrack; Riptide GP: Renegade could easily sit on the same shelf as any AAA racing game, which makes the $10 price tag seem criminally low. I had ten bucks worth of fun on my first sitting, and that was before I even ventured online or coerced my friends to play in some rousing 4-player couch racing.   The slick visuals stream by at a smooth 60fps on both Xbox and PC (one purchase gets you both copies) and your progress migrates between PC and console.

The core racing game is pretty standard featuring some fantastic wave physics that create a dynamic racing surface that will test your reflexes while a robust trick library will test your memory as you unlock a dizzying array of stunts that require an increasingly complicated set of stick moves that quickly start to resemble Mortal Kombat fatality button combos. The trick is knowing when you have enough air to actually do some of the more impressive stunts, because the better the stunt the more turbo boost you’ll earn, and that extra burst of speed is often the decider between a podium finish or hitting the retry button. On events that require high trick scores, you’ll need to mix up the stunts and avoid any duplications.

Riptide GP: Renegade even works in a bit of statistical role-playing, giving you the freedom to spend your earnings and your skill points on passive race abilities, new unlockable stunts, and hydrojet upgrades to boost your speed, acceleration, and handling, keeping you competitive in later race events. There is a nice selection of riders as well as futuristic watercraft that have the cool ability to transform in mid-race from a wave rider to an air glider.

I played the game on both Xbox One and the PC and was surprised to find the games were virtually identical in both looks and performance. The PC may have offered slightly faster load times, but I ended up spending most of my play time on the Xbox One, mostly because my Elite controller offered some great racing input. The game is native 1080p, so any 4K output is purely an artificial boost in resolution.

For anyone who has been longing to relive those glory days of Wave Race 64 or those looking for a next-gen version of Hydro Thunder then look no further than Riptide GP: Renegade. For only $10 you are going to get an insanely addictive racing game that will challenge you on multiple levels, both as a single-player leaderboard chaser, a career completionist, and a multiplayer wave riding prodigy.

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Steep Review – PC

I think we can all agree it’s been way too long since we’ve had an SSX game to dominate our game time. In fact, we haven’t had one since the last generation of console…until now. Ubisoft debuted Steep at last year’s E3, and the excitement started to build from that moment; at least for me, but nothing could prepare me for the vast, open-world that awaited me when I hit the slopes of the Swiss Alps to tackle all the various extreme sports Steep has to offer.

Steep is epic in every sense of the word, from sheer size and scale of the mountainous levels to the seemingly endless array of missions, challenges, and events that just keep piling on. Even after a solid month of playing Steep I am still unlocking new things to do.   While primarily a single-player experience, Steep does allow you to group together with up to three other individuals and tackle the slopes as a group, not unlike the system found in The Crew. While this does allow for a bit of camaraderie it personally didn’t fit with my style of play where I would repeat an event until I got a gold medal – even if it took hours. Good luck finding friends with that kind of obsessive patience.

Steep offers four ways to explore its massive non-linear open world. Traditionalists can snap on a pair of skies and slalom down the slopes or you can buckle into your snowboard and shred the mountains while pulling off a variety of crazy stunts. For the ultimate excitement, jump off a cliff or out of a hot air balloon and see how long you can fly in a wingsuit, or for the ultimate snooze fest, climb into the saddle of a paraglider and catch the updrafts to leisurely explore and unlock countless landing zones loaded with more events.

What I enjoyed most about the overall game design is that you don’t scroll through menus of events but rather find something you want to do on the map and then go there; either by fast-travel or actually going there. You are free to navigate the mountain using any of the four style of mobility at any time with a simple pop-up menu. You can even crunch your way through the knee-high drifts on foot if necessary. What I did not like was the fact that you had to be at a complete standstill before switching sports. There were so many times where I wish I could release from my paraglider and go into wingsuit mode, or if I inadvertently skied off a cliff how cool would it be to just open my arms and glide to safety rather than tumble down the mountain until all my bones were broken?

Controls vary from sport to sport and while the wingsuit was admittedly my favorite event I did enjoy the subtle control differences between skiing and boarding.  I did not like jumping with the RT; it just felt unreliable and the trick system was fairly limited; mostly due to being rooted in reality versus the insanity of a game like SSX.  Any trick you can do in this game can likely be pulled off in the real world.  It’s easy enough to hit most Gold score goals; just don’t go expecting crazy chain combos and score multipliers.

Steep has an incredible amount of content; too much really, or at least it needs to be better organized or presented, or perhaps an optional behind-the-map text listing of things to do. Once you are 30-40 hours into the game it turns into a chore to scan and rotate and zoom the map to find events with a NEW tag on them, and often, you’ll unlock new content in the middle of doing something else then forget what the narrator was talking about. Where was that GoPro wingsuit challenge again?

Speaking of GoPro, prepare yourself for one of the coolest replay systems in recent gaming history. Not only can you replay any previous event from several personal camera angles that look like you have a GoPro strapped to your helmet, you can also view, edit, and share your wildest videos with the director mode. Once I stumbled onto this gem I started spending more time in the replay editor than the actual game. And what’s really slick is that your entire previous path is charted on the map allowing you to drop back into that run at any point and create videos or even custom challenges for your friends.

Steep is stunning when it comes to the visuals and my 1070-equipped rig was able to run this game in 4K at 60fps with no problem. The only time I saw details pop on the horizon were in the paraglider and wingsuit modes, but everything was pristine when actually on the slopes. And for those looking for a virtual thrill I highly recommend the first-person camera view. It’s as close to VR as you’re going to get without wearing a headset, and real enough to cause me a bit of motion sickness; especially when doing tricks and seeing the world spin around me. The game is photo-realistic from start to finish and totally immerses you in the experience.

There is an impressive soundtrack; at least in quantity. I wasn’t particularly fond of much of the music in the game and thusly turned that part of the sound mix down. I did enjoy the way the game slowed the music during tumbles and crashes then sped it back up like somebody was dragging their finger on the turntable. The overly-cheerful narrator was ok, the various cries of pain and joy from the different riders were amusing, and I really enjoyed the mountain stories.

Once you figure out how to find all the stuff that still needs to be completed you’ll be impressed with the variety of activities. New peaks offer a laundry list of objectives and there are race and stunt challenges, timed events, wingsuit ring races, paragliding time trials, and these cool one-on-one story events where you casually follow these mountain spirit riders down various slopes as they narrate the history of the mountain, almost like your own personal vision quest.

The only thing larger than the list of events is the list of clothes and gear waiting for you in the in-game store. Most of the inventory must be unlocked and then purchased using credits and of course you have plenty of DLC items. These are purely cosmetic items to change up the look of your rider or show off the fact that you completed an event, and do not change how the game plays, but even so I’m ashamed to admit how much time I spent choosing my perfect ensemble. Hey! My boots have to match my backpack!

Steep is so massive I’m not sure if it can ever be completely finished, and with the season pass giving you access to three DLC packs with more clothes, gear and events – rocket wings anyone – this is a game that just keeps giving. What was an ongoing addiction that consumed me for nearly three weeks has lightened up a bit, but I still spend at least a few hours each week hitting the slopes or flying above them. And who knows…in a year or so I may just complete everything this game has to offer. Until then, I’ll be shredding the slopes and going for all the gold in what is easily the biggest and best winter sports compilation game of this generation.

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