Wednesday 15 August 2018

May the Forza be with you

Forza Motorsport 7 v(XO/PC) ★★★★★ Age: 3+

Forza 7
Forza 7
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

You would think the scenery in a driving game to be no more than background, a placeholder in a world where you're focused relentlessly on that narrow strip of tarmac in front of you. But lap after lap in Forza 7 something new always caught my eye.

Maybe it was the sun reflecting the urban landscape off the polished chrome of a Ferrari in Rio. Maybe it was the sand rolling across the scorched asphalt in Dubai. Maybe the vertiginous drop into the valley beside the road snaking through the Bernese Alps.

Beautiful scenery is not uncommon in racers but Forza 7 takes it to new heights, stuffed with vistas and detail that demand attention even as you careen past in a right old hurry.

Underpinned by a rock-solid 60fps frame rate and an impressive handling model, this is a racer penning a love letter to cars and tracks at 200kmh. To call it a refinement of Forza 6 would be accurate but unfair - it employs many of the same routes, yet the extra polish cannot go unnoticed.

Sure, it has its limitations - the spectre of imminent microtransactions raises the hackles, the career structure seems unnecessarily stringent and it's deliberately not as mischievously entertaining as stablemate Forza Horizon.

But Forza 7 strikes a delicate simulation/arcade balance and reaches deep into the psyche of petrolheads and casual drivers alike.

Metroid: Samus Returns

(Nintendo 3DS) ★★★★ Age: 3+

Nintendo's unsung hero Samus was a pioneer not just because she was a female character in a testosterone-charged world but also because the design of the Metroid series influenced so many others. This reboot of the 26-year-old Metroid II certainly can't hide that it's from another era but the strength of its original concepts hold firm.

A side-scrolling action-adventure, it leans on the familiar Metroid tropes of gear upgrades gradually granting access to hidden parts of the sprawling alien world that Samus explores. This update introduces several new moves that smooth the old-school edges from the experience but never compromise it.

Songbringer

(XO/PS4/PC) ★★★ Age: 12+

This is Zelda with a random element married to gorgeous pixel art. It weaves a kooky story around 2D dungeon exploration and some punishing combat, inviting the player into a psychedelic world of weird monsters and cod New Age philosophy on a peculiar pixelated planet.

It gets a little repetitive but Songbringer's big trick is that when you start a new game, everything - levels, gear, enemies - gets randomised for you to start afresh. Some instances prove more interesting than others and it can be too tempting to hit reset if the world lacks pizazz.

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