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E3 2009 Hands On Upcoming Driving Games

27 March 2000
Palos Verdes, CA
Okay, I checked out some of the hot racing games (all sequels) and formed some definite opinions:

Gran Turismo 5 PlayStation 3
(a.k.a. "The Tease of your Life", "The Real Driving Vaporware")

Let me get this out of the way fast because it was only shown in trailer form. The clip features notable inclusions of WRC and NASCAR licenses, an updated roster of Super GT vehicles, perhaps the first glimpse of the Top Gear Test Track, and the very first hint of visual damage to the cars (which are in line with rumors that, at least, race cars might actually feature damage this time around)...but I'm royally peeved that no details or release date were given.

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Gran Turismo for PSP and PSP Go
(a.k.a. "The Really Late Driving Simulator")

I actually couldn't believe this WAS at the show, not only in playable form but with a release date of October 1, 2009 (to coincide with the new PSP Go hardware's launch). I played this on both PSP and PSP Go and can honestly say that I am impressed. It truly captures the look and feel of the PS2 Gran Turismo sequels, maintains solid 60fps, but makes no attempt to improve upon the formula other than offer an even greater diversity of vehicles (800!). Just having a portable sim for practicing its 35 tracks (60 when considering variations...and all likely to be in GT5) makes it worth picking up, but the racing experience is significantly impaired because only four cars appear on track at the same time. That said, if the other three cars are driven by your hardcore racing buddies playing via wi-fi (Ad-hoc...no mention of Infrastructure support) on their PSPs, the experience may still be well worth it!

I far preferred playing this on the standard PSP vs the smaller PSP Go because the controls on the Go are just a bit too tight to work with (especially when using the analog nub). Lack of analog gas / brake mean you have to modulate accelerating and braking like you did when playing the original GT games on PSone (with the digital controller), but it still works well.

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Need for Speed: Shift PlayStation 3

The long running EA franchise returns in a more sim-like game, but it still feels far too arcadey (think Project Gotham Racing more than Grid). I only played this one with the Dualshock 3 controller and felt like I was constantly correcting my steering. The visuals overall are quite nice (though not as good as Grid) with a LOT more effects than what is present in the GT series (blurring after collisions makes it REALLY hard to recover), more environment interaction (like Grid), and better looking cars than Forza 3 (but not quite up to GT5: Prologue's standard). Right thumbstick gives you full control over the camera (so you can look around the cockpit).

Arriving September 22, 2009 on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

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Dirt 2 Xbox 360

I don't know the first thing about rally driving in real life (other than it looks fricken scary), but I love the look and feel of this game. I just picked up the controller and had a great time on both a point-to-point and a closed circuit, staying in control or on the edge without completely losing it. Apparently you have the choice as to whether or not you want the damage to be purely cosmetic or affect performance and handling. Competitors now launch 15 seconds after one another, so it is possible to come across other cars on the course (and be overtaken as I almost was). Replays look fantastic. The original already looked awesome (which makes me wonder why I never picked it up). My biggest gripe with the game is its cockpit view...it seemed to obstruct more of the road than GT5: Prologue, Forza 3, or Need for Speed: Shift....so I ended up playing this using the bonnet cam.

This one is coming out September, 2009 on Xbox 360, PC, and PS3. I was told the PlayStation 3 version will be virtually indistinguishable.

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Forza Motorsport 3 Xbox 360
Third time is the charm

I spent the most time with Forza's sequel, racing the same challenging circuit with the Audi R8 (medium difficult, no assists other than ABS and driving line) using the standard Xbox 360 controller, Microsoft's wireless force feedback wheel, and Fanatec's upcoming Porsche-licensed force feedback wheel...the latter two seated on a motion simulator with 3 consoles spanning 3 HD flat screen displays. I am happy to report that this is, by far, the biggest competitor GT5 will face and, thanks to PS3's premiere racer being a no show, is definitely the best driving sim at this year's E3. Though I still feel GT5: Prologue's car looks better with better lighting and shaders, Forza 3 sports a definite graphics improvement over 2 (the environments are richly detailed, the cars look better and now have fully realized cockpits (like Prologue), and the game still runs at 60fps). Great physics, deep customization, robust online, 100 tracks (tried, but failed to learn which real-world circuits would be included), 400 cars make this hard to overlook. In my time with the demo, I never felt the need to try the new rewind feature (though I am glad to know it is there...will make single player progression much more palatable).

I chose the R8 because there was no NSX in the E3 build, and because I have driven it plenty of times in GT5: Prologue. Control using the standard analog stick seems very natural (huge improvement over the dead-zones in the original Forza on Xbox) and I managed to finish 1st on my 1st try. I hated the Microsoft wheel (any wheel that doesn't offer 900 degrees never feels right as I find myself overcompensating for every action), but managed to finish 4th (of 8). The new Fanatec wheel (couldn't use the h-shifter and clutch), shows the most promise...had a bit of deadzone lag (which they said they are working on), but I still managed to finish 2nd (only because I accidentally downshifted into reverse early on and could have caught the lead Lamborghini had I noticed a Ferrari on my inside when I turned in on one of the final turns). My only gripe with the latter is its price...$300+ is a lot to spend when you already invested in two of the Logitech wheels (Driving Force Pro and Driving Force GT). That, and I don't own a Xbox 360!

Arriving October 22, 2009 exclusively on Xbox 360

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Nice writeup, thanks for posting. Definitely looking forward to Forza 3 the most, although you have piqued my interest in the rally car game as well.
Good write up. I wish logitech would release the G25 for Xbox. :frown: You disguised your PS3 fanboy attitude well. :) j/k

No date on GT5 is a big mistake. Does anyone really care if it has nascar and rally cars in it? Maybe they should add top-fuel dragsters next.
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No one I know cares about ASScar. Including WRC as an official license is perplexing considering WRC rally cars have been in GT for quite some time. That said, having more cars and circuits to choose from is always good and if, by including licenses, increases the completeness of those available, so much the better. I personally was hoping ALMS would be added (not necessarily as an official license, but to get some of those Acura prototypes into the mix)...plus I like the idea of multi-class races. I'm truly surprised they don't have Super GT as an official license given how many JGTC vehicles have long been featured in the Gran Turismo series. And what about Formula 1?

I found out there's no chance that USB steering controllers will ever work on Xbox 360, so Logitech will have to make a G25 variant that specifically supports it. In other words, if I ever get a Xbox 360, I will have to buy another wheel or stick with the standard controller.
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No one I know cares about ASScar. Including WRC as an official license is perplexing considering WRC rally cars have been in GT for quite some time. That said, having more cars than less is always good. I personally would prefer to see ALMS over ASScar...get some of those Acura prototypes and the Audi R15 TDI into the mix...plus I like the idea of multi-class races.

Did any of the new wheels for the xbox have paddle shifters as well? My guess is no since no p-car has them. :(
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I'm holding the new PSP Go! displaying a replay of my race in GT for PSP

Waiting in line to play Forza 3 (didn't realize this was the Microsoft wheel until just before I sat down)

Forza 3 with Fanatec wheel and motion simulator seat...I'm up next
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Sweet. I really like that wheel too, but it is really pricey. I wish they made the G25 for the Xbox360!:mad:
that Forza setup at E3 is awesome.

How do you setup the system to support 3 monitors though?
I think you have to have three xboxes linked somehow. Pretty pricey. I wish ms would let logitech make wheels for the xbox :(