Lately I’ve been playing (and very much enjoying) a lot of Forza Horizon 4. I’m something like level 114 and most of that has come from just messing about for hours and hours rather than really chasing concrete goals or getting serious about the racing.
This weekend on Xbox, there’s a “Free Play” weekend for another racing game, The Crew 2, so I thought I’d try it out. It didn’t take long for me to decide that FH4 was a better game for me, but it took me a bit to understand why.
Yes, the driving controls in FH4 are better (IMO) but The Crew 2 has planes and boats, both of which I found pretty fun. My immediate reaction after a few plane and boat races was that I might purchase the game, but over the course of a couple hours I felt less and less inclination to do so.
That was because of the NPCs. Both games are very “lite” on story, but both do have NPCs here and there. I hate The Crew 2’s NPCs and their values/drives. (Am I reading too much into this?) They’re always gabbing on about social media and getting more followers and in general being “extreme” and in my head I’m always muttering “fuck social media and fuck you.” This isn’t just ‘flavor’ because to advance you need to attract more followers.
FH4’s NPCs are kind of bland and barely there, to be honest. Most of the time it’s you in the car listening to the radio and a DJ. The DJs have their own personalities but if one is bugging you, you can just change the station (or turn off the in-game radio and listen to your own music via Spotify or something).
It took a nice long walk in a foggy drizzle for me to realize this was what was bugging me about The Crew 2. It just feels like Ubisoft is aiming their game squarely at an audience that isn’t me. This probably makes the game more interesting if you’re in their target audience, but less interesting if you aren’t. (BTW, I’m the guy that’ll stop playing a FPS if during the tutorial level there’s a Drill Sargent screaming at me and calling me a maggot. I’m The Thin Skinned Gamer.)
I could also imagine some players find FH4 too bland in terms of the ‘stuff other than driving’ experience but frankly I prefer bland to annoying when we talking about auxiliary content. The really dumb thing is, if The Crew 2 just talked about getting “fans” I probably wouldn’t mind it. I’m just sick to death of having social media being shoved down my throat all the time (it’s bad enough in the real world, I don’t want it in my escapist video game fantasies as well).
So yeah, my march into the dark heart of curmudgeon-dom continues… I’m really glad I’m not a game designer who has to try and please me. Thing is, though, there are SO MANY great games available these days that we gamers can afford to be really picky about which ones we like, y’know?