Car-racing games such as “Forza Horizon” make me a better driver in real life. I’m serious. My goal in car games is: Don’t die. I can’t win if I die.
So while you, my friends, are speeding in real life past people who cut you off, I’m using my game-sharpened skills to avoid you and to use peripheral vision to live longer.
“Forza Horizon” in particular helps me focus on the road. I drive across open highways and dirt roads in a fictionalized version of Colorado.
I bump rival cars out of my way (that’s arcade-ish). And if I fall behind in a race, opponents slow down to let me catch up (that’s arcade-ish).
Arcade or not, “Horizon” feels somewhat like a driving simulator, because I must drive very fast — yet very carefully — around corners and dodge oncoming cars.
The big challenge is wheel handling, and many cars have terrible handling. If I turn the steering wheel even a tad too much, I spin out, which drops me behind other cars and can nearly ruin a whole race.
Like all car games, the first few hours allow me to drive only economy cars. As I win races (over the course of 20 hours or longer), I earn faster behemoths in the vein of BMWs, a Speedster and Lamborghinis.
The online multiplayer is a much harder bump-and-grind for car fetishists. If a rival bumps me just once into a tailspin, I will lose.
My main knock against “Horizon” is that since this game has no weaponized cars or turbo boosts, there is a sameness in racing up and down roads.
Driving in real life is a chore to me. Driving in a car game is a glorified chore if it’s not glitzy, and “Horizon” is not glitzy.
But if you’re looking for a solid arcade-sim synthesis, “Horizon” is big, pretty, well-crafted, and it gives you great GPS warnings about approaching curves.
A WORD ABOUT HEADPHONES
I rarely review peripherals, such as headphones and hand controllers, because accessories rarely merit special attention.
However, I have fallen in love with a peripheral — Sony’s new Pulse Elite wireless stereo headset.
They are expensive: $150. But wow. They make my fancy Grado headphones sound puny.
The sound is epically, massively crystal clear.
“Forza Horizon” by Microsoft retails for $60 for Xbox 360 — Plays fun. Looks good. Challenging. Rated “T” for drug reference and language. Three out of four stars.
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at http://www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html. Twitter at VegasAnonymous.