Plugged In


Fall is in the air and new video games are dropping as quickly as leaves from the trees. Here’s a quick look at some recent releases:

“Forza Horizon 3” (Turn 10 Studios; Microsoft; Xbox One; $59.99) — The Horizon Festival has gone to the land down under and soars to its greatest heights.

I’ve been afh3 big fan of the franchise since it debuted on the Xbox 360 in 2012 and can safely say that “Forza Horizon 3” is the best the series has to offer. Much of that has to do with the setting — Australia offers a little of everything in terms of driving environments, from scenic beaches to sprawling metropolitan areas to the vast openness of the outback. And with more than 300 vehicles to drive, ranging from sport trucks and off-road buggies to high-end sports cars and everything in between, there’s no shortage of options to scratch that high-octane itch.

Also for the first time, the player is in charge of the Horizon Festival, itself. You choose where to race, what to race, who to race against, the weather … even the radio stations. The increased level of customization extends to the cars in your garage, which can be tweaked in ways never before seen in “Forza Horizon” and makes the overall experience feel wholly unique.

From a gameplay standpoint, “Forza Horizon 3” continues the series’ tradition of providing a phenomenal driving engine that straddles the line between simulation and arcade. Whether you’re trekking through the jungle or drifting around tight corners in a city, the driving experience is unrivaled.

The same can also be said for the visuals. Everything is presented with an astounding level of detail, from the cars to the environments. Weather effects are gorgeous and the lighting is some of the best I’ve seen in any game, racing or otherwise.

Whether you want to scour the wilds of Australia in search of rare barn finds, grow your own Horizon Festival to be the biggest its ever been or join up with friends online and cruise til your heart’s content, “Forza Horizon 3” offers something for every racing fan. Score: 9.5/10.

“NBA 2K17” (Visual Concepts; 2K Games; PS4, Xbox One; $59.99) — Few sports games can match the consistency of 2K Sports’ “NBA 2K” series. Year in and year out, the development team at Visual Concepts delivers a basketball sim that is both accessible for new players while still rewarding experienced players with a deep, challenging experience.

Continue reading…

nhe review

There’s 15 laps to go at California’s Auto Club Speedway and I’m lined up on the outside of Row 2 in Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford. It’s been a long race and an even longer day, thanks to an early brush with the wall that forced me to the pits for repairs and left me a lap down. A timely caution allowed me to get back on the lead lap and I’ve spent the last 100 laps or so picking my way through traffic back toward the front of the field.

I was still sitting outside the Top 10 when this latest caution flag flew. Knowing it may be my last chance to put myself into contention for the win, I elected to forego fresh tires and took only a splash of fuel, hoping to gain ground on pit road. My strategy worked and the stage was set for an epic final run to the checkered flag.

When the green flag dropped, Kevin Harvick immediately shot to the lead and began to pull away, leaving myself, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson to battle for second place. And battle we did. Over the next six laps we put on a racing exhibition, trading positions and trading paint on every straightaway and in every turn. Then my decision to skip taking tires came back to bite me. As my tires went away, so did my grip on the track and my ability to hold my line. As I drifted higher and higher up the track, I had to back out of the throttle to avoid hitting the wall. That was all the opportunity my competitors needed and I could only watch as our three-way dance turned into duel between Logano and Johnson for second place. I ended up hanging on to finish 7th, a satisfying end to what could have been a disastrous race.

It is in moments like this that “NASCAR Heat Evolution” shines, delivering all the thrills and excitement I could hope for from a NASCAR game. The give-and-take with the AI is amazing and watching as other cars search for the fastest line is a sight to behold, especially after suffering through competing against opponents that were seemingly on rails in last gen’s NASCAR titles. Each race feels organic and fresh, a tribute not only to the AI but to how accurately the individual tracks have been recreated. Indeed, the action on the track is exactly the kind of experience I’ve been waiting for since the glory days of “NASCAR Heat” on the PlayStation 2, a mix of sim and arcade racing that is challenging without becoming frustrating but above all, unbelievably fun.

Continue reading…

‘LEGO Harry Potter Collection’ coming to PS4


In what may well be the greatest surprise gaming announcement of all time, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment today announced the “LEGO Harry Potter Collection” for PlayStation 4.

Combining the two previously released LEGO Harry Potter games — “LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4″ and ‘LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7” — the new game features enhanced graphics and visual effects, along with two DLC packs which offer additional characters and spells.

The original LEGO Harry Potter games were fantastic and I can’t wait to experience them again with my kids, who have recently discovered the wizarding wonders of the Potterverse.

The “LEGO Harry Potter Collection” will retail for $49.99 and apparate into stores Oct. 18.