Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Just About Enough

Okay, some games are just too goshdamn big. I’m all in favor of value for money, but there’s limits… or there should be limits.

The game that has got me posting is Tokyo Xtreme Racer Drift 2. A Genki racing game that is a fucking fixture on my Backloggery work in progress list. You’d think I’d be used to this by now, with as many of these games as I’ve gone through, but they just keep getting bigger and more complicated!

Don’t get me wrong. Its fine for a game to have some meat on its bones. The hour-long runs on a Mushihimesama or Street Fighter IV are great. The twelve hours of delicious combat action to get through the story in Bayonetta, awesome. But sometimes you need something you can just dig into like a big book. Spending two or three weeks on an RPG can be truly enjoyable with the right game… I’ll be playing Skies of Arcadia before long.

BUT. Jeezis. Enough is enough! TXRD2 is gigantimous! There’s the usual, for Genki, SEVERAL HUNDRED listed rivals. THEN there are a bunch of randomly-created ones… some forum guy has counted FIVE HUNDRED random rivals. Then there are dozens of sponsors to earn (with races) so they basically count as rivals. Ten long courses each with sets of basic, advanced and master level races. Six short courses full of daytime rivals (and YET MORE sponsors to race). And each long course also has a gymkhana parking lot with ten levels of both time attack and drift attack to master.

The stuff you’re given to handle all that shit: A gigantic list of like two hundred cars, some based on real life track cars, some only available in the used lot… yes, there are like four car dealers in the goshdamn game… umpteen squillion parts, an ingame computer complete with multiple forums (one for each track!) a general info site, and an effin’ email system! What the fuck? I pride myself on beating all rivals and finishing each Genki racer into the ground, but who the hell has time for all this?

Role-playing game? I’ll give you role-playing game! You are an up and coming racer, and you will get up each day, check your emails and forum posts including replying to the asswipes that challenge you, back out and go make yourself a sandwich (that’s a real-life sandwich, by the way). Then you’ll go down to all the car shops. Sometimes some motherfucker is waiting for you at one (or more!) of the shops and challenges you. Then after you are all done shopping… oh I dunno, for parts or paint or layers and layers of vinyls or gauges, you go back to your garage and install your parts, tweaking the settings in every detail including reflashing the engine management chips. THEN you can test drive it on any course including a GIGANTIC circuit that isn’t even used for anything else in the game. Once that’s all good you can… wait, better make sure your sponsor stickers are all up to date and placed in optimum position on your car! Don’t want to lose out on any sponsorship money every time you win!

Now motherfucker! Go race! Pick a course. Either do an official course challenge; time attack or drift. Or choose one of the more advanced races limited to certain engine sizes or cars or ability levels YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE YET! And if you don’t have them you MUST buy the appropriate make or size of car and go shop and install all the shit that car will need to be competitive. AND/OR go to the parking area and see if that dickburger that challenged you in the shop is there. After you’ve done everything you can do, go on to the next course. Make sure you alter your tires or suspension for each different kind of track, challenge or CLIMATE CHANGE.

Oh yeah. There’s climate in the game. Sunny, cloudy/foggy, rainy and snow. So don’t fuck up your tire choice. And after you’ve gone over all ten long courses and six short courses, depending on how much you’ve unlocked, and done whatever you can do or until you keel over… THEN go back to your garage and save your game.

Guess what? If you were to do all that for umpteen days in a row and rested every game night you wouldn’t even scratch the street race rival portion of the game. So just like a street racing junkie who has no money for drugs but pours all his funds into repairs, parts, and RockStar energy drink… you get to stay up at night and race, race, race until dawn. And as you face each rival he has some shit he needs to say to you—usually trash talk, and if you want he has a whole background card you can read up on. Fuck you, man! I don’t want your life story. Shut up and race!

Day/night/day/night. Over and over. And some of these guys WAIT. They wait until a certain day or a certain type of weather, or you’ve beaten someone else.

All of this should be great. And in a way it is. It is the culmination of everything Genki has been doing to make the street racing experience immersive. It takes like EVERYTHING they’ve used in games before and mooshes it altogether into one monster highway world. The only thing that I think is missing is the freeway tracks from the Shutokou games (this is about rural racing) and the special non-car items you could buff your abilities with in Racing Battle. It is really impressive actually. The parking areas are detailed. The rivals are all fleshed out. When you read a post from one of them, if you’ve beaten them you can link to their car and their bio. Its all connected and well detailed. And there’s a lot of tracks. A lot of cars. The rivals cars all look different and they act and talk as individuals with their own interests or emphases. There’s cool dramatic cutscenes of the bosses. It all adds up to make a compelling race world.

But it is JUST TOO BIG. I thought Racing Battle: C1 Grand Prix was big. RB isn’t Gran Turismo big, but it’s close. I generally don’t play Gran Turismo because for the size of the thing it is just too dry and colorless. Even if it did have more flavor it’d still be too big. Which is becoming the problem for me with TXRD2. It is so big that even all the cool immersive shit is beginning to get old. And it is so complicated that you just flat forget to cover all your bases. Its realistic in its way. The street racing world, especially with internet communications, is a really big sphere. But there’s a point where non-driving aspects threaten to overwhelm the fun. Amazingly, there is almost NO grinding in the game. Everything you do moves you forward. The game doesn’t make it difficult to buy new cars. There is always something new to do. But there is just so much. What fun is the fact that you are the fastest swimmer if the goal is crossing the Atlantic? I don’t care how fast you are, that opposite shore is going to seem a long way away!

I think I’m just tired of seeing this thing in my PS2. I could take a break from it, but the last time I did that, when I came back I discovered my drift skills had atrophied and I went through about two weeks of struggling to get back to being able to handle it. Never mind forgetting where I left off in this vast, non-linear game world. The thing is, it’s a great game. I’ve felt bitchy about Genki games before, much as I love them, but that usually revolves around grinding. Having to race over and over in order to get the cash to upgrade enough to beat a boss or buy a car to get a rival to appear. This game has none of that, but it seems like Genki felt you still needed X number of hours in the game, so if there’s no grinding we’ll just have to have more of everything.

I will persevere of course. I’m actually not that far from finishing the game if online rival lists are anything to go by… probably 85% done. It might be telling that Genki’s race game output went WAY down after this.

I said somewhere before that the smaller scale of Import Tuner Challenge was because of time probably spent on current-gen graphics, but now I think it is because most of the staff committed suicide after giving every iota of themselves in building TXRD2. They had nothing else to give and nothing to live for. I’m going to eat a bullet soon to if I don’t finish the damn game! I’m one of those players who doesn’t like to just rush pell-mell through RPGs, action adventures, or even first person shooters. I like to explore. Look at the art, interact with the characters, do the side quests. I’m not super-meticulous about it, but I don’t need to rush my game experience to get to the end. I probably dragged Bayonetta out about 40% longer than a straight-ahead playthrough because I just wanted to ‘look’ at everything. But with TXRD2, unfortunately, I now find myself skipping the color and just trying to be as efficient as possible and get shit done. My goal is 100% rivals defeated, so no skipping opponents, but there is no way I’m going to try to win every non-critical event too.

There really can be too much of a good thing.

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