Forza Motorsport 2 was released about a month ago on my birthday, and I was playing it two days later. Nice birthday present, Microsoft! This game is like sweet, sweet candy. For me, it easily surpasses both Project Gotham Racing 3 and Gran Turismo 4. It beats the former by having car upgrades, a damage model that affects performance, and no Kudo Challenges. It beats the latter by having visuals on a par with PGR3, a damage model, a better selection of licensed cars, and no license tests. Some players enjoy Kudo Challenges and License Tests, but for those of us who just want to race fast cars, Forza Motorsport 2 offers the pure, un-stepped-on product ready for direct venous injection. Untie that belt and let it ride, baby. A
Minor drawback for the above: Like the first game, Forza Motorsport 2 has uncopyable saves. None of my usual workarounds permit me to make a backup of the saved game. Well, I have a memory-card-to-PC cable and program, so I'll be giving that a try later. See my earlier rant on Unsafe Saves for why I think it's a bad design decision.
I picked up the Xbox version of Pinball Hall of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection over the following weekend and tried it out. It's enjoyable, with a little more of the table visible than in the PSP version. It also has one major difference: All the tables are available from the beginning. None of them have to be unlocked. Much better. A-
In preparation for a LAN party I was sadly unable to attend, I picked up Serious Sam and Unreal Tournament 2003. There were few surprises to be had from either title, as I have their sequels. Both are light on story and heavy on action, which is just what I want at a LAN party. B+
I've finished Final Fantasy X. Highly enjoyable. I watched the final cutscene with satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, and the end of the story brough a touch of mist to my eye. I will say that the story's end is very... Japanese. Those who've seen Space Battleship Yamato or Akira or Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within know what I'm talking about. However much I enjoyed it, I'm not keen to play it again immediately. I don't have the OCD necessary to complete every sidequest and obtain every item, wringing an ever-decreasing trickle of enjoyment from the game's fabric, at last leaving a dry and withered husk, crumbling to dust at the lightest touch. B+
I've liberally sampled Final Fantasy X-2. While I like the upbeat attitude and energy which is a refreshing and welcome change from the grim fatalism of Final Fantasy X, the combat system is retarded. I can't begin to choose an action until the character's time bar is recharged, and then have to pick it from menus in realtime. Meanwhile, enemies get to attack the instant their bars are charged. The platforming bits are not particularly well done either. But it is nice to see enemies before you encounter them rather than having the traditional random encounters. B
I'm about 20 hours into Final Fantasy XII. I'm enjoying this one as much as or more than X. It's less of a doomed world story and more of a rebellion against evil empire story. It's pretty fun so far. The new combat system is what X-2's should have been; you can pick your attack any time, and that attack hits every time your bar fills. And everything pauses the instant you go into the menus to change your attack (though this pause is optional). So it's very similar to what's found in MMORPGs. I personally don't find it as visually pretty as X or X-2. The requirement to show more things on the screen at once and have 3-D backgrounds means that the textures must be lower-res. A-