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Miscellaneous

WRC 2010 Game Review

The first thing to say about this game, is that it is a very long way from perfect. When I first played the demo for the game, I was astounded by how terrible the graphics, voice acting and engine sounds among other things were. In my first play through one of the stages in the demo I couldn’t believe I was witnessing a game that was so far short of the likes of Dirt 2, Gran Turismo 5 and F1 2010 in so many key areas.

After playing the demo a couple of times on the two available stages, I was about ready to write a blog post blasting the game completely. I didn’t, and I came back to it a week or so later after my passion for rallying had been firmly reignited. The second time through the handling of the cars really started to click with me and I started enjoying myself. I looked online to see if I could find the game for as much less than the usual £40 as possible, as I didn’t feel the game was worth even half that. Luckily, and perhaps not surprisingly, I found Amazon were selling it for £15 and I decided it was worth the gamble on for that price.

It was one of my best game purchasing decisions. Despite all of it’s problems, WRC 2010 is an incredibly fun game to play and is equally rewarding if you put the time in to really perfect the handling of the cars. I should mention that only huge rally fans with a big interest in WRC need apply as there are so many other better options out there. Dirt 3 is right around the corner and will be far and away the better game in all areas where this game fails. Gran Turismo 5 also has a rally aspect in it, but the handling in that game is far less fun and takes a long time to get into. This is much more approachable and has a greater sense of speed.

Going back to this game though, there is a wide variety of modes in single player. Chief among these is the Road to the WRC. This is the main career mode in which you create your own team from scratch. You must progress through all of the lower divisions of world rallying in order to impress WRC teams in order to get a drive with them. While I like the idea of it, and I like how they haven’t excluded J-WRC, S-WRC and P-WRC cars from the game, the mode drags on forever and it takes many hours of play before you can actually drive a WRC car other than the odd one-off wildcard event. However, even these only become available after you get to level 4 or 5 of the events.

What makes this delay worse is the fact that the lesser cars in the game are just not as fun to drive. The 4WD cars are serviceable, but the front wheel drive J-WRC cars are just not fun to control as they don’t drift easily and the gearing on them doesn’t feel right. Most people who buy this game are going to be itching to drive Loeb’s C4 or Hirvonen’s Focus, and even though you can do it in the single player championship mode, most will probably want to do it in the main career mode first, and that’s a problem.

You could say that the delay prolongs the length of the game, but after a while it just becomes cheap and repetitive. Once you do get to the WRC cars, you will enjoy it even more as you finally get to ditch the front wheel drive cars in favour of ones which are always on the edge of control and put you on the edge of your seat.

Going back to the negative points quickly though, it seems that some car engine sounds are better than others. For example, the Ford Focus sounds quite good and won’t get on your nerves too much. The Citroen C4 on the other hand will drive you insane if you don’t turn the sounds down in the audio settings. Likewise, the co-driver voices are unbelievably bad. They only have a few things to say in each situation and after a while of hearing “you drive like a champion” after winning a stage, you’ll be very sick of it. However, the most annoying call has to be when you make a considerable impact with a barrier or something else solid. The male co-drive will yell “aaaahhhh”. The first few times you’ll laugh at it but after that you’ll be cringing just before you hit a wall when you know it’s coming. Obviously, as you get better at the game you’ll hear it less, but I found the female voice to be far less irritating so I’ve stuck with her regardless.

The other final problem with the game is that despite there being 6 stages per rally, in reality, there are only 2 or 3 truly unique stages. The others are either reverse runs of the others or are created by copy and pasting different elements of stages together to create the illusion of uniqueness. This is lazy game development but it’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. Even if you halve the number of stages in the game, there is still a considerable number of stages which differ enough to keep the experience fresh for quite a while. It would of course be great to have a game with exact replications of every stage run in the entire championship, but whether that’s actually realistic is unknown. I suppose when you look at how many tracks and cars are in GT5, you could see how it could well be possible with this generation’s hardware, but we just have to hope this happens at some point.

Overall though, if you can get past the abysmal voice acting, comparatively terrible graphics and engine sounds that remind you more of the drone of a go-kart than a roaring rally car, then you’ll really enjoy the fun handling and the full list of drivers, cars and rallys that the WRC license provides. It’s the first official WRC game for several years and while it’s by no means a great game technically, it does the job until hopefully WRC hire Codemasters to make a truly great official WRC game. Either that, or this developer produces something of far higher quality. I really hope we see one of those this year.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Gran Turismo 5 Review

Gran Turismo 5

GT5 was highly anticipated for many years until its eventual release a few months ago. It’s not a game for everyone as a lot of gamers tend to either not enjoy or understand realistic racing simulations. Burnout this is most definitely not. I’m a huge Burnout fan too but this is a very different game, but we all know that.

This game, like the previous ones in the series demands absolute precision and rewards skill and practice. The 200 or so premium cars are things to behold. Stunningly detailed, with interior views that really make you feel like you’re driving the car. They even simulate the G-Forces and car shaking in this view. Sometimes it can be too intense to look at, especially on the oval tracks. It brings home to you the kind of punishment these professional drivers put themselves through.

Because I’m not a big fan of the other camera views the 800 standard cars, all without the cockpit view and in lower resolutions are almost worthless to me. They look awful most of the time and aren’t as fun to drive. It’s a real shame, especially as there are some great cars that are only available in standard versions, such as the Bugatti Veyron. 1000 cars is a great thing to be able to say in advertising, but in practise it’s a let down.

With this said, 200 cars is still more than almost any other video-game. I believe Forza 3 has approximately 500 in the special edition of that game. I wish Polyphony had cut the number of cars in half to that same number if they could have made them all premium quality.

Cars are nothing without tracks, and there is a great diverse collection of tracks in the game. From randomly generated Rally Stages to American Ovals, Le Mans and Suzuka, there’s something for every type of racing fan. There are even a selection of imaginary city tracks based on what could be possible if street races were held in those venues. As usual in Gran Turismo games, there are also some imaginary tracks designed to test driving skill to the maximum. These tracks are okay but they aren’t the best looking and sometimes the layouts aren’t entirely to my liking, but it’s a personal taste issue.

As far as gameplay, the cars handle brilliantly. They all handle slightly differently and you can feel this different when you race. Set-up changes, including tyre choice can make huge differences as well. Using the wrong tyre compound can cost you dearly, especially in b-spec races where the drivers can’t handle the cars and spin out.

Reviewers have been critical of GT5 as an actual game rather than a pure simulator, by saying that it’s essentially a 10 out of 10 simulator, wrapped up in a  5/10 game. It is true that some elements of the game are not entirely imaginative, and they could have made the interface a bit better, but it’s by no means broken and in my opinion I think those reviewers are being too picky. If you’re a fan of simulation racing, you will know exactly what you’re getting yourself into with GT5, and despite it’s few shortcomings, this is a very fine game that you’ll undoubtedly love.

I’ve spent a lot of time with it since it came out and I still don’t feel finished. I’ve got almost all the cars in the game I could wish for. I’ve driven every track many times and got about as far as I can with the special events as well as the regular A-Spec and B-Spec modes.

Why then would I want to continue further? Well, in a recent update, Polyphony added a new mode called Seasonal Events. This mode is updated every week with 5 new special event races for particular cars, as well as time trial and drift trial challenges with online leaderboards. It adds a lot of replay value to the game by making you interested in buying, tuning and racing cars you may have otherwise have overlooked. The rewards for these races far outweigh the cost of buying and tuning the cars. They also offer great XP to allow players to level up to the max of 40 a bit more easily by reducing the amount of grinding you’ll have to do. I assume that they’ll be doing these special events with almost all, if not all of the premium cars over time, so the game could continue to provide new reasons to play for many months to come.

Not only this, but Polyphony have stated that they plan to upgrade some standard cars to premium ones in future updates, as well as enable their online remote-racing service which you can use in a web-browser to play B-Spec races remotely. Your PS3 does have to be running and playing the game, but it’s still a nice and unique concept.

Just to mention some other small issues with the game, I feel that the online racing is below par and it’s disappointingly clunky to use. So much so that I don’t really want to bother with it until they patch it to make it much more streamlined and faster loading. Then again, most people, myself included will never race online and still play the game for months consistently and have a great time, so it won’t be a big deal for many people.

I can’t wait to see what else Kazinori and Polyphony have up their sleeves for us in future updates. In the meantime, if you don’t own this game, or even don’t own a PS3, you should pick this this game up if you think it’s your type of thing. I would also suggest buying an HD TV as well, since this game really gets the most out of it.

In general, it’s a brilliant driving game that just about met incredibly lofty expectations and you shouldn’t miss it.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Big Week for Formula 1

F1 2009 (video game)
Last year's cover art. Image via Wikipedia

This week is going to be really exciting in the world of F1, especially for gamers. The Singapore Grand Prix starts on Friday with practice and continues over the weekend as normal. However, the new F1 game by Codemasters comes out on the same day and it’s going to be hard to put it down while the real action takes place. While I am excited about the race, the championship and the changes in track and decoration in Singapore, I’ll get to that in a later post.

I got the F1 2009 game on the Wii last year and am still loving playing it. The graphics are pretty awful and there’s no online at all but it’s just pure fun. This new game looks to have all of the fun of last year’s version, but adds amazing graphics, online, a better career mode and much more.

It’s so much more realistic this time around that it’s almost indistinguishable from before. So many details make this as true to life as has ever been achieved before. From amazing weather effects, season upgrades, realistic car performances, track evolution and much more. It’s all in there.

You would think I would have left all of the compliments until after I actually get a chance to play the game, but from all of the stuff I’ve seen on YouTube and elsewhere I don’t think there will be any nasty surprises.

I would go as far as to say that there is only one game that can come close to this as my personal game of the year, and that’s unsurprisingly Gran Turismo 5, which looks absolutely mind blowing. The amount of content that they’ve managed to fit on one blu-ray is almost beyond comprehension.

With that said, in terms of actual racing fun, they may be tied in that respect, but we’ll have to wait and see. All I know is that I’ve never been more excited about two games before than these, and I’ve been playing games since I had a big yellow brick of a gameboy when I must have been around 8 years old.

Categories
Miscellaneous

Playstation Move: The Early Reviews

PlayStation Move
Image via Wikipedia

IGN today posted their reviews of all of the Playstation Move launch games, as well as the hardware itself. Overall I’m quite disappointed. Not only are there no launch games that stand out as a must play, the hardware, despite a good review, is said to sometimes suffer from needing to be recalibrated. This is something that plagued the Wii Motion Plus and I hoped it wouldn’t do the same for the Move. I hope this is simply based on playing in a bright room, and that in normal conditions it will fare better. We’ll have to see.

Sports Champions initially seemed to be the only game that would appeal to me. It just doesn’t do anything I care about now. I have Wii Sports Resort and I want something different. I don’t think it offers anything that will stay fun for long at all, and three of the sports are exactly the same.

EyePet is technically the best of the games and may prove to be the most successful as well. The augmented reality aspect seems to work really well and will have great casual appeal, but only if the move catches on. I can’t see many families, especially ones who don’t already own a PS3, going and buying the bundle pack for I think $400 just to play EyePet. With that said, it’s still by far and away the best launch game for Move.

Personally I’m going to wait to pick up the hardware until EA brings out their Grand Slam Tennis game on PS3 with move support. We haven’t heard anything about the game for a while, but if it lives up to what I hope it will be, then it’ll be the only game I’ll need to make the move controllers worth the price for me personally.

I’d also love to see a Harry Potter game with move support as it seems perfectly suited to it. We’ve already had a taster of what it could be like with the game Sorcery which was demo’d at E3 this year.

Aside from those wishes, I’d just generally like to see the development community get behind the move and really support it with lots of quality titles. If they don’t, we may never see the full potential of the device come to light, which would be a huge shame.