Archive for November, 2006

review: need for speed carbon collectors edition

Montag, November 20th, 2006

beside gtr and gtr2 i am always attracted by other so called racing games as well. so i have played several ‘need for speed’ games (starting with the very first demo of nfs), especially the underground series (i really like those ‘fast’n’furious’ cars), i spent a lot of my time on forza motorsport and i am really a fan of the burnout series. since i have to life in two flats due my job i was missing my x-box over the week and i had no chance to play my racing games. the release of ‘need for speed carbon’ was a chance to change this. to empty my pockets completely i went for the collectors edition which comes with some additional cars, tracks, whatsoever and a dvd with the trailer, short clips about tracks and cars, some material about the production of the game and some audio/visual mixes. i haven’t checked the whole dvd since i was more keen on testing the game. the installation was kind of flawless but very slow. i am not sure if it is really necessary to copy 5 gb on the harddisc because the game-dvd is always required to start the game and even from the harddisc most of the videos are very shaky. load time is ok, would be a little bit slower from dvd maybe but copying of 5gb takes some time as well. nethertheless, the installation is necessary just once, so no more complaining about it (there are just 3 or 4 different pics during installation, played in a loop….)
the game:
the overall impression is stylish, even if i don’t know for what are all the x’s stand. the introduction is quite nice and the first look and feel is like nfsu2. welcome back i thought. after some minutes of video i came to the main screen and this screen unleashed my repressed memories about nsf most wanted. the navigation is simply horrible. a fluid handling of the game is neither with a controller nor with mouse and keyboard possible. i can imagine that this is a little bit easier on a console with a standard controller but not on a pc with a steering wheel. to have a mouse/trackball AND a keyboard in range is absolutely required and this mixture of wheel/mouse/keyboard is comparable with a flight simulator and not with an arcade racing game. the good thing, maybe based on the 5 gb on my harddisc, is the load time, this is at an acceptable level and does not interrupt the game play.
this is always a difficult part. playing games on the old xbox changes the sense for graphics a lot. the limitation of memory makes xbox games always a little bit wahsy but i tend to like this look more than the super sharp 3d look of most pc games. so my expectation was not really disappointed and tuning some options within the game gave me an acceptable level of details and sharpness even the textures are still not razerblade sharp. the level of details in geometry is quite nice and really enough for a fast pace racing game. the mood is great and some parts of the city reminds me of nfsu2 or older nfs parts. there are better games in term of graphics available but this wasn’t my requirement. the cars are well designed and with lot’s of details. the effects on the car are sometimes a little bit strange and the reflection of lights are more like jumping white dots which can be a little bit irritating (reflection update rate at high). what i don’t understand, and with this i mean this is more than inacceptable, is the lack of wide-sreen support. what the bloody hell is going on here? didn’t recognize ea that wide-screens are some kind of common? every damn old console games (from ea as well) comes with wide-screen support. do they want to force me to buy console stuff instead of pc-games? i really like console gaming and beside gtr and gtr2, nfsc is the only racing game i bought for pc the last 5 years (i am still playing q3 and q4 on pc but that’s another story) i think buying pc games from ea is indeed a worst idea. fortunately, there is a workaround for this. the widescreen patcher for nfsu2 works for nfsc as well. but to get this you have to crack the game (remove cd protection) and then you can patch your own resolution into the game. from a buyers point of view, this is really a hit in the face.
the soundtrack i’ve heard so far is not bad and better than nfsu2. the style for the import racers is more like pumping trance/dance music, very electronic and fits well to the game and the cars. if you go for a muscle or exotic car, the soundtrack is different. unfortunately, the whole soundtrack is much shorter than for nsfu or nfsu2. the first thing i really miss, like the wide-screen support, is 5.1 sound. coming from the xbox were this is some kind of standard this is quite inacceptable for me as well. just a cheap surround effect kills a lot of the feeling of being inside a car. the engine sound is kind of thin and not as impressive as you expect it from a tuned car with custom exhaust system. the overall effects are not bad at all, the response of the engine, shifts, environment, opponents/crew and the tires are quite well sampled and far away from synthesized sounds. after playing the game for some hours, the tire squeak is a little bit anyoing, every steering action is followed by the squeak which is a little bit too much.
i’m just jumped in and so i wasn’t able to check all the cars and possibilities of modifications. but what i’ve seen so far doesn’t look bad. the cars are detailed, the mods are wide spreaded and the autosculp feature is a nice way to modify (or to spoil) the cars. quite funny to customize customized parts as usuall, tons of vynils, logos, colors, wings, rims, exhausts and so on. the sounds are different for the cars and the handling as well. it is also nice to have the categories of muscles, imports and exotic (european) models, this provides enough material for every mood and everybody. what i dislike is the limitation to tuning parts by progress steps. even with the start capital of 15000 $ it is not possible to spend all the money at once at the car because most of the parts are looked. so you have to drive around with a ‘close to stock’ car for the first races and this is a little bit stupid for this budget.
the mixture of tracks is nice and also the different locations are well designed. some parts of the city and it’s surrounding are taken from former parts of nfs but i am happy to see this. i feel kind of familar driving around in the different territories and it is far away from being repeating or boring. the canyon parts are very close to fast’n’furious tokyo drift so if you like the movie, especially the last race, you will enjoy those tracks.
even if the story is as usual quite linear and given, it is a nice plot and to have some buddies on the streets eliminates this one-against-all feeling. the different types of racing require different setups and sometimes different cars and so you will get the chance to build up different cars not just for the sake of it.
at this point of progress i have done so far, the game provides what i was looking for. it is good for short races, it is good for tuning and styling and there is enough room to spend some hours on it without getting bored. the lag of the suv’s is not really a problem, i was never really enjoying the races with the suv’s in nfsu2. what i really miss are the tuner shops and painters in free roam modus. you have to do all the tuning, modification and painting in your own garage. so roaming around is not as funny as in nfsu2 were i was often just driving through the city to get a special part in a shop or for repainting my car. coming home was ‘undergroundish’ as well, now you just have to get close to the save house and that’s all. the races are very obviously placed on the streets, so no hidden races anymore. the opponents are a little bit better than on other parts of the nfs-serie and especially the canyon races are challenging due the breakable barriers and guiderails. i can not say if they are fair and i haven’t tested if the crew is usefull or not. my 2 cents, nfsu2 was cooler than carbon for me and i will try to get a used version somewhere which doesn’t mean that nfsc is crap.

driving school

Freitag, November 3rd, 2006

one of the new options in gtr2 is the driving school. the main idea is great and i really like the opportunity to drive a certain section of a track over and over again without going around the whole track. this is really great if you want to work on some of your weak points. the challenge with the instructor is nice and encouraging and often not too easy. the lessons are increasing in difficulty and you have the chance to earn a gold gearwheel if you beat the instructor by a given amount of time. some lessons are a little bit hard if you don’t know the track, so not every lesson is really usefull for newbies, especially the passing lessons, for these you have to know donington a little bit more than just from a picture. what i really miss is a true teaching mode. you have the option to observe, to train and to attempt the challange. but if you don’t have any idea how to handle the situation you will have no chance to manage the challenge. there is no hint about brake intensity, steering speed, throttle application. for the first challenges of each lesson you will get a line on the road with different colors for braking, acceleration and for visualizing the best line. what i miss is some kind of graphics for the observation mode of the brake pressure, throttle level and steering angle, to demonstrate when should you do what and how. the recommentation of speed and gear is just what the instructor is doing and even as a semi-skilled driver, it is hard to manage to read the recommentation and to match the own speed to this. for the track lessons i miss a start lesson where the instructor shows you the whole track at low speed, like it is common for real world track trainings. overall, it is a very good idea and the lessons are great but i am not sure if this is really helpfull for newbies. right direction just didn’t gone long enough 😉