Archive for Oktober, 2008

Freitag, Oktober 31st, 2008

just to raise my attention to gtr evolution, i’ve started to test different cars on the Nordschleife. in combination with performance tweaking, i’ve spent about 2 hours with different practise sessions and one race. the caterhams are really brutal biests and especially the helmet view is a nice idea. on one side, this view is a really nice feature if you have a head tracking system, on the other side, it’s not really recommended if you’re not owning such a system. to handle the strongest caterham within a field of 24 other cars is almost impossible if you can’t turn your head and even to have a look on the gauges is very limited.
after having a look into the manual i’ve got an understanding of the performance manager. so i’ve started to switch thru the different presets just to check the recommendation by the performance manager. i’m not sure if it is related to the change of the settings itself or whatsoever, but at the end, the performance manager recommended to set the visual settings to max. this was unusable the days before and a quick practise session was showing a kind of fluid game experience. to stay on the safe side, i’ve kept the settings to high and started a race with the spyker and a field of the related group. since i wasn’t really in the mood to put every nerv into the race, i decided to keep the opponent strength at 90% and skipped the qualify. the preset setup for the car and this track is not bad, pretty good balanced and enough performance to handle an ai strength up to 100% or even more. the next nice feature i was interested in was the pitstop profile. this is indeed something i was begging for since GTR and GTR2 and this would be definitely a ‚blown away‘ feature for endurance races. everything can be predefined, fuel, repairs, tires. it is possible to store multiple profiles, so no problems if the weather starts to change or if you are going to change your strategy. especially with this feature, the absence of endurance races is really not logical. anyway, back to the race. my main interest was to see how the ai will perform on this track and if there are major flaws regarding best line, breakpoints and so on. the overall performance is not bad, the ai is doing most of the time a good job. what’s still a problem is this radical approach to put the own car on the best line without paying too much attention if there is another car or not. after the flying start, the field headed for the first corner, scratching and pushing, just to leave a ton of small parts on the start-finish line. after a few bends, the field started to stay in rope of pearls. i was just following the pack until my tires and brakes started to develop some grip. getting more familiar with the car, i’ve started to push a little bit to stay in touch with the pack. and what a surprise, the ai behaves like in former Nordschleife conversions for GTR/GTR2. there are some strong areas, where it is really hard to follow and there are some areas where it is really easy to collect some seconds without any sweat. the ai is significant slower at Flugplatz, Adenauer Forst, Angstkurve, Kleiner Karussel and Schwalbenschwanz. the pack performs very well between Hatzenbach and Hocheichen and the section around Pflanzgarten. on the long Döttinger Höhe, the opponents tend to drive from the left to the right without any respect to other cars. the mentioned behavior is very predictable, so if there is no chance to pass a certain car due to different power or setups, just follow until you have reached the listed section, keep the pedal to the medal and pass. this is very disappointing because every car behaves like this, so it is not related to model, class or whatsoever. using this experience for a conclusion, i haven’t found any major differences to former GTR titles at all.

review – gtr reloaded part2

Mittwoch, Oktober 29th, 2008

as promised, i’ve spent some more time with the latest release of the GTR series. my main focus was getting an impression about the realism, the overall performance and to have a look at the different features of the game. i won’t say it was a disappointing evening but to say the game is great would be too biased as well.

steering wheel:
no racing sim without steering wheel. since i wasn’t able to upgrade my current wheel i’ve had do go for the old logitech momo force racing wheel. this one is known as a little bit itchy to set up but compared to the G25 i really like the fat grip feeling which is much closer to my Raid i’m using for my real life roadster. anyway, the new option to create different control profiles is a real addition to the game. even if you’re not going to change your control device very frequent, the option to keep all your settings when you start the game without the wheel attached is really comfortable and depending on car, event or track, you can create different mappings as well, e.g for some cars, there is no multi screen motec display, so no need to waste a button for this option, so this button can be used for headlights if you’re going to race at night.
the momo started to rattle as usual, so the option to reduce engine vibration without editing a config file is very nice and balances the lack of preset for different wheels like in former titles. the feedback is not really different to older GTR games but this is quite hard to judge since it’s not the same car. the overall feeling is as usual, the feedback is strong and detailed and can be adjusted to personal needs very easy. maybe it’s based on my experience or the physics is a little bit less demanding compared to former titles, i found driving on the limit or with a more rough attempt is easier but i won’t bet something on this feeling until i’ve got a car which i’m used to drive. unfortunately, Barcelona is not included anymore and the Nordschleife layout is different to other versions, so i’m not able to compare lap times right now.

i went for some tests of this so called performance manager function. due to the quite simple graphics of GTR i thought it should possible to run at high or max settings. the performance manager works only for the preset settings like low, med, high, max so there is no chance to leave the balancing to the game while prefering some certain settings. for this, you have to finetune your settings like in the older versions. my main focus is the nordschleife with a field of cars which should be as big as possible. setting the preset to high, starting a race of 25 cars (which seems to be the maximum?!?!) and jumping to the practise session was done in a few minutes. i’ve had the windows task manager in background and i’ve started the nvidia system monitor to track the temperatures of the two cpu cores and the graphics card. the major surprise happens as i’ve hit the pitlane. the game was stuttering with lots of sound glitches and drops. i thought this may disappear after spending some minutes on the track but that’s not the case. on my 3.6 ghz E8500 with nvidia 8800gt card these setup is completly undriveable. the frame rate is very low and the prefered frame rate of 55-65 is not achievable. i have no idea what the performance manager tries to do but the difference between just selecting a preset with or without performance manager is minor. the only visible effect was the quality of the rear view mirrors and the impact is that ugly that no one really wants to go for that. to figure out if this is related to graphics, i’ve started a test session without any ai drivers and the performance was kind of fluid if not close to perfect. jumping back to the task manager and the nvidia system monitor was showing that just one core is utilized and the graphics card is not really pushed to it’s max performance. to proof this, i’ve started a race on a different track, Brno, and as expected, the performance is quite similar to Nordschleife. The more cars you add the worse the performance. even if i understand that the complexity of simulation can’t be compared to titles like GRID but taking into account that the visual appearance is much better in most of the current titles it is really hard to understand that this game is showing such a huge weakness on a system like mine. it seems like i have to spend more time on this issue.

my first comment about the bumbness of the track must be corrected. the track is really very detailed in terms of road conditions and curbs. especially with a stiff setup, the car tends to bounce and swing a lot which is especially at high speed a very demanding thing. leaving alone the graphics, in terms of layout, tarmac, curbs and bumps, i would tend to say that’s the best Nordschleife for GTR so far. from a visual perspective, there are better versions (3rd party) but taking into account the life track feature, i thing this track is worth buying the game. the different sound environments depending on which section you’re driving are nice but they require some sound tweaking because the car is too loud to get any notice of audience or pit sounds.

the huge amount of cars are interesting if you are keen on driving different classes or cups. the mini challenge is nice but is lacking the Salzburgring which may was not on the list for 2007. the feeling of the front wheel driven cars is really different to the rwd cars and this is offering a broad spectrum of challenges. the biggest disadvance is the lack of 24 hour races or endurance races. this eliminates the races at night as well. from a pure gt racing perspective, GTR2 offers the best package so far, especially if you keep in mind the huge amount of 3rd party tracks, cups and cars. the graphics are not really different and in terms of performance, there is no difference neither. if you are keen on driving a wide range of different cars on an uptodate Nordschleife or if you are a hardcore mini fan, then this package is indeed interesting and worth the money. but please keep in mind, this review is heavily biased because i’m just looking for gt class endurance races or custom elise cups, so the mix of tracks and the lack of races longer than 4 hours and the limited field size is disappointing but no one can expect that Simbin is going to produce gt sims only. i just wish for one which will address most of the issues GTR2 is showing 😉

review – GTR reloaded

Montag, Oktober 27th, 2008

long time without any updates here. i’m sorry for the absence but i wasn’t able to spend that much time over the summer.

but, i haven’t missed the release of GTR reloaded (or GTR evolution) and after getting my copy at the local game shop i was really keen on putting this piece on my pc. the most interesting thing is the official nordschleife and how the game perform compared to the former 3rd party nordschleife versions for GTR2. so here is a 2-hour review, a kind of first impression.

well, nothing really exciding here. after starting the setup you’ll get the choice of installing an offline or online version. since i have never spent that much time online i went for the offline version, just to avoid to get ’steam‘-ed. i do not understand the concept of having two versions. after waiting for the copy process of about 3.2 gig onto the harddisc without any spectacular screens or whatsoever, the installation ends with the common questions about opening related information and the placement of icons all over if not deselected. the well known configurator tool let’s you choose a few settings with the ’since GTR1′ non telling antialiasing settings level1 to levelx.

the start of the game takes unusually long and i assume this time is needed to load those fancy looking intro videos. as a frequent player i’m always anoyed by this but i have seen some nointro mods around the net. the intro videos are not bad at all but they don’t reach the race feeling of the GTR2 intro. overall, a lot of work for something which will be skipped by most of the people out there.
the look and feel of the main screen is quite clean and well structured but different to GTR or GTR2. it requires some minutes to check where is what and the approach is not really straight forward in my oppinion.

the setup of the game is similar to former titels but with a new structure. the often communicated as confusing menues are kind of shuffled and still not telling. with former experience, it is not that hard to set up the game but for newbies it will take some tests to find the right setup. the first major disappointment is the lack of surround sound. this is something i can’t understand since the release of GTR. a new feature is the so called ‚performance manager‘. this function tries to balance the settings so that the system is able to provide a certain, user selected, frame rate. unfortunately, the old control f function to show the frame rate in-game is no longer working and fraps isn’t able to show the frame rate neither. not sure if this is related to MS Vista but i will try to get whatever kind of framerate display to check the options any further.

first race:
just to get an impression of the performance and the quality of the nordschleife, i went for a quick race. that was at least the idea. to start a race is far away from quick. a huge amount of screens is the first challenge you have to take. selections of different tracks, cups, cars, drivers, difficulty and so on. after passing the ‚as-usual‘ long loading screen, which has been cleared from any progress bar, the next menu with options appears. just a comment about the loading screen, a good feature is the display of what is being loaded at present time, this could be a helpfull feature to figure out what is causing problems, especially with 3rd party-ware.
i went for a practise session and by using the camera features i was just watching the cars going around the track.

well, to make it short, nothing has changed compared to GTR2 or the changes are so minor that you will hardly take any notice. i do not expect graphics like Farcry2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. clear sky nor Sega Rally but a little bit more uptodate would be nice. Having GRID: race driver in the back of my mind, which i won’t call a reference but this is something i expect today, i’ve got the impression that GTR reloaded looks a little bit dead and flat. the nordschleife itself is not bad and maybe it is optimized for performance but overall the track looks kind of unnatural. i wasn’t really a fan of the fancy version for GTR2 due to performance issues but the current version does not look very real. i like the new trees and especially the mix of trees for nordschleife but compared to the real nordschleife, the gras, the gravel and the crash barriers are too sterile. the cars are nice, not too detailled but not blocky, good enough for a game with a focus on the technica simulation. new feature, the wipers. even if they as sharp as the world around, which is a little bit distracting, it is a nice feature. this leads direct to the lack of any depth of field effect. the graphics are sharp until the horizont and depending on the frame rate, all those vibrations are just simulated by jumping pictures. i know, it is hard to guess the area on which the player is looking actually, so blurring the cockpit and the horizont isn’t a solution but having in mind what shaders are able to produce today (think about COD: modern warfare) i think a vibration blur, motion blurred wipers and a slightly unsharpen horizont couldn’t be that hard. regarding level of detail, especially on the nordschleife, gtr reloaded tends to fade in objects after approaching a certain distance. this looks very outdated and a technique more similar to different details depending on distance instead of just pop in trees and stuff as you come closer to them wouldn’t impact performance that much, proofed by other games.
i wasn’t able to check rain and night but will do so soon.

hm, no surround support, just one track as soundtrack are the downside. the sound of the cars is ok, as usual or common. nothing really new except built in brake noise and some ’section of track‘ related sounds like audience.

as mentioned above, i was not able to get any display of fps running. my first test is always, set everything on max and check how it runs.  there is less stuttering compared to GTR2 but a few ‚hangs‘ are still noticable. my personal feeling is that the framerate is around 30 fps with everthing on max and antialiasing on level 4. there is a heavy anisotropic effect on the road, like in former titles with the same engine, so the tarmac appears very blurry just a few meters ahead of the car. this can be tweaked by the settings of the graphic card but will cost a few frames per second. by stepping back on some effects or detail levels, the game appears smooth but my expectation was higher. compared to what is presented the performance is not really exciting.

the included layouts are tourist, endurance and gp. this is ok and should fit most peoples demands. the layout is very close to the original but i miss some bumps here and there. the karussel is too smoth and the area around between adenau and breitscheid is a little bit too perfect, in real, the track is more twisted within the corners. the performance is quite equal around the track, which is good for the gp part and this provides a smooth feeling for the whole track without major framerate drops. the ai performs sometimes a little bit strange on the track but for a final conclusion i will have a race to check how they perform. the endurance layout is perfect, the entry to the pits and the shortcut to start a lap after leaving the pits fits very well and the ai is using this too.

this is really hard to decide. for those who are looking for a GTR3, the expectations are not met. if you are happy with a refurnished GTR2 with track updates and different/new classes of cars, the package offers a lot. the caterham series, the mini challenge and the wtcc series are a nice addition if you want to put your hands on something different. if you are just using your favourite car the amount of cars is not really interesting, especially, the lotus elise is missing. for the hardcore sim freak, a lot of options are not interesting, i would tend to call them useless overhead. motec is supported by adding a few lines to the player.plr, the car setup screen is splitted in front, rear, overall, which is confusing and different to former titles. strange thing, the car setup screen is much smaller than before, this could be nice on high definition displays above 30″ but overall not really an improvement if you are using a hd ready below 30″ screen.
conclusion: if you are happy with GTR2 and everything runs fine, there is no real need to go for GTR reloaded (or GTR evolution). even if there are some small improvements in terms of performance, the difference is not that huge. the usability of all those menues and options is eating up a lot of your time, as a solution could work to set up different scenarios and save them for quick access. i’ve got the feeling that the handling is close to console titles and not optimized for PC. more to come as soon as i will find some time to race.