Playing This Week

posted on July 11th, 2005 by Anthony

In a new regular posting, well I say regular but you know it ain’t going to be, I’m going to let you all know what games I’m playing at the moment!

How exciting!

Trackmania Sunrise

This is a stupid game, but stupid in the absolute best possible ways.

Realistic Physics? – I’d rather jump about 3km of a 300ft high ramp! Realistic speeds? Hows about 600+ kmh… in a 4×4?

Basically Trackmania Sunrise laughs in the face of annoying rules like the laws of gravity… and the law of dropping a car from 1000ft equalling a shattered, twisted, and mangled heap of steel.

Trackmaina Sunrise

Basically this game is all about the fun, and it’s one of the most refreshing racers I’ve played in ages.

Instead of forcing you round in circles for 10 minutes, it sets the game up in various short – mostly sub one minute – “arrrrrrrrrrgh!” inducing challenges.

There’s Race mode which is your standard fare, taking on 5 other cars in a point to point race. The aim is to finish first, obviously. The thing is that the other cars aren’t really on the track and your basically racing against the clock. It sounds boring, but the fact that the races tend to be around just a minute long just makes it one of the most “ooh just one more go” type games I’ve played.

Add the fact that the tracks are brilliantly designed so that staying on the road isn’t actually the fastest route, and making all or nothing leaps across corners is generally the best way to a gold medal.

Then there’s the platform mode. This pits you against yourself and a long track of incredibly tricky leaps, loops, and obstacles. The ultimate aim is to get from start to finish, through all the checkpoints, without resetting the car. Again this is one form of game that quickly turns a quick 5 minute go into a 3 hour marathon, as you just have to nail that one last jump…

Trackmaina Sunrise

Another mode is Puzzle. This brings in a very unique usage of the games track builder tool. It gives you a start tile, a finish tile, plus a very limited set of pieces to build a track in between. Then you have to race down the track to beat a target time. So not only do you have to work out the track, you then have to work out the fastest way to race down it. Which generally means jumping off banked turns over the ocean.

I haven’t had chance to play that mode much yet, so I can’t comment on it too much, but it does sound very interesting. There is also a Crazy mode that I haven’t even unlocked yet.

Off the track there are a few things to do, like the Track Builder tool I just mentioned. This lets you build your own insane tracks using the various ramps and loop you see in the game. There is a massive online community that allows you to download hundreds of tracks. I haven’t had much time with the builder yet, and I’ve heard it’s a bit fiddly to use. The results are pretty good though by all accounts.

There is also a car skin editor that lets you paint your three cars anyway you want. I always like this option in a game, and I’ve spent a few hours pain stakingly applying paint daubs to my latest creation. It’s a lot more free form than say Need For Speeds set vinyls approach, allowing to paint whatever you want. You can also, apparently, export the textures to PhotoShop to create something very special.

One of my main criticisms of the game is the fact there are just 3 different vehicles. The likes of Gran Turismo have spoilt me, and I’ve come to expect hundreds of cars to choose from, never mind three! Again, however, there is a thriving community who have hacked the game and added their own 3D Studio Max car models for people download, which is always the sign of a good game. Though the biggest site is very French.

The graphics are pretty good, with decent models and textures, the lighting effects are especially note worthy. In fact it’s one of the first games I’ve bought that I can’t run at maximum settings on my Radeon 9800 (if only I could upgrade…). Actually there is apparently a problem with ATi’s drivers and the game. Which does cause some problems, but nothing too serious.

The sound is OK, with some pretty good unsigned talent featuring on the soundtrack. In game engine and general track noises are another matter, with both being fairly mediocre.

Overall I’m really enjoying the game, and with so much to do I can’t see myself getting bored with it just yet. Plus it’s so frustratingly compelling I haven’t had much choice, it makes you play it.

The fact that it cost me just £9.49 from Tesco Online is a massive bonus, considering the game was only released at full price in May!

Check out the demo (around 250Mb), it’s what sold me on the game.

Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 Demo

The original version of BLIC has been the only cricket game worth playing since it’s release at the end of the nineties. Why it’s taken Codemasters so long to resurrect the popular franchise is anybodies guess, but finally they are due to release this new version on July 21.

I’ve been playing this demo in between games of TM Sunrise and I am very, very impressed. The Demo lets you play a 6 overs match with either England, Australia or the West Indies.

Batting and bowling both feel good with flying stumps, huge sixes and painful helmet strikes. Fielding is OK, but with a few AI niggles and an inability to throw the ball to the bowlers end, there is room for huge improvement.

In game with BLIC 2005

The cricket environment is recreated quite faithfully with licenced players (though not all of them), umpires, grounds, strips, and equipment all making an appearance. The full game has commentary from Gower and Johnathon Agnew, plus the real star of TV cricket – Hawkeye! With cut scenes like the 3rd Umpire, hurt batsmen, Howzat cries, and angry bowlers the atmosphere is spot on.

Overall the balance of the game is excellent. It’s a shame there are no county teams, but there should be enough options available to keep me happy.

I’m certainly impressed enough to buy it, and seeing as Play have it for £17.99 it’s looking like a very likely purchase…

Check out the demo if you’re interested, I do recommend it.