First Time to PAX? A Guide to PAX and Other Large Gaming Conventions

Pax guide

Four years ago I embarked on my first trip as a video game journalist and fansite administrator to Penny Arcade Expo 09, or PAX Prime as it is better known.  It was my first solo trip to any convention.  Scratch that.  It was my first trip to any convention at all and I was woefully unprepared for what I saw and my expectations of what I could accomplish as a reporter.

Four PAX Primes, two PAX Easts, a Comicon and a couple other events later, I’m still learning, but I’ve also learned some valuable tips that other newbie convention goers might be interested in knowing before they pack for PAX.

This article is for general convention attendees and speakers who have never been to an event like PAX before.  A separate article for journalists (and boy there are some fun things you learn as a journalist) will be forthcoming a few days after this article.

Pax guide
The beginning of the convention center for PAX Prime on Pike Street in Seattle.

Before I go into the nitty gritty, let me do a TLDR version of the talking points below.  These tips will have details if you keep reading, but if you want the quick and dirty tips, here you go:

  1. Keep hydrated – drink lots of water.  Not soda.  Water.
  2. Bring an extra pair of shoes, or two, and extra socks.
  3. Plan out a schedule ahead of time.
  4. Be in line for panels/events early.
  5. Expect long lines for everything.
  6. Eat at locations a couple of blocks away from the convention center.
  7. Care about your personal hygiene.  Shower.  Use Deodorant.  Etc.
  8. Staff are there to help.
  9. Wash your hands.  Alternatively, use hand sanitizer.
  10. Don’t buy badges from scalpers.
  11. Respect others.
  12. Have fun!

Now, for the explanations and a little added info for those that want more than just the TLDR version.

1.  Keep hydrated – drink lots of water.  Not soda.  Water.

Pax guide

This seems like something we should all know and follow, but trust me, even I didn’t realize how much bottled water and soda was going to cost at the convention center. That being said, buy a case or two of water from Bartel’s or Walgreens and put some in a bag or backpack and carry them with you.  This will help you save money.  But more importantly, after you drink them, refill them.  That way you always have water with you.

Dehydration is one of the problems at events like these because people get thirsty, then grab what is easiest – overpriced sodas or a quick drink at the water fountain.  You are supposed to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.  At events like these, that often slips past.  Follow it with after parties (if you are old enough) and dehydration can become a medical issue.

Most people don’t realize that dehydration can lead to exhaustion and grumpiness.  So keep yourself healthy and drink water in addition to soda, coffee and any energy drinks you consume each day.

2.  Bring an extra pair of shoes, or two, and extra socks.

Pax guide

This is going to be kinda personal and kind of gross, but having learned the lesson two years in a row of not bringing extra shoes, trust me on this one.

Your feet sweat.  A lot.  Changing your socks midday and not wearing the same pairs of shoes two days in a row will save a lot of wear, tear and blisters from appearing on your feet.  Blisters make walking not-so-fun at all, especially when you’re on your feet a majority of the day.  Trust me. If you have blisters on your feet the second day, the next two days will be miserable.

If you can, and have room for it, bring a third pair of shoes that you can wear for the night time parties.  Comfort is key.  If your feet are comfortable, you will be a much happier person at the end of each day.

Remember, you will be standing in lines – a lot.  Comfortable shoes will make those lines a bit more bearable instead of “OMGMYFEETHURTTHISFLOORISHARD” feeling you get with sandals and flip flops.  You will also be walking around a lot.  Not just to get back to your hotel at night, but to get to panels on opposite ends of the convention center (or at a hotel outside of the convention center).  Just more reasons to have comfort in mind when you’re at a convention.

3.  Plan out your schedule ahead of time.

Pax guide

There are panels you want to go to.  After parties you -have- to be at.  Not to mention game tournaments you want to participate in, people you’re meeting up with, give-aways at booths that are at specific times, etc.

This is when setting a schedule comes in handy – more so if you’re a reporter.  Panels are great to attend – but you have to plan to be at them not only the time they’re at, but an hour or so earlier to be in line for that panel.  For really popular panels, you may need to be in line earlier than that.  I recall one year I had wanted to get into the Tell Tale Games panel.  I found out that people had been in line for four hours.  FOUR.  HOURS.  My mind was blown.

Then there are game demos that may take hours in line.  Star Wars: The Old Republic, before it was released, had a six hour wait line at PAX East and PAX Prime.  Needless to say I didn’t bother with those lines.

4.  Be in line for panels/events early.

Pax guide
At PAX East, you could see the lines for booths easily from the platforms and skybridges over the show floor.

The first two PAX events I attended, I hadn’t even considered attending panels.  I’m not sure why, I think it was more because I was there for the gaming aspect of it.  Then I realized some of the panels were just as important as the games on the show floor.

It was then that the stark reality slapped me in the face.  There were queues (lines marked in color tape) where people would line up immediately once a panel filled up for the next panel.  If the panel was in the main Theater, the line was down below in a huge line waiting area.  People sit down in these queue areas once they’re in line -an hour, two, sometimes even four hours early – play Magic the Gathering, play DS games with each other, talk, write, draw, take pictures – whatever they could to pass the time.

It was mind blowing for a person who had never really been to conventions before to think about people being in lines way ahead of time to see something they wanted to see.  But when I thought about it, I realized why.  Every fanboy/girl wants to see something, they will be in line.  And for some games, some panels, there are a lot of fanfolks wanting to see the panel.  And they don’t want to miss it, so they they try to be one of the first folks in line since there is limited seating for each panel.

A great example for lines for this year – I expect people to be in line for the Assassin’s Creed panel hours before it opens as it will be an exclusive sneak peek at the game.  And let’s be honest, every Assassin’s Creed fan at PAX will want to see it – so it’s logical there will be a line.

5.  Expect long lines for everything.

Pax guide
Sometimes there’s even lines for going up the escalators to get into the exhibition hall.

It doesn’t really matter what event you are going to, when a convention draws 60,000 plus attendees each year, there will be lines.  About the only place I didn’t find a line was the restroom because they had plenty of those around the convention centers.

This tip is the reason why tips 3 and 4 exist.  There were lines to demo games.  Lines to get into the exhibit hall.  Lines to get food.  Lines everywhere the eye could see.  Those lines add some order to the chaos, but not a lot.

The key thing here is patience.  If you lack patience, the exhibit hall, heck even the whole convention, might not be a good place for you.  You will be waiting awhile for anything you want to do, unless you are extremely lucky.

So sit back, munch on snacks, drink some water, chat with other convention goers – maybe make some new friends – while waiting in line.   What else can you do?

6.  Eat at locations a couple of blocks away from the convention center.

Pax guide

If you want to get food fast and cheap, and escape the lines for a little while, take the time to walk a few blocks down to where the train to the Seattle Center/Space Needle is and grab food from the food court there.  You’ll have bigger selection than at the convention center and smaller lines.  Alternatively, there are all sorts of restaurants and little hole in the wall places to grab decent food at an okay price along the way.

There are also a number of sit down restaurants a few blocks away from the Convention Center.  Note: The Daily Grill attached to the Sheraton a block away from the Convention Center has great food, but it is always packed during these events.  Same with Gameworks and the Cheesecake Factory because they are so close.

Now, if you don’t mind standing in line, there are a number of really good places in the Convention Center, such as Subway, a Pizza joint and a Mexican burrito place as well as a smoothie shop.  There is also the Convention Center food service, which has good, but overpriced pizza, hamburgers, salads, sandwiches etc.

So if lines and price aren’t an issue to you, grab food at the center, but if you’re wanting something different, check out the places nearby – you will be pleasantly surprised what a short walk and a nice meal will do for you.

7.  Care about your personal hygiene.  Shower.  Use Deodorant.  Etc

Pax guide

There is absolutely nothing worse than being around a gamer who wears the same clothes day after day without taking a shower – or even with taking a shower – or who doesn’t use deodorant and maintain proper personal hygiene.

To put it in simple terms: It’s gross.

No one wants to stand in line next to someone who doesn’t take care of their hygiene, yet are forced to do so unless they want to lose their spot in line.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, ladies and gentlemen, you do not need to bathe in perfume or cologne.  There are a lot of people in the world who are sensitive to strong smells or allergic to things found in perfume and cologne.  I, for one, get massive headaches and migraines from certain colognes.  Be respectful.  If you’re going to use some, use it minimally.  Don’t spray your clothes down and your body down in it.  Dab it or spray it in a couple locations.  That’s all you need.  Otherwise, we might think you’re just covering up the fact you didn’t bathe so you’re covering yourself in pheromones to make up for it.

8.  Staff are there to help.

Pax guide
Picture is blurry, but the guy in the blue shirt with the word “Enforcer” is event staff.

Don’t know where an event is?  Did you get lost?  Did you lose your friends?  Or perhaps you don’t know where the first aid station is?  Or where does the line start for this panel?  Whatever it is, you will find (for PAX) people in blue shirts that say ENFORCER on them in big letters.  Enforcers are PAX Staffers who are there to help you and to enforce the rules.  There are also nicely dressed Convention Center staff members who are just as nice and helpful.  So if you need help with something, don’t hesitate to ask.

9.  Wash your hands.  Alternatively, use hand sanitizer.

pax guide

I attended my first PAX ever in 2009, and while I washed my hands a lot, it didn’t stop me from catching the swine flu.  Worst. Bug.  Ever.  After that event, hand sanitizer stations appeared all over the convention floor and by the bathrooms.  Wash your hands any time you can.  Play a game, use hand sanitizer afterward.  Play a bunch of games in the arcade, freeplay or other areas, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.

Do what you can to help prevent the spread of germs.  We can’t stop it completely and a lot of people come back from conventions with some form of conflu (those that don’t are grateful), but keeping your hands clean is a great way to prevent yourself from getting sick.  On that same note, get plenty of rest to help prevent yourself from getting sick

10.  Don’t buy badges from scalpers.

Pax guide

So you, or your friend, were unfortunate and were only able to get a couple of badges for the event, but you want to be there longer.  And hey, that person there on the street corner – okay a bunch of people along the street and in front of the convention center – are selling passes.  You could just buy another one.

Strong advice – take it for what it’s worth – if they don’t look like a gamer, don’t do it.  Even if they do look like a gamer – don’t do it.

In the past few years, there have been unethical individuals who buy badges then counterfeit them and sell them.  Unfortunately, for you, if you buy a counterfeit badge and are caught by event staff, there are no legal ways to get your money back.  You are stuck with the fake pass, loss of funds, and no access to the event.  It sucks.  I saw it happen a lot the past two years.  Don’t let it happen to you.

That being said, there are some legitimate sellers out there – but it’s hard to tell who to trust and who not to trust.

11.  Respect others.

Pax guide

This should be a given, but it does have to be said.  Be polite to others.  Don’t take things that aren’t yours, don’t invade personal space.  Ask for permission before taking pictures of a cosplayer or posing for a picture with them without them knowing.

Don’t shove folks, don’t be rude.

Which leads to the last tip:

12.  Have fun.

Pax guide

That should be tip number one, but really, all of the above things will help you to have fun.

PAX is in a week.  I hope these tips help you out.  If you have any tips, feel free to leave them on the thread in our forum for this article or in the comments section below.

Reposted From with Permission of Grace Snoke. View the original article here – http://www.videogamescoreboard.com/2013/08/first-time-to-pax-a-guide-to-pax-and-other-large-gaming-conventions/

World of Tanks 8.2 Review

World of Tanks 8.2

Let’s go over the highlights of this new build for World of Tanks.

New Regular Tanks:

The first thing you will notice is that 5 new American tanks have been added, leading off from the M7 (Tier 5 Medium tank). The new tanks are the T21 (Tier 6 Light tank), the T71 (Tier 7 Light tank), the T69 (Tier 8 Medium tank), the T54E1 (Tier 9 Medium tank), and the T57 Heavy (Tier 10 Heavy tank). All the new tanks have an Auto-Loader, which makes them be a lot like the French tanks. The armor on these new American tanks has been reported to be low so you will basically be playing them a lot as if you were playing French tanks.

You can see this video to learn more details about the new American tanks:

The T21 plays a lot like the Chaffee. The T71 is comparable to playing the AMX13 75. The T69 is mainly played as a support tank so don’t play it like as if you are Rambo. The T54E1 is a lot like the Patton except weaker and is more of a support tank. The T57 Heavy has the advantages of having slanted armor and a gun comparable to the AMX 50B that reloads faster as well as being more accurate. The low armor of the T57 will make you play as if you are playing a French Heavy tank.

Game Engine Update:

As far as performance of the game goes, the draw distance has been increased so that you better see your opponents.

Trees and bushes are rendered better giving us a yield in improved performance, all things being equal.

Game Mechanics & Interface Changes:

Fallen trees now provide partial cover.

Whenever you have a module damaged (red) and your crew is repairing it, now you see a progress diagram showing the proportion that has been fixed. This looks like a cooldown button for most typical MMORPG games.

The Tech Tree will now show you per tank how much more XP and Credits you need to earn to unlock another module or tank from the Tech Tree.

Map Modifications:

4 maps were remade to make them more fun, challenging, and to better take advantage of the physics engine introduced in 8.0.

Prokhorovka (the map with the yellow grass, tree line in the west, train in the middle east, hill in the south-east) has been reworked a lot and now includes bumps and hills in the main field. The west tree alley has been changed in that the amount of bushes in it has been decreased so it’s harder to hide there now. The island in the north-east corner of the map has been reworked so that now you can enter it from either the west or south side of it. The south-east mountain has been modified in that it now has a more downward slope.

Erlenberg (the cold map with hills on either side, a ruined town in the middle with a river) has changed in some ways as well. Rocks have been added to parts of the mountains. A house was added to the field as well, providing better cover.

Ruinberg (the huge city map with the train tracks in the west, open park in the middle, and the hill of death in the east) has been altered making more of the city now being in ruins. The alley part of the map has had the cover lowered dramatically.

Redshire (green map with two hills that can shoot each other, most people usually attack from the south-west part of the map) is altered as they have removed rock cover from the mountains. The river also has become harder to cross now.

Premium Tanks:

Three new premium tanks have been added: the TOG 2 (Tier 6 British Heavy tank), the AT-15A (Tier 7 British Tank Destroyer), and the FCM 50(t) (Tier 8 French Heavy tank).

You can learn about the three new premium tanks in this video:

The TOG 2 is HUGE, is slow as hell, has a ton of hitpoints, the armor is awful, and its gun is accurate as hell as well as it being able to fire quickly. The AT-15A has insane front armor, a highly accurate gun with a great angle of attack, but it is rather slow. The FCM 50(t) play a lot like a medium tank being very fast and has a gun with a high rate of fire. It’s disadvantages is that it is big and has poor armor.

New Achievements:

Lucky is awarded when a team mate dies within 10 meters of you by an enemy vehicle.

Cool-Headed is awarded when you receive 10 ricochets and non-penetration shots from enemies in a row and survive the battle.

Spartan is awarded when your vehicle has less than 10% hit points, get shot by an enemy having the shot ricochet or non-penetrate, and you must survive the battle.

Ranger is awarded for detroying all of the enemies light tanks so long as there are at least 3 enemy light tanks in play.

Patton Valley is awarded for detroying at least 100 Patton and/or M48A1 tanks.

Where are the Chinese Tanks in WoT 8.2???

They were deemed overpowered in the 8.2 Beta testing so they will be rebalanced and will come out instead in the 8.3 update! Be patient!!!

World of Tanks 8.0 Review

 

World-of-Tanks-8.0

What is World of Tanks?

In a nutshell World of Tanks is the best tank simulator MMO out there. Think of it like a modern day Panzer Commander. They’re basically the same game except that World of Tanks is infinitely superior in every way: more units, online multiplayer, it’s free, it’s updated all the time, it has excellent support and community, etc. Then again I was comparing it to Panzer Commander which was made by the defunct SSI (Strategy Simulations Inc), which back in its day was sort of like the modern day company Paradox Interactive, who still make classic strategy games and other games that SSI would make back in the day!

If you still haven’t played World of Tanks then stop wasting your time playing stuff like Hello Kitty Online and get it here. Nothing against HKO, I play it too! If you want my advice with World of Tanks, read my World of Tanks strategy guide for beginners.

World of Tanks 8.0 Review

Chances are if you are reading this 8.0 Review you already know what WoT is, so let’s get down to what’s so good and bad about it!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWlAwC4P0rY[/youtube]

Graphics:

The game has a completely rewritten game engine that makes it look a more real than before. The graphics to me feel so much cleaner now almost like the difference from a DirectX 9 to DirectX 11 game. It’s that good of a change.

On most systems I’ve tested it, it has gained much performance. I compared it to it having the same settings. On my girlfriend’s laptop which has a really poor integrated video card by Intel, she went from getting usually 6 fps to getting 16 fps while having the game look much better. I went myself, on my 2011 main gaming PC, from getting about 35 fps on max everything to now getting 45-65 fps with the same settings.

World-of-Tanks-8.0

Physics:

No longer are we faced with invisible immortal air walls that prevent your tank from running off a cliff or a slope. Now not only can you do that if you want but you can push people off areas, or even flip them over if you run into them hard enough. Shooting, especially from a light tank will make your tank move along with the direction of the recoil. It is now possible to slide down a hill if you don’t have enough traction or the correct momentum to make it up. Tanks also now can be destroyed by putting themselves in places that they are not designed to be in, such as under water.

All this is really great but it also presents a problem because now I often, in at least every other game, see what I call “a bunch of retarded 12-year olds” do stuff like try to jump over a river then smash into it and blow up. I’ve also seen the 12-year old retards do things like try to jump fly over a bridge that is 200 feet high in the air and then have their tank shatter into pieces once it hits the ground. I report them because this is the kind of thing that ruins a game. To me it’s the equivalent of griefing the team such as feeding would in another game League of Legends.

If I were in charge of Wargaming, I would dramatically increase the penalty for committing suicide in the game in such an obvious way over and over to be the equivalent of team killing. Sure, the game already had team killing prevention but it’s simply not good enough to prevent all the 12 year olds from ruining the game, especially for the people playing who have spent money on the game and don’t have all day to game.

World-of-Tanks-8.0-4

Maps:

Most of the maps have been redone either to fix some annoying exploits or to take advantage of the better terrain and more destroyable features of the landscape. This in itself completely changes how you now play the game. It’s time to relearn most of the minor details of maps and that to me makes the game more interesting again!

Sound Effects:

Most of the combat sound effects have been improved to make them sound more real. All the cannons have a unique boom that’s specific to the specifications of the weapon. Armor damage, ricochet, and dings sound a lot more impressive than they did pre 8.0 Even the noises the ground makes as you drive over it and break stuff sounds a lot more real. This greatly improves my enjoyment of the game.

I wish though they would finally hire some voice actors to talk in the native language of whatever tank I am using. It’s really annoying to hear some American sounding guy saying “Well that’s gotta hurt!!!” or “Let’s move out!!!” as I use my German, French, or Russian tanks. Fix it! The quick fix would be just to remove the voice that’s there right now. I’d rather hear just the sounds of warfare than this guy talking!

world_of_tanks_8.0-1

Conclusion:

This is the best update I’ve ever seen for World of Tanks. Wargaming really keeps me coming back to this game with the monthly updates as well as the promise of World of Warplanes and World of Warships. Since the games will eventually share your unified account, it’s not a big deal to grind on World of Tanks since I know one day I will be sharing my XP, Credits, and Gold with my other “World of (blank)” accounts!

Beginner’s Guide to World of Tanks

World of Tanks Screen Image 6 from 8.0

This guide should help a new player make the correct choices when dedicating themselves to becoming good at World of Tanks.

First things first is figuring out whether you will want to or not spend money on this game. If you don’t plan to, pick ONE country and stick to it. I recommend either USSR if you like fighting up close or USA if you want overall good tanks, although France seems to be the most OP faction (patch 7.4-7.5). With the tutorial completed, which you can pause (it says abort but ignore that) and unpause any time, you will end up with 6 regular tanks. You can eventually have all the highest tier USSR tanks plus if you want you can keep that useless tier 2 USSR gold tank (premium tank) they give you. I prefer to keep it since it will become a guaranteed money maker and tank trainer later on (which you will eventually need).

I sold mine but that was a mistake. It could be worth keeping just to power level your tankers. Just to clarify, a gold tank is a game that is bought using gold which is the real-life-money money in the game. It can only be bought or earned from Clan War matches. Clan War matches is what you should be trying to get into if you really want to get deep into this game. You should also keep your eye open on the main World of Tanks website because they sometimes have promotions or special events that could get you huge discounts or free things.

world of tanks gameplay

The most important rule to know about WoT is that every time you have to do a conversion, you lose a significant proportion of whatever it is you are converting. Crew training on all tanks should be as max as possible, usually spending 20000 credits per crew member is the way to go, especially if you own at least one gold tank. You can convert experience points from gold tanks for gold as well as XP from Elite status tanks. This is time efficient if you have money to spend. Converting gold to credits has horrible returns so never do it.

Always run with consumables on all your tanks and try to buy them especially during the 50% off sales. Make sure that it’s worth using the consumable such as in a game where it comes down to just 2 tanks per side and it will make a huge impact on whether you win or lose. I always run in this order: health kit, repair kit, and fire extinguisher. If a tank you are using is too slow I recommending swapping out the fire extinguisher for high octane gasoline. It will make a world of difference between you hating the tank and learning to tolarate it.

world of tanks gameplay

Getting tanks is really easy in the early tiers but eventually you’re going to hit a wall of either XP or credits. Credits are even more important and harder to generate. Either check with other people or the forums to see what people are currently running to make money. If you will spend money on the game, I found that the Super Pershing is the best bang for the buck for the Tier 8 tanks for making money, if not the reasonable Tier 5 Churchill III. The Churchill III is the cheapest and sometimes the funnest to play. It’s only 1500 Gold most of the time (roughly $7-8 in cost). Myself I spent a good amount of money in the game. I also bought tank slots for every type of branch in the game and I’m slowly making my way there with every class of tank for every country.

Doing this, playing the game like crazy, it takes me about 6-7 hours to do all my tanks, to try to get the daily bonus. As a macro strategy I this saves the most time as opposed to straight grinding, if you want to save the most time AND have everything in the game unlocked. Most people don’t have time to do that every day so although that to me is the most money efficient thing to do (to run all non-gold tanks, every kind), most people don’t have time for this! The other thing to take into account is whether you want to pay for the Premium Account or not. While this is on all tanks yield a +50% bonus to the generation of XP and Credits. Technically if you have Premium and you do the first win of the day for a tank, rather than get the double XP bonus that it gives you would get triple (1.5 X 2 = 3). It’s a huge bonus but I only myself recommend it if you have a LOT of time on your hands, then it’s a great value! Since I started working more in real life, I run a year of premium in World of Tanks all the time, which comes out to about $8 a month to play the game which is an amazing value to me for this game.

world of tanks gameplay

A general thing to know about Gold tanks is that they are meant to generate pure credits and also they can be used to train crew faster for any crew of that specific country and that specific vehicle class. For example you can put a heavy tank crew from a KV1 in a Churchill and they can use it with no penalties. Alternatively, if you want to save money and power level any crew of that country, so long as they are 75% experience and up, you can stick them in anyways but they will perform with a -25% penalty but even then it can still be done effectively so long as you stick to the 75% experience minimum rule. I don’t recommend putting in crews from a different vehicle type because not only will they have the penalty but they will also get an XP penalty.

General combat tips:

Now, look at this video to understand how to position your tank during battle so you don’t die in every one on one fight.

Never EVER use the right mouse button to lock on to a target. It’s useless and dumb and it won’t target specific areas of tanks that you MUST hit. On top of that it’s highly inaccurate and a gateway into being an eternal noob in the game. Since it targets the center of mass of a tank and does NOT lead targets it will miss very often. It is only really useful if you are a light tank doing a carousel move around a slow tank and you need to concentrate all your energy into driving.

If you’re fighting while driving up a hill, I would say that 90% of the time, you’re dead!

If there is artillery in play and you just killed one of their team mates, if you’re standing still you’re very likely to get hit. Try to drive forward for a second, rotate 30 to 45 degrees, and move for one or two seconds.

If you’re an artillery and something just shot at you, you BETTER be moving ASAP if you want to live. Also I recommend moving up slightly with the front so you just all your shots, especially if you are steam rolling the enemy team.

Try to rotate your front always towards the enemy that you’re fighting if you’re pinned down in a slugfest kind of fight!

Aim for areas in the enemy such as the rear of their tank or wheels if you want to stop them from moving.

world of tanks gameplay

Know your role and act like it most of the time. If you’re a light tank, you’re the scout (sometimes). Find as many of the enemies as possible especially their artillery and scouts and kill them (those two, you are not supposed to take on a heavy tank other than maybe to get a lucky shot in their fuel tank). If you’re a tank destroyer fight from cover most of the time since you have less health than a medium tank and almost no armor. If you’re a heavy, you need to “tank” but don’t necessarily be out in the open. If you’re a medium your job is to do everything! If you’re artillery, try hitting all the heavies first. The only time you should not play your role is when the team you’re with is failing so badly that you need to pull a Rambo just to survive!

Map awareness: memorize every map. Try to fight from higher ground, especially if there’s cover but know that a good artillery will shoot all their memorized cover spots in such hills.

Generally, if you’re out in the open and nobody else on your team is around or you’re ahead of everybody, you’re in grave danger!

world of tanks gameplay

Vehicle upgrades: For most tanks always upgrade the gun as much as possible (to me penetration is the most important stat). DO THE MATH – calculate if the new gun can be handled by your suspension. Every ton = 1000 kg and the game provides module weight in kilograms. If you’re a scout or an arty, go for radio first as it will help you relay information more accurately. For scouts I recommend engines (for better acceleration) as well as tracks for better turning, as well as turrets for better line of sight (you see people faster or further).

Teching up: Try to tech up in a straight line down that path to your desired tank. For example, if you are trying to get russian arty maxed out, try to go for that directly rather than the KV-2 path because it will be insanely more expensive.

About ammunition: I find it a WASTE to use premium ammo on anything but tournaments or clan wars. Also, before you enter any match make sure you look at the gun tier of your tank; this is a rough estimate as to what tank tier you are expected to damage with that gun (assume damaging a medium tank of that tier). Should you find yourself at the bottom of the food chain in a match make sure to have brought some HE (high explosive ammmo) because it’s better to shoot a higher tier tank with this than bounce off 90% of your shots and at least you will be able to risk getting a tracked hit on that big tank that a team mate can kill for you. This is especially effective I found once I F2 tag the target then type in chat “I tracked him”. You will be surprised how quickly that tank will turn into the local punching bag.
***
Well, I hope this guide helps you get better at World of Tanks, let me get back to playing my 30 tanks! =P

First Steps: Guild Wars 2

Guild-Wars-2-gameplay-screenshot

Just coming off of the third and final beta for Guild Wars 2 we wanted to give everyone a glimpse into the first few moments of the upcoming MMO. Guild Wars 2 is the free to play mmo sequel to the original Guild Wars. The game, developed by ArenaNet features quite a few interesting changes to mmo including the action oriented combat and effect your character has on the world.

Let us start with the character creation. In GW2 you can select from five different races, the Sylvari, Norn, Charr, Asura and Human. Each race has its own unique abilities and backstory that you can read about when you create you character.

On the next screen you select what your classic will be. Some of the classics will be familiar like warrior or Necromancer. Some of the classics you will need to read to understand what your skills will be, but know that for the most part all classes can deal enough DPS (damage per second) and do enough personal healing for you to be effective, at least in the beginning.

Once you have selected your class you can configure how you character will look. There are a number of changes you can make from body size to hair, eye and armor color. Overall, you can make your character pretty unique dependent on how much time you wish to spend customizing your character.

Guild-Wars-2-gameplay-screenshot

Another unique feature to GW2 is after you customize your character you have a list of choices you make that determine the type of character you are. For instance a question might ask, what are the most important teachings you have learned and you have three choices to select from and your choices will affect how NPC’s (non-playable characters) treat you and your various skills and quests.

Each race has their own opening story which deals with how they entered the world. The opening story is in the full world meaning you will see other new players with you right off the bat. The beginning story allows you to get used to the controls and the gameplay and though it is easy for anyone who has played mmo’s before, if you are completely new it can be challenging.

Guild-Wars-2-gameplay-screenshot

Once you finish the beginning story you are placed in your starting area. From the starting area you have your main story which you can follow or you can begin exploring the world and encountering the random and dynamic events and quests within it, which we will cover in a moment.

Graphically the game was designed to run well on many different systems and to that end on lower end systems the game might not seem as graphically stunning, but on higher settings the world looks beautiful. Guild Wars 2 uses an “art style” for its graphics giving you that painters look, but it is done well where the world and environment changes depending on where you are. There are also day and night sequences in the game which not only effects how the world looks, but what events and monsters will be in the world. There are also cut scenes used for boss battles and important story events and a simple discussion cut scene when talking to some NPC’s.

Guild-Wars-2-gameplay-screenshot

As far as quests go, unlike many mmo’s where you see an exclamation point over the head of an NPC, in GW2 quests are more dynamic. An example is an NPC will approach you and offer a quest or tell you something is happening and that your help is needed. Since this occurs mainly in the open world you have the option to go to the location and help or not. Say there are bandits attacking a farm, a farmer may run out onto the road you are walking down and ask for help. At this point the farm is already under attack and if you walk away the bandits will burn down the farm and may even camp out there. If you choose to fight you might kill off the bandits and attack their camp meaning you might see them rebuilding it later. Sometimes events will overlap and while you are fighting said bandits something else appears like a monster which will attack everyone.

Guild-Wars-2-gameplay-screenshot

The idea with this questing system is to keep things fresh and new. The events will change from time to time and what you and other players do will have a real effect on the game. In the main story mode you are mostly in instanced areas, but the random quests still apply there as well. As for dungeons, you first encounter a dungeon in story mode meaning there will be less monsters and difficulty as it is for only you. However, once you finish a dungeon you unlock the “explorer” mode where there are much more monsters, loot and even path choices to make giving the dungeon replayability.

Turning to combat, Guild Wars 2 focuses on action and interaction so you are not standing around watching your character, you are interacting. An example of this is the action bars which are the numbered 1 thru 10 keys on your keyboard. You begin the game with only one or two spells and as you fight and level more will unlock. More to this the action bars or spells change dependent on what weapon you are using.

Guild-Wars-2-gameplay-screenshot

Say you have a sword in your main hand. The action keys 1 thru 3 will be abilities specific to that weapon. The next few buttons will deal with what is in your off hand like a shield or another weapon. Every class also has a personal heal spell and then special abilities based on the class. Finally you have your special attack which can be devastating, but has a long cool down. So back to the sword, if you then decide to pick up a hammer the first three button skills will change to reflect the new weapon. This opens up a ton of new combinations and abilities each class can access.

There are also defensive moves in the game such as dodging incoming attacks. Your main vitality bars are your normal health, mana and stamina bars. When you double tap one of your movement keys (W,A,S,D) you will perform a defensive move like diving forward or jumping back. When you do this you can avoid damage so unlike many other mmo’s you do not just sit there going hit by hit. As you uses the defensive abilities your stamina runs down so you have to conserve it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtMwGqndNYU[/youtube]

There are also many items in the game which when picked up change your action keys. Sometimes items are for a quest like a water bucket to put out a fire. You can also find items like tree branches or a pipe and these can be used for specific means or as a weapon, each having its own set of action keys. Most of these items tie into events that occur in the open world or are used for questing purposes.

Overall, the game is incredibly fun for anyone who likes sword, shield and magic adventures. The fact that the world is persistent and you only pay once for the game is a welcome sight compared to games that launch with a subscription and then go free to play. There is a lot to do in GW2 from the main story quests to thousands of open world events, dungeons and bosses to fight of all shapes and sizes.

You also will not have to worry about loot since all drops are specific to you. Even if you are in a dungeon with others everyone gets their own loot which solves a lot of problems. As said the graphics as well done and scale well with higher end systems. The music flows with the game and gets you into the mood when in dungeons or while fighting and the combat system brings excitement, keeping you from feeling bored or not engaged.

There is much more to Guild Wars 2 and we will be bringing you more information in the weeks to come. For now you can preorder Guild Wars 2 and receive some cool in game items. Guild Wars 2 officially launches on August 28th.

First Steps: The Secret World

The Secret World

This review talks about the first fifteen minutes of The Secret World. One of the first things that attracted me to this game was  is it leaves behind the world of dragons and magic and takes us to a new world, one that looks a lot like ours, but with a secret that we all want to discover. The idea of playing one of the Knights Templar, the Illuminati or the Dragon and fighting a war against an evil that threatens humankind is something new and exciting.

So in the Secret World the powerful groups have been fighting for control since the beginning of mankind. You begin as a character that has awakened to find strange new powers and just as you get the hang of the basics, you are visited by one of the groups and asked to join. This beginning is pretty much the same for any side you choose, the major differences here is who visits you and what they say. From there things change but for the most part you become aware of an attack in Japan and make your way to your groups meeting point.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Right away, you will notice you are in modern day earth, which for many MMO fans will be new. It can be refreshing or strange depending on how you feel about it. For me I thought it was refreshing just like when I played City of Heroes for the first time. So let us take a step back and talk about creating a character.

You begin by selecting the group you wish to join and then the server. So far, it appears you can only be in one group per server, which prevents issues, kind of like not having Horde and Alliance on the same PVP server. From there you can select how your character looks. Now personally, I did not like how the character faces looked, but this is a beta and it can change. You can make changes like the hair color, style, nose, chin and things like clothing, but don’t expect to make too unique of a character physically, at least not in this current beta.

Once you have your look you select your name. Something different here is you have a first and last name and your nickname. Now it is your nickname that is used for the game. This allows you to have a real sounding name and then choose something more unique for your nickname. The only issue here is many nicknames will be taken, so, if you wanted a name that matches from first to last it might be hard, or you end up with a nice first and last name and a silly nickname.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

From there we are back to the cut-scene, which shows your leaning some of your powers and meeting your contact. For this review, I selected the Illuminati. For that group you are visited by a man who acts a lot like an pushy pompous Hollywood agent and pretty much tells you they are in control and come join us or else. Right away I was impressed by the voice acting as it sounded natural. Also, the storyline already got me interested, but it is not a surprise since it features the work of Ragnar Tørnquist, creator of the award-winning The Longest Journey.

You can see my first ten to fifteen minutes of gameplay, but to explain the game further the idea is to give you total freedom. There are no levels in The Secret World, however, you do earn points which allow you to add more skills. So say you like swords, but you want pistols and you decide you want to be good at hand-to-hand combat, well, all this is possible.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Now to give some context, City of Heroes, the superhero MMO, originally was going to give you the right to make your character however you wanted. The reason they did not was because they did not want one cookie cutter class that could do it all, they also did not want you to make a bad character who got its ass kicked and caused you to quit. In, The Secret World, your abilities can be changed at any time, so if you go with a gun and sword build with healing and find you need more defense you just reallocate your points.

Since the game is based on modern times and your story is you have these incredible powers it makes sense. Most of the time you will either be fighting against NPC’s or other players so the ability to change your build can be handy and keep you interested in the game and your character since you do not have to keep re-rolling new characters to try out new builds.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

As said, the game is in modern times, so you have guns and modern weapons to use as well as swords and what we will call magic just to make it simple.  When choosing what build to make it can seem overwhelming, but you can choose premade power-sets or decks to make it easier. You can also just pick one weapon and build around it. The great thing is there are a ton of side abilities allowing for healing, better defense and speed and other things that can make almost any build viable, but the PVP min/max experts will tell you what is best soon enough I am sure.

Back on the topic of freedom, The Secret World does not force a specific progression meaning you do not have to sit grinding missions if you do not want to. There are multiple ways to improve yourself including working your way up the ladder in the organization you choose.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

There are other aspects of The Secret World that you will not really experience in the first few moments of the game. However, you can dress how you like since the game is not dependent on gear armor or stats from gear for the most part. There are stats on relics you collect, but your main clothing does not have stats or armor levels. This allows you to have your own style and look without costing you offensive or defensive abilities. You can also dismantle anything in the game from weapons to other items you find, which is an interesting aspect.

As far as combat, not long after you begin you are tossed into combat. You begin by finding your way to your contact which allows you to explore the city you are in and get used to the controls. There is lore everywhere which you can find and click on and a lot of hidden items you won’t be able to get to until later. You will also fight in major cities like New York and London against all types of creatures of lore like Zombies, Vampires and Werewolves.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Once you are in combat, I will say it reminded me of Left for Dead in a good way. You start off with a shotgun and two basic attacks and get used to aiming and moving while firing. The combat felt fluid and was not boring nor easy which again, is a good thing. Very soon, you get two more powers, one that slows your enemies and a powerful attack you use on the bigger enemies. Right before the big battle you get a heal spell that you will take use off right away. This tells me the idea is to allow you to stand alone and not depend on the holy trinity of Tank, Healer, DPS.

Motions like strafing and backing away will be important in this game. You will also need to know when you slow your enemy and the best time to heal. The beginning battle also shows off destructible environments as well as cool lighting effects and the fact that it will mostly be you against the world.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

In the first fifteen minutes, you really do not take use of your inventory or character page, but it is there and functions pretty much like any other MMO. However, in the game there currency can be used to upgrade slots for your inventory, which is good instead of the need to buy bags. You also can change your clothing on the fly, chat with friends (including Facebook connectivity) and change your skills and talents.

Once you survive the battle, you encounter something strange and then awaken ready to begin your new life in the secret world. From there is where you select your first weapons and skills and get your first mission.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Other cool thing that you will not see in the first few moments is the travel system. About twenty or so minutes in you discover the “Hollow Earth” that allows you to travel around the world in seconds, which is a cool concept and allows a reason behind how things work in the game world.

The Secret World - Funcom - Gameplay Screenshot

Obviously, there is much more to The Secret World than what you read in this review or saw in the screenshots and videos. However, it is a game that is worth a look at especially if you are looking to get away from Dungeons and Dragons.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwQx9Ffhbhw[/youtube]

The ability to have freedom within a game mixed with a good storyline and voice acting is a recipe for a great game. The Secret World will be available July 3rd, you can preorder it here.

First Steps: Tera Online

Tera Online - Gameplay Screenshot

My first trek into the action MMO began with looking over my character and class choices. I was impressed by the amount of different characters you can choose from. Of course, you have your humans and elves, but it expands from there giving gamers varied choices in the type of hero they want to create. This allows you to build your race based on the class you would like to be. For me I wanted to be a priest so in the spirit of my Everquest character I selected a high elf.

After selecting your race you can choose from a number of classes, many of which anyone familiar with MMO’s will recognize. All the classes have descriptions of what they do and a star rating system that tells you how hare the class will be to play. I have to admit I was surprised the priest was only three stars as in many games it is harder to play.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp-H7ZudCKc[/youtube]

When customizing your character you have a number of choices including presets that have a number of good looks choices. Even if you select a preset, you still can make modifications to it. You can also start custom from scratch and choose everything from hairstyle to facial features to how your armor will look. Once this is done, you can edit your name and begin.

Another cool thing when you start out is you can select from the keyboard or a controller like the Xbox 360 or PS3 controller. Obviously since you will also be typing with other players you will still need the keyboard, but the game is set up in a way that you can control your basic movements and attacks using a joystick which is not only fun, but could be preferred for some console gamers.

Tera Online - Gameplay Screenshot

So right away, to are tossed on a beach, which kind of reminds me of the beginning of Conan or the goblin starting area for World of Warcraft. Instead of starting out at level 1, you begin at level 20 and have a number of abilities to use. I, as a priest started off with offensive and defensive abilities.

Movement is a combination of your mouse and W, A, S, D and it only takes a second to get used to the controls if you have played MMO’s before. The beginning quests get you used to walking around, using the “F” key to talk with people and getting used to your UI.

Tera Online - Gameplay Screenshot

As you can see in the video and screenshots, Tera Online tries not to put too much on your screen. You have your health and mana bars. Then you have the map screen, your dialog windows and your spell bars all in normal locations for most MMO’s.  You also have your inventory box and your character box where you can equip your character with items.

Once you get past the starting quests, you get some starting armor and make your way out. Along the way, you see that there will be different interaction with terrain like jumping on pillars and climbing ladders. When you attack, you use the left mouse button for a basic attack and the right button, at least for the priest, vaults you back and away from the battle. All these can be reconfigured to put the spells and abilities where you want/need them.

Tera Online - Gameplay Screenshot

The gameplay reminds me of a mix between a point and click and a traditional MMO and having various spells and abilities right out the gate makes the game fun.  You will need to hit the alt or escape key to bring up your mouse pointer to do things like read your spells or change your quick buttons. It is also a good idea to read what the spells do because some are range attacks while others are not. As for your basic attack you can just hold the left mouse button down and the spell will continue firing,

Soon you find yourself fighting a harder enemy and see that there are destructible environments that you will encounter. After that, you get into a larger battle with a boss and a number of allies and enemies. For the priest class it is an opportunity to learn some of your AOE “help “spells. Like regeneration and purification. Now later, after a very cool cut-scene, you do begin as level one recruit with only very basic spells as you begin learning your class.

Overall, the first ten or fifteen minutes of the game leaves a good impression that it will be the action oriented MMO promised from the beginning. There are a lot of good signs such as starting off with a number of spells and interesting  gameplay. In addition, smaller things like being able to resize everything including your inventory boxes and the help guide which shows step by step instructions on how to do and access various things. As we play on we will bring you more information and our thoughts on Tera Online.

Mech Commander 2 Review & Strategy Guide

Mech Commander 2 Review & Strategy Guide by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“The greatest RTS game ever made for Battletech.”

Overall Score:
7 out of 10

Mechcommander 2 box art cover
Mechcommander 2 box art cover

Overview:

Think of this game as a more modernized version of BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk’s Inception and BattleTech: The Crescent Hawks’ Revenge except without all the RPG aspect. You play the role of a commander for a mercenary outfit that got hired and got put in the middle of a civil war that just started between House Davion and House Steiner. On top of that House Liao is also trying to take over the planet that you’re on, in middle of the ongoing chaos.

Although this game now is pretty old, since it came out in 2001, it still captures all the charm of the Battletech universe. It might not have every Battlemech ever made but it does have some of the original best mechs and it introduces some newer mechs that are from the most recent storyline for the Battletech universe.

Mech Commander 2 Unit Selection Screen
Mech Commander 2 Unit Selection Screen

Controls & Gameplay & Fun Factor:

The controls are pretty archaic as far as an RTS game goes. They by default only use the left mouse button and the only other key that you really need is to press the space bar while giving out move orders to make your mechs run. The game uses the classic convention of being able to group units with CTRL + number convention. Controls get a score of 6 out of 10. They’re really primitive and are actually obsolete.

As far as RTS games go, the gameplay feels really dated. Sure it’s fun to see a lance of Atlas running around blowing the living crap out of everything. I do think that the Mechwarrior games are much better though, although they are a completely different kind of game. Gameplay gets a score of 7 out of 10.

This game was fun for me although it doesn’t have the fast pace of a modern RTS game. A lot of times a mission requires having a lot of patience. The game will make you wait for the enemy to attack. Sure, you can go out and get them but that defeats the point sometimes of fighting inside a fort that has turrets supporting you. Compared to some newer RTS games such as League of Legends, Battleforge, or Dawn of War 2, the game can be pretty boring. Since I grew up playing tabletop Battletech, this game was a blast from the past that an old gamer like me needed! I give fun factor a score of 6 out of 10. I wish they’d make sequel for this but there’s always lawsuits going on for the Battletech franchise. At least Mechwarrior Online is supposed to come out 2012 so we’ll see.

Mech Commander 2 Atlas fighting
Mech Commander 2 Atlas fighting

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility & Replayability:

This is where I have a problem with the game. If you play it on Veteran, the default 2 out of 4 difficulty then the game will be realistic as far as your weapons go as far as damage and accuracy BUT if you put it on the harder difficulties the game becomes bullshit and nearly impossible to beat. If you put it on 3+ difficulty then you will see shit like a hovercraft owning your mechs like nothing. This is where the game FAILS.

For that overall the Difficulty gets a score of 4 out of 10. Some of the missions even on regular difficulty were really challenging. The last mission was so damn easy though. 🙁

Difficulty Versatility gets a 1 out of 10. Super fail in this. Because of this the game has no replayability for me almost except playing it once every couple of years when you get the urgue to play something Battletech related.

Value:

How you go about getting this game really depends how much of a computer person you are or what format you want it in. If you want the original, you can ebay the CD for it. The cost will be whatever the market will bear. Microsoft released the source code for this game in 2006 and you can download it here. If you can make it run, there you go, enjoy it!

Sound:

The sounds for all the battle sounds were pretty realistic. It made me think of lot of the older Battletech games and that’s always a good thing. The lasers sound like they should, so do the PPCs, Gauss cannons, Auto Cannons, etc. The feedback from the Mechwarrior pilot was also pretty great, along with the digitized video of them getting shot up inside their mechs as well as your field assistant giving you updates on the status of your mission. Great job and we don’t see a lot of games that have this kind of banter anymore. The video acting was great too. A lot better than the ones in the Command & Conquer games, which is outright B movie grade. Sound gets a score of 9 out of 10.

Music:

Although the music is not as good as the music from Mechwarrior 2, the music does make you feel like you are playing a real Battletech game. I still love this soundtrack though.

I give the music a score of 7 out of 10. Click here to listen to more music from the Mech Commander 2 soundtrack.

Stability/Reliability:

On my modern PC running Windows 7 and doing ALT TAB like crazy, the game never ever crashed. I’m usually doing a million things while gaming so this game is rock solid. That’s to be expected by a game good enough to be published by Microsoft. This deserves a score of 10 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

The graphics are really dated and haven’t aged well. They are Direct3D for a really old version of DirectX and no matter what parts you have the textures will look ugly by today’s standards. Oh well, at least the mechs look like what they should though. I give the graphics a score of 4 out of 10.

This game runs like a beast even on the worst computer I own. Performance gets a score of 10 out of 10. It would fly even on a non-gaming PC.

Conclusion of Review:

If you are a hardcore Battletech fan and you’ve never played this, go out and play it NOW. If you want to play an RTS game that requires patience, you will like this game too. I don’t think they’ll ever make another game in the Mech Commander series again, which is a real shame. We’ll see though… If MechWarrior Online starts to do well when it does come out, there is hope. It’s nice to see that Battletech is not entirely dead. It has a special place in my heart alongside Warhammer 40k.

Strategy Guide:

Not much to it. Always use as heavy a mech as possible. Save every Atlas you ever salvage. Salvage every single battlemech on the field, even if you have no money left as you can sell them back for more money in the outfit and refit screen. Outfit every Atlas you have with as much armor as possible then load it up with as many Clan ER Medium Lasers as possible. That’s the optimal mech for the entire game.

Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide August 2011

Gaming PC Benchmarking stopwatch

It’s been a couple of months since I last wrote a benchmarking guide and since then the video card of my old machine started to fail more eventually leading to me replacing it, not being happy with the performance and last month building a nearly state of the art gaming system.

All the theory I talked about in my original benchmarking guide still applies but my new system is able to run all modern games with every setting super maxed out. Since everybody will not have a super new computer, I will keep my recommended benchmarking settings high but still reasonable so you can compare new systems to legacy systems.

The specifications for my new main gaming PC, which I built, now are:

OS: 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate edition
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD5
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 3.7 Ghz per core 6 MB L3 cache AM3+ socket processor
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 6870 1 GB
Memory: Kingston HyperX 16 GB (4 X 4 GB) 240 pin DDR3 SDRAM 1600 (PC3 12800) Quad Channel Kit non-ECC unbuffered CAS 9 1.65V RAM
Sound Card: onboard sound via a Realtek ALC889 chipset
Storage: Seagate Barracuda XT ST33000651AS 3 TB 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache SATA 6.0 Gb/s 3.5″ internal hard drive OEM
Case: Thermaltake Xaser III LANFire VM2000A Case
Power Supply: hec X-Power 780W (peak) 600W (mean) ATX12V v2.3/EPS 12V v2.91 SLI nVidia Hybrid-SLI Certified CrossFire power supply
Peripherals: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD Burner

Again, this benchmarking guide consists ONLY of things you can download for free. Everybody can test with these free tools so it requires no spending on your part, just time and patience.

Let’s see what programs now got added, and why, and which ones got removed and why:

The RealStorm Benchmark 2006 test has been removed. This is rather unfortunate as this IS the ultimate single core CPU performance test I’ve ever used. The reason for the removal is that the real storm website was permanently taken offline and there are no plans for it to be brought back online in the future. If you can still find it somehow, I recommend using it. I might post it in the future for download and I can give you a copy via Skype or chat if you really need it. Just ask.

The Battleforge 1024×768 test has been removed as this resolution is too low and most people won’t use it to game anymore. I usually just run every game these days at a minimum 1280X1024. Yeah, my system can run stuff at much higher but I’d rather get 200 FPS than 120 FPS just to get more eyecandy. I’m more concerned with the smoothness of the graphics such as anti-aliasing options being turned on and high framerates. Like always, LAG is a killer.

Battleforge is a FANTASTIC free-mmo-rts that has kind of been abandoned by EA but it’s still free and many, many people still play it. I have mastered everything in the game and my friends are now all bored of it but I will play it once in a while. You can check my original review of the game here as well as check out my first strategy guide here for doing Battlegrounds as well as my second strategy guide for Battleforge here that shows you how to farm the mission Raven’s End by yourself.

Anyways, this full game is FREE and it includes a built in benchmarking tool. The way to use it is to login first to the game and then not login to your character, instead hit back, and select options, and go to the graphics screen and select to run the benchmark.

Again, if you never checked out the game, I encourage you to do so, especially if you are a massive RTS player. I like this game and benchmark because it taxes your CPU, RAM, and GPU. Every unit in the game moves and attacks in a complex way and it’s a great example of showing how well your system performs playing a real time war game with a ton of units.

The updated criteria for benchmarking with Battleforge is the following:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1280×1024
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download the Battleforge benchmark and full game from: http://www.battleforge.com/

Some of the options in this benchmark and others to come are either off or set not to max because the benchmarks are too picky and unless you have a 700 dollar video card, it will not let you run them. I’d rather everybody be able to test. The faster systems will yield insane numbers anyway.

My new PC got an average of 78.5 FPS, a minimum FPS of 7.1, and a maximum FPS of 182.7. You can compare that respectively to my old computer’s 6.8 FPS, 0.5 FPS, 53.5 FPS. It just blows it out of the water.

The Dirt 2 benchmark test still stays because it’s still a modern game engine and DiRT 3 is almost the same thing. That one was added too to the list as we’ll see below.

Dirt 2 Test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8x MSAA
Vsync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Normal
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lighting: High
Shadows: High
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Crowd: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Drivers: Ultra
Distant Vehicles: Ultra
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: Ultra
Post Process: Medium (this setting is annoying and usually defaults to this)
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: High
Cloth: High

Download from: http://download.cnet.com/DiRT-2-demo/3000-7513_4-10977053.html

Codemasters games are pure unadulturated eye candy, especially Dirt 2, GRID, and F1 2010. The games keep getting prettier and still run very efficiently despite the graphic quality increase. These games are also system killers because of how great they simulate the physics needed to create a realistic racing and driving experience.

My current gaming machine yielded an average framerate of 105.5 FPS and a minimum framerate of 85.7 FPS versus my old machine’s 15.7 FPS and 13.4 FPS.

Moving on to a newer game we are now using the DiRT 3 game to benchmark as well. It’s the same as DiRT 2 but the game engine is tweaked a little more. The game is usually bundled often with most current video cards so either get it from there or download the demo for testing. You can check out my review for DiRT 3 here.

DiRT 3 test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1028
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8 x MSAA
VSync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Auto
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lightning: High
Shadows: Ultra
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Characters: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Distant Vehicles: High
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: High
Post Process: Medium (again this loves to set itself to this over and over so just leave it like that)
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: Ultra
Cloth: High

I couldn’t find a direct download link for the demo because Codemasters is crazy enough that they don’t really have a main website anymore. I recommend getting the demo from Steam. Having a demo not be available would proabably encourage piracy but since this game is now being bundled with everything you’d probably find a product key easily with any AMD or ATI purchase at this moment.

With all the added graphic features to DiRT 3, my system got lower framerates with this one compared to DiRT 2. It yielded 66.39 FPS average, and 55.74 minimum FPS in this test. The game looks amazing.

I was considering adding the HAWX 2 benchmark to this guide but since the demo even includes the draconian Ubisoft you-must-be-online-and-make-an-account-like-an-mmo copy protection SCHEME then I refuse to. Sure, the game looks amazing but I don’t want to subject people to Ubisoft’s bullshit. Let’s stick to the original HAWX, which is still a great benchmark and doesn’t require all that drama to run.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX test settings:

Game version: DirectX 9 for legacy compatibility purposes
Screen Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Antialiasing: 8x
VSync: Off
Full Screen: On
View Distance: High
Forest: High
Environment: High
Texture Quality: High
HDR: On
Engine Heat: On
DOF: On

Download from: http://www.gamershell.com/download_40308.shtml

If you never play this game, I recommend it still, and you can read my Tom Clancy’s HAWX review here.

My new computer gets an average framerate of 163 FPS and a maximum framerate of 392 FPS… WOW. My old system got an average framerate of 23 fps and a maximum framerate of 127 fps. What a difference!

The X3 Terran Conflict benchmark demo continues to be an amazing testing tool not just for performance but for system stability. This IS the benchmark I use the most to either make or break a system.

X3 Terran Conflict benchmark test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024 Fullscreen
Antialiasing: 8x
Ansitropic Texture Filtering: On
Anisotropic Texture Filtering: 16x
Glow enabled: On
Texture Quality: High
Shader Quality: High
More Dynamic Light Sources: On
Ship Colour Variations: On

Download from: http://www.egosoft.com/download/x3tc/demos_en.php

This game engine will rock the socks of your CPU, RAM, and GPU. I couldn’t believe my eyes as to how detailed the final part of the benchmark was when I saw the massive, super-detailed space station being rendered as it was, on my old gaming PC. Even on my new gaming PC, this benchmark will bring your system down to its knees and make it cry like a little girl.

This benchmark is old but it even comes with a built in warning that it WILL really ABUSE your video card.

My new computer got a score of 91.303 FPS. There were some parts in the benchmark when performance dropped to about 22 FPS, like the warnings said. My old machine used to get 17.012 FPS.

Trackmania Nations, free as always and still a solid full game with a simple benchmark feature built in.

Trackmania Nations test Settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Antialiasing: 16 samples
Shadows: Complex
Shader Quality: PC3 High
Texture Quality: High
Max Filtering: Anisotropic 16x
Geometry Details: Normal
PostProcess FXs: On
Force Dynamic Colors: On
Force Motion Blur: On
Force Bloom: On
Water Geometry: On
Stadium Water Geometry: On
Trees Always High Quality: On

Download from: http://trackmaniaforever.com/nations/

This benchmark now yields a 69.7 FPS on my new machine versus the 31.8 FPS I used to get from my old system. It’s much more enjoyable to play this again with everything on.

***

There is the updated list! I moved on from Windows XP especially since 32-bit Operating Systems have both RAM and hard drive allocation limitations. Windows 7 is okay but I’m surprised as to how few games have pure real DirectX 11 support. Only super megacorp insane-budget titles seem to have this so far, so I’m disappointed.

Share your benchmark numbers with us either as a comment below, on our facebook page, or forums. Stay tuned for more hardware reviews and articles.

E3 2011: My E3 Guide

E3 2011: My E3 Guide by Ignacio/honorabili

E3 2011

Guide:

Before going, the first thing to do is see if you can get in there for free! Well, the way I did it is by having this website and registering as soon as I could for the event. Starting this year, E3 was capping the number of passes they would give out to media, requiring your website to have 8000 unique visits per month per media pass given out. If you don’t even get 8000 a month then they would make you buy your ticket instead, which could making going to the event really expensive.

Like most of these kind of events, try to book as early as possible, both your travel arrangements and lodging. We booked 9 months before and paid 700 dollars a person for 6 days. We used Orbitz and that price included complete air fare (flew American Airlines), lodging (we stayed at the Ramada Inn in Koreatown, which I found to be a great place and neighborhood), and a rental car (Avis, which broke down and then they tried to rip us off when we returned the car; listen to the podcast to hear Laraque complaining about that!). I really recommend going to E3 especially if you already live in California or nearby, so it’s much cheaper.

When you get to the event, get one of the free magazines that is pretty much a quick guide to the event plus the IMPORTANT PART is the map in the center of the magazine. You can simply look at the map and see which booths interest you the most. If you mainly go there to see the next big game, you can easily find them on the main floor in megabooths. If you have media passes, you can go talk to their reception desk and they give you priority to test them, instead of making you wait in line most of the time.

E3 2011 - Konami

Some people like to go to E3 to demo the new games and hardware, mainly from the megacorps. Other people like to go to see what small companies are there and to see what big thing they brought to the show. Many of the small companies or the companies that are not coming out with a big product usually have a booth in the meeting rooms in the Concourse Hall. Those are better for you if you are into networking and seeing more unique things that the public usually cannot. There’s a more private version of that area on the second floor that you can only access if you have a VIP pass. There’s where you can see unreleased stuff more and negotiate business deals.

If you go, don’t expect to sleep much. You pretty much walk and stand most of the day and after the show, if you have connections expect to go to a ton of after parties (there’s one pretty much every day); this is where you can really make connections with developers, vendors, etc. If you go there trying to setup some business deals, bring a stack of business cards and some nice clothes. I made more contacts wearing dress clothes than simply the Obsolete Gamer T-Shirt.

As far as being in L.A., bring a lot of money because things there are PRETTY EXPENSIVE. Most places we went to charge a bare minimum of 3-5 dollars an hour to park, with many places having a 15-30 dollar parking fee, even like going to a local mall. Food at most restaurants will cost you about 20 dollars a person unless you want to eat a lot of fast food. At E3, the food is very expensive and we’re talking like 6 dollars for a pizza slice kind of expensive and 5 dollars for a can of Monster (no Red Bull, which is my crack). A cheapskate trick is to go to the Concourse Hall and munch on the snacks (cookies mainly) and free soft drinks that a lot of the companies have there. Hey! You wanted a real guide, now you know how cheap I am!

E3 2011

When at E3, try not to take breaks. Be smart and go have a meeting where you can sit down to rest, while you keep working and networking. Again, I mainly recommend going to the event if you are in the industry, whether you have a game company, gaming website, resell video games, blog, shoot funny videos (like Mega64), otherwise, you can pretty much watch everything at the show for free on the internet on some of the mega video game sites or directly from the main companies websites, in the form of trailers.

If you are media/press, pick up every free bag of goodies they give you. The best stuff I got was from World of Tanks, which gave me a bunch of toy tanks, a special bag, a World of Tanks T-Shirt, mouse pad, and special game bag, as far as the main floor went, and the biggest gift I got was from Topware which gave me a Collector’s Edition of Two Worlds 2 and a ton of T-shirts. Even if you don’t like a game, who knows, a friend of yours might like it! If you have a gaming website, some of this swag would be great to giveaway in the form of a contest.

My Experience:

E3 2011 - Cooking Mama

The day before E3 I was rushing to get some Obsolete Gamer shirts over to J.A. Laraque’s house as well as a camera I bought him and some micro SD memory cards when the engine of my 1998 Mustang GT decided to die a block away from my house. After pushing the car with some neighbors up my driveway, I had my mom help me to drop the OG gear off at JA’s house. I stayed up pretty late playing League of Legends with my brother and his friends until we lost so badly that I had to go do something else. I remember drinking some rum while watching episodes of The Three Stooges on Hulu.

My old man took J.A. and I to the airport like around 5 PM EST on Tuesday, the first open-to-the-public day for E3 2011 and we quickly met up with Alienware’s Patrick Theodore and Ashley Brito. Even though Orbitz booked us on Alaskan Air, we quickly had to go running with all our luggage to the American Airlines concourse and go through the TSA checkpoint. After seeing old ladies from Miami Beach get checked to see if they have C4 in their shoes, the terrorists won! Anyways, they let us through and after a short while we were on the plane. I played the living shit out of Solitaire on the plane, which going to L.A. we had a 777 (great ride). Laraque played a lot of games on his iPad like Streets of Rage and some Homer Simpson game which was a lot like the original Simpsons arcade game. I slept on the plane but for the duration of this trip I was pretty much tired a lot.

As soon as the plane landed we hauled ass to Avis, and then drove fast to the show. Parked (see me bitch above about the parking, which in this case was 15 dollars cash [be sure to bring a lot of cash]) and then we got some of the food they sell there (again see above if you want to hear me bitching). Afterwards, we walked off into the main floor. My first impression was that this was a huge arcade. Colors and colors everywhere. We saw the Sony Online Entertainment booth, which we have been trolling on the podcast a lot lately, and I got a bunch of the free mints they had there. The only games they had which interested me were Payday (co-op bank robber game) and some Magic The Gathering strategy game, but that game looked pretty dated. I hit up Capcom, then Kalypso, which to my surprise is remaking (and this is much needed) Jagged Alliance and is making Tropico 4, another sequel to one of my favorite dictator sims of all time.

E3 2011 - Square Enix

I had a meeting with Indiecade, which showed me a lot of board games, which we will probably review later on The Inverted Paradox and a couple of Indie games. I got to play this experimental game project called Deep Sea where the game has no graphics and its just you attacking a sea monster based on what you hear only. Pretty original idea and it generates a feeling of solace and dread being stuck on a submarine with a leviathan around you. I also saw a game that was a rogue-like clone and also a cute strategy game called Skulls of the Shogun which is a like like Shining Force and Ogre Battle.

We went to the after the show parties for AMD and also for S2 Games, the makers of Heroes of Newerth. Both parties had free bars and the AMD party had AMAZING food! =P It was fun talking to AMD about the new APU that already got released by now as well as talking about old hardware with some of the people who helped design it, like Marc who helped design my favorite CPU the AMD K6-3. 😀 The AMD party was also very special for me because I got to speak in person with my friend Alfred Giovetti who runs The Computer Show. In the middle of people talking about the latest and greatest we sat for a good while talking about stuff like the rise and fall of Microprose and Interplay and games such as Darklands by Microprose. I recommended he try out Mount & Blade which is a lot like Defender of the Crown mixed with Darklands.

E3 2011

Back to the show, I got to meet up with the people from Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends which let me see upcoming champions (hero units) for that game, one of my current addictions.

The people from World of Tanks gave us some goodie bags which was put to good use in-game (another one of our addictions now).

I got to meet (finally in person) with my long time internet friend Seth Sternberg (8 Bit Weapon) and got to hear them live. We interviewed both band members and you can check out the 8 Bit Weapon interview here.

We stayed in L.A. for 4 days after the show and it was a nice vacation for us.

In conclusion, the E3 experience was a good one and I highly recommend it, especially if you can go there cheap or get somebody to sponsor your trip! ;-]

Retro Cheat page: S.W.A.T.

Swat cheat sheet- cheat codes
Here we have even more cheats for your enjoyment. We have lots of Nintendo cheats this time around with a little bit of everything as usual. My S.W.A.T. merchandise is running low so I’ll have something new coming up in the coming weeks. Take care! 

Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide February 2011

Gaming PC Benchmarking stopwatchIf you are like me then you probably do not have the latest gaming PC out there. Even if you built a new machine it will probably have at least one obsolete part easily within a month or two. Because of this dilemma I have created the following gaming PC benchmarking criteria, which has some modern games and game engines as well as some older ones which still scale well.

A problem a benchmarker will face, especially when comparing an older machine with a newer one is that sometimes the older machine will not be able to run whatever game or benchmark as opposed to the new machine. Not necessarily saying the whole program won’t run but saying that it won’t run at the exact settings that the program runs on the faster, newer machine. Some settings will simply never run because the GPU will never ever have the ability to render those settings as it’s limited at a hardware level.

The specifications for my main gaming PC which is now old are:

OS: Windows XP Professional (Corporate)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2.8 Ghz
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 3870 512 MB
Memory: G. Skill 4 GB DDR2 800 Mhz (limited to 3.4 GB by the 32-bit OS)
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Storage: Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HD
Case: generic black case from newegg.com
Power Supply: generic 480 Watt
Peripherals: NEC DVD burner

My concern was to create a benchmarking guide that a normal person that is not running the latest hardware AND does not have an unlimited budget can use to test their system against ours and all the upcoming gaming PCs and parts we plan to review. How to do that? It’s rather simple. I sat there and hunted down many free games and demos that are currently available on the internet for download.

These benchmarks are run at a reasonable resolution that will yield great graphics while getting high frame-rates which a real gamer will use in a real world without risking to suffer lag in a (ranked) game.

As far as my picks go, I could have picked to run other games and just have FRAPS show my the framerates but FRAPS uses the hard drive a lot, especially to record and that would quickly become a bottleneck.

I will discuss why I picked those programs to benchmark now rather than some others which might be more popular. The list is the following:

The RealStorm Global Illumination Bench 2006 test has the following settings:

Demo: 1/5 Global Illumination Compare
Resolution: 1280×1024
Shadows: On
Reflections: On
Anti Alias: On
Depth of Field: On
Volume Lights: On
Radiosity: On

Download it from: http://www.realstorm.de/

This is the default benchmark option for this old benchmarking tool that is now discontinued but it will destroy the living shit out of any system out there. This benchmark uses straight-up RAW CPU processing power. It does NOT have multi-core support and it will simulate the max speed a single core will deliver in a system. Not every program has multi-core support and it’s still extremely important to have each core be as fast as possible. To a limited degree this benchmark does test the RAM as well but it’s mainly for the CPU. It stressed the living shit out of the system by making the CPU render everything, ignoring the GPU.

On my system, under the settings I listed above my computer yielded 2569 raymarks (the raw score used only by this benchmark), as well as 2.61 fps (frames per second) average, a minimum score of 1.7 fps, and a maximum score of 9.27 fps. Yes, that’s really really low but go ahead and run the benchmark on your own system. I hope you have good cooling, because you will need it! ;]

The Battleforge 1024×768 test has the following settings:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1024×768
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download from: http://www.battleforge.com/

Battleforge is a FANTASTIC free-mmo-rts that has kind of been abandoned by EA but it’s still free and many, many people still play it. I have mastered everything in the game and my friends are now all bored of it but I will play it once in a while. You can check my original review of the game here as well as check out my first strategy guide here for doing Battlegrounds as well as my second strategy guide for Battleforge here that shows you how to farm the mission Raven’s End by yourself.

Anyways, this full game is FREE and it includes a built in benchmarking tool. The way to use it is to login first to the game and then not login to your character, instead hit back, and select options, and go to the graphics screen and select to run the benchmark.

I picked this part of the test to run at 1024×768 because when I play the game competitively and most of the time, I run it only at this resolution to get the max amount of framerates and no lag.

At this resolution my system put out an average framerate of 9.2 fps, a minimum framerate of 3.4 fps, and a maximum framerate of 54.9 fps.

Again, if you never checked out the game, I encourage you to do so, especially if you are a massive RTS player. I like this game and benchmark because it taxes your CPU, RAM, and GPU. Every unit in the game moves and attacks in a complex way and it’s a great example of showing how well your system performs playing a real time war game with a ton of units.

The Battleforge 1280×1024 test has the following settings:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1280×1024
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download from: http://www.battleforge.com/

The same as above except with better eyecandy because of the higher resolution.

My average framerate was 6.8 fps, my minimum framerate was 0.5 fps, and my maximum framerate was 53.5 fps. Do you see now why I play it at a lower resolution? The game looks almost the same to me anyways, so might as well avoid lag!

The Dirt 2 1280×1024 max settings test has the following settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8x MSAA
Vsync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Normal
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lighting: High
Shadows: High
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Crowd: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Drivers: Ultra
Distant Vehicles: Ultra
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: Ultra
Post Process: Ultra
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: High
Cloth: High

Download from: http://www.codemasters.com/downloads/details.php?id=39424

In my opinion, you cannot get more intense for beating up your gaming system than playing a racing game OTHER than playing a real flight simulator game with all the options on. Think about how fast a system needs to render what’s going in a racing game, especially 200 MPH or higher being scaled realistically and you will see how these games are system killers.

Codemasters games are pure unadulturated eye candy, especially Dirt 2, GRID, and F1 2010. The games keep getting prettier and still run very efficiently despite the graphic quality increase. These games are also system killers because of how great they simulate the physics needed to create a realistic racing and driving experience.

Although I play it usually at a lower resolution, I tested it at 1280×1024 just to stay consistent with my future gaming PC reviews as well as my upcoming new gaming PC that I plan to buy this year so we can see the before and after results. My average framerate was 15.7 fps and my minimum framerate was 13.4 fps.

This IS the game that made me realize I needed to upgrade my machine to a newer system.

The demo (although I have the full game) includes a built in benchmarking tool so it’s a great test.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX 1280×1024 max settings test:

Screen Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Antialiasing: 8x
VSync: Off
Full Screen: On
View Distance: High
Forest: High
Environment: High
Texture Quality: High
HDR: On
Engine Heat: On
DOF: On

Download from: http://www.bigdownload.com/games/tom-clancys-hawx/pc/tom-clancys-hawx-demo/

My friend Chris Mosso, which was my top Lieutenant in my massive guild in Auto Assault, always kept recommending for me to try out Tom Clancy’s HAWX saying it was an amazingly fun game and of course, he was completely right. I hadn’t had that much fun playing a game like that where you fly around fighting for your life since Descent: Freespace. The game is a permanent adrenaline rush and is simply total eye candy. I’ve shown this game to some friends of mine that are not gamers and it got them dizzy from just staring at the screen when I play.

Anyways, although this game is super eyecandy, it does have an AMAZINGLY efficient game engine. I like to include this game in the benchmarking guide because it represents for me what a well written game’s performance would be like with a typical game system. My system got an average framerate of 23 fps and a maximum framerate of 127 fps.

The fun demo includes the benchmarking tool, so it’s totally worth getting.

X3 Terran Conflict 1280×1024 max settings test

Resolution: 1280×1024 Fullscreen
Antialiasing: 8x
Anisotropic Texture Filtering: 16x
Texture Quality: High
Shader Quality: High
More Dynamic Light Sources: On
Ship Colour Variations: On

Download from: http://www.egosoft.com/download/x3tc/demos_en.php

My friend Ramiro became a huge fan of the X series after I lent and gave him a copy of X Beyond The Frontier many years ago. As kids, we grew up playing Elite 2: Frontier on my Amiga 600. We thought it was the most epic game every made and and I played it religiously exploring star systems and reading up on their composition and learning a lot about astronomy as well as doing missions nuking planets from space as well as other crazy things like assassinations. I even dabbled with Privateer 1 and 2 later on, but those games were much simpler than both Elite 1 and Elite 2: Frontier.

Anyways, although I played X: Beyond The Frontier a lot and a little of X2, I kind of gave up on that series, especially when I later got into playing Eve Online and found it kind of pointless to play a game like that single player. The people who make the X series have ALWAYS impressed the living hell out of me with how efficient their game engines are as well as how scalable, detailed, and completely beautiful they are.

This game engine will rock the socks of your CPU, RAM, and GPU. I couldn’t believe my eyes as to how detailed the final part of the benchmark was when I saw the massive, super-detailed space station being rendered as it was, on my old gaming PC.

Let’s see the numbers… My system only got a framerate of 17.012 fps in this benchmark but believe me, considering the settings and how beautiful everything looks, that was still higher than I expected it to be. Still, I would maybe play X3 when I get my next gaming machine.

Trackmania Nations

Resolution: 1280×1024
Antialiasing: 16 samples
Shadows: Complex
Shader Quality: PC3 High
Texture Quality: High
Max Filtering: Anisotropic 16x
Geometry Details: Normal
PostProcess FXs: On
Force Dynamic Colors: On
Force Motion Blur: On
Force Bloom: On
Water Geometry: On
Stadium Water Geometry: On
Trees Always High Quality: On

Download from: http://trackmania.com/

Trackmania is still one of my favorite racing game series of all time. This benchmark is done using the game Trackmania Nations that has always been the free version of Trackmania and the one that most people in the world play. I highly recommend getting Trackmania United if you are serious about having FUN in playing a racing game MMO.

This game is a massive physics simulator and it has looked good right from the start. The game engine is probably even as efficient as probably the Unreal engine except that Epic Games doesn’t put out free games! At 1280×1024 my system puts out an average framerate of 31.8 fps.

Okay, so there’s the list. Yeah, you might say that who cares because my system is running Windows XP and therefore DirectX 9 but the way I see it, gaming is a lot like racing cars in the real world. You might run DX11 on your Windows 7 box but if you barely run stuff and my system gets higher framerates than yours, that’s pretty sad. Only real results matter in the real world! I say fuck it, compare apples to oranges. I just care if the system will be able to run a game 100% stable as well as with decent performance.

So that about wraps it up. I hope you use my February 2011 benchmarking guide to test out your system and post some results below as comments. I know my system is a 2007 average price gaming system but let’s see what my next PC yields! And let’s see what the gaming PCs I will review soon will show us. Will these brands defend their speed claims when being tested in the real world? Stay tuned!

Modding your Nintendo DS

How to Mod your Nintendo DS
How to Mod your Nintendo DS

With your Nintendo DS you have wide variety of video game entertainment at your fingertips. However, with just a few items and a little time your DS can be opened up to an entirely new world of pictures, video and much more.

Things you will need:

  • R4 Revolution Flash Card
  • Micro SD Card (2GB+)
  • USB w/Micro SD Card Slot

Steps

  1. Purchase a R4 Revolution Flash Card. These cards cannot be found in stores, but are widely available at online retail stores.
  2. Download the latest firmware for the R4. In many cases the R4 firmware will be included with your Flash Card; however, it may not be the latest release. Another online search will turn up the current firmware release.
  3. Connect the Micro SD Card to your computer. Using your micro SD to USB adapter connect the micro SD card to your computers open USB port.
  4. Open the firmware fire. Your computer will recognize the new connection giving you the option to open the micro SD folder.  Inside the folder you will find the R4 zip file. Using any unzip program unpack the contents of the file to the root directory of the micro SD card.
  5. Insert the R4 and Micro SD Card into your Nintendo DS. Once you have added all the files to the root directory of your Micro SD card make sure you remove any existing game from your DS. Insert the R4 then insert the Micro SD into the R4.
  6. Turn on your Nintendo DS. Once you have inserted the card turn your DS on. When the DS turns on you will see the safety warning message, this is normal. Within a moment the R4 will take over and load the main R4 menu.
  7. Select your modding option. The R4 menu will show you three choices. The first choice is Game which will allow you to load an .NDS file (Homebrew application). The second option is Media which will allow you to play videos, music and text files (Moonshell OS). The third option is Slot-2 which will allow you to boot a Slot-2 game (Game Boy Advanced).

Tips & Warning

  • This version of modding is safe because it does not require users to open or make changes to the Nintendo DS hardware. This is known as soft-modding.
  • The R4 method allows for downloading of games, but one should never pirate games or violate copyright laws. This also goes for videos and music added to your DS.
  • R4 and Homebrew will never be as perfect as the original software associated with the Nintendo DS and is not supported by Nintendo.

Civilization 5

Civilization 5 Space Victory “screen”

Civilization 5 Review & Strategy Guide by Honorabili

This review is going to be brutal because I think they released an alpha of a game rather than a good product. First off, before you call me a hater know that I’ve been playing every version of Civilization starting at Civilization 1 on the Amiga since the early 90s. I’ve played that one, Colonization, Master of Magic, Master of Orion 1 to 3, Civilization 2 Gold Multiplayer, Civilization 2 Test of Time, Civilization Call To Power (ugh), Alpha Centauri, Age of Wonders 1-2, Civilization 3, and Civilization 4 and all its expansions. I bought the deluxe edition of Civilization 5 for $70 on Steam and boy did I feel ripped off at soon as I started seeing how dumbed down but more importantly BUGGY it is. Let’s begin the bug list, I mean review. I’m going to assume you know what Civilization games are, if not go play Civilization 4 and all its expansions which you can buy anywhere for 10-20 dollars (well worth it).

The first problem the game has is that you cannot skip the intro right away. I have literally hit every key on the keyboard and pressed the mouse 100 times and based on how fast the computer is, the faster it will let you skip it. If you play the game often you will get sick of seeing that movie. Here is the video I’m talking about:

It seems to me like the entire budget of the game went into just making that intro video. Why? When you beat the game you get no video or cutscene. Seriously. You see the stupid image of space victory or the other victories and then it gives you the option to go to the main menu. It’s one of the most unsatisfying endings to a game ever. It makes me want to quit the game and uninstall and go play Civilization 4 instead.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the AI is virtually retarded, even on Deity. If you are a typical player in all previous versions of the game and set it around the middle to above average difficulty, you will have a challenge ahead of you. In Civilization 5, the AI does dumb shit like move their archers at point blank range of your swordsmen or other similar units that instantly devour them. I’ve seen them try to take over a city with archers, which cannot melee assault a city, a requirement for conquering in this game. That’s one thing that they changed that I kind of like (a miracle), the concept that cities count as a fighting force in their defense and have an attack/defense rating and can shoot ranged (2 hexes away) at their enemies. Other missile units also can attack 2-4 hexes away (based on technology and unit level upgrades).

If you have beat this game as many times as I have, you will notice that the game gives the most points by basically military conquest of everything. Since the AI is SHIT then it’s like beating up a handicapped person. Okay, so since the AI is shit, let’s play against other people… Now you’re going to start to see the real problems this game has right now.

The first problem you will encounter in multiplayer (To me they never beta tested the game with anybody who ever played previous Civ games online) is that you CANNOT alt-tab without the game assuming you dropped your connection and it disconnecting you from other players. Yeah, you read it. In one of the most famous turn-based games that get played online of all time, you cannot alt-tab. You better have brought a book, have a hand held game, or have another computer by you.

CIVILIZATION-V-FRONT-OF-BOX

Since that is a major problem the next thing that’s a serious problem is that you will have a hard time trying to load saved games for multiplayer. In the times we tried with my many friends to continue an ongoing multiplayer game we were never able to reconnect successfully from a loaded game. That’s bad enough but a major major flaw in the multiplayer saving is that you can’t, unless you do some windows explorer tricks. The game ONLY autosaves and you cannot manually save from the options menu, like you can in single player. That might not sound that bad but the game only allows 2 autosave sessions to be saved. Let’s see how that works (or doesn’t rather)… You play a game with your friend Player A and then he leaves. You then play a game with Player B and they leave. You then start a game with Player C and now the game for Player A just got deleted. Amazing, right? IN ORDER TO SAVE, you must hit CTRL-S and type a name. Then go to your My Documents area and locate the saved games for Civilization 5. The game you just saved will be outside of the area where it autosaves. The game has not windows explorer functions and it only lets you load stuff out of the multiplayer autosave folder. In order for your game to get recognized, it has to have the word “autosave” added anywhere in the saved game name. We’ve only really been able to complete games over the LAN (hmm maybe hamachi is an option but why should that have to be an option for a non-warez bought game?).

Apart from all that the game is a resource hog and it seems to have some memory leaks. When your computer runs out of RAM, it will either crash the game or if in multiplayer, it will auto reconnect every player where you will have to do your turn all over again.

Those are the major BUGS that make me ASHAMED to have bought this game for $70. The game makes the old game Imperialism 1 seem godlike and in fact copies a LOT from it. It’s more like it than Civilization.

Changes:

Okay, apart from bugs this game has some changes from previous Civilization games, some which make this such a dumbed down game. Say goodbye to Spies (a major part of the game), Airports (no more airdropping troops halfway across to world), no religion (I love it from Civ 4), and no corporations (again kind of not that useful from Civ 4 but why take it out?). Government has been altered so now you research “Civics” based on culture generation. Borders have been changed so that you no longer can wake a culture war against your enemies. Once you “buy a tile” or assimilate it, it will forever belong to your country unless it gets taken over militarily.

Since the easy way to win is just to kill everything, again anything which boosts production or military effectiveness is the best to get.

A major change (pain in the ass) in this game is that they made all cities share happiness. The game I guess is racist because cities of your own empire give you a lot less unhappiness I guess because they belong to your race. Cities taken over from other empires, even if you completely wipe them out will generate up to double unhappiness forever (unless you build special wonders or pick a specific build for your Civics).

Another major change in the game is that now transport ships are GONE. This is a good thing because units now can “swim” across water by making their own little transports. This is kind of neat and makes the game go along faster. Thank god they added this since they removed airports (grr).

The first thing you will notice is that they added City-States which are NPC mini empires. They give you little quests which you can do to raise your standing with them. The benefits they give are godlike, like maritime giving you +2 to your capital(double the rate for the minor bonus since it’s based on technological age) and +1 to your non-capital cities, or military ones that give you units, or diplomatic ones that give you Culture points (for Civics research). There is the State of War, Neutral, Friends, and Allies. The more they like you, the more benefits they give you, such as free units from military or great people (with the right Civics). The strategy here is to get as many of them to like you as possible so you get bonus food etc all the time. The strategy is also to not take them over unless absolutely necessary or desperate.

Since they changed the way that stuff gets conquered, you basically have 4 options when you take a city. If a city is not a capital or a city-state, you can Raze A City. You might want to do this if it’s a city that gives no new luxury goods (what gives you +5 happiness per resource) and also think about all the unhappiness that having another city will cause. Long gone are the days of Civ 1-4 where you can have a million cities, each super self-sufficient. The next option and the best option is to create a Puppet State. You get half the unhappiness BUT you cannot control what the city is building. Most of the time this is not a problem as you should probably only build units out of your own main super-cities. The next option is to Annex A City, which means that you take on the full unhappiness of it and you control what it can do. I usually only do this if I have no place to put down more of my own cities and have around 10-15 happiness surplus. The final option is to Liberate The City. This is an option if it was a city-state that was taken over by somebody else or it’s a city of a dead empire. If you liberate them they will become your ally. City-state loyalty fades with time unless you do stuff for them or bribe them and dead empires I found are permanent allies (always get this because they can vote for you in a Diplomatic Victory).

Roads now take up one gold in maintenance per turn so make sure that the minimum number of hexes have a road on them, as well as railroads.

Strategy Guide:

Basically go all military, rush everybody. You can even take out computer cities with Warriors and Archers, right in the beginning. When a computer surrenders, always take it. Usually it means they just lost the game and they’re your bitch. You should move on to the next closest computer and do the same to them until all computers on your continent are dead. As soon as that happens rush research the ability to travel across the ocean to kill the next weakest computer there.

Your main focus should be production, try to research that first along with any units that will make taking cities faster.

Happiness is very important and I generally find you want to have a positive number. When you hit -10 or under unhappiness all your units will suffer a -33% penalty to combat, effectively crippling you in war. When you are even at -1 happiness your cities will only grow at 25% their rate. Production takes a huge hit and sometimes it’s better to raze a city than to keep them around if you’re this screwed in happiness. Generally buildings which raise happiness are godlike, even though expensive.

As far as research goes, it’s always better to make a city research than make wealth. Do so unless you need them money, if you’re into negative wealth and 0 gold.

Conclusion:

I guess they’ll fix all these problems which should have never been there had they tested the game correctly or delayed its release. I’m sure that they will probably fix all this when the first expansion comes out which they will sell to us probably for $30-40! For now, STAY AWAY and if you need a fix go play Civilization 4 or give a game that bombed like Elemental: War of Magic a chance. It’s got its own problems but it’s much more entertaining and harder than Civilization 5 and that’s kind of sad. Since the game now has hexes and it’s just a war game to me, I’d rather go play something like Panzer General 2 that’s a really polished hex-based traditional turn-based war game. Civilization 5 might be eyecandy (compared to the other ones) but that doesn’t make a good game. It’s okay on its own but it has too many problems and stuff missing and it’s garbage compared to the previous games, in my opinion. Buyer beware!

Split Second

Split Second cover
Split Second cover

Split Second review & strategy guide by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Non-stop action makes for an exciting racing game!”

Overall Score:
9 out of 10

Overview & Gameplay:

Throw your brain out the window and enjoy the pure fun and adrenaline that Split Second will throw at you in the form of a pure arcade racer. The game gets repetitive after a while but by the time you notice, the game will be over.

The game is about a reality TV show (very similar to the remake of the movie Death Race) that consists of immortal people (or I guess people remote controlling their vehicles) racing their cars and pickups around unlikely tracks that take place in airports, junkyards, nuclear power plants, chemical plants, foundries, mines, and so on, which have all been rigged with explosives so that as you race and pull off cool moves (drafting, jumping, and drifting mainly), you build up enough energy to trigger parts of the track blowing up and taking out your rivals, in events called Powerplays.

You basically participate in races, whether traditional who gets the first place, set amount of lap races, or elimination which is like last man standing, in which every set amount of time, the last car drops from the race. There is also a race mode in which you race against the clock with no opponents and the entire track will just trigger its bombs and have the terrain collapse on you, as you basically try to race a perfect lap (without getting killed). Each time you get killed, you basically lose a position.

The other game modes consist of you passing semi-trucks which drop barrels on you to try to blow you up as much as often, with that game mode ending in a sudden death mode which happens after a certain time or when you take the 1st place position. The final different kind of game mode consists of you trying to evade a combat helicopter which randomly fires rockets at shown areas of the track ahead of you. There’s a mode where you just see how far you can survive and another mode where the more you evade it and drift, the more energy you build up and counter attack the helicopter to try to shoot it down.

The final game mode for each “episode”, for which there are 12 which complete the season (single player storyline mode), is the elite race in which you race against the best AI racers the computer has to offer and requiring you to place usually 3rd place or higher to keep moving to the next episode (set of races) available in Split Second.

Overall, there are 12 episodes in Split Second, with 6 races offered in each, 4 that are always available, one bonus race (which unlocks if you meet its requirements; usually killing a certain amount of rivals), and the elite race which unlocks after you have enough credits (money) from placing good enough in previous races (it’s a total number, so you can go back and replay previous episode races if you’re lacking in performance).

There are no upgrades for vehicles and the game is rather short. After races, you get a certain amount of credits which the game automatically counts towards unlocking the next vehicle. You don’t get to pick. The only thing you get to pick is what episode you want to complete in next after the current episode is over.

The game offers the single player campaign (season play), quick play (which you get by unlocking tracks and game modes in season play), online multiplayer play, LAN play, and split screen hotseat play.

Split Second is available on PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, iPhone OS, and on Java ME platforms.

Fun Factor & Replayability:

The game is pure FUN. This game goes to the core of classic video games where the storyline might not be the greatest but you can pick up and put the game down very quickly and the game is FUN enough that you will want to keep playing, even though the races are short enough that you can literally play the game for 3 minutes at a time and go do something else if you need to. In my busy life, this appeals to me.

The fact that the speed scaling of the game is realistically done, although the game itself is not realistic reminds me of really going dangerously fast in a real car. Let’s see… pure speed and big explosions mixed together? That’s a winning combination!

I just beat the game but I am going to play it all over again right now and I’m certain that it will be fun yet again.

Fun Factor gets a score of 10 out of 10 and Replayability gets a score of 9 out of 10 from me.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

Unfortunately, I found the game rather short and easy, which I guess is one of the only real long term downsides of this game. I think they will probably update the game with DLC, which might add more life to it but other than that, as far as difficulty, I never got frustrated even once in the game as the death penalty is not really severe. Even if I failed a race, I didn’t find it annoying to redo it as the game was too fun.

Difficulty gets a score of 3 out of 10 and since I didn’t see a way to alter the difficulty, the Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 3 out of 10 as every level other is equally easy than the elite races.

Value:

You can pick up Split Second, every version here in gogamer. At this time the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are $49.90, which are too high for me, but the PC version is $38.90, which is still too high for me.

Console pricing I give a score of 3 out of 10 because console games unless old games are ALWAYS too expensive, and the PC version I give a 4 out of 10 because the game is too short for that price tag.

Sound:

Sounds for the explosions are really well done, as well as the wind of flying through different kinds of buildings and their environments. Some of the engine sounds didn’t sound realistic for some of the vehicles. Sometimes a vehicle like a pickup truck that would have had something like a V8-V12 gas or diesel engine in real life sounded more like an inline 4 engine with a fart-can muffler. One of the cars (the one that looks like a Lamborghini Murcielago) sounded more like a car with a turbocharged inline 6 engine rather than a naturally aspired V12.

The Sounds get a score of 8 out of 10.

Music:

The music is all tense energetic music which keeps you focused on the action and the style of the game.

It goes along really great with the speed, action, and explosions Split Second gives us. Music gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game crashed for me only when I decided to ALT-TAB it. It let me do whatever I wanted in the desktop and once I ALT-TABbed back to the game my computer rebooted itself instantly. Since that’s the only situation in which that happens, I give Stability/Reliability a score of 8 out of 10. Just don’t multitask and you’ll be fine.

Controls:

The controls are very simple and since the game is an arcade racer, the game doesn’t need anything else. For the PC version, the arrow keys control your car. Forward/up make you accelerate, left/right are obvious, back/down makes you brake and can trigger drifts. Right-CTRL triggers your typical level 1 attacks (Powerplays). Right shift triggers your level 2 super-attacks (the ones that change the route of the race).

Since the Controls are so simple yet effective I give controls a score of 10 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

Even in DirectX 9, the game looks completely amazing. The game makes the best use I’ve seen of the Havoc engine. Even on my 3 year old gaming PC the game ran completely flawless, not even slowing down when somebody was copying data from my hard drive at the same time. Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10 and Performance also gets a score of 10 out of 10. Really, really good job Black Rock Studio! Kudos!

Strategy Guide:

I usually go for cars that have everything into acceleration or into top speed. Don’t worry too much about strength (hit points) as that will usually indicate a heavy vehicle (with terrible acceleration).

Pickup trucks are surprisingly powerful in the game not only because they take a ridiculous amount of damage but because for some reason (which is unrealistic) they have a super-high top speed. They have terrible acceleration so try not to slow down as much as possible. Simply taking advantage of that and not slowing down along with their stable 4 wheel drive will make you have an average top speed than your rivals, often letting you win most races.

Like in all racing games, memorize the tracks. Know where the booby trap areas are and avoid them if you want to be on the safe side. Blowing up and losing 1-2 seconds will cost you a couple of positions usually. Stay as close to ahead of the pack and don’t blow all your Powerplay energy necessarily because you have it. Time it so that you can use it to secure your 1st place position near the end of the race.

For the helicopter missions pick always the cars that have the most control for your playstyle and you can just ignore the missiles easily. For the truck barrel missions simply pick any car that his insane acceleration and even more so super-high top speed.

Conclusion & My History With This Game:

At times, the game reminded me of Speed Busters: American Highways from 1998, in the sense that you can sometimes in that game use the track to take out your opponents. Other times, considering how quickly the computer cars caught up to me, it made me think they were just simply teleporting behind me sort of like the AI cars did in Megarace 1 and 2.

As far as I go since this game game out at nearly the same time as Blur, I’m going to be checking that game out soon to see which one is the superior game. So far this is keeping me entertained.

F-Zero review & strategy guide

F-Zero Title
F-Zero Title

F-Zero review & strategy guide (SNES) by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“The trend-setting pioneer of futuristic racing games.”

Overall Score:
10 out of 10

Overview, Gameplay, & Strategies:

Before Wipeout came out to compete with it, F-Zero pretty much dominated the futuristic racing genre and for good reasons too. The game consists of piloting one of 4 different hover race-cars. Whereas in the past Formula 1 was a test of driving skill, in the universe of F-Zero (F0) racing hovercars has taken over this test for racing supremacy.

When the game starts, you pick one of four different cars. After picking the one that you like or that matches your skill or play style, you pick which league you want to play in. From easiest to hardest, the leagues are: Knight, Queen, and King. This modifies how hard the tracks themselves will be. Next, you pick your difficulty level. This modifies how much damage you can take and how good the A.I. of rival drivers will be. Each league has 5 tracks which are variations of each other. The tracks are Mute City, Big Blue, Sand Ocean, Death Wind, Silence, Fire Field, Port Town, Red Canyon, and White Land. They are not raced necessarily in that order rather depending on your racing league difficulty. Each track and its variations have their own strategies and all these strategies depend on what car you picked. Some cars will be nearly useless on some tracks and it will be simply a matter of surviving through the race. I say to do what I always do, which seems to work (in games and in real life): memorize all tracks and all their parts to be able to take optimal turns and know when it’s hammer down time.

F-Zero 1st place
F-Zero 1st place

The goal is to reach first place or as high a place as possible while surviving. Yes, this is a game where if you take enough damage you will die. Your car has a certain amount of power and if you take enough damage the performance of the car will be significantly lowered. When your power bar empties out, you blow up. You can also blow up by taking a ramp and jumping and landing off the track (which can happen especially in the higher difficulty leagues). Touching other cars, touching the side bumpers, and especially touching the cars that are about to explode and do explode, all damage your car, especially the last one.

After each lap, you are awarded with a speed booster. It’s a good tactic to save these until needed rather than waste them, unless you are driving on a familiar track and you know that there is a manageable part up ahead that you can blast by going beyond the full speed of your car. Every 10000 points, you get an extra life. These lives are used if you do not meet the minimum position for that lap or an overall 3rd place finish overall for the race, as well as being used up if you blew up during the race. At specific parts of a track, there are areas where if you drive over them, a ship from above will fly down and beam power to your car to heal it. A strategy here is taking into account that the ship does have a lead time for it to get aligned to the optimal position where it can share the energy with you. Stay as much on the strip as possible if you want to heal the maximum amount of power. Also, certain parts of the track have sand which slows you down (taking advantage of that can be a winning strategy as well) and some areas have a super speed boost arrow which can boost you up faster than the speed booster. It’s not always a good tactic to use these if they are positioned to boost you too fast into an area where you will need to turn aggressively and you will now be speeding out of control into a wall, for instance.

You pick the car you like over the 4 different cars, The Blue Falcon (Blue), Golden Fox (Yellow), Wild Goose (Green), and Fire Stingray (Pink). Each car has a certain amount of thrust, a certain top speed, and a certain amount of weight. All these factors are really important, like in a real car, as you have to deal with how much momentum your car has (related to weight), which is related to its handling characteristics, and its power-to-weight ratio. I did find that the way car weight is done in this game is UNREALISTIC. Whereas a lighter car in real life would be easier to control (let’s say like a Lotus Exige), the opposite in this game happens (that would be like a Chrysler 300 outmaneuvering that Lotus Exige; it would never happen). In this game having a heavier weight gives you a more predictable turn with less drifting.

Let’s look at the detailed stats of each car and discuss their strengths and weaknesses:

BLUE FALCON (Blue)
Max Power: 3200 PS
Max Speed: 457 km/h
Weight: 1260 Kg

This is the default car that most inexperienced gamers will pick but it’s actually sometimes harder than some of the heavier cars, if you don’t know how to properly use it. It has a considerable drift ability and it being the 2nd lightest car will have it been bounced around pretty hard should you crash against other cars (which happens often). The tactic for Blue Falcon is to really avoid all other cars, to anticipate your drift and floor it through turns but letting it glide (turn with not thrust) seems to work wonders. Braking is not as bad as with some other cars since it has the 2nd best acceleration as well. Keep the boosts around for emergency use.

GOLDEN FOX (Yellow)
Max Power: 2950 PS
Max Speed: 438 km/h
Weight: 1020 Kg

This car is a little rocket, with the best acceleration, but lowest top speed and challenging handling. The tactic with this car is to drive like crazy knowing that you will re-accelerate really quickly. This car is the most prone to drifting so be real careful when taking 90 degree and higher turns. The tactic of braking and gliding works the best with this car. Since you have the lowest top speed be sure to use those boosters aggressively in tracks with little turns and lots of straightaways.

WILD GOOSE (Green)
Max Power: 3670 PS
Max Speed: 462 km/h
Weight: 1620 Kg

Although this car has the 3rd best acceleration of the four. To me, it is the best overall car. It’s still a good tactic with this car to hold on to the boost until you crash or are forced to slow down then hammer down on them, especially if you can manage the upcoming turns or its an easy straightaway in front of you.

FIRE STINGRAY (Pink)
Max Power: 3800 PS
Max Speed: 478 km/h
Weight: 1960 Kg

The tactic to this car is to exploit as much as possible the fact that you have the highest top speed out of all the cars. Take advantage of the car weight to turn optimally without braking or hitting anything. This car is the one that gets screwed over the most whenever you crash since its acceleration is abysmal. Using the boosts are a vital tactic to winning with this car. Since you have the highest top speed you will also have the maximum boosted speed as well. Remember that.

Remember that the shortest way in between two points is a straight line and this game takes advantage of that. Also, the ship that gives you power does not boost your speed, so unless you need energy, don’t swerve to pick up power if you are already at max power…

Fun Factor, Replayability, & My History With This Game:

This is an old racing game but it’s still fun enough to be able to play it over and over for hours. Sure, it’s relatively short and there’s only 15 different tracks but it can be very fun to master all tracks with all cars. Fun Factor gets a score of 9 out of 10.

I’ve been playing F-Zero since 1991 when my friend Eric R. got it for his SNES. We played the living hell out of this game although at the time this was a really tough game for us. The speed scale of the game blew me away as I was used to much slower racing games on the c64, which I still played a lot back in 1991. The speed of this game did not get topped until I started to play the Wipeout games and a forgotten racing game called Motorhead. I’ve played F-Zero probably in over 1000 races. Replayability gets a score of 9 out of 10, even after close to 19 years of the original F-Zero.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

Until you get good at this game, you might find this game rather hard, especially if you up the difficulty or pick some of the harder leagues right from the start. I recommend starting on Knight at the start but at least Standard difficulty, unless you are a complete noob at racing games. There are three difficulties: Beginner, Standard, and Expert. Standard is hard enough for most gamers but Expert is where the real fun is at. Just make sure you have trained enough to be able to handle it.

Between the mix of the league and the difficulty factor, this makes for a well customizable and challenging game. Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 9 out of 10 because you can really set it once you get the hang of how the system works. Difficulty itself is up to you but I give it a score of 10 out of 10 because it can either be a relaxing game or time to get bend over and let the game hurt you.

Value:

If you have the original cartridge of you can get it for $10-15 bucks, that’s great. This game is a requirement for any real SNES library. If you are like most people and emulate it, Value is perfectly free. I think unless you get really ripped off, the game is worth buying and owning. Value gets a score of 10 out of 10, so long as it’s around the free or $10-15 price range.

Sound:

The sounds work marvels in this game as you will hear the engine jet turbines whir from a stand-still to their max peak output. The damage sounds or explosion when you die are amazing. I just love the engine whir… Sound gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Music:

Music adds a lot to a game, especially to a racing game. The music of F-Zero is one of the most loved soundtracks for the Super Nintendo. I recommend getting the original ripped files as well as checking out the remixes at Overclocked Remix.

Stability/Reliability:

Never crashes! Neither the original nor emulator do so that gets a much deserved score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

Left and Right turn in their respective directions. One button controls the thrust (gas), another brakes, another applies the speed booster, and the L/R buttons make you side drift in those specific directions. I have found the side drift to be sort of useless except during emergency situations. I found it more effective to use traditional braking/drifting techniques. Controls are fluid, especially once you get a hang of them. The control setup for this game gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Graphics & Performance:

The game looks simply amazing and this was a landmark game for Nintendo showing some of the graphical and performance limits of the Super Nintendo. Whereas most other games for the SNES are 2D, this game is actually 3D, one of the few titles along with Star Fox. When I first saw this game and how quick it was, my jaw dropped. Graphics and Performance both get a score of 10 out of 10.

Conclusion:

What else can I say? This game is really a classic. I redefined the racing game genre for a lot of people. This proved to a lot of us that 16-bit systems could do a lot more than many 8-bit ones and that technology was going to create more and more advanced video games as time went on. If you have yet to play it, you are missing out on an important racing game in video game history.

Dawn of War 2 Chaos Rising

Dawn of War 2 Chaos Rising
Dawn of War 2 Chaos Rising

Dawn of War 2 Chaos Rising review & strategy guide by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Chaos Rising adds much needed content to revitalize DoW2 with reintroducing Chaos and supplementing all existing game modes.”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

This review I will do different than my other reviews because this is an expansion pack and not an entirely new game. To check out my overall initial review of Dawn of War 2 click here.

About the Campaign mode and Chaos:

The campaign mode for Chaos Rising leaves off where the campaign for the original game left off. You take up the role of the same characters in the previous game which were space marines. You can only play as these characters and you can’t play as Chaos. You will however be facing Chaos in the coming war and also this expansion pack has rpg elements from the pen-and-paper rpg game Rogue Trader in the sense that you can do evil deeds that give you Corruption or good deeds that give you Redemption.

The more corrupt you get, the more demonic your men turn. The more Redemption you have, the more normal they remain. Corruption modifies the characterics your characters have, making some stuff barely work anymore and some stuff become really expensive to you but make you deal out more damage and other secondary effects. Of all the characters, the only one that is uncorruptible is the Dreadnought, Davian Thule.

If you’re not familiar with the main storyline for Warhammer 40K I will let you know that basically Chaos are these Warp touched kind of Satanists that worship Chaos gods (really nasty beings) and are fallen humans that have become demons. Along with most stories for the imperium of man, Chaos has traditionally come from people who have sold their souls to these demons or have been tricked by them or what’s even more disturbing are normal space marines (and imperial guard troops) which have simply become Chaos by being in contact with them and elements of the Warp. Sometimes if you fail to meet objectives your men become more influenced by Chaos. This might be as a result of shame or guilt associated with the failure. For example, failing to defend some innocents in the conflict that fell to Chaos.

Myself, I wish would have liked them to include a campaign which lets you play solely as the demonic Chaos forces, sort of like how the Dark Crusade expansion did for Dawn of War 1 (along with other races, Tau, Eldar, Imperial Guard, Necron, etc). Just like the original DoW2, you can invite one of your friends to play the campaign with you, them controlling half your forces.

What’s really different in this campaign over the original DoW2 campaign is that now the supplies you pick up are not generic supplies which supplement all your troops. Now, they are specific supplies (explosives, medical supplies, and so on) which boost only those types of items. Another thing that’s very different is that you no longer have to go around per mission conquering and defending strategic assets (the factories, shrines, and communication arrays). To get more of the items that would let you deploy more of those items such as the artillery strike, ability to deploy tarantula turrets, you specifically have to pick up the strategic supply boxes.

The level cap for Chaos Rising has been raised to level 30 versus level 20 for DoW2. This makes your characters much more powerful but it can also be a hindrance especially when you reach the last mission, which is the 15th mission. Whereas in the original DoW2 you could just keep farming randomly generated missions to keep getting better war gear, since you no longer control strategic assets and because of how they made the storyline in this campaign, you no longer have to deal with these missions, which kind of screws you over when you get to the last mission because it’s LONG and HARD and (to me) ANNOYING.

I played the campaign game once so far, taking the path of keeping my space marines pure and still worshiping the Emperor rather than those Chaos freaks, and of course, playing it at the max difficulty (Primarch). When I finally beat the last mission, it was on my 2nd retry. Some of the war gear I picked up on my first attempt helped a bunch especially since it made my scout a little bit more resilient.

Strategy Guide for last level of Chaos Rising campaign:

This mission is really annoying. This guide was written under the max difficulty setting only. Some stuff might not apply under the easier modes.

The first part of the mission consists of taking an anti-vehicle tank and an anti-infantry tank (Predator tanks) and fighting your way to one of the Chaos summoning buildings and leveling it. If you go along the left path, it will be much harder. It’s easier to just fight to the right path/building instead as it has less resistance. No matter what, as soon as you kill that building, you will have limited control of the tanks for a while, and your 4 squads will deploy along with about 25-50 other space marines and dreadnoughts.

Now you’re supposed to escort them and fight your way to the other point, except now you have all these cannon fodder, WHOOPS, I mean Brothers in Battle to help you. The game says you’re not supposed to let them die but they die every time because the morons will keep patrolling and running into ENDLESS Chaos tanks, Dreadnoughts, troops, demons, etc. Basically, ignore them as soon as you blow up the last big building to the left side and fight your way back with the cannon fodder to the middle.

Once you’re at the middle, just go towards the blue circle and fight the Chaos mini-boss. The strategy here is just keep hitting him. Kill his pet summons once they arise and blow up all buildings he summons ASAP. The later buildings fire some homing bullshit Chaos plasma things that will rape you unless you take them out ASAP. Once those buildings are taken out, the mini-boss won’t have much health left and just wipe him out.

Once that’s gone go up right and blow away all the soldiers, 1-2 tanks, 1-2 dreadnoughts, and building there and cap the point which reinforces you. This point is sort of useful but not entirely.

The fat bastard boss is now at the topmost point of the map. He will randomly summon buddies to help him, in the form of rarely a tank, sometimes dreadnoughts, and usually some heavy infantry. His attacks are doing a Mortal Kombat Scorpion (sort of like the Licter Tyrannid in DoW2) get-over-here sometimes instakill attack or smashing stuff around him like a melee-build dreadnought or thowing up in a cone attack in a specific direction. He also sometimes picks up your guys or impales them with his sword and then either throws them in the direction he’s facing or half the time in a random direction.

It took me about 2 hours to beat the last level finally. What is really important to know is that he heals back over time. Try NOT to use the resurrection point unless you’re down to one man and everybody else is down and you don’t think you can res your healer in time. Not only does the fat bastard heal over time but he will heal much more and much faster if your men die around him. You basically have to spam the living hell out of healing (use the scout and hopefully you kept him pure so using the healing uses energy only, not supplies or you’re dead). The longer you take, more the bastard will heal. The less DPS you do, the longer it will take you to beat him too.

Initially, I went for my force commander and dreadnought combo attack but since the fat bastard does so much damage around him only the force commander has the resilience (and even then spam heal) to the near the bastard. I made all my other guys ranged combat (Avitus and Tarkus). Tarkus is particularly useful because he can interrupt (sometimes) the fat bastard’s specials with one of his abilities (hopefully you build him that way) by doing that power which stuns enemy troops with fear.

Since the fat bastard’s attacks can kill your guys and heal him, keep your guys at a relatively safe distance always drilling him, and if you put in the time, he will eventually drop, ending the campaign.

Back to the review… The Last Stand

For this game mode they added the Tyrannid Hive Tyrant and Chaos Sorceror.

The Tyrannid is basically like godzilla, with you being able to summon pets (if you make it have that build). He walks pretty slow and you can make him have either killer melee or ranged skills.

The Chaos Sorceror is basically a spell caster that shoots enemies and can replicate (and sacrifice) Chaos versions of almost any enemies you are fighting.

Both the new heroes are pretty fun, although you do have to level them up again to unlock all their items, much like the original game.

Multiplayer mode:

Chaos is now a playable race for the multiplayer mode. I’ve played around with it a bit, having fought Chaos as an enemy in this mode and I’ve seen one of the Chaos leaders cast like an enhanced fog of war on areas of the map capping my things behind my back and I have seen some enemies permanently have stealth on the map.

Value:

On Steam, they sell DoW2 Gold which has the original game and expansion for $40. The link to the Steam sale is the following. If you were like me and already owned DoW2 then for $30 Steam sells the expansion here.

If you never played DoW2, for $40 both the original and expansion for that price is an amazing value because that’s like a month or more worth of gaming right there, easily. $30 for just the expansion is a bit more steep but if you’re a fan of DoW2 and/or Warhammer40k then you will probably buy it anyways.

Music:

Much like the original game the music for Dawn of War 2 Chaos Rising is very militant, dark, and inspiring war music. Great stuff!

If you enjoy the music from Dawn of War 2 then you can download the Dawn of War 2 OST from this link.

Conclusion:

I enjoy the carnage of the DoW games and the epic battle and violence they bring. I have enjoyed this expansion, just wished they could have included another campaign in it. Some parts were annoying like when my dreadnought gets stuck behind a tank or terrain or my terminator armor guys (this is still a problem that DoW2 had). Otherwise, the game is pretty enjoyable and challenging.

Strategy Guide – Battleforge: Battlegrounds

Bloodhorn from Battleforge
Bloodhorn from Battleforge

Strategy Guide – Battleforge: Battlegrounds by Honorabili

In order to get the most upgrades one should do as high a difficulty as possible in the battlegrounds (I’ll refer to it as bg) with a guaranteed win. If you try to do a bg of one more difficulty than your deck/skill can safely conquer and you win only half the time, you’re pretty much wasting your time. Although you might get some gold, bg is not entended to give gold, merely tokens, so you pretty much just wasted your time.

I think that bg’s were made harder lately in the latest patch/update so I am writing a few tips that I always use and that always net me a victory. They mainly made the bg’s harder by lowering the time limit and “correcting” the spawn rate of enemy waves.

I see a lot of people playing and they don’t really know how to follow the map in the correct kill/aggro order. Although the maps are “randomly” generated, all that is random is the placement of buildings and units, the maps are pretty much templates that repeat. Sometimes they mirror or are inverted, sometimes they have a slight variation but pretty much they are the same every time. The strategy I found is to simply attack whatever it closest to your first orb, perpendicular to it. Usually the enemies will be sorted by increasing difficulty with the stuff closest to you being the weakest. Take them out in the correct order.

Talking about aggro, it’s always a good idea to keep your finger on the E key, especially if you have a bunch of swift melee units that want to fight everything and will tend to aggro the whole freaking map. I recommend having these swift melee units to help you take out the production buildings (tents, coffins, whatever) that will be particularly annoying in the T1-T3 phase or a ton of missile units that will focus on taking out the production building. I usually play shadow or nature hybrid decks to do bg’s and I recommend just mainly going to the production building especially in the higher difficulties. Once your archers/troops are within the enemy base and they are getting raped by all those melee troops just keep running in there and spamming foot soldiers or shock troops closer and closer to the production building. Take it out ASAP; if you don’t you (and your team mates) will regret it. It’s not necessarily that the bg’s are hard (unless you play 9 or 10 all the time) but it is a problem that you will run out of time most of the time. It’s important to have spells that neutralize your enemies for a few seconds such as Curse of Oink.

Once you get to the part where you are fighting bosses, I found the best tactic is to get near that base and kite them out of the base and fight outside, preferably outside of the range of their turrets/mortal tower buildings. Once there have most of your units take him our or his liutenants and it will be a piece of cake from there. As far as T4 sieges, I personally like using Bloodhorns or similar troops that have the stampede/charge ability. Just active, point in a direction and every building in that direction basically shatters. A lot of the bg’s now have flying units that paralyze your units so they are to be a priority as well. I also make a ton of flying units that focus on solely going for the production building. I use damage resistance spells such as Unholy Power or Unity or the use of the most overpowered building in the game, Wheel of Gifts (multiple ones built and triggered at the same time.

On the point of killing turrets, most of them suck. You can just ignore them except when you are using small units, where they will rape you. The only other real problem with turrets is that they will get in the way of the line of fire for the production building. Take that specific one out and then snipe, snipe, snipe.

Some people also make specific decks towards the Map of the Week, which you can use to farm over and over for tokens.

Enjoy and go collect those tokens!