F1 2011

F1 2011

For Ps3,Xbox 360 3DS, PC and Playstaion Vita,
release: September 2011 20th(US) 22nd(Aus) 23rd(UK)

F1 2011

F1 2011 (the game) is a sequel to the BAFTA winning FORMULA ONE videogame from Codemasters. And coming with the tagline ‘Be The Driver, Live the Life, Go Compete’ I wish! well the live the life bit 🙁

The first game, whilst a rush to publish, had all the game elements and polish fans of the F1 series were looking for.  Now with more time for the developers to ….erm develop, the sequel promises the following.

F1 2011

Co-op Championships and split-screen mode,
16 players in online Grand Prix mode with 8 ai drivers to complete the pack.
Two new circuits in India and Germany
All twelve teams and twenty-four drivers, all the new rules, KERS, and DRS
New Parc Ferme area, expanded and revamped Paddock, Pit Lane, celebration and reaction cinematics,
Enhanced media interaction system, “Authentic” new damage failures,
New atmospheric effects, dynamic clouds, advanced rain model affecting on-track grip

F1 2011

New!!! however does not necessarily mean better , but I am impressed with the additions.

Early reviews heaped lavish praise for improvements in handling and Ai and the additional layer of strategy in the game with the inclusion of KERS and DRS.  However it was the lauded Ai which also drew the potentially most damaging criticism, suggesting it made the game very difficult. And what about all those “NEW” additions? nope game critics weren’t overly impressed suggesting they did little to change the core gameplay.  Which is kinda good as the first title was a cracker, even though I still can’t get first place at Monaco grrrrrr!

F1 2011

Currently scoring 85% (xbox), 86% (Ps3) on Metacritic, seems we have a winner 🙂

F1 2011

Reviews Summary:
The most complete representation of the sport to date
A must buy for F1 fans, a better game than last year
An absolute blast, whichever skill level you approach it from
Strip away the new lick of paint and it’s tough to tell F1 2011 apart from its predecessor
well-crafted and solid racing simulation, doesn’t shine on innovation
For a seasonal update there’s a remarkable number of tweaks and changes
Play it properly, and F1 2011 is an incredibly satisfying experience
Not without its problems, but it has moved the series forward

Spellbound Dizzy

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Spellbound Dizzy

Developed and published in 1992 by Codemasters Spellbound Dizzy is just one game in a long series of egg related shenanigans involving the Yolkfolk (this time with the help of Theo the Wizard). Each game follows the usual set of rules and gameplay, (puzzle solving platformer with inventory menu and dodgy music) but each retaining its own unique charm. The series was originally developed by the Oliver twins, two British brothers, Philip and Andrew Oliver, who started to professionally develop computer games while they were still at school. However, they had little involvement with this title other than signing the game off and letting Big Red Software take over the design and development aspects of the game.


The game itself is well drawn and immediately boasts about its size *cough* but never really gets further than that in the interesting stakes. The graphics are bright and colorful, the usual combination of cartoonish scenery and well drawn objects throughout.


However, compared to earlier games, this one seems inferior in design and presentation, even with the extra animation scenes such as Dizzy becoming stunned, swimming and the mine cart.


Spellbound Dizzy does feature some minor differences in game play from other Dizzy games; fruit and cakes are dotted around to restore energy, water doesn’t kill instantly, although without the aqua lung drowning is inevitable, and the mushrooms (magic?) are spinny objects that can propel Dizzy to greater heights, allowing him to reach unseen platforms and the odd cloud. Unfortunately these minor differences in game play don’t really make up for the lack of storytelling (it’s nice to have a little bit), puzzles that don’t seem to make much sense, and some very irritating music.


Long and ever so slightly dull (being generous) the Dizzy games seem to work best when they are kept simple and short, this makes them a lot more fun to play as opposed to (an hour in) switching the music off and wanting to throw Dizzy from a great height shouting “Survive that!”


As much as I love other Dizzy games this one didn’t work for me, childhood memories tell me it was a lot more fun ‘back in the day’, in my opinion there are better games in the series, Fantasy World Dizzy (1991), Magicland Dizzy (1991), that are genuinely still fun to play as an adult.

Need more Dizzy? Visit this  fan site for more info!

The Game Genie


Long before there was an Internet to search for clues and codes to hack your way through a stubbornly difficult game, Codemasters brought a product into the game market which permitted access to your video game’s code, thereby letting you add unearned lives, power-ups, and so forth. The Game Genie was an accessory that you could insert into your game console, and then the game would attach to the Game Genie, allowing the Game Genie to act as an intermediary between the console and the game.


Many gamers found this helpful, and different Game Genies were produced for a variety of game consoles, including the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the Nintendo GameBoy, the Super Nintendo, the Sega Genesis, and the Sega Game Gear. Two different companies distributed the Game Genie over the years it was being manufactured: Galoob and Camerica, one of which (Galoob) was actually sued by Nintendo in an effort to prevent the Game Genie from being sold. Fortunately for many gamers, Nintendo lost their legal battle and had to pay Galoob for damages.

Time marches steadily on, however, and the Game Genie is now in the dustbin of gaming history, while Nintendo continues to be a gaming powerhouse.  All we have left of the Game Genie are the few units that can be found here and there in the retrogaming marketplace, and our memories. Speaking of which, see if the following ad brings back memories of how you salivated over the thought of finally mastering that one irksome game, if only you got a Game Genie.

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
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
Engine Heat: 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.

DiRT 3

DiRT 3 Review by Honorabili


One Sentence Review:
“They could have just released a bunch of DLC tracks for DiRT 2 but this is a more polished game (even if just by a little)”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

Overview & My History With This Game:
Welcome to the third installment of DiRT. If you’re not familiar with DiRt feel free to read my review of DiRT 1 and DiRT 2. The DiRT series are a highly successful series of racing games based on the rally racing discipline, brought to us by the racing game masters at Codemasters. Like previous DiRT games, it offers both modern and retro rally cars.

Dirt 3 America Fuck Yeah
Dirt 3 America Fuck Yeah

There are different kinds of races such as rally, trailblazer, head 2 head, rally cross, land rush, and gymkhana. Rally is a standard rally race, point to point where you race from the beginning to the end seeing who gets there in the least amount of time, with the help of a navigator. Traiblazer is the same thing except you race super rally cars (700+ HP usually) and have no navigator to tell you where to turn. Head 2 Head usually consists of running on two separate lanes in a closed circuit to see who will get to the finish line first. Rally Cross also involved racing in a closed circuit track, with more open tracks thank head to head, and you are race next to other cars with full contact. Land rush is the same thing except with trucks and buggies. Gymkhana is a stunt discipline which involves doing stuff like making your car jump, do donuts, break obstacles, drift, etc. The current world champion is Ken Block and he is INSANE as seen here:

The game consists of a single player campaign which is rather short and the remainder of the game consists of playing it online in multiplayer matches. Overall, I recommend for you to try the rally, trailblazers, and head 2 head disciplines while playing it online if not you’ll get a bunch of 12 year olds that will do nothing but crash into you if you’re winning, and usually crashing is turned off in the manner that Trackmania does it. This is HIGHLY inaccurate and in real life would result in a disqualification from a race. This is racing, not demolition derby (although that’s fun, there’s other games specifically for that).

Dirt 3 1st place
Dirt 3 1st place

You race both the single player campaign and multiplayer campaign accruing reputation and fame (each mode’s way of saying XP) which unlocks more stuff in the game (mainly teams, not tracks or DLC cars). My beef with the game is that you keep gaining different racing teams and sometimes some cars but you will NEVER be able to unlock the cars and tracks they’re now FORCING you to buy via DLC. That’s really upsetting especially when I found out that I couldn’t get to drive my beloved Lancia Stratos.

Dirt 3 Alpine Renault
Dirt 3 Alpine Renault

I’ll say a good thing about the multiplayer though: it is usually much harder than playing against the computer. It’s fun to talk smack with online players. A lot of Europeans seem to be playing this game as I’m often stuck racing against Germans. =P

Dirt 3 Audi
Dirt 3 Audi

I got DiRT 3 because I had bought an ATI 6870 video card and the game came bundled with it. A DVD did not come with it but instead a code for me to sign up for some AMD promo over at this site which after entering the promo code they provided me with a code that added the game to my Steam account. This seems to be a standard method of distribution these days for bundled games and gifted games, especially since platforms like Steam dominate and soon physical media will be a thing of the past.

Dirt 3 Champion
Dirt 3 Champion

Fun Factor & Replayability:
The variety of cars plus different modes of ranked online playing make this both a fun and very replayable game. The single player mode is rather short and I get the feeling that they are trying to force-feed DLC down our throats (the current trend in gaming).

Dirt 3 Eat My Dust
Dirt 3 Eat My Dust

Fun Factor is definitely high since this game has a TON of historical rally vehicles, which I’d rather play than space age modern rally monsters. My favorite ones are the rally super cars like the Toyota Tundra that were insane machines back then and still today. I give Fun Factor a score of 8 out of 10.

Dirt 3 Fighting For First Place
Dirt 3 Fighting For First Place

Replayability will mainly come in the form of Multiplayer. I have a feeling that eventually if you want to keep playing and having fun you will need to start buying some of the DLC, especially new tracks and cars. The game comes with what I consider to be a very limited selection of tracks. Sure, the reverse of the tracks is available but even DiRT 2 had more tracks. I really don’t like any DLC especially since this game pretty much just came out and they’re already trying to get your money. To me that’s like releasing an incomplete game and then charging people for patches and updates. Replayability gets a score of 7 out of 10.

Dirt 3 Flying High
Dirt 3 Flying High

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:
You can now customize the difficulty of the game per race much better than before. This level of scalability lets you set the handicap at which to play and makes the game a lot more enjoyable, especially for both beginners and hardened racing game veterans. I wish they would have made the crashing and damage a LOT more realistic. If it weren’t for that I’d give it nearly a perfect score. Difficulty gets an 8 out of 10 and Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Dirt 3 Ford
Dirt 3 Ford

I got this game for free so it was an amazing value to me. Rather than say how much it costs, from now on I’ll just say what’s the most I would pay for it. That amount would be $20. I would also say pay more for it if you are a BIG FAN of rally racing and would love to play a game with lots of modern and old rally cars.

Dirt 3 Hyundai PM 580
Dirt 3 Hyundai PM 580

The sound effects are realistic, just like in the previous games, maybe slightly better. I give sounds a score of 10 out of 10.

The music is amazing but again, I guess Codemasters doesn’t read my reviews for all their games: you can only hear it in the menu and never during the racing. That kind of makes the game boring for most people who are not dedicated racing game players. The techno/electronica music is wasted like that. Other than that I give the music a score of 9 out of 10, especially the electronica. Rock music shouldn’t be in a game unless it’s heavy metal or it’s classic rock and the game is about muscle cars.

Check out one of the best songs (South Central – Demons) from the game here:

This game actually ran really well, even on my machine with a damaged ATI 3870. Even when the video card crashed, the game kept running fine 99% of the time. It never crashed at all, not even while alt tabbing like crazy. I ran the game on a ten dollar video card and even alt-tabbing with this piece of shit, the game never crashed. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 10 out of 10.

You can customize them as much as you want so even playing with a keyboard is a breezes. I played DiRT 3 at E3 2011 with different controllers and the game supports a large variety of them. Max score of 10 out of 10 is deserved.

Graphics & Performance:
The game runs like a beast even on my oldest computer, with still really good looking graphics. Before I mentioned that the previous Codemasters games had a problem with some buffering of the game engine, but now that problem is basically gone. I know it wouldn’t happen at all on a brand new computer but this IS Obsolete Gamer and I do test stuff on old machines too. The game was even very playable on a 2005 medium-range gaming PC. I give both the Graphics and Performance a score of 10 out of 10.

Dirt 3 Monaco Victory
Dirt 3 Monaco Victory

If you’re going to upgrade soon, most video cards out there on sale by ATI (AMD) pretty much all qualify for the DiRT 3 promo so you might as well get a fun racing game for free. If you don’t plan to upgrade, like I said above, try to get it at a discount or simply get it if you’re a racing game junkie. Multiplayer can be challenging especially if you don’t feel like paying for DLC (like me). I will continue to play Codemasters games so long as they keep their DLC in check.

The Lord of the Rings Online Shadows of Angmar

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

The Lord of the Rings Online Shadows of Angmar

The Lord of the Rings spawned everything from RPGs, to Orcs, Hobbits, Ents, enchanted rings, magical swords, names like Narsil, Iluvatar or Nalroth, Elven and Dwarven stereotypes -you name it- thus effectively shaping the whole fantasy genre us gamers, film-goers and readers have come to love and cherish (in a very cuddly, very manly way). The Lord of the Rings, you see, is the original, the archetype, the book that bloody sold more than 100.000.000 copies, and now, after an even broader popularization through Peter Jackson’s okayish movies, it’s gone all MMO, or to be more specific all MMORPG.
Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot


The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (hence LotRO), for obviously this is said MMORPG’s full title, is the first fantasy game of its kind that just cannot be characterized as generic. Why? Carefully reread the paragraph above and you’ll see why. Also, it’s quite simply the best online RPG I’ve ever played and the first one I truly enjoyed for more than a week, let alone the first game I feel like paying a monthly fee for. Oh, and so you know, even though I’m not one of those lost fanatics speaking Quenya and dressing up in fancy elven suits, I’m quite enamored with the Professor’s works. To be honest, and to make a another pretty obvious point, I’ll let you in on a sad little secret. This game made me start reading the original trilogy all over again. Yes, for the fourth time wasting time in my life, but thankfully in a brilliant edition I had the foresight of buying myself quite a few years ago.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

Anyway, I digress. The truly important thing in LotRO and its major triumph is that it could have gone so terribly wrong in so many ways and it just didn’t. It’s extremely faithful to the original work, uninfluenced by the sacrilegious film-plot, filled with details that will delight every aspiring Arda lore master, avoids most well-documented MMO pitfalls known to man, features an almost intuitive interface -say- a WoW player will immediately understand, has no bugs or lag to speak of, great music and some absolutely brilliant graphics. Let me say that again: absolutely brilliant graphics. Totally above anything seen in any MMORPG, filled with beautiful day-night transitions, excellent fantasy architecture, high-res textures and little touches like falling leaves or random flocks of flying birds. What’s more, a mid-range PC with a half-decent graphics card and 1 Giga of memory should be more than enough.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

Consequently, exploring the vast richness of Middle Earth (the parts currently available, at least), which, let’s face it, remains light years ahead of any generic fantasy setting the competition has to offer, both in terms of depth and literary quality, is first of all a visual joy. Over a hundred screenshots taken by me while gaming with my main characters (a 15th level hobbit guardian and a 13th level Elf lore-master) are a testament to LotRO’s beauty. The damned thing made me feel like a tourist. Probably would make for a great Middle Earth geography learning tool too, even though the world isn’t 100% accurate, as it’s been obviously and frankly wisely altered for gameplay needs. A 20 day walk from Hobbiton to Bree would have been admittedly boring. Then again, actually visiting Bree and having a beer in the Prancing Pony is quite a Tolkien fanatic’s wet-dream come true.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

Besides exploring and being all LotR happy, of course, there’s the game itself to have fun with, which -while definitely not perfect- comes quite close to being the pinnacle of contemporary MMOs. Players get to choose between the four good races (Humans, Hobbits, Elfs, Dwarfs), a variety of classes from burglars, guardians (tanks), hunters and minstrels to champions and lore-masters, even though thankfully no wizard class has been made available -Gandalf was quite a rarity you see, a roleplaying or normal server and set off for virtual glory in typical MMORPG fashion. Everything you’d expect is there: quests, raids, crafting possibilities, huge vistas filled with critters for the grinders, levels to be reached and gold to be treasured or even sold for real money.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

The meat of the game are the quests, be they epic -thus advancing the main storyline, instanced, local, crafting or plain silly, like running drunk around the taverns of western Middle Earth. Despite quite a few quirkier -timed, even- quests such as running a postman’s errands or avoiding certain characters have been included, it’s the quality of the standard fetch and kill quests that manage to raise the level of the playing experience. Every one of them, and there are hundreds, is brilliantly written and quite verbose convincingly conveying the world’s history and offering glimpses at the actual Lord of the Rings events. LotRO feels like playing through an unfolding story. You’ll get to unearth seemingly unimportant conspiracies in the Shire, visit farmer Maggot, uncover a fake Black Rider, barely avoid a proper one, help two Elven brothers see each others point, raid a spider infested mine, try to bring peace between dwarfs and elves, hear a rumour or two about Sharkey and team up with the Rangers of the North to defeat them pesky goblins. All, in glorious prose and in full accordance with the overall works of Tolkien.

Lord of the Rings Online - Gameplay Screenshot

Yet, the game still remains a pretty standard MMO in the World of Warcraft gameplay mould. The major, definitely not groundbreaking, innovations LotRO introduces are the Deeds-Titles system, the Fellowship mechanic, a unique way to PvP and the ability each player has been granted to play some proper music in-game and smoke pipeweed. Now, to elaborate a bit:

  • Deeds and their accompanying titles (mind you, not all titles are deeds related; some can also be proof of heritage like Nalroth of Rivendell or Adelecar of the Fallohides) such as Wolf-tamer, Webslasher or Protector of the Shire are gained by killing loads of some particular beastie, fully exploring certain areas of the game world (e.g. discovering every titular farm of the Shire) or overusing an ability, and provide a variety of bonuses and interesting character customization options that have nothing to do with your level or class.


  • Fellowships, on the other hand, are something more anti-social gamers won’t be particularly interested in. They are the groups characters organize in, in order to pull through a more difficult quest, and do grant quite a few bonuses like the pretty excellent Fellowship maneuvers; special attacks only available to groups.


  • Instead of proper PvP, a decision Tolkien surely wouldn’t have been overjoyed with, you get the nice option of Monster Play in the rather barren Ettenmoors. Reach level ten, find a fell scrying pool (personally used a lovely one over at Thorin’s Gate) and you’ll get the chance to play as a level 50 orc/warg/spider (more baddies to be added soon) against high level players in a dynamic PvP campaign. It’s the freeps versus the creeps.

Truth is, I could go on and ramble about a thousand other little things, you know, if only to come up with the mother of all blog-based reviews, and I wouldn’t have even managed to scratch the surface of what a magnificent beast LotRO is. Things like the recent Solstice Festival, the raising difficulty of quest as one progresses eastward, destiny points, the amazingly detailed beginner’s quests (instanced) & areas, the sheer number of available emotes, the immensely helpful community are all there for you to discover, but -as expected- not all is perfect. LotRO is still very young by MMORPG terms. Monsters have serious clipping issues, the combat is not very tactical and, despite a huge gaming world, not all of Middle Earth is yet available. Oh, and it’s as expensive as WoW; definitely much better though. Still, an absolute must-try.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JztbiHaaMUY[/youtube]

That’s a (nine) out of (ten).

CD gaming from the late 80s

It was 1992 when CD-ROMs became widely available to us gnomes. And, let me tell you, we were thoroughly impressed. Even felt like digital entertainment pioneers, like taking part in some sort of video game revolution. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (mobygames entry here) in FMV astonished us more than C-3PO astonished the (much hated) ewoks, and Sierra’s Jones in the Fast Lane (mobygames entry here) made us hopelessly worship the new medium.
The Sound Blaster Pro. The gnomes’ entrance to CD gaming.


Little did we know how outdated we were. How pathetically passe, even by the low late-adapting standards of gnomish society.You see, oh patient and wise reader, CD gaming had hit the mainstream gaming market since the late 80s. The very late 80s actually, or to be more precise since December 1989, when Codemasters (then publishers of such classics as Dizzy, Ghostbusters and Jet Bike Simulator, now found here) released their famous CD Games Pack, an impressive collection of 30 games all on one CD. The compilation was available for 8-bit home computers like the Amstrad CPC, the Spectrum and the Commodore 64.CDgamepack.2

The CD Games Pack. Obviously via Blitz Games.
On to some impressive CD Games Pack facts, then(besides of course providing then-next-gen fun to 8-bit owners):

a) No CD-ROM drive was needed, as any audio CD-player would do. Loading software (on tape or disc) and a cable (connecting the CD player to the joystick port) were provided to make said miracle happen.

b) The games loaded faster and more reliably than their tape counterparts.

c) It didn’t cost much more than an average game.

d) It was a definite commercial flop. Go figure…

[UPDATE] Apparently the brilliant online version of the fondly remebered CRASH magazine has a review of the CD Games Pack. Read it here.

Classic Sierra PC Game site will return

Police Quest 1 screenshot
Police Quest 1 screenshot

Since 2009 the folks over at Sarien.net have been hosting classic Sierra PC games such as Space Quest, Police Quest and Kings Quest where fans of the classic series could log in a play without fee or ads. However, when the owners decided to optimize their site for use on the iPad it caught the online presses attention and attracted Activision.

With Activision owning the rights to the Sierra, titles and their wanting the option to see App store versions of the popular games in the future, Sarien.net received a cease-and-desist letter from Activision’s lawyers.

The site was shut down and when replying to the lawyers to let them know they complied the owners asked if there was anyway the site could continue.

“The next day I received a kind reply from Activision’s law firm, and I actually do mean ‘kind,'” Kool writes. “This new letter I received contained a proposal.”

The proposal was to allow Sarien.net to reopen and publish the first game from any of the series he had before in the multiplayer mode they had built for the website, except for Leisure Suit Larry, which is a Codemasters license. In addition, they are to provide links to the digital versions of the game where fans of the series could buy the original if they like.

Score one for classic gaming sites and fans who love them and score one for Activision who will get some good press from this and may add interest to launching app versions of classic Sierra games.

Games Coming Out September 2010 for PC

Civilization 5 pre-release picture
Civilization 5 pre-release image

Games Coming Out September 2010 for PC by Honorabili

August had some nice releases but September looks like a heavy month for PC gaming as well!

Aion: Assault on Balaurea, September 7 2010

The anticipated expansion is released, which will appease this game’s many fans. Click here to see all our articles regarding this game.

R.U.S.E., September 7 2010

Interesting concept behind an RTS where you can deceive your enemy with imaginary armies. Let’s see how it does considering most people are still playing Starcraft 2.

Amnesia The Dark Descent, September 8 2010

The date had gotten pushed back for this game. Click here to see what I had to say about it last month.

The Patrician 4, September 14 2010

I used to play a lot of The Patrician on Amiga. It was a great sea-faring times trade and city management simulator. Check this one out if you’re into that sort of thing. ;-]

Civilization 5, September 21 2010

Whereas the release of Starcraft 2 was the apocalypse for Korea, this game is the same for me… Prepare for my disappearance as we will see yet another masterpiece in wargaming history.

F1 2010, September 21

Although I will be playing Civilization 5, this immersive Formula 1 game is being released the same day by Codemasters. It’s next on my list after Civ 5!

Final Fantasy XIV, September 22 (Collector’s Edition) and 30 (normal version) 2010

Another epic Final Fantasy… Let’s see how this one does. Click here for details as to what you will get with each copy.

Darksiders, September 23 2010

Looks like yet another God of War clone to me… If you buy it through Steam they give you Titan Quest Gold, a game we like to make fun of.

Front Mission Evolved, September 28 2010

Since MechWarrior is dead in the water, this game will pick up the slack in the meantime.

Dead Rising 2, September 28

This is one of those retardedly fun games that involves zombies and lots and lots of gore. Always a winner!

H.A.W.X. 2, September 30 2010

H.A.W.X. 1 has a special place in my heart and it’s probably the funnest game I played in December 2009. I look forward to this action packed sequel! Make more!

Not So Jolly Roger


Piracy is once again back in the headlines, for several reasons. The latest DRM for PC games from Ubi Soft has been heavily satirised by the web cartoonists. The industry has also released figures showing losses accumulated due to game piracy. Then there was the million-dollar fine for the Australian accused of illegally uploading a Wii game.

Let’s deal with Ubi Soft’s DRM first. Producers have a right to protect their content. After all, they have invested a lot of money in getting it to market. However, as soon as that starts to make things inconvenient for a legitimate user, then the balance is wrong. While the new system does allow unlimited installs – handy for the PC fanatic who constantly upgrades their hardware – and “Cloud” save data online, the reliance on a permanent Internet connection is less welcome. You have to be online to play, and any interruption in your connection will cause the game to stop abruptly. Progress since your last save will be lost, forcing you to go back to the last checkpoint or whatever the game has. One cartoon characterised the software as being like a stalker or jealous partner, calling and harassing you, particularly if you “move on” to another game.

We can all probably tell stories of difficult to install software, or long and boring anti-piracy messages that cannot be skipped. Surely there must be some way to detect a legitimate copy and jump past those messages, and force the pirates to watch them? Codemasters’ Operation Flashpoint from a few years ago was clever enough to work out that it was an illegal copy and gave the illusion of continuing to run properly but gradually disabling features.

The sad truth is, the current generation of consumers has got used to the idea that virtually all the entertainment they want can be found for free. The one thing they haven’t grown up with is the moral judgement on whether they SHOULD get the music, TV or games they want in an illegal manner. But on the other side of the argument, software companies touting figures of a “$300 million loss” have missed the point. How many of those people illegally downloading would not have bought the game anyway? From my experience of people who pirate, the increased consumption rate that illegal activity gives them also means a shorter attention span. And while many of those who download music are also big legal consumers as well, using downloads to find potential new purchases, the higher price tag of games would seem to mitigate that effect.

The car boot sales and market stalls may be heaving with pirate games and DVDs, but the vast majority of console owners still buy their games (albeit many of them second-hand). The target of the authorities should be those dealing in thousands of illegal copies and not the individual caught with a few. In the long term, piracy hurts us as consumers more than the companies.

DiRT 2


DiRT 2 review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“More dirt slingling, car crunching rally madness from Codemasters!”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10


Codemasters surprises us again with another great Colin McRae Rally racing classic.

For the campaign game, you take the role of an up and coming rally race car driver that’s finally making it to the big time. You start entering races in the lower tiers and eventually you “level up” enough to take one the mid grade tiers and up, eventually getting invites for special global events and championships, such as the X-Games, special historical races, etc.

As you do more races you keep getting paid, letting you buy different cars but there are mainly 2-3 cars that will dominate each race mode. If you figure out which those are, the rest of the cars (and money is sort of irrelevant). Some of the cars are much funner to drive than others and you might want to get them simply for the challenge of trying to take on cars with better handling (pretty much the most important characteristic for cars in this game).

The game mainly has modern day rally cars that are favorites today and less of the classic rally cars of legend from the 70s-90s (as opposed to DiRT 1).

Like DiRT 1, DiRT 2 has many big names and personalities from the world of rally racing. Ken Block, Mohammed bin Sulayem, and Travis Pastrana are some, to name a few. The racers interact with you as you race (crash) them with a little pop-up and some smart ass comment to keep you in good spirits. Once in a while, in between races, if you really owned it up or sucked big time, the game will offer you a special challenge against one of these personalities. The challenge will depend on the kind of event you just did and what kind of racing that racer favors the most.

The game offers an online racing mode, which I will discuss in detail below.

DiRT 2 is available on PC, Nintendo Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and PSP.

Fun Factor:

I’m a big fan of racing games, particularly ones where you abuse the hell out of your car and you have to make it last as much as possible. This is such a game!

Some of the tracks will feel repetitive after a while but they do require mastering if you want to take this game on at the max difficulty or make a legend of yourself racing online. Learning every pebble can be fun in itself.

Fun factor gets a score of 7 out of 10 from me. It’s not the funnest racing game I play but it is entertaining, especially when I’m in the mood for off-road racing.

Difficulty Versatility:

DiRT 2 is a lot harder than the first game. The customization for the diffuculty is more detailed and it’s a lot like Grid’s system. You have a finite number of “flashbacks” which let you rewind part of the race in single player offline mode. The harder you set it the more damage you car can take faster, and the easier it will be for damage to disable it. The driving skill of the computer opponents will also get upgraded.

If you want a better challenge than the computer, you will often find better players online. Some players will just specialize in the game so unless you want to get owned, you might have to put in some time to take them on.

Since this game is harder than DiRT 1 and in some parts less annoying (difficulty speaking-wise), Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 10 out of 10.


I bought DiRT 2 via Steam for about 33 dollars a few months ago. Through Steam at the moment of this writing, DiRT 2 is sold for $40, which is a bit steep considering you can beat the game in a few hours.

Overall, gogamer.com has the best prices for most system’s versions of Dirt 2. The link to find it at gogamer is the following: http://www.gogamer.com/searchresults.htm?keywords=dirt+2&categoryId=&x=0&y=0

Considering how little time I beat DiRT 2 in, I would say pick the game up for about 20 dollars if possible, around that price, it’s worth getting hands down. For the current price, mainly get it if you are a hardcore rally racing fan. At the current prices, Value gets a score of 4 out of 10.


I’ve played the campaign mode twice and it’s kind of like an experience of diminishing returns. I find the online mode now more interesting. The problem with the online mode is that most people on there are a bunch of cheating assholes (crashing you if you are doing well) so to me there’s only the rally mode where you can’t crash your competitors, so it’s more of a pure test of skill/luck.

All the tracks from DiRT 1 are missing in the sequel, which was a disappointment for me because they seem much more real as tracks/courses. I don’t know why they didn’t even bother to include the Pikes Peak Hill Climb course.

Overall, the Replayability gets a score of 6 out of 10. If they can manage to incorporate the non-cheating, non-crashing into the online mode for the modes other than Rally, I’d say it would be worth a 7 out of 10, solely for that.


Wonderful sounds ring to my ears. Whether car crunching sounds of smashing your fellow racers or the roar of your rally car flying up a hill. I found it kind of cool in some tracks how they have a running fireworks display as you are about to finish the race and they do sound pretty real to me. Turn the volume ALL the way UP! Sound gets a score of 10 out of 10.


I found the music in DiRT 1 to be more fitting towards rally racing. The music in DiRT 2 feels as though you’re stuck in a Mountain Dew commercial hopped up either on MD or Red Bull or Monster, the two latter for which you will see ads for throughout the game in almost every race.

DiRT 2 certainly feels more commercial in this sense. I guess the music fits the current direction of where they are trying to get Rally racing to go (especially the infiltration into the US), so it’s more fitting towards the attitude this game has.

Music gets a score of 7 out of 10 in my book. I don’t like it myself but it gets the job done for what they want DiRT 2 to be.


Like DiRT 1 and Grid, DiRT 2 continues the tradition of being amazing eye candy. The game has about 8 or so different global locations and it is does feel as though you really are in the country where you are racing. The car models are simply beautiful and it’s always fun to see them all covered in dirt!

I do enjoy that this is a great game AND it also happens to look great as well.

Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10.


I’ve only gotten the game to crash once and that was after playing it non-stop for 5 hours, probably because my video card was overheating. Other than that the game is pretty rock solid. I believe Codemasters took steps to address the lag bug from DiRT 1 and it happens much less in DiRT 2. I will address that below under the performance explanation. Stability/Reliability get a score of 9 out of 10.


Like DiRT 1, controls are fully customizable. The standard arrow keys for the PC version are all you need unless you want to remap them to your heart’s content.

For the PC version and consoles I’ve been told that wheel and pedal support has been improved dramatically over the first game.

Controls get a score of 10 out of 10 from me.


Overall, this game runs pretty great for how pretty it is. I’ve had moments where it lags due to what I think is a bug inherent in the game engine, even if offline, playing against the computer. It’s a bit less drastic than DiRT 2 and I think Codemasters is trying to work this problem out for their future racing games.

The game will run fine on most gaming machines. Racing games are some of the most intense kinds of games because of how many different objects that are moving at high speeds have to be all computed in relation to each other.

Performance gets a score of 8 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This is one of the many games I played around the holidays of 2009. They kept delaying the PC version over and over, which I found annoying. I was a little disappointed as to how little time it took me to beat the game. I basically beat it on the first day.

The online mode is okay but I only like doing the Rally mode which gets repetitive once you master all the tracks.

DiRT 1 was a nice surprise for when it was released. DiRT 2 has been heavily marketed in comparison, and some of that hype got it sales, but the game itself is still a great game. Fans of the first game should probably give it a chance.


GRID logo
GRID logo

GRID review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“An ultimate refinement of the TOCA Race Driver series.”

Overall Score:

9 out of 10



Codemasters might be smaller than EA but they sure do know how to code the BEST racing games in the world. This is the sequel to the sequels of Race Driver (TOCA Race Driver) but the game has been polished to perfection. The game consists of being a professional race car driver that is trying to make it as a world champion overall and within three areas of the world, the USA, Europe, and Japan. There’s 4 tiers mainly, with you starting at tier 1 for each area, and then you each championship points based on how well you performed on each race, potentially unlocking the next area within that region, and ultimately you unlock tier 4 which has the most challenging championships worldwide. Once in a while when you dominate a tier in a country, the top racer of a racing team will challenge you on a duel which usually gives a decent amount of points and a hefty lump of cash. All major race cars that are world class champions are found in the game. The game has a decent damage engine built into it and the physics of the racing are pretty solid for a non-sim racing game. You make money in the game by racing and getting whatever higher position you can and by repainting your car with the decals of better and better sponsors that have specific requirements for them to pay you. Most of the car customization ends there as the game does not let you modify the parts of your car but then again this is a game about professional racing, not street racing in the style of Need For Speed. In the real racing world, real race cars have specific rules they have to follow in order to be allowed to race in that league.

Fun Factor:

It’s thrilling to take control of a 500-1000 horsepower race car and push it to the utter limit. Since the game has a damage engine, one can’t simply drive the car straight through walls and one has to be strategic regarding making the car last the entire race. I think that makes the game a more fun vs something like Grand Turismo. The only part that kind of gets boring which you must do (not really but I’m a perfectionist) is the 24-hour LeMans race which literally is an endurance race which will take 24 real minutes to complete. I’ve literally done that over 100 times and I’m kind of sick of it. I would have liked them to have offered some variations to it like 12 hours at Sebring or some other real epic races rather than just that one over and over in between the transition of racing seasons. I give fun factor a score of 9 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

The difficulty in this game is fully customizable, with about 5-7 settings and sub-settings that let you customize the experience to be as abusive as you need or want. I’m really good at racing and racing games in general and I always find a way to make this game challenging even after having played it 4 times through. Sure, it helps to memorize the tracks as it does in every racing game but the A.I. does begin to act like true professional racers in the higher settings and that’s always a plus for a challenge. The game offers “flashbacks” which let you rewind a crash and you might be able to save the car or avoid a spin-out. This and other assists can be disabled depending on how hardcore or masochistic of a gamer you are. The only complaint I have about the difficulty is that there is basically no point to money in the game. In the beginning of the game, money is scarce but after playing the game for a good hour or two, you will basically be able to afford any car you want. It would have been neat if they added the option for me to waste my money designing my own custom race car. (Ahem) Hopefully, Codemasters will add this function in a future racing game. Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 9 out of 10.


The game sells for about US$25 and sometimes you can get it bundled with other Codemaster racing games (like Dirt 1 and/or 2). Even at 25 dollars the game is worth getting because if you are a fan of authentic speed and a racing game with a somewhat realistic damage engine and well over 12-20 hours of solid game play, this is the game for you. I give it’s Value a score of 8 out of 10. Should you see it at 15 dollars or less, I recommend buying it on the spot.


I’ve ran 4 times through the campaign mode of the game. The races eventually become repetitive but the cars this game has are so godlike that it’s worth feeling the rush all over again. The game also has multiplayer online so you can also decide to take your competition there and see if you can best some of the other players in duels of skill. I give the game a Replayability score of 7 out of 10, despite my personal love for this game.


The cars sound very, very mean, which I love in a racing game. When a racecar sounds like a toaster, it’s annoying. When a race car sounds like a wood-chipper with baby pumpkins being thrown into it a rate of 1000 baby pumpkin souls per second, my inner demon smiles and makes me want to drive it faster. Sounds get a score of 10 out of 10 for GRID!


The music is great especially the tracks from Queens of the Stone Age but an advantage/disadvantage is that there is no music at all while you are racing, for the most part. The only time that I really remember any music being played is during the last 4 minutes of the 24-minute Le Mans race to make you feel more tension. Because of the lack of music for the majority of the racing, but with the menu music sounding very pleasing the game gets a 5 out of 10 for Music. What’s there is great but it’s a minor detail in the game.


GRID is pure eye candy at its finest. Even one old hardware and DX9 the game is simple breath-taking. GRID deserves and gets a score of 10 out of 10 in the Graphics category.


The game rarely very has crashed for me and I’ve logged in over 60 hours of playing it. I would say it has locked up only 1-2 times while loading because my PC was by then overheating. The game has always launched, every time I’ve tried. I give Stability/Reliability a score of 9 out of 10.


The game has pretty standard controls that basically need little to no adjustment, although you can pretty much remap all of it if need be. I played the game on keyboard and found really no problems controlling even the most dangerous, I mean fastest cars. Controls for this game deserve a score of 10 out of 10.


The game runs for the most part glitch-less on even a 2-3 year old light-to-medium gaming PC. Compared to the bloated NFS games of late, GRID runs like a champ. The only problem I detected in the game is that the cheat detection system seems to create like a bug where the car will slow down stop for a fraction of a second and then the physics engine of the game will compensate and let you continue. Not that it makes you crash, but still kind of an unrealistic thing to experience. This however, rarely happens, but I’ve played this game for way too long. I give Performance a rating of 9 out of 10.

My history with this game:

I have been playing the Race Driver (TOCA Race Driver) games since they came out and I’ve always been impressed so how well done they are in the sense of making you feel like a real race driver and how they keep getting better after each version. Some of the TOCA Race Driver games got to a point where you HAD to do a race to keep going and it was basically impossible (ugh I remember one where you had to compete in the Ford GT90 that had like zero traction and the AI was godlike/had super sticky tires that used a different physics engine than what you had to deal with). Those days are gone. In GRID, you will actually see the computer making human driver mistakes, lose control of their car and wreck it. When GRID came out it’s basically all I played nonstop for a month, even after I had beat it. I come back to visit it once in a while as it’s one of my favorites in my game collection. Check out doing the super tight tracks in Japan with the prototype class race cars. It will leave a smile on your face. 😀