GRID

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

 

Overview:

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.

Value:

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.

Replayability:

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.

Sound:

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!

Music:

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.

Graphics:

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.

Stability/Reliability:

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.

Controls:

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.

Performance:

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. 😀

 

Trackmania

trackmania sunrise
typical in-game screenshot of Trackmania

Trackmania game series reviewed by Honorabili

 

One Sentence Review:

“The only racing game you’ll ever need… until part 2 comes out. =P”

 

Overall Score:

10 out of 10

 

Overview:

Trackmania is pretty much the most played racing game series in the history of PC gaming. Most people in the US don’t know it because it’s from French developer Nadeo. Also since it’s mainly a pure PC racing game (although a Nintendo DS version was released) most of the console crowd (where most people who play racing games are) never heard of it. Sure, people might play Need For Speed whichever is the newest at the time but after a month they will probably never play it again. With Trackmania, since the game has been around since 2003, and now in its 4th game “United” one can just not play it for a while and revisit it months/years later with tons of new content and the game never disappoints. There’s even the free version “Nations” which anybody can pick up. The game consists of racing online against over 5 million players across the world. There’s multiple ladders ranging from your state or country depending on where you are from. There are championships, some even with cash rewards. You get in game money which you can use to design your own tracks, buy tracks from other players/websites, buy new skins for your car, buy music for your tracks, new horns, new pictures, etc. It’s all in good fun and the game does not allow cheating in the form of ramming other people off the road as all cars drive through each other.

There’s different vehicles each with their own driving style and track styles. American muscle cars, 4×4 SUVs, and mini rally cars are the ones included in the original Trackmania game. Island super cars, Bay SUVs that are quick but can flip, and Coast drifting cars which require the most skill and drive like they have 4 flat tires are the ones included in the 2nd game Trackmania Sunrise. Stadium formula cars are the only ones available in the 3rd and free game Trackmania Nations. All car modes are available in Trackmania United.

All the expansions for the game are released for free and even the free players from Nations can play with people on United under the same ladder system.

The tracks in the game in general are something that puts Unreal Tournament to shame as you will see loops and jumps that will make your jaw drop. The speed of the game is usually on terms with other hardcore reflex racing games such as F-Zero and Wipeout.

Fun Factor:

This is one of the few games from a handful where I will forget to eat while playing it and then many hours later will finally get up and have a reality check. I sometimes keep myself from playing it if I have too many other games in my que because I know I will just forget about them if I start up with Trackmania again. Trackmania kind of became an online MMO racing game and in that sense it’s light-years ahead of other MMOs in the sense that you will not waste time looking for group or some other bullshit. You click to race and 2-3 seconds later after the track loads in 3 more seconds you’re in a race. No bullshit. Considering that I forget to eat while playing this game I would say that it’s an awful lot of fun, so I will give it a 10 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

Even trying to get a top time in practice for a track can be challenging. When you go online and you keep building up your rank, eventually you will get to the top leagues and have to face people that are really really good drivers. I play my racing games on keyboard, although people cry havoc since a wheel and pedals is much easier but I’ve still schooled people have that 200 dollars or more invested in controllers. Anybody stands a chance so long as you have the skill, so I’m quite fond of these games for that. The game will get as hard as you want it to so in this category, I give it the max also, 10 out of 10. Believe me, when you’re trying to beat a world record and somebody you live with or the phone rings and it costs you the world record, it will drive you NUTS!

Value:

You can buy the original game for $1-5 almost anywhere that will stock it. Sunrise is not as easy to find anymore but you can probably get it for $10. Nations is FREE so if you’re not playing it, you’re missing out completely. United can be bought from $20-40 depending on whether it’s on sale or not. The more games you link to your account the more in game money Nadeo gives you. Considering how inexpensive the games are and how it is just a permanent game to play, the value of the trackmania games is the best possible. I give value a 10 out of 10.

Replayability:

These games have unlimited content. New tracks get made every day since 2003. Clans rise and fall in the community for it. In the ashes of the fallen, we still have sometimes hundreds of tracks that created racing legends. Let’s just say that lately I’ve been playing Dirt 2 and I’ve been looking forward to beating it so that I can go back to playing Trackmania a game I have literally logged over 1000 hours for. Replayability gets a 10 out of 10.

Sound:

The only part that I can really bitch about is that the sound sometimes for some of the cars sound kind of generic. Some sound really badass like the super car or the rally car but the rest are just okay to me. Some sounds like the turbo boost section of the track are fun to hear the booming because you know you just hit nitro! I give the sound a 7 out of 10.

Music:

The music can get repetitive, although it’s all pretty funky. Since people make their own stuff, it’s interesting to see what “radio station” a clan might have playing that day. The multitasking alt-tab of the game is godlike so you can just lower the volume bar at the top right with the mouse and load up your favorite racing music like any Juno Reactor or Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird or Tom Petty – Runnin’ Down A Dream, for instance. I give the music a 7 out of 10 only because I’m sick of it.

Graphics:

All the trackmania games have always looked amazing. They make most other games look like shit and considering how fast the game runs and how efficient the netcode is, I’m always and have always been impressed by them. The first time I ran the game on an ATI 3870 it made me want to cry. Graphics gets a 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game has never crashed since we started playing them since 2003. An obvious score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

Simple controls and great gameplay make a classic. Just the arrow keys and the reset buttons are all you really need other than 1-3 for camera controls. Good job! 10 out of 10.

Performance:

Considering the graphic nature of these games and the amazing physics behind them, and the godlike netcode, the performance is astounding. I will give it a 9 out of 10 because in super high settings the game will begin to lag but that’s to be expected.

My history with this game:

My friends and I have been playing Trackmania since it first came out in 2003. We had countless LAN parties where we would basically try to win but at the same time use the in game chat and type “COCK” and some other braindead shit to try to make the other players die. Since you can mod the looks of your car, horns, picture of your avatar, etc. my brother even went so far as to paint his cars pink, put a picture of a tranny, and put a clip of Ru Paul going “you betta work!!!”. That made the game extremely DIFFICULT to play considering he would sneak up on us racing and sound his “horn”. I can’t wait to play Trackmania 2 and I always recommend Trackmania games to any true lovers of speed and driving.

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2

Space Marines from Dawn of War 2
Space Marines from Dawn of War 2

Warhammer 40K – Dawn of War 2 Review by Honorabili

 

One Sentence Review:

“Challenging squad combat level based RTS based on the Warhammer 40K universe but based on the game style of Company of Heroes.”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

If you want to read my review & strategy guide for the campaign of the expansion Chaos Rising, click here.

Overview:

This is the ambitious and different sequel to what is considered (by the computer game industry) the 2004 strategy game of the year. The first game was similar to Starcraft but this one chooses a different route. For the multiplayer aspect/connectivity the game decided to use Games For Windows Live as the backbone. If you have a microphone you will appreciate that the game has a built in voice chat that is used via Games For Windows Live. In general over some older RTS games and introduced in Company of Heroes, the game makes use of cover in the terrain to give defensive bonuses to units.

There are different game modes: single player and co-op storyline campaign, skirmish which you can set to PVE or play with a combination of other players together or against each other in the tradition of online pvp play that’s now commonplace, and the recently added mode of The Last Stand. The campaign consists of you or your gaming partner following a series of linear and also randomly generated conquer and defend missions with your squad of hero units which have leveling through combat/objectives (also a level cap) and the acquisition of relics (wargear) that modify the combat characteristics/tactics of each squad. You can only play as the human Space Marine faction in the campaign. The difficulty is variable. As far as fighting goes, the campaign mainly consists of completing objectives and taking optional ones. As far as skirmish goes, you can opt out to practice against the computer or either do traditional 1 vs 1 and up in groupings of players. For skirmish you can be human Space Marines, Eldar, Tyranids, or Orks. The game includes a ladder system for this mode. In the skirmish mode, this plays out more like a regular RTS with two resources available, power and requisition. You can set the objective to either wipe out the player or hold the most strategic points for x amount of time and so forth. This is a lot like Unreal Tournament 3/Company of Heroes. The newest game mode The Last Stand groups you up with two other human players in a series of levels, each in increasing difficulty, in a game of survival. You get a higher score multiplier for killing all enemies quicker than normal groups, not dying, holding the defense points capped, with all your multiplier being resetted to 1X if any team member dies. There is a high score/ladder system with this mode and the game also keeps track of your best scores for each of the characters you get, those being the Space Marine, Eldar, and Ork.

Fun Factor:

The campaign keeps you playing until you beat it and it’s worth replaying with another player, usually at the highest difficulty. It’s worth also playing alone in the max difficulty as having another player can (sometimes) make it easier. The skirmish mode can be a lot of fun as the game plays out more like a traditional RTS game rather than the storyline hero system that people will get used to playing if they play the campaign a lot. The Last Stand is probably the funnest game more as it creates a good feeling of teamwork, although it can be disappointing to get paired up with a bunch of noobs that will get you killed faster than you think. If you play the game with a good group of friends the game can be a lot funner as you can start to dominate the ladders and scoreboards. Overall the game will keep you entertained for days, maybe weeks and it’s good to go back to it and visit it once in a while especially if they released new maps for it or modified minor parts of the game. For fun factor I give DoW2 an 8 out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

As far as the campaign goes, I find it rather easy even at the highest difficulty setting. I’ve tested this and made people who never played the game play it at that difficulty right from the start and they found it easy to dominate, even with non-experienced RTS players. I started to play the game with non-favorite/favorable characters and it’s still easy. Still, it’s worth playing through at least once.

The skirmish mode is much more challenging as you are dealing with human players that most likely have been playing the game already in this mode kicking ass and will school you until you get the hang of it. Don’t be discouraged as this is often the case in RTS games online and if you are a good player and played the tutorial, I mean campaign, you will quickly get used to the units, although the campaign only lets one play Space Marines and skirmish allows more races, so one will need to learn all about them from scratch. If you put in the time and effort, you will find skirmish to be the most rewarding as far as a challenge goes. My advice is that you memorize all the cover points in all maps so optimize defense tactics/cover. Don’t worry most other players you will fight already have done this. 😀

The Last Stand is a lot of fun but make sure that you are grouped with great players that know what you are doing and you make a good team effort to make it to the last stages/top of the ladder. The difficulty can be impossible if you play with noobs but don’t feel bad as the game will soon be over. ;-] With my friends we played the hell out of this mode easily for 1-2 weeks nonstop so it can be exciting for a while. In the final stages of the mode when you are fighting the entire screen filled with enemies the difficulty is literally impossible but that’s the point of the mode. It’s really well done in that sense.

The tutorial (campaign) is a cakewalk so I will punish the game for that. Skirmish is great if you put in your time getting used to it so that’s flawless. The Last Stand is what it is and it works as advertised. Overall I give DoW 2 an 8 out of 10 for this category.

Value:

I bought the game when it first came out for $50 on Steam. The game is currently sold for about $40 on there as of the time of this writing and if you buy a bundle of THQ/Relic games you can get it for partially cheaper cost. It is also sometimes sold on sale via Steam as the game did not sell as well as they anticipated and they are trying to get more people to play it. Since the expansion pack is a few months away as of now it will probably be on sale again often as they might also bundle the game and expansion together when that’s available. Since the game is not that popular right now, I would say that they should sell it for $30 all the time as the base price to encourage more players to get it. Since the game provides many many hours/days of entertainment and it can become a permanent game to keep playing, I give it a 7 out of 10 in value.

UPDATE: (from my DoW2 Chaos Rising review)

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 Warhammer 40k then you will probably buy it anyways.

Replayability:

The campaign can be played a good 2-3 times before you never want to see it again. The Last Stand can be very entertaining especially if you have a great team going. Since you have 3 heroes which you level up and unlock special abilities/wargear for, you would have to play many (and I mean MANY) matches to unlock all their powers. You don’t necessarily have to do that to get ranked super high in the scoreboard so long as you are good and your team mates play like a well-coordinated military unit. The skirmish mode will have unlimited replayability depending on much much you liked the game already in general and how you approach ladder pvp RTS games in general. I give the replayability a score of 8 out of 10.

Sound:

Most of the voice actors from DoW 1 which are professionals are back and you will quickly recognize them. They are well picked, especially units like the Dreadnought (undead human Robocop ED209 unit of an almost dead human soldier stuck in a killing machine that will forever “live to serve”). The sound effects themselves are great especially hearing the explosions and sounds of machineguns letting loose and Eldar weapons flying through the air (shurikens, etc.). I give the sounds of DoW 2 an 8 out of 10.

Music:

The music for DoW 1 and its expansions are all epic and may be some of the best soundtracks for a war game in the RTS genre. Relic continues this tradition with DoW 2 and they are to be commended. The music of DoW 2 gets a 9 out of 10.

You can download the entire the Dawn of War 2 OST from this link.

Graphics:

This game looks simply wonderful even in Windows XP running DirectX 9. It improves on the graphics of the first game and you will enjoy the spectacular display of combat and gore of the units. One of my favorites is seeing how effective Assault Space Marines can be on a group of unsuspecting targets/victims. ;-] The graphics get an 8 out of 10. They are pretty enough for an RTS but they’re no Assassin’s Creed.

Stability/Reliability:

Overall the game runs pretty well although the netcode can sometimes be laggy. Some people will experience port/NAT errors because of the Games for Windows Live and I researched this and Relic is yet to provide a real fix for it. One might be able to fix this by finding all ports used by Games for Windows Live and forcing them open but I have yet to test this. I found this problem when trying to invite players to co-op campaign and The Last Stand and the game will give a generic NAT routing error message. The game itself is stable as a rock and I haven’t seen the game itself crash to desktop on my hardware. Because of how annoying the NAT error is, and the lag in the netcode, although the game itself is stable, I give this game a 4 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are pretty standard for RTS games with abilities hotkeyed and CTRL + number to group/remap unit groupings. The camera control, panning, zooming is standard. Since Supreme Commander has much better zooming capabilities and Battle Forge has better, faster scrolling I give the controls a 6 out of 10. No real innovation there but no annoying attempts to try new control methods that are a failure.

Performance:

On a modern machine the game runs decently. My brother bought the game but he was not able to get it running on his old machine which uses an ATI X800 video card so make sure you have a video card that supports enough technology in shader models to even run the game. They recommend having at least an ATI X1600 or nVidia GeForce 6600 GT to just be able to run it. I’ve seen the game run kind of laggy on the machine of a friend of mine that had the latest video drivers, a faster CPU than mine and this was at 1600×1200. Even when I scaled it down to 1024×768 it still ran slower than my older machine so I guess the game is kind of a fickle beast. I give the performance of the game a 7 out of 10 for its lack of support of older machines and unpredictable performance (a faster machine should run the game better but in reality didn’t).

My history with this game:

My friends used to have LAN parties every weekend for 2 years nonstop playing mainly DoW 1 as out favorite RTS game and all its incarnations of expansion packs and patch updates. I bought this game when it first came out for 50 bucks hoping that we could continue playing and since the game had a better online client (Games for Windows Live vs GameSpy which was a pain in part 1 to play online because of port issues) but pretty much I was the only one of my friends that bought this game when it first came out since the game got mixed reviews when it came out and fanboys crying like bitches in forums about how they “ruined” the DoW legacy since they went away from the Starcraft roots. About 5-6 months later a few of my friends finally got the game and it’s been a lot of fun to finally be able to play with them again. 😀

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