Gran Turismo 5 is finally out in November

It’s been five years since the ‘real driving simulator’ from Polyphony Digital made an appearance on the Sony PlayStation – the brilliant Gran Turismo 4 on the PlayStation 2.

I remember spending hours, days and even months unlocking faster and powerful cars while progressing the deeply involving career mode in Gran Turismo 4. The sense of achievement in winning endurance races or rally stages was a great feeling and I love the idea of taking photographs featuring your dream cars afterwards.

The level of detail was astonishing with beautiful rendering of the cars and tracks. The game play had a slight difficulty curve, from the simple arcade mode in which you can powerslide and barge your way through to the chequered flag in first place, to the more realistic and unforgiving Gran Turismo mode where even tyre wear became a factor when racing against the AI rivals.

With the news that Gran Turismo 5 for the PlayStation 3 is finally out of development hell with the European release on November 3 (a full 24 hours after the US release), it will be fascinating if this new racing game can live up to the big hype.

I really hope it does as I love the series and have been playing the original Gran Turismo way back in 1997 on the PSone. Sure, the game play remains the same over the years with improved graphics and more manufacturers being involved, but the biggest criticism was a lack of damage affecting the cars. It was quite surreal for a car to remain unscratched after slamming into a wall at 120mph… But thankfully the new game features a more detail and realistic damage model.

As for the cars, I am amazed and really excited by the idea that Gran Turismo 5 features over one thousand cars, with Lamborghini and Bugatti making a first time appearance in the game. It even has the license to feature the World Rally Championship, NASCAR and Super GT. This is driving heaven!

Plus, you can even design your own tracks with a course creator! If you happened to get bored when racing around on the Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Monza and the Top Gear Test Track

The graphics are truly spectacular. From the dust and grass kicked up into the night sky to the reflective water effects when racing in the rain. Series creator Kazunori Yamauchi and his team should be immensely proud with the level of detail and commitment in making Gran Turismo 5 the most photo-realistic racing game on the PlayStation 3.

And after watching this stylish trailer, featuring an appearance of Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull Racing, my enthusiasm for this game has set my heart racing!

Yes I have to confess that five years has been a long time to get my Gran Turismo fix. Microsoft and Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport 2 and 3 on the Xbox 360 has been the best substitute for my racing needs but nothing can match the sheer passion with Yamauchi-san latest driving simulator. Roll on November 3 2010.

UPDATE: The official real date of Gran Turismo 5 has been confirmed as November 24. It has been pushed back many times but it seems the game is now ready.

F1 2010 video game preview

This season’s Formula One World Championship has been the most intense and competitive yet with the top five drivers separated by just twenty points with seven events left to run. It would be great for the fans to experience this unique sporting contest in the footsteps of these racing idols with the possibility of driving these amazing fast racing cars.

Well it seems we have the chance – be it virtually and the use of our Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – with the launch of a new video game from the makers of Colin McRae DiRT and Race Driver GRID.

Out next month a new video game will be available on sale that has capture the excitement and drama of Formula One. Codemasters’ F1 2010 will feature all the drivers, teams, cars and circuits based on this year’s championship.

And judging by the various screenshots plus video diaries posted by Codemasters, this new game will be very special in placing the player into the world of Formula One motor racing.

The last time I have played a video game based on my favourite sport was Studio Liverpool’s Formula One Championship Edition on the PlayStation 3. The game was based on the 2006 season and despite the High Definition visuals, it was quite frustrating to play. The reason? Understeer. No matter what set-up you applied to dial out the annoying understeer problem, the car will always drift out wide when going around a corner…

In addition, because it is based on the 2006 season, the sport and regulations have changed so dramatically that it feels really dated compared to now. No Lewis Hamilton at McLaren? Groove tyres over slicks? Plus racing around on old tracks like Magny-Cours is not fun.

With the upcoming F1 2010, not only do we have the latest drivers, teams, cars and tracks, but the developer have added new features to being in a role of a top-class racing driver. Read the Formula1.com article for the full details below:

F1 2010™ is the first multi-format, high definition Formula One videogame from Codemasters®, the developer and publisher of award-winning racing games, under its exclusive worldwide agreement with Formula One Administration Limited.

Complete with all the drivers, teams and circuits featuring in the current 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, F1 2010 will immerse players in the glamour and exhilaration of the world’s most exciting motorsport, from the paddock to the track.

Developed using Codemasters’ EGO™ Technology Platform, an evolution from the award winning EGO Engine, F1 2010 will deliver an unrivalled F1 experience, powered by cutting edge graphics, advanced physics systems and integrated network play.

Features:

All the cars, all the stars – fully licensed, F1 2010 features all the drivers and teams contesting the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, including drivers’ world champions Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.

Every circuit, beautifully realised – race wheel-to-wheel on all 19 of the 2010 tracks, each modelled with exceptional attention to detail and jaw-dropping visuals. The revitalised line-up features iconic circuits including Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and Monaco and challenges players to race at the returning Canadian Grand Prix, take on Singapore’s dramatic night race in high definition for the first time and debut ahead of the drivers on the all-new Korean circuit.

Be the Driver, Live the Life – there is more to being a Formula One driver than being the fastest person on track and F1 2010 is the first game to allow players to experience the exclusive world of Formula One like never before. From the paddock to the garage, everything is viewed from the driver’s perspective, as players are immersed in the building excitement and drama of a race weekend. Players will interact with rival drivers, team members, fans, and of course, the press, which all affect the way the gamer’s career plays out. Use the media to spur the team on or to criticise the lack of car development and pressure rivals in the hope that they fold during the championship run-in…

The world’s greatest cars, the most exciting racing – building on the heritage of producing award-winning racing games for over a decade, Codemasters is uniquely placed to realise the spectacle and exhilaration of racing 320km/h-plus Formula one cars. F1 2010 embraces the broad range of Formula One fans, from casual gamer to hardcore simulation enthusiast, and delivers a range of difficulty levels and driving aids for players of all skill levels to experience the thrill of becoming a Formula One driver. Players can fully customise a huge range of vehicle variables to suit their style of driving and eke every last ounce of performance from their car, or leave the leg work to their race engineer and head straight out onto the track. F1 2010 will also support a comprehensive range of racing wheels for the ultimate racing experience.

Fully dynamic weather – affecting strategy, performance and delivering stunning visual effects, F1 2010 features the most advanced weather system in any racing game. Codemasters’ ‘Active Track’ technology means the grip in the wet or dry for each circuit’s track surface is modelled down to just 30cm. Individual tyre performance is accurately modelled depending on the amount of grip, rain or standing surface water there is at any given point. Players can adjust their driving style by searching out grip or take the line that allows water to cool their tyres or adjust their strategy by making a pit stop to change tyres.

Unprecedented authenticity – Codemasters has used its unprecedented access to the world of Formula One to connect the development team directly with Formula One teams and tyre manufacturers. Extensive consultancy has taken place with a range of F1 professionals, including race engineers, mechanics and drivers. This real world experience is combined with F1 data, including CAD and on-board telemetry, to deliver a race experience complete with authentic handling, accurate circuits and precisely modelled racing cars. To ensure fans get the ultimate racing experience, former F1 driver Anthony Davidson has been embedded into the Codemasters development team as Technical Consultant to advise on handling and performance.

Build a career – whether players wish to work their way up from the bottom, switching teams as they go, or build a dynasty with their chosen team, gamers can fully realise their aspirations in F1 2010’s extensive and challenging career mode. Players compete with their closest rival, their teammate, to become the priority driver and shape the future development of the car by performing well in races and funding performance upgrades. Battles out on the track will develop into rivalries with drivers from other teams, but keep it clean or the media will be waiting…

Experience the drama of the pit – Codemasters has worked closely with Formula One teams to motion capture a fully manned pit crew, delivering a gameplay experience which is vibrant and full of pressure. The full pit lane, featuring each team in their various stages of strategy, becomes home to tense and exciting moments of drama as the drivers and crew work to return their car to the race as fast as possible.

Full online multiplayer – F1 2010 will include extensive online multiplayer options allowing players to take on their friends and the rest of the world in a range of race modes.

EGO powered F1 – F1 2010 is being developed on the EGO Game Technology platform, evolved from the award winning EGO engine. Enabling Codemasters’ development talent to share tools and technology across Studios and Central Technology teams, the EGO Game Technology Platform empowers Codemasters’ game designers to realise their creative visions across multiple platforms featuring cutting edge graphics, powerful AI, advanced physics systems and integrated network play.

Check out this latest YouTube video featuring the game in action:

It all sounds great and I am definitely looking forward to playing this game. The visuals look very realistic especially racing in the wet and the idea of taking part in press conferences giving interviews sounds appealing.

Hopefully the car handling – the most important part of racing games – will be forgiving and yet difficult to master to appeal to players into the pinnacle of motor racing.

“I hear a witch!”

Left 4 Dead is one of my favourite first-person shooter video game and thanks to my sister’s recommendation I just love playing this! It is highly addictive and when playing online via Xbox Live, this becomes the co-operative game with your close mates.

It’s simply not the case to go ‘guns-a-blazing’ and trying to prove to everyone that you’re invincible. As often than not, you will end up dead! So the true meaning of teamwork and sticking together when fighting off the hundreds of zombies is what makes Left 4 Dead so appealing.

In campaign mode, you play the role on one of the four Survivors in a post-apocalyptic world against the might of the Infected. These zombies have the ability to attack in hordes. In addition, unlike previous survival horror games with the likes of Dead Rising and Resident Evil, these zombies move fucking fast!

And to make it even more of a nightmare to stay alive, five special infected bosses are randomly placed around the levels making the journey to the checkpoint (or save house) that extra more difficult…

The Hunter is quite a deadly foe and it is best not to stand still in an area looking for trouble. His agile ability to leap from high places and his surprise attack will mean you get pinned down and ripped to shreds!

Another special infected to look out for is the Smoker. You can tell that the Smoker is about to attack by his coughing. He attacks by grabbing from afar with his long tongue. So you better watch out or else!

The Boomer can be quite a nuisance if you’re not being careful, as this bloated zombie will impair your vision when he vomits on to you! When this happens, a whole hordes of zombies attack so it is best to kill him the moment you see the fat ugly thing.

As for the Tank, he is the strongest special infected in Left 4 Dead. Killing him is a real challenge and thanks to his immense strength, he can throw a punch knocking out almost your entire energy/health bar in one go! To kill the Tank, you must work in a group and keep firing your weapon until he goes down.

But by the far the most dangerous is the Witch. Do not even think about approaching her! Her crying is one of the scariest parts of this game and if you happen to disturb her by firing your weapon or even flashing your light onto her, she will run at you at a rapid pace, knock you down and begin ripping you from limp to limp!

But without these five bosses, killing mass number of the undead will become tiring and ultimately boring. So kudos for Valve, the makers of the excellent Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, by adding these extra special infected to make Left 4 Dead fun, addictive and above all, entertaining.

Finally got a PlayStation 3

PS3 GT5P

Back in March 2007, I posted on my blog that I wasn’t that interested in the PlayStation 3 as it was too expensive and didn’t have that many games. Well, after a year of waiting for the price cut and a certain “real driving simulation”, I have finally purchased the new Sony game console.

Sure, it doesn’t support the backwards compatibility to play PlayStation 2 games like Okami, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but at least I didn’t have to pay over £400 to buy this advance machine. Okay, it has a smaller hard drive than the 60GB model – that can also play PS2 games – but I feel I made a wise choice in buying one as there are some decent quality titles coming out on this system in 2008.

The first of which is Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. It maybe a demo offering a slight glimpse of what the real game will be like with hundreds of car manufacturers, real race tracks from around the world and at last, damage mode – but the fact that this game showcase the potential of the PS3 with high definition visuals and sound means I am genuinely excited by this next gen video game console.

The PlayStation 3 uses the Blu-ray disc media that is now the definitive choice for high definition viewing – though I won’t be spending my cash on purchasing the same films to have a rich and nice display.

I believe Konami’s tactical espionage action game that is Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of Patriots will be the biggest hit for the PS3. From scanning those stunning screenshots and digesting every bit of information about Hideo Kojima’s stealth-based video game, I am genuine excited to play it.

For the time being, I will make do with the racing games I got for the system with the likes of Formula One Championship Edition and MotorStorm to fulfil my need for speed.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

Guitar Hero III Slash

After playing both version of Guitar Hero II on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 to death, it’s nice to experience a new set list of rockin’ tracks with the latest instalment of the popular music rhythm game.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock has been developed by Neversoft after Activision decided to focus its attention on creating a brand new music game – the quite superb Rock Band (which is currently available in the States). Even though the game play to Guitar Hero III is identical to the previous titles, it some how feels different…

Yes, you still need to play through the different tracks by pressing the five colour fret buttons with the unique guitar controller but new to Guitar Hero III is the boss battle mode. To be honest, I really despise this new game play element as the balance between winning and losing is so random…

Okay its great to face-off legendary guitarists like Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave), Slash (of Guns N’ Roses/Slash’s Snakepit/Velvet Revolver) and Bret Michaels (of Poison) but you have to rely on sheer good fortune to take victory.

To defeat your opponent, you will need to pick up Battle Power (which replaces Star Power) to earn attacks. By using this special ability, you can strike against your fellow competitor just by tilting the guitar upwards. It may seem fun to keep on attacking but they can fight back – causing missed notes, increase in difficulty and even amp overload!

As for the visuals, the set designs and animation of the band members feels more realistic. In fact the lip sync on the singer matches the voices coming out of his mouth!

The track listing is now full of master recording from the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, Metallica and The Sex Pistols. It all sounds fantastic, a massive improvement over the cover versions that were featured in the previous Guitar Heroes.

And with the new wireless guitar – based on a real Gibson Les Paul model – playing the tracks is a more rewarding experience. What a shame that the boss battle seems misplace after all the fun playing encores… At least the new controller has a better responding whammy bar and is a lot more comfortable compare to X-plorer…

Leaf’s Xbox 360 RROD

Xbox 360 RROD graphic

My Xbox 360 committed suicide this month by giving me the dreaded three red lights a.k.a. the Red Ring of Death. I was shocked when this occur especially as my friend was playing quite well on Expert mode in Guitar Hero II

The whole screen froze and when we tried to reset the console, the familiar red lights flashed away. To be honest, I was heading towards the console’s deathbed in the past couple of weeks when it crashed ten times in a space of an hour! In that period, I replayed the same race in Project Gotham Racing 4 without making past the first corner… To see white lines and square blocks appearing on my Samsung HDTV during a game and on the Xbox 360 loading screen means there is something seriously going wrong inside the machine.

I called up customer support immediately and after explaining the problem, I arrange a pick-up to get it repaired. The good news is that I don’t need to pay for the repair as Microsoft has a three-year warranty. The bad news is I won’t get my Xbox 360 for the next three to four weeks so in the meantime I can continue my quest in Super Mario Galaxy on the reliable Nintendo Wii! But in all seriousness, Microsoft is aware of the RROD situation. In fact, I discover that Microsoft receives numerous amounts of broken Xbox 360s with this problem EVERYDAY!

I hope I get it back in the New Year, as I desperately want to play Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock with the new wireless guitar controller. Plus, I have to finish off those remaining levels in Bioshock (feel embarrass that I yet to complete it). Fingers cross my Xbox 360 is running fine without any more problems when I get it back.

Super Mario Galaxy

I have a little confession to make – I haven’t played a Super Mario game since the good old Game Boy. Super Mario Land was a classic and it was one of the first proper platform games that I completed from start to finish. The game play was short but sweet and I’m amazed that I missed out on several other Mario games on the main Nintendo consoles.

These include the sublime Super Mario World (Super Nintendo), Mario 64 (Nintendo 64) and er… Super Mario Sunshine (GameCube). Actually, this particular game is considered to be the most frustrating for video gamers. Maybe the sense of cleaning the world with a water-powered jet pack was not ideal for people obsessed with killing things…

With Super Mario Galaxy, everyone’s favourite Italian plumber is back and with the benefit of the Wii’s motion sensor controls; this is by far the most impressive Mario game ever.

The control system works a treat and it’s a joyful pleasure to run and jump around on different planets in glorious 3D. The visuals and level design are nothing short of breathtaking with it own sense of style and atmosphere.

The game play is heavily addictive and it was quite a nice touch to have a co-op mode for the second player. Instead of them sitting there watching you playing this fantastic game, they can help by waving the Wiimote around collecting Star Bits!

I have yet to complete it as I’ve been sidetracked by work and also my recent holiday to Hong Kong but considering I have to collect around 120 golden stars to finish it – currently I have 25 – then I have quite a long way to go in Super Mario Galaxy! So many other planets and galaxies yet to explore, so it is best to load this up and continue my epic quest!

Rock & Roll Superstar!

I’ve been following the E3 show with keen enthusiasm and only one title stands out that captures my attention. No, it is not Wii Fit for the Nintendo Wii (which I have to admit it’s a great concept by the Japanese game developers to design a fun game that keeps you healthy and in shape) but in actual fact, its Rock Band.

As a fan of Guitar Hero, the brilliant guitar-based rhythm game, the news that Rock Band will offer the chance of wannabe rock musicians to perform in a virtual band is a dream came true.

And after reading the various news articles online and in video game magazines, Harmonix (the creator of the original Guitar Hero) is now turning this fantasy into a reality!

Rock Band is essentially four games as one, challenging rockers to master the lead guitar, bass guitar, drums and vocals. The game will feature some top quality tracks from the likes of The Who, Metallica, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters and Nirvana. In fact, many of these will be original recordings.

The drum kit is certainly the instrument I really would like to have a go on. The controller is built in a similar way to the arcade classic, DrumMania, with four pads to hit.

These are the snare drum, tom-tom, hi-hat and the crash/ride cymbals. It also includes a kick pedal for bass and will ship with a pair of authentic drumsticks. Harmonix has even stated that if you can master the drum peripheral on the harder difficulty, they you will be able to play it for real!

The opportunity to support the backing beat to our virtual band will be fantastic and I look forward to the release on the Xbox 360 (and PlayStation 3) sometime this year. My only concern will be the price…

Leaf on Xbox Live

Leaf Xbox Live

I finally upgraded my Xbox 360 to Xbox Live, though it cost me over £100 to do so! Why so expensive? First, I needed to buy that official wireless adapter as a way of connecting to the Internet without the aid of cables. Due to the way my router is set-up in my house, it was impractical to run the long Ethernet cable from the router to the console (as the router was in the lounge, while the console was upstairs).

The wireless adapter cost £60, but luckily I had enough points on my HMV games card to take £10 off. Still, it is a bit much for this accessory… The next item I had to purchase to access Xbox Live is a 12-month Gold subscription. With this special membership, I can download playable demos, film trailers, music videos and Dashboard themes.

This so-called ‘Gold’ membership – an upgrade over the limited Silver status – cost £40 and it only last for one year… Once this is over, you will need to spend another £40 to remain a member on Xbox Live.

So that’s £90 spent already just to go online. For the Nintendo Wii, it was free and the Wi-Fi was built in to the machine…

But I haven’t finished yet, as I needed some Microsoft Points in order to purchase items available on the Xbox Live Marketplace. So this means spending a further £20 to get 2,100 points.

Now that I got everything required to play Xbox Live (wireless adapter, 12-month subscription and points) just how much did I spend? Well, that’s £110! But was it worth it in the end? Yes, absolutely.

The ability to play online games in multiplayer mode is fantastic and I had the opportunity to sample this experience for the first time while playing against MrSamuari (Jason) in Virtua Tennis 3.

There was a slight bit of lagging – due to the different broadband speeds – but it was playable. In fact, the tennis game was quite competitive between Jason and myself. He won in the end, but I will get him next time!

I wasn’t a fan of online gaming initially but since playing the excellent Mario Kart DS with a group of friends over the ‘net, I have to admit its addictive. Now that I have Xbox Live, I’m looking forward to playing the sublime Gears Of War with Jason, Josh and Nigel soon. This should be a blast (sorry, bad pun)!

So playing online is one great part of Xbox Live, the next is the ability to download new stuff for your console including new game levels and Dashboard themes.

In the case of Dashboard themes for example, for only 400 Microsoft Points you can have the Heroes look (see the image above). There are many more to choose from but surprisingly there wasn’t any on 24 or Formula One

In addition you can download playable demos for forthcoming Xbox 360 games. So with that, I’ve downloaded two games I was interested in: Top Spin 2 (a tennis game) and Forza Motorsport 2 (Microsoft’s answer to Gran Turimso). Both were free.

But the best part of Xbox Live is the ability to communicate with your friends with instant messaging thanks to the new update. MSN Messenger works quite well on the Xbox 360 and even though it was quite tricky to type messages using the controller, by using a spare USB keyboard ‘borrowed’ from my old Apple iMac, I can now type out my messages just like I do if I was on my computer.

So despite the high costs to get going, it is worth every penny.

Guitar Hero II – now on Xbox 360

Guitar Hero II Xbox 360

As a big fan of Guitar Hero II, the opportunity to play this fantastic music rhythm game on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is finally here. Ever since it first appeared on Sony’s PlayStation 2, I always wanted to see how it would look and feel in high definition form, with downloadable content to expand the game play.

Well, now I have it thanks to my sister buying an imported copy and am I happy with it? Difficult to say as the visuals do look amazing in HD but the same cannot be said with the new and exclusive X-plorer guitar controller…

I have read many stories online regarding an unresponsive whammy bar (it has something to do with the build quality) and initially I thought I was lucky to have a working guitar controller. Alas, this wasn’t the case and the first time I’ve play this on my Xbox 360, the whammy bar refused to work…

So instead of getting a replacement – which proved tricky as it was brought in Germany – I’ve decided to find a solution with some help from Google. And after typing some key words like ‘Guitar Hero II controller problem’ and ‘Xbox 360 guitar’ into the search engine, found this useful site.

I followed the instructions carefully and made the necessary small changes to make the whammy bar work properly. After taking it apart, unloosing the two important screws and rotating the device even so slightly, it now works! Good news you would think but unfortunately the whammy bar is so loose, it now ‘flops’ around…

Despite that, I can still enjoy the game. Just completed the Medium Career mode without any difficulty and my next step is to play through Hard to unlock more new bonuses. As for the game play, there is a hint of delay when strumming compared to the PlayStation 2 version. It seems to have a tiny lagging issue and even though I calibrated my Samsung HDTV to stop this, I have to strum the notes a fraction more early to play it.

Nevertheless, the new songs exclusively for the Xbox 360 are not that bad to play to (apart from My Chemical Romance) and the high definition visuals are spectacular. It just a shame that the X-plorer guitar controller doesn’t match the feel and quality to the SG controller available on the PlayStation 2…