Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Hotlaps Table

There! I've finally come up with a decent way of keeping the lap times updated for the cars I test on the Test Drive Tuesday. I've created a page to table up the lap times, you can get there from the tab at the top of the page - check it out! The videos of the hotlaps are available on my Youtube channel

Test Drive Tuesday - Toyota TS020 GT1

Game: Simraceway
Car: Toyota TS020 GT1
Cost: $7.85

So today's Test Drive Tuesday car  is the Toyota TS020 GT1, a 24-hours of Le Mans contender from 1998. Being of the same pedigree as the Mazda 787 from a few weeks ago, I was sadly mistaken that the cars would handle very similarly. This is very much not the case! While the car accelerates and brakes reasonably well in a straight line, it is very heavy around the corners and makes for quite an uncomfortable drive in my opinion.

After trying the car across my testing tracks, I have to say that I didn't have alot of fun in this car. I tried pushing the car, but much in the same way that you *could* push a bouncer, it's only going to end in pain! This was the crux of the problem for me: while I could spend quite some time getting to grips with the car, I just didn't find it fun enough to want to.

Even when racing later on, the car would go off on a spin for the simplest of errors. While this is probably a realistic representation of the car itself, it does make it very irritating to drive. From my point of view, I have already found a great GT1 class car for myself so I really don't want to invest the resources to be able to drive the car flawlessly as I wont enjoy myself on the way. By all means, if GT1 cars are interesting for you, then check it out, but I wont be purchasing it for my collection.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Simraceway Hotlaps - John Cooper Works - Cooper

So, after deciding to start a lap time leaderboard, I've set out with the first car on the board, the John Cooper Works Mini Cooper. I actually own a Mini One, so I have some real life experience with this (albeit NOT racing) car, and the Simraceway version feels pretty accurate. I didn't have long to do all the tracks, so some of the laps were recorded with mistakes in them and could be improved - I'll leave that to another day though!

The best times is set are below and you can watch the hotlaps in the video below too:
Daytona:             1m01.375
Bristol:                20.57
Martinsville:       27.724
Watkins Glen:     2m23.346
Laguna Seca:      1m49.416
Longstone Pass:  2m28.717

Test Drive Tuesday - Pagani Zonda R

Car: Pagani Zonda R
Cost: $18
So yesterdays Test Drive Tuesday on Simraceway was the legendary Pagani ZondaR. I would have liked to review this in audio, however due to a technical fault (my hard drive ejected itself), I couldn't record at all yesterday. I did manage to record some racing vidoes, these will pretty much have to serve as my indication of how the car drives! One is online now, I'll upload the rest after editing.

So,the Zonda R. Off the line, it's alot harder to drive than the 787 last week: the 787 can take some serious pedal without loosing control, but you have to be very gingerly on the controls with the Zonda. While the 787 is slightly faster, the Zonda is a beast of a car and you can find yourself out of control very easily accelerating or braking. I also find the car quite heavy in corners so all things considered, it really pays to be slow and in control.

Once you stop trying to thrash the car around the track (as I did with the 787!) the Zonda really comes into its own and you can get the full power down on the road. It took me a good while to get used to car, and as the racing videos show, I still get caught out from time to time, but otherwise the car is pretty good drive. Unfortunately, this will (again) completely miss the Test Drive Tuesday offer, so the Zonda is available for $18 on the Simraceway website which, as much fun and illustrious as this car is, I'd still try to get it for a cheaper price - either in a bundle or on another offer.

Again, due to aforementioned technical difficulties, I've not been able to do the lap comparisons for this car. I'll do another post when I've rectified that! Until then, here's a few races at Silverstone in the Zonda:
PS - no idea what happened to the video quality on this one will try to get it sorted

Sunday, 15 September 2013


Liberty City Police Department: First Response
Game: Grand Theft Auto IV & Episodes From Liberty City
Type: Script Mod
My Rating: 95%

I've been meaning to talk about the mod since this blog started, as people who have visited my Youtube channel will be aware, I spend alot of time using this mod. Never in my entire time of playing games have I come across a mod that's had such a profound impact on that game. Before this mod GTA IV was a decent game for me: good for messing about and a decent storyline to play through, enjoy and forget. Then I discovered this mod and now I spend most of the time playing games on EFLC (the mod works for both GTA IV and EFLC). It adds a whole new lease of life to the game and it was this mod; the hard work and dedication to an excellent idea that completely changed the game for me, that inspired me to start giving praise and reviews to the individuals and teams that make great mods for games.

So what is it? LCPD:FR is a fairly comprehensive police simulator for GTA:IV. Rather than taking just one mission, LCPD:FR allows you to take on the role of a police officer in Liberty City. It's not a complete police simulator (hence the name First Response), so there's no investigations and bureaucracy - which is a good thing. Instead, you can drive or walk around the city, stopping cars and pedestrians for suspicious behaviour (or even for the hell of it) or waiting for an incident to get phoned to you, such as muggings, domestic abuse and suicide calls. I'll spit these into "callouts" and "patrols" and discuss them in detail.

Callouts are when you are dotting about and a call comes in for you to attend an incident. You do have the option of taking the incident or not (useful if you are roleplaying a certain role like armed response), or the option of a "busy" status so you don't receive callouts. Callouts always follow a well working formula: you go with blues and twos to the scene of the incidents and deal with the suspect. In muggings and domestic calls, you try and apprehend the suspect. In suicide calls, theres a nice little quite time event where you have to "talk the suspect down" by hitting a key when a bar is in the green area of a moving slider. Get it right and the suspect puts the gun down, get it wrong.... you'll need crime scene clean up! Sometimes you can get called to a gang shooting, which aren't massively realistic (at least not from a UK standpoint) as its about 20 people with guns shooting up the town, but they are pretty fun and really make you use the mods other features, which I'll discuss later.

On patrol, you drive or walk around city looking for crime. Sometime crime comes to you: you can be parked up at a traffic light when a pursuit goes blazing by or maybe you'll turn a corner and there's a fight on the pavement. Maybe you'll find crime: doing stop checks on vehicles and pedestrians can bring out some unsavoury characters. Of course, people don't always want to stop to talk to the police and foot chases and vehicles pursuits are rife! The nice thing I like about the mod is that as well as scripted crime, the game's AI does alot of accidental crime, like crashes and missing red lights, which fits in with the mod like a charm - you can stop a vehicle for dangerous driving or just let it slide - the discretion is yours. 

The Mechanics
I could rattle on for absolute hours about this mod (and I would really like to!) but I'll keep this as short as I can. The reality is, it's all just random number generators: will a car pull over for you, will they be wanted, how will they react to being arrested - do they take it, or do they pull a gun and fight for freedom - but it really flows and ensures a great variety of outcomes for callouts and patrols. When in a pursuit, other police cars nearby will join in the chase and try and "help you" (help, being very generous due to the ridiculous driving the AI can pull off sometimes). You can also call out other vehicles to help and helicopters too. On foot, you can call for regular backup or SWAT teams to help you on the ground. All the features in the game are actuated by quite an extensive set of keys: with only a few keys being used by the vanilla game, this leaves the rest of the keyboard to be used in place of menus. There is a menu that overrides the vanilla police computer, that you can use to check the identity of people and call for backup and services. All things together, the interface is fairly easy to use once you get used to it and works fairly well in dealing in quick-paced situations. 

The Community
One thing that does speak for this mod, is the sheer numbers of the community following for it, with over 100,000 registered members. There is even an extensive list of mods made to accompany and supplement this one. These range from vehicle skins to plugins to give you more diverse crime. One of these mods worth noting is the Emergency Lighting System (ELS) which allows developer to make cars that utilise realistic light bars and customisable lights patterns. These can be tweeked by the user to get the lights they want for their cars. I, for example, decided to replace all my police cars with British police cars, which requires setting the lights to be blue and white, rather than white and red which the vanilla game uses. 

Overall, the mod is really well constructed. Unfortunately, the game is not: I tend to get only around 45 minutes of playing before it CTD's (unmodded or not). This sets the scene: the issues I have with the mod are limitations of the base game itself. The AI behaviour and spawning errors make up the bulk of issues, with no backup turning up from time to time and the AI crashing into and killing everything, which kills the whole mood really. 

However, the timing of this article isn't a coincidence: LCPD:FR have just announced a preview to the first non-beta release and it looks great! They've completely reworked all the scripting, you can check out the preview at I'll do an another review when it's released. Most people I know are looking forward to GTA V, I'll be looking forward to LCPD:FR 1.0!

This review really doesn't do the mod the justice it deserves and I've no doubt missed out a good few features. To see more of what is offered, you can check out my videos on my channel ( or on a channel I enjoy alot: who did a great series "Speirs on Patrol". You can also just Youtube search LCPDFR and look at the many great videos by other developers. Even as the beta release now, I'd seriously recommend giving it a try; it breathes a complete new life into the game!

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Mass Effect - New Textures Mod
[art from creator]
Game: Mass Effect
Type: Graphics Improvement
My Rating: 100%

So, at the request of my friends (so they could talk about the series without giving me spoilers), I recently started my first ever playthough of the Mass Effect series. Released in 2007, the game has held up relatively well from a graphics standpoint, but one thing that particularly caught my eye was that, while the faces very well modelled, the uniforms and armour were noticeably poorer. Even on the highest graphics settings, the uniforms were terribly blurred. So I went in search of a HD textures mod, and what I found was this: the New Textures mod.

The praise I have for this mod is very high: if you had never played Mass Effect before, and then did for the first time using this mod, you would honestly mistake it for a near-new game. The updated graphics are simply stunning, with the game now utilising 8 times the resolution available to the vanilla game textures and a HD textures pack to make full use of it - the level of detail is fantastic. To quantify just how much work has gone into these textures: the vanilla game is ~7 GB on your hard drive whereas the HD textures alone are ~20 GB!

Using the Steam version of Mass Effect, there is an additional step to the install, but that and other troubleshooting topics are covered in the readme, although I've not encountered any other issues.

This mod is seriously impressive and well worth getting if your planning on playing Mass Effect in the future.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Mazda Racing Vidoes

Now its uploaded, here's the Mazda in action at Watkins Glen for 2 races!

Test Drive Tuesday - Mazda 787

Game: Simraceway Cost: $7

So today's Test Drive Tuesday was the Mazda 787 and I have to say, I spent about 20 minutes trying it out, then quit the race to buy the Mazda. I said of the Maserati last week that it was the most fun I've had in a supercar, but the Mazda wipes away all the other cars I've tried. The straight line acceleration and braking is phenomenal and the aero package in the car means the car can sustain very hight speeds in corners as well as being able to hold very heavy braking and hard acceleration. Kitted out right, at 220mph, the Mazda is one of the fastest cars in the game that I've driven. Both me and my friend found the car a very easy drive and a very enjoyable one too. The car is both fun and easy to drive for people who are not used to rear wheel drive vehicles, or who aren't used to racing games at all, and weighing in at $7 out of promotion, its one of the cheapest supercars I've come across on Simraceway, and I'd thoroughly recommend purchasing it. Also, much like the lap board in Top Gear, I'm starting a table of personal best laps around 6 tracks in the cars I test. The reason is that trying to review a car is very subjective. Your experience of a car depends on your skills and preferences in driving, which will differ from mines and other peoples. I've chosen 6 tracks, 3 ovals and 3 circuits: Daytona is a test of the pure flat out speed of the car, whereas Martinsville and Bristol form a great test of accelerating, braking and steering stability. I've come to love the Watkins Glen long track for its fast opening section and I feel that the latter stage is a good test of the stability of the car in constant-speed corners. Similarly Laguna Seca is a good mix of fast corners testing the stability and acceleration of cars. Finally Longstone Pass is a tricky track with many medium and heavy braking sections that push the boundaries of of the car your driving. So I'm currently working my through the list of cars I already own, I'll announce how the cars stack up against others. Just now, the Mazda is first on all counts! I'll finish off the videos and get them uploaded when I can. Unfortunately because the Mazda was so easy to drive, the Test Drive Madness videos won't feature this week as there was no hilarious crashes. I will put some videos of the racing performance though. Thanks for reading!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Test Drive Madness - Maserati MC12 GT1

Another weekly I want to start. After reviewing cars during the day as part of the Test Drive Tuesday, me and my friend (Sozedge on screen) like to team up and do some races in the TDT cars. This always ends up in shambolic disasters as opposed to meaningful races, so this series is more for the yuks than it is a legitimate review of racing the TDT cars. This week, we bring you the Maserati MC12 GT1 at Watkins Glen, Laguna Seca, Silverstone and Daytona.

Again, I apologise that out microphones are quiet and hissy in places, will try to get it sorted next week.

Test Drive Tuesday - Maserati MC12 GT1

Game: Simraceway
Cost: $12

A great feature of Simraceway is that every Tuesday, they allow you access to a car that you might not have. During which time, they host a good variety of quick races and you are free to drive the car in practice mode on any track you like. If you want to buy the car, its discounted to 50% off for the duration of the Test Drive Tuesday event. I have taken part in a few TDT's and have done the last 3. I'm thinking of turning it into a weekly regular feature on Youtube and this blog, with driving and racing in the car. Unfortunately, due to my very slow internet, I doubt I will ever get a video online before the TDT event ends, but the review will feature on Wednesday or Thursday.

So this Tuesday, the car of choice was the Maserati MC12 GT1, which I took for a spin on the Watkins Glen Long circuit. My video review is above (I do apologise for the sound on the videos, my microphone is of lack-lustre quality at the best of times and can be quite quiet).

In brief, its probably the best fun I've had in a supercar since starting the Test Drive Tuesdays. As someone who's not well experienced in high-powered rear-wheel drives, I found that this car is very stable though corners and a can accelerate and brake well in a straight line. It is still quite easy to loose traction and spin out powering though corners, as it is under heavy braking, but its certainly good fun to drive a nice open track like Watkins Glen and its not that powerful that I got caught out every lap. At $12 its probably a little too pricey to buy myself, but if I had to get a supercar in my collection, this would probably be my car of choice.

Videos of racing to follow!

Simraceway Review

*Currently in Beta*
Category: Motor Racing
Cost: Free (has micro-transactions)
My Rating: 85%

Simraceway is an up and coming online racing platform that's currently in an open beta stage. It's available for free with all the tacks and 3 cars by default, with many other cars currently available for purchase and more under development. 

The development team at Simraceway have the luxury of having their own track and racing instruction school at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, complete with a team of experienced racing drivers. This allows the team to really get most realistic driving experience for the cars they develop - of which they have made some videos of the process: I have done test drives of a good dozen of the cars they offer, from VW Jettas to Maserati supercars, go-karts to IndyCar and while I don't claim to be a racing guru, my opinion of the physics is that they are very well done: Even low powered cars can catch you out if you make a complete mess of a corners (I always drive will all the driving aids turned off). High powered cars can be almost undrivable if you don't know how to deal with them, but far from that acting against the game, it really shows off the difficulties of driving and racing these cars as you would face if you tried it for real. It also means when you do eventually master driving a car and put out a great flying lap, you get a great sense of satisfaction from the challenge!

The cars are visually well modelled both internally and externally. Damage (with the exception of major individual components such as wheels and wings) is not modelled visually, which is a bit disappointing but the game is still in beta. The physics modelling of damage is also very well done, and while fairly simple low powered cars can take a few bashes before any noticeable impact, but gently glance a wall in a supercar and expect to suffer for your crime!

Overall, the cars look great and handle realistically ("well" is a very subjective term).

Simraceway has decent lineup of tracks, which they release for free when they are developed. Being an American-based company, most of the tracks available are based there and features a mix of road courses such a Sonoma and the Circuit of the Americas and oval tracks such as Daytona and Indianapolis. There are a few famous tracks outside America, including Silverstone and Zandvoort, with more surely to be added. One feature I did like was that all the variations of circuits are neatly grouped in one menu per track, unlike other racing sims. The tracks themselves all seem well modelled with tracks, kerbs, gravel traps and features all appear to be correctly placed, though I haven't visited any of them in person!

While I do have a strong computer setup, I'm still very very impressed with optimisation of the game as a whole. With full graphics settings, 59-AI cars racing on a track AND fraps recording the screen, the game remained at a comfortable 50-60 FPS. Things only got a bit hairy when large crashes involving many cars brought the FPS down to about 15 FPS, but those are exceptional circumstances. This allows the tracks and backgrounds to be modelled in great detail, and they are!

As a multi-player platform, single-player comes in the form of "practice", where you can either take a car around your track by yourself, or race against the AI. The AI races are all very mechanical: all the cars look identical and all follow near-perfect vector lines, which takes alot of the fun out of single player racing, albeit, single player isn't a full feature of Simraceway.

Multi-player is the main staple of gameplay in Simraceway and comes in two forms: Quick Races and Events. In quick-races, its a straight up race against other people on a track. Sometimes its all in the same car and recently, users can select from a set of cars. So, the experience boils down to the people you play with, which is usually bad - "rammers" are very infuriating and can put to waste what is usually 90% of a great race. Of course, in racing, accidents happen all the time, but rammers intentionally hit into your car hard and there is no punishment for regular offenders. This can sometimes reduce your time on the game to waiting until the people you know are rammers to leave or go into a race so that you can form another one of your own, which is very detrimental to the experience. 

In these races, qualifying is done away with and instead, users starting positions are determined by their Skillquant. The Skillquant is a well balanced score and is worked out by several factors including how many places you've gained/lost during races, how often you followed the racing line and how often you lost control of the car. I think its a very good idea as it means having a minor bump or a bad start doesn't mean the end of your race-winning career, and gives a good reflection on users actual racing ability.

Events are races against the clock, where you go to a track by yourself and try to get the best time. What I really like about events is the ghosts, if you enable them. When you start, you get the ghost of the slowest recorded time and when you set a time, the ghost then becomes that of the person above you in the timing sheets, and so on until you are at the top. It can be very comical to be worried about having the ghost in front of you, only to see it spin off into a wall and you know you're getting a better time! That feature makes the Event experience quite pleasurable in my experience.   

Other Features
Other than the default cars, you are required to buy to other cars which can be done with real money, or "credits". Credits are worth 0.1 cents per credit, but as you race online in either events or quick races, you gain 5 credits for every lap you complete, which is nice as regular users can then "win" the cars they want, rather than having to spend money.

There is another major feature, which I will discuss in my next post.

One of the major problems I have with this game as it is, as I've already discussed, is rammers, and I hope that Simraceway can come up with some way of dealing with them that prevents them from racing in that manner and discourages others from doing the same.

Given the diversity and optimisation of the game as a whole, even in the beta stage it is now, I feel it would not take a significant amount of work to add a full featured single player mode, be it customisable careers or just individual races with imperfect-AI driven cars. While at the moment, the safety car is not functioning on all tracks, when it was working, it provided a very good racing experience with full flags and I really enjoyed the fact you could opt in to formation laps for standing or rolling starts. Realistically, if they just fixed the safety car and made some AI profiles with different liverys then they could turn the game from a good online racing platform to the one of the most diverse modern racing gamings on the market today, and (perhaps as someone with a fairly slow internet), I do feel the game is lacking for it.

Nevertheless, given the platform is completely free, if you're into racing its very much worth a look. Despite my few criticisms it has now become my racing sim of choice, and I have recently introduced my friend to it too: he's now hooked!

Want to see more? Check out my Simraceway videos on my Youtube channel:

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

New Blog

So, as a person with more games on their Steam list than most Valve employees, I found myself a tad bored when my £50 gaming mouse went all Mac-style on me and couldn't right click. In these dark and lonely time, I decided to myself 2 things: that first, I was going to get back into game building and secondly, I was going to start a blog about gaming. And as with all ambitious projects of mines, I've picked the perfect time to begin: my final, and most important year at university starts next week, all the while I'm at working, learning two languages, doing a competitive year as a target shooter and qualifying to become a real life racing driver. There is no way at all that I might be overstretched!

Anyway, gaming takes up alot of my time so I want this to become a regular fixture of mine and hopefully, readers enjoy it enough that it becomes a regular fixture of theirs too. Now, I can't keep up with constant new releases (as an independent here, I anything I spend on games comes out of my budget for food), and my computer setup is already rather precarious, so I can't really do the crowbarring necessary to get alot of vintage games running on my setup. So rather than a constant stream of reviews on new games or retrospect of old ones, both of which are already well covered on the internet, I'd think I'd dedicate my blog to the overall topic of gaming. Mainly, I'd like to focus on discussing the development of, and the concepts behind the games we see today and how they've evolved the games of yesteryear. One thing I would like to do fairly regularly is discuss the hard-working modding community, reviewing some good mods and talking about how their work changes the games we play. And once I violently crowbar gently absorb the necessary knowledge to begin my games creations in earnest, I'll talk about what its like and and the work behind developing a game of your very own.

Of course, I will also do some reviews on the games I'm playing now and some of my favourites from the past. Generally, I hold quite positive opinions of games that others might be quick to criticise and complain about, so I wouldn't say the reviews would be highly critical, so I reckon my reviews would be the case of documenting the reasons why you should buy or play a game. As for what I play, I'm very open and have everything from Call of Duty to Rail Simulator, Indie to Triple-A developers, and ages and genres across the board. I'm happy to play anything, although I very much enjoy simulation. In particular, I spend alot of my time on Microsofts Flight Simulator. Indeed, my very idea for starting this blog came from my friend who regularly does videos for the benefit of those interested in flying. His site can be found here: and is well worth checking out, if you're interested.

So, this has been a fairly long post, thanks for reading. I don't have all that great sound gear on my setup, so while I put a far few videos on my Youtube channel ( I narrate fairly few. Now that I've started this, I will try to do more, time allowing. I will put videos online fairly regularly and like relevant ones here. I also have a long-abandoned project doing content creation for RailWorks which can be found here: For the moment, most of my discussions will be done by text on this blog. So before I go, I'd like to give a shout out to a couple of great places to go for insights into games and funny things that happen in them: first is Zero Punctuation ( and second is Random Encounter (

So thanks again for reading, throughout this blog, feel free to give any comments, questions or suggestions on any topics or games I've mentioned, or that you want me to cover. See you all soon!