Ferrari Challenge update. NFS Shifts?

Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli safely arrived Wednesday; however I did not get a chance to fire it up until last night. Before jumping into the game, I had to wait, and wait, and wait for the 2.02 patch to download and install. The download took a solid 5 minutes, which pretty much sucks since you cannot run it in background mode. After that nasty little inconvenience, I spent about thirty of so minutes with the game. I ran a couple of arcade races and time trials at Monza, and then several turns with the surprisingly fun Tutorial mode.

No real impressions yet, because such quick ticks would not be fair to the game. For $18, I am feeling rather happy with the game. Hope to get more time with it this weekend.

While waiting for the game, I learned that SuperCar Challenge is waiting in the wings, but it does not look like an American release is imminent. It also looks like another Need For Speed is coming our way, this time Shift. I really wish that the NFS series would return to its roots and get back to some more serious racing. I would love to see an updated version of the first PSX NFS, but I doubt that is going to happen anytime soon. At least Shift, complete with power ups, looks better than the recent street racing crap that has been plaguing the series.


Monday Gaming Stuff.

These days I get gaming in very small doses. The same goes for looking at videogame centric sites. Hell, I cannot remember the last time I even logged onto a videogame forum. Right now, that is just not my cup of tea. I have such little time to play games; I cannot be bothered to read about them, much less write about my gaming experiences.

What has changed over the last 18-24 months? Well, lots. For starters, I just realized that E3 was last week (maybe the week before last … not that I care). I also let my Official PlayStation Magazine subscription expire. I am not up to date on the latest Qore downloads. I have not preordered the twin football releases of NCAA Football 2010 and Madden 2010.

Things are different, but you will notice that I am actually writing about gaming. What gives? I still enjoy the hobby; I just do not find that much spare time – probably has something to do with work and having three boys. Usually real life events get my gaming jones churning. Last weekend, Le Mans got me into some video game racing. I even ordered a new game. Hmmm …

Over the weekend I started looking for a new racing game. I was really curious if a new F1 game was going to be published, but the best I can tell is that the PS3 version by Codemasters is either unconfirmed or cancelled. Oh, that was when I came across Ferrari Challenge. One thing led to another, and I started reading news about this that and the other, which was when I realized that I missed E3!

There was a time and place when that would never have happed. I even attended E3 years ago when it had a two year run in Atlanta. I realize that E3 is no longer as important as it once was, but it was a sort of reality check that I was so far removed from gaming that I did not give a shit that E3 had come and gone. Strange times …

One of the E3 related spin off bits that I read about this morning was the pricy new PSPgo. My PSP does nothing except collect dust, so a new PSP seems in order. I keep debating if I should sell mine and convert over to a Nintendo DSi, but I cannot convince myself to but bait and take a loss. At any rate, at first glance this newest revision of the PSP seems ill conceived. The system price point is too high, the game downloads are too expensive, and the downloaded selections are rather limited. This commentary from Sports Legends points out all these problems and more:

But the truth is that I would consider paying that much if, and only if, I knew my long term investment would pay off in lots of cool digital-only toys. If the PlayStation store was ready to go with lots of cool applications for the PSP, a system that screams for just such products, I wouldn’t even mind paying a little more for the really premium content. But, from Sony, nothing. It’s like putting a Porsche body on a Chrysler LeBaron and selling trying to sell it for $200,000.

To be blunt,if I’m on a budget I go with Nintendo’s continued DS juggernaut and if I’m looking for a technology novelty or vanity piece of hardware, I get an iPhone or iPod touch with access to an absolutely obscene amount of applications.

Love that Chrysler LeBaron quote! I had a good friend in college that could barely keep his LeBaron going, but man was he proud of that car.

Print magazines such as the Official PlayStation Magazine are antiquated. Except for quality reading time on the throne, I am not sure what they offer, but it still feels odd no longer having any video game magazine subscriptions. Well, I suppose that is not quite right because I do have a digital subscription to Qore. I think that one runs out in July or August, which gives me plenty of time to catch up on the last seven months of downloads.

I think the biggest nut chaser has to be that I have not bothered to order a 2010 EA football game release. I am somewhat torn here. First, do I have the time to take on a new football game, much less two? Second, do I really want to spend $120+ tax just to see if anything changes? Finally, do I try to get a few bucks for my 20th Anniversary Madden while it is still worth $15-20? I got rid of last year’s NCAA Football in enough time to collect close to half price, but it is far too late for last year’s Madden. The real travesty is that I am not even close to getting my $90 worth out of the Head Coach/Madden experience.

Finally, there is the whole “will it even work” thing that I have going against me. My PS3 is as fickle as a teenage school girl. Some days it plays discs, and others it just ignores my advances (err … you know what I mean … the drive will not read games, movies, etc). Right now I do not think I am going to bother sending it off for costly repairs. Replacing it with a new version that does not have the proper PS2 Emotion Engine emulation hardware does not seem like a good option. Besides all that, money for a system repair or system replacement would be better spent of a tailgating grill for the upcoming Falcons season.

So where does this leave us? I am not really sure, but this is a start.


Sunday Racing Stuff.

This was a great weekend of racing action; on TV (real life and the PS3). First up, congratulations are in order to Corvette for taking first in GT1 today at Le Mans. I wanted a decent amount of SPEED’s coverage, but Le Mans is not the type of race where you just sit down and watch end-to-end. Not to mention the fact that the race is 24 hours, I do actually have a life and commitments outside of watching racing on TV.

Jeff Gordon managed his fuel to a surprise (really a gift) second place finish today in Michigan. He is a healthy second in the Chase, 47 or so points back of Stewart, but only having one win is going to hurt his chances.

PS3 Gaming Update
All this racing action inspired me to try out some PS3 racing. These days I do not have a lot of free time for gaming, and my PS3 is extremely finicky with disc, randomly deciding to read/accept one. This weekend I managed to get in a few minutes with Gran Turismo 5: Prologue and Formula One Championship Edition.

Gran Turismo 5: Prologue
GT5 Prologue is an eye-candy pleasing, fun game, but to be honest, except for the graphics, I like GT4 better. Unfortunately, my two-year old son killed the GT4 disc; I assume I will buy another copy one of these days. I played around with Gt5 Prologue a little; just enough to make me chuckle a couple of times watching the lame AI race around the tracks. Good stuff.

Formula One Championship Edition
Next up was F1CE. This game is still a blast! The simulation mode is far from perfect, and while it is not as brutal as a “pure” simulation, it more than gets the job done. I had a great time just running hot laps in the time trial mode. This game has held up amazing well. It is too bad that there have been no downloadable options, other than rumble support. New circuits, teams, drivers … really any bonus content would be welcome. I think I read somewhere that Codemasters now holds the F1 license, but there is not currently a confirmed PS3 release in the works.

Ferrari Challege
I decided to order Ferrari Challenge for the PS3 from Amazon for $17.99; thanks to second day Prime shipping, the game will be here Wednesday. Sure the game has been out for a year, but that goes a long way to show how much my gaming patters have changed over the last couple of years. There was a time when this one would have been on my preorder list, but to be honest, these days I am so far removed from the gaming community that I assumed this was an arcade game similar the PSP version. Hell, even if was a pure arcade racer, there was a time when I would have had the game in hand on release day, played the heck out of it, offered up some initial impressions, and then go on a 5000+ word diatribe about the game. I digress. Those days are gone.

When I saw the cheap price, I headed to metacritic to check out the game. I am guessing that Ferrari Challenge got lost in the crowded field of other arcade racers – you know the GRID, DiRT, Need For Speed, Motor Storm, and to some degree the beautiful GT5: Prologue. I am going to guess that when everyone figured out you had to work for wins Ferrari Challenge fell by the wayside. Even if I hate the game, for less than $20, I figure that it is not a big loss.


Give them what they want. GT5 Eye Candy.

I spent a goodly amount of time with Gran Turismo 5 Prologue today. Sure, it is eye candy, but it is the candy everybody wants.

Tori Praver © SI

Tori Praver – delicious eye candy ©

At this point I only have a couple of Gold Trophies to earn in the C Class events. Race C-3 (Cappaccino Time Target) and C-9 (FF Challenge). I have a Silver Trophy in the former (1:39.570 is my current fastest time), and a Bronze Trophy in the latter (I need to work at this one). I will give it another go again tonight, and I should have some time tomorrow to see if I can knock off one or both.

I had a blast getting the Gold Trophy in C-8 (Honda Integra Mission) at Daytona. It was not until I switched to manual, and picked up the draft from almost every car I passed, that I actually found my way across the finish line first. I never considered that manual transmission at a super speedway would be important, but it made a difference. Catching the draft was incredible exciting. Enough so that I am seriously consider picking up NASCAR 09. Daytona Gran Turismo style, getting ready to watch the Coke Zero 400, some beer, and of course Tori will also do the trick.


Gran Turismo 4 Slips into Obscurity

Another email update from EBGames, and another Gran Turismo 4 delay. This time we learn that GT4 will not even hit store shelves in time for Christmas.

We are writing to let you know that we have changed the projected ship date for Gran Turismo 4 to 2/5/2005.

How disappointing.

I know there are hundreds of thousands (dare I say a couple of million) of casual fans will still buy the game and will not care about the delay, but one really has to wonder “what is the point?” At this point, why not scrap the game altogether and wait for the PS3 (or whatever it will be called) and use GT4 as a launch title? Who am I kidding? There is too much money to be had for Sony, but surely they are disappointed that they missed the Christmas window.

I am seriously disappointed that Sony cannot get their act together on this one and get the damn thing released already.


ToCA Race Driver 2 and IGN

I was debating ordering ToCA Race Driver 2 for the PS2 since I have always been a big fan of the series and Codemasters. So this afternoon I started clicking on various reviews and eventually arrived at the IGN ToCA Race Driver 2 review. After seeing several references to the Xbox, and a specific one to Xbox Live, I remember why I started reviewing games in the first place.

This will, undeniably, force Xbox Live players to use a much more finesse and less brute force as they plow throw the twisty turns of ToCA.

I can understand if a mega site does not want to completely review a cross-platform game. I can live with that. I can even live with a ton of copy/past for a review. Just give us readers a little heads-up and let us know the games are basically the same, so the original review is serving as the review for the ported releases.

If they pointed out the differences between the Xbox and PS2 then I missed it.

Don’t let the silly name convention fool you; it’s the true sequel to last year’s outing and with a few months between the Xbox release and the PS2 release there are a few small additions as well.

Other than mention of the new Catalunya track, I see little else to let us know the differences between the Xbox and PS2 version. For those of us with multiple platforms (as if I have an Xbox) it would be nice to know what sort of updates (if any) were provided for the PS2 version.

Mega sites may provide a ton of reviews, but they still suck.


No Joke, Calvert Games is 3

No bells, no whistles, no fanfare as Calvert Games turned three a few days ago. Keeping on keeping on is my motto, and it looks like Calvert Games is doing just that despite the many ups and downs and current blog iteration of the site.

It is hard to believe that Calvert Games posted its first content September 27, 2001 (the site was officially launched the following week). Calvert Games launched with two articles and a review, and the rest as they say is history.

Interestingly enough the first ever article was titled “Re-return: MJ Bounces Back”

As a white kid who could not jump, I certainly spent plenty of time trying to imitate a MJ buzzer beater. I certainly look forward to seeing if MJ can recapture some of that old magic.

In “System Wars 2001″ I predicted that Microsoft would struggle badly behind Nintendo:

When all is said and done, games sell systems. The average Wal-Mart shopper could care less about broadband, hard drive space, or any other perceived advantage that Microsoft is currently trying to push. At this point, I do not feel that either system offers a compelling lineup, but as a fan of video games, my money is on Nintendo over Microsoft, but Sony will win the 2001 System Wars.

The first review was Le Mans 24 Hours for the PS2, earning a 3/5, and a couple of giggles as I look back on the style of the day.

I admit that I am a whore when it comes to racing games, especially those leaning towards the simulation side of the spectrum — I just cannot get enough. I spent many hours with Test Drive Le Mans (TDLM) for the Dreamcast (DC), awarding the game a score of 80%. It was with baited breath that I anxiously awaited the PlayStation2 (PS2) conversion.

Contrails [thanks Paul K.!] make a spectacular appearance. In fact, seeing the contrails is a sign of things to come — overdone, and over emphasized. Much like TDLM, brake rotors glow, but in Le Mans they look like someone taped an old orange Hot Wheels strip of track around the inside of the wheel. Night racings are almost a mockery of lighting effects. As I said in the beginning of this review, night races look like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Not trying to toot my horn or anything, but the review was actually entertaining. I am not sure where I lost it, but somewhere along the way I have forgotten how to review games. I guess life was much simpler in those days; too bad I lost my innocence. Maybe one day I can recapture the magic.

It would be a huge mistake not to send a special thank you to the guys that really made the site churn over the last few years. My hat goes off to the talented staff that made Calvert Games so special: Adam Simpson, Derek Mirdala, Kevin Mosley, and Ted Leiker.

After a rather inauspicious ending in August, leaving Calvert Games “off the air” for a couple of days, Calvert Games has managed to struggle kicking and screaming to year three. Many happy returns, and thanks for the continued support!


London Calling

No updates? In the UK on business this week, so updates have been few and far between. Last week I did not do my usual SEC preview because UGA was off. Not sure if I will do one this week because my head is spinning (too much Stella), and I cannot watch a damn thing.

Actually, I made it to the Sport Cafe, and they do show college football on Saturday and NFL on Sunday. Looks like Purdue/Notre Dame tomorrow and a lot of NFL including my Falcons on Sunday (something like 9PM or so UK time). Anyway, as some of you may know (shout out to Adam) the Sports Cafe is mentioned in the Dreamcast classic MSR – cool racing game.

The UK [edit – obviously should be US; was kind of dizzy last night; thanks for the catch Ted!] is soooo different than the UK. Will have to write more later. It is way past my bedtime and I still have another Stella to knock off, so all for now.

London is calling, and the pubs are all good. Good night that is. Cheers!


And it is Go, Go, Go! (Copycat Racing Goes Underground)

This is ridiculous. In a span of eight days we have NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup (due Aug 31), Street Racing Syndicate (Aug 31), Burnout 3 (due Sep 7), and Juiced (due Sep 7). The NASCAR game makes sense – it is timed around the new playoff format, but what about Juiced and SRS? They are coming out so damn close to each other that they are sure to stunt to the other game, not to mention that Burnout 3 has more “buzz” behind it, plus the EA marketing arm (and $$$).

The second wave of racing games starts in October with TOCA Race Driver 2 (due Oct 5), which is a surprise release. I thought it was going to remain an Xbox exclusive. I have no idea how well the first title did, but the PSX TOCA titles never did that well. I do not have actual sales data to back up that claim, but I just do not remember any of those titles being chart toppers, despite being solid racing games. TOCA 2 and 3 were way ahead of their time, complete with great racing AI and visible damage.

November will see the release of the heavy hitters – Gran Turismo 4 (due Nov 14), Need For Speed Underground 2 (Nov 15), and Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition (Nov 23). I have preorderd GT4 and NFS:U2, but I have no interest in Midnight Club 3, which is going to be completely lost in the wake of the other two games.

What is the deal with all the copycat underground games? Yes, I know NFS:Underground was late to the party, but EA does this type of game so well that I do not see SRS, Juiced, and Midnight Club 3 standing a chance. Oh well, I have a feeling that 2005 will be a great year for bargain bin racing.


Burnout 3 Looks Impressive

This weekend I had a chance to play a Burnout 3 (PS2) demo at Best Buy. I have never played any of the games in the series so I do not have a barometer, but this thing was pretty fun and impressive. In the few minutes I played I decided a couple of things. First, the game has an awesome sense of speed. Second, the game’s crashes are nothing short of spectacular. I have no idea what sort of lasting appeal the game will have, but I bet the crash mode is about as good as it gets for “pick up and play” action.

Need For Speed is about the closest thing I get to arcade racing these days, but Burnout 3 certainly got my attention. I would put it on my buy list if it was cheaper, but $50 is a little too much for my taste for this sort of game. Speaking of which, I am not sure what EA was thinking when it decided to take over publishing rights; maybe they are playing to make Need For Speed an “exotic” racer once again, while the Burnout series takes over the Ridge Racer arcade style formula. It will be interesting to see how EA positions the two series with future releases.


Crash ‘N’ Burn – Out of the Loop

Today I was slogging through mounds of email, and I noticed that I was sent an invitation from the PlayStation Underground to apply for a beta test position for Eidos’ Crash ‘N’ Burn. Two things come to mind. First, I have never received an invite to be a beta tester before, so that was fairly cool. Second, I am so far out of the loop that I have no idea what this game is about. Still, the email said, “you meet all of the requirements and have been invited to participate in the online public beta test…”

Kind of interesting since I am not a big online fan, and it is a little disconcerting that I am completely out of it when it comes to release lists. There was a time in my life when I could recite (in great detail) tons of games that were on my radar and even complete lists of games that I figured would be lame, or discount rack material. I assume this game is kind of like Destruction Derby, and all good readers (and I suspense Sony too) know that the rolling demo for DD convinced me that I needed this new shiny known as the PlayStation months before Sony took over the world of video gaming.

Alas, this said tale ended with a message that stated that the enrollment period was over and all beta tester positions have been filled. At least I know that there is still some hope for me. After all, I did get the email saying that I was cool enough to be a beta testing. Then again, I am sure 1000s of others received the same letter. Still being invited to beta test is something to hang my hat on … I guess.