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December 11, 2006

XNA Game Studio Express

Writing about web page http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=A73A7E71-FF41-432D-A0EB-043E904A1905&displaylang=en

It’s out. Going to require a reboot to XP to try it out though, no Vista support until next year…


December 17, 2005

GT Legends – A Review

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Anyone familiar with the dark horse hit that was GTR FIA Racing will already know SimBin (game engine) and 10tacle (developers) have built themselves a very good reputation very quickly. Although the game was a solid title supported by 5 patches, it still didn't quite provide the smooth online play some might have expected.

In steps GT Legends , built on a slightly modified engine/physics engine to GTR FIA but this time built around sports cars from the 1960s and 70s. With some well known cars as the Porsche 911 , Chevrolet Corvette and as shown in the game cover, the Ford GT40, it certainly doesn't lack authenticity. With "more then 90 original FiA GTC-TC team vehicles" [sic] which equates to about 25 unique vehicles, there is a decent choice of cars all the way through the game.

Some people might be disappointed when you start the game that you can leap right into a GT40 and burn up any of the games "25 variations of real tracks" straight away. Instead GT Legends has opted for a psuedo-"Gran Turismo career" where you start in the lower league cups, working your way up earning the money to buy/win the beasts. Although there are only 5 Cups A-E, and 4–5 sub-championships within each they get progressively longer, but no less interesting. After each cup you unlock new tracks and sometimes a new era of cars to race meaning the desire to finish "just one more" championship is often too strong.

On the graphics front GTL is very strong much like it's older brother GTR and with everything turned up to max it does look very convincing. The lighting effects are very well done although perhaps shadows could punish lower-end systems. One noticeable, but presumably easy to patch bug so far is that cars don't cast shadows when you look at them in mirrors giving the appearance they are flying just above the track.

If the graphics weren't pretty enough, the sound is quite possibly so good you'll be in awe every time you sit on the starting grid. As you'd expect from any racing game that takes itself seriously all the cars were recorded from their real-life counterparts throughout the entire range of the engine. Different engine noises depending if you're sitting inside, behind or infront of the car and enough sound voices to let you hear most, if not all of the cars around you give a very realistic sense of actually going 3 abreast into the first corner.

Given the change of cars from GTR to GTL it's difficult to tell if the physics have been improved between games. However it is possible to say that all the cars handle exactly as you'd expect them too, from the super-slidey AC Cobra to the comparably slow musclely Ford Mustang. Collisions with such immovable objects as, erm, walls, are accurate, although when slowed down in replays, cars can seemingly pass through the wall/track for a period of time, but it does happen so quickly you won't notice in real time.

The AI was another part of the original GTR that really did excel, and was possibly the best AI in a racing game I'd ever seen. Their "non-pack" style of racing cough Gran Turismo cough was a welcome surprise, and the vigour with which they both defended their positions with acceptable amount of blocking and also the small feints up the inside when trying to pass made for a very interesting opponent. Given the two games are based on pretty much similar game engines its no surprise that the AI is convincing again. From my time playing I've certainly noticed they defend their positions even more vigorously, especially on higher levels of difficulty making it very tough to pass. Although the AI is pretty quick on an open track, it will often get quite confused if one of it's counterparts (or me) have spun in the middle of the track, and they will slow down to an over-sensible speed so as not to collide, allowing you to catch up easier than you might otherwise have done.

Online play is not something I've delved into yet, preferring so far to complete the game and make sure I'm capable of keeping up on those "no driving assists" servers without spinning out at the first sight of a corner. Patch 1.1 added support for an (almost) unprecedented 36 player multiplayer when using a dedicated server so I can only assume 10tacle are pretty confident their net code is a little more solid this time around.

Overall GT Legends is a more than capable replacement for GTR and I fully expect it to be adopted by most online racing leagues as a result of it's already healthy coat of polish. Highly recommended to anyone that enjoys simulation racing games, but a steering wheel with force feedback is nigh on essential to get the most out of GTL. Five stars.


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