Category Archives: PC

BAM. Ride Along – GRID 2 (Big Sur Touge)

In the last bout of the Touge run in GRID 2 I bring the battle to the showcase in California, we hit Big Sur for a battle of beasts, the heavyweight as the Skyline GT-R (R32) and the featherweight challenger as the Ariel Atom 3. For those unfamiliar the Atom is a smaller car, lighter and it uses a high power and high revving engine as its cornerstone for a great power to weight balance.

On a course like Big Sur it’s crucial to maintain a balance of speed and control to carry the fastest line possible as elevation changes often. We’ll see how the two cars carry on in this challenge.

As seen it’s pretty screwed up for balance, on a focused downhill or uphill the Atom would give it a better chance, even a better starting run would allow it to wind out a little harder. Unfortunately the AI in this challenge doesn’t quite push the Atom as hard as it needs to and falls behind immediately. By the time the GT-R cuts the corner the Atom is already being left in the dust, when sliding the long corner after there’s little chance for the car to catch up.

It’s a mix of styles between the two cars, the Atom is designed to hug the corners and tackle them with precision, while the GT-R can do that too, it does it slower when the body is pulling it to the outside of the corner. Going into a slide / drift allows for the GT-R to defy the odds a little against cars that would normally be right on its tail in a challenge like this.

That does wrap up the GRID 2 series at this point, I enjoyed taking the GT-R around for another run in-game but it’s time to move to new grounds. In the future I’ll try to mix up games a little more between installments so there’s a little more variety.

My setup:
AMD FX-8320 @ 4.4GHz
ASUS R9 290 DirectCUII @ 1000/1250
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3
Logitech G27 Racing Wheel
DXRacer King Series – OH/KS57/NB

 

BAM. Ride Along – GRID 2 (Okutama Touge)

The Skyline GT-R (R32) is back in action, taking it to the native mountains in Okutama for some 1v1 with the GC Auto GC10-V8. Given the GT-R relies on the torque of that straight 6 turbo to pull ahead, how will it do against a V8 opponent laying it down in RWD? It’s up to the AI and the roadway to decide that.

Okutama is a powerful track in either configuration, the downhill helps level the playing field in acceleration while the tough initial corners allow drivers to pursue the fastest lines they can to pull ahead and leave the challenger in the dust. It’s a delicate blend but on the track it just looks like a mad dash to victory at any cost, cutting corners as tight as possible to save seconds and speed.

The GT-R came out ahead, normally the opening section is the attack point I like to use on Okutama. The GT-R has great traction and power where you can just leave it wide open with a hard flick of the car and push on your way. Since the AI tries to go for standard grip and high traction through the course it’s a weakness you’ll see no matter what the difficulty. Even if the AI goes in at full speed through the corner, they generally lose on the braking contest coming in and you can chisel away a lead.

When all else fails the other defining points for attack are the base of the downhill before the first bridge, there’s an S section that comes up and with the right setup it’s possible to slide the car and avoid some of that drag from the slope of the corner by coming in tight and early. Later in the second run I’m not quite able to get the gap I need so I rely on the curving back section before the tunnel to leave the car wide open and cut as straight as I can through the switches.

Okutama has many points to gain an advantage on an opponent or equal the playing ground, in Touge it’s a challenge of picking where you’ll make those moves and if you can avoid being disqualified for contact.

My setup:
AMD FX-8320 @ 4.4GHz
ASUS R9 290 DirectCUII @ 1000/1250
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3
Logitech G27 Racing Wheel
DXRacer King Series – OH/KS57/NB

BAM. Ride Along – GRID 2 (Cote D’ Azur Touge)

GRID 2 action is back again, the Skyline GT-R (R32) is taking on the Caterham SP300R in a battle to the limit on Route D’ Azur course. It’s a tighter track with unforgiving side walls but that’s generally the breaks when you’re on Cote D’ Azur in any game. Given the weight of the GT-R it’s not entirely with the biggest advantage, the power of the car and the 4WD are the strengths the car needs to rely on here since it slides and there’s not a ton of room to really play with on the roads here. Given the Caterham does have the weight advantage it should be able to hold its ground a little better even on the uphill climbs.

As you can see, I have a few wall bumps and sketchy moments but it’s the beast mode of the GT-R that carries it through. Late braking and throwing as much speed into the corners without dogging the engine is a key element to staying afloat, managing that it allows the torque of the GT-R to really come into play and pull ahead with the fastest average speed throughout the course. The biggest challenge to the GT-R usually for me on Cote D’ Azur is the braking challenge as it’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of the track and push some of these switch back sections a little too hard leaving for some bad crashes.

The Caterham put up a fight but the SP300R wasn’t destined for greatness this round, maybe next time guys.

More features will continue dropping through the late summer and Fall season, keep an eye out for more adventures with the GT-R and everything else I get sucked into.

My setup:
AMD FX-8320 @ 4.4GHz
ASUS R9 290 DirectCUII @ 1000/1250
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3
Logitech G27 Racing Wheel
DXRacer King Series – OH/KS57/NB

BAM. Reviews – Crysis (PC)

It’s Fall 2007, my X1800XT is ready for battle and wait… okay so it’s not 2007 it’s 2015 and we’re putting Crysis x64 through the paces in a fresh review that’s heading toward 8 years too late. Recently I picked up Crysis on Steam because it was on sale for $5 and it’s nice to have digital copies of things that were once on disc.

For those late to the game, Crysis was the first project by the Crytek team after departing Ubisoft and the Far Cry series, keen to make another visually cutting edge island adventure we saw Crytek go to extreme lengths creating a cinematic PC engine that would tax hardware for ages to come. Crysis takes players into their own action film, powered up with a nano-suit that enhances defense, strength, speed and even offers camo to slip around the jungle and bypass opponents or allow for stealth kills. It’s campy, it has some holes in the story and odd pacing but it’s the whole experience of this story. The cut scenes and the visuals are sharp and real-time which wasn’t all that common for consistency back then that really made Crysis stand out.

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Because of the innovations and coding at the time with Crysis as one of the first Direct X 10 titles out there it was a monster for PC’s to take on and it brought about the reputation as a benchmark for raw power in a system. Oddly enough it still is that demanding, on a R9 290 OC I was able to appreciate breakneck speeds hovering up to 100fps but also witness particle and shader effect moments that went into the mid 20’s at random. Part of that could fall under optimization issues but still it’s a moment that takes anyone back at the fact that Crysis can still throw those blows.

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Story wise, players take on the role of Nomad, one of an elite group of nano-suit powered soldiers taking on a power mad general on a remote island. The goal of course, to investigate and diffuse the situation but what would that be without a bit of tension and unknown to mix things up. Right out of the gate it’s impossible miss the twist ahead, a random flying object disrupts the drop to the island sending everyone apart . As the team tries to get back together the death and chaos start surrounding them, it’s a dash to sort out what’s really going on in the middle of Korean soldiers laying waste to the jungle to catch you. As things hit their twist the story gets a bit slower and honestly a bit sparse, players take on zero gravity and alien hives with a sudden change in plot to survive at any cost. It’s a shame since it had some good potential to do more but there’s a ton of action and enemies to continue experiencing so I guess that was the filler.

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Gameplay is one of the memorable aspects of Crysis, it’s a throwback to Far Cry in this massive open world experience, diving into the ocean, swimming for attack boats, combing through the jungle and essentially taking any path desired to get the job done. It’s still rewarding even now, not just because of those options but what happens when you mix it up with the physics of the game, punching apart houses, blowing up stacked cars, leveling trees in the forest and sucking it all in. Sadly once the midpoint of the game hits, this sense of wonder and exploration dies in favor of a linear progression, it’s one of the biggest pitfalls for me with Crysis when playing. The experience is enjoyable but you’re left hanging after so much freedom and it lingers in the mind while taking on the rest of the story.

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For those used to traditional shooters there’s a learning curve to handling Crysis, the game works to mimic motion and physics so shots aren’t just “aim, shoot, kill, next” tracking players and planting shots ahead of movement to take down active opponents is a critical part of the experience and learning how to conserve ammo as it gets very limited. The rest of the game is fast to pick up on, learning when to use power, defense and how to maximize camo usage without falling into exposure mid-run.

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Graphically Crysis is obviously a very impressive game, when cranked to very high the presentation is competitve to modern titles. Textures are sharp, water behavior and physics are impressive and the experience is just so well honed for those who see it the first time or come back through again to suck up some of the environment. For those running lower end hardware the grading on Crysis is a bit unforgiving though, Low – Very High is a tough comparison even if many of the features are still there just in very crude form. It’s still best to experience Crysis with at least higher resolution textures if your system allows for it.

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So what’s the appeal if the game is just passing 7 years in age and a bit of a mess when it comes to the complete package? It’s that first experience and coming back around to screw around in the world. Unlike other games, Crysis offers full power out of the gate, as a result players can dominate the landscape if they wish especially after a healthy experience through the campaign. Knowing how to shoot, when to use camo, how to punch someone into the sky and appreciating the ability to wreck a house and leaving the patrol to panic over it. There are also console commands to really mess around with the game and at that point the replay value just keeps going up as players maximize the sandbox experience in the first half of the game and master how to handle every possible scenario.

For me Crysis will never be the perfect action game, but it goes just far enough to stand as one of the shooters I can always come back to and appreciate while passing some of the day. Coming back to it after a few year hiatus was a rewarding experience as I hadn’t completed the entire game for some time. Anyone with the PC power to swing the game should give it a look, it’s usually on sale for $5 on Steam so it’s really hard to avoid the purchase, there’s incredible value for that kind of money.

With that wrapped, it’s on to the next roll of the dice in the Steam list.

First Impressions – GRID Autosport PC

GRID Autosport launched during the Steam sale in June, not the ideal situation but at least they marked it down. After having some time hands on with the game though I do question if it should have gone up to full price. Granted it’s pretty, has variety in disciplines for racing and has a familiar and rounded appeal for racing fans but… the execution is where things get a bit strange.

I admit I enjoyed GRID 2, it was simple to jump into and didn’t require much thought, I do enjoy car setups and minor tuning options and it was something I could just jump into. That said… GRID Autosport could offer that same appeal but the assist system really restricts the enjoyment. On top of that, things requested by the community like cockpit view have been implemented but in a limited sense, using blur and low detail models for the impression.

Personally, I don’t like the cockpit view all that much, the new over the hood drivers side mount is actually very alluring to me though as the camera is no longer dead center in the car like I’m driving a McLaren F1 and allows me a bit of genuine perspective on where the car limits are instead of just guessing and using experience to fudge the corners. It’s a good catch by what seemed like a less vocal audience compared to the cockpit users.

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Overall the impressions aren’t awful but the handling makes it hard for new players to integrate into the game, the overbearing TCS and ASC drag the car down, I actually did a test video to showcase this.

The brakes / car computer take over going into the corners and even with a high speed entry leaning for oversteer, it corrects. While this could be somewhat helpful later on, in the early stages of the game it murders the little performance cars like Golf have in the game.

There’s more to explore and a deeper experience with the season mode to experience but it’s a bit of a missed opportunity as an update to the series as it lead up with so much talk about the return to TOCA and improvements. There are some around but it could have come so much further and hit all the audiences.

Test system:

AMD FX 8320 @ 4.4GHz
ASUS R9 290 DirectCU II
Logitech G27 (Manual, H Pattern, Clutch)
GRID Autosport with 4K pack

Review – Ducky Shine Zero (Cherry Blue)

The keyboard debate on the PC side is honestly just brewing, while some have made their camp with Cherry Red, Blue, Black, Brown, Clear, Green and so on, there are new entities also jumping into the field.

Today I review none of those competitors or even similar Cherry keyboards side by side. I’ve been a gamer on the PC for decades now and this is my first venture into this area as my main gaming keyboards were the Auravision Eluminix and the Everglide DKT which held on for many years and took shifts with standard OEM boards to avoid burning them to bits.

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First Impressions:

So what do I think? First impressions tend to shine when the product is good, the Ducky maintains that with a delivery that’s solid from start to finish. My only concern was a minor one, the manual for the LED system comes on the included Ducky cutout card, once you flip through that, everything makes sense and it’s off to clicky heaven.

When I went into picking out what mechanical system I would end up with it was a bit of a process, watching all the feedback on gaming and daily use I ended up going for the blue switch. I like the clicking sound and honestly it doesn’t bother me as my desktop audio system is solid and my headphones are fine. Each press is dead on, there’s no catching, no squish or other bad issues that come with a membrane. My old keyboard going into this had a problem with keys starting to catch on the sockets and I’m glad I’ll never revisit it.

After the honeymoon:

So far I’ve used this over a week straight, it’s been a nonstop barrage of emails, contacts, writing code and gaming and I have to say, it’s really so much more enjoyable. The slight frustrations with a key getting stuck, extra characters coming out or not registering is a thing of the past. In gaming I can get the response I need on demand without having to guess if it’s going to properly register or not. When the party is over I can switch off the game and resume my work like nothing happened.

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Deep thoughts:

So it’s well and good that Ducky has produced something that works for everyday action and gaming. Some say the keys are tough to press and honestly I’m not even sure what that means, everything goes down easily and I use this thing about 8-10 hours a day with no issues.

That’s not to say it’s perfect, the blue switch does mean more noise and it brings about the issue of ambient recording. If you’re a streamer even casually or active on TS3 or Vent then you might actually annoy your neighbors / chat guests a bit, the blue switches are loud and in my case I do my best to point the mic in and attach extra foam to dampen the incoming sound but honestly it’s enough to probably irritate others easily. The Zero comes in other configurations though which means even if you want red keys or black keys or brown keys you’re not screwed but you will have to dig around.

Appearances:

I’m a computer mod whore, I don’t even hide that, my case is a Phantom, I use Eyefinity, I have LED case lighting and now my keyboard glows too. It’s a magical thing and honestly I don’t think I would have it any other way. Ducky provides 7 stages of lighting with the option to pulse / breathe for the 8th option, when you’re going to be inactive the keyboard also supports lights out where you can shut the LED’s off  or use the LED light saving mode.

In the day I admit I use the LED’s on a lower setting just because they’re available and why not. In the evening I like to push forward with the full stage 7 brightness to carry things on. It’s a good look and if you use the lock keys, it’s the only way to have even brightness on your keyboard as these are apparently not adjustable at all and always run at full brightness.

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Final thoughts:

Eventually with a long enough span of time, any keyboard becomes a problem or has issues, this is because they’re actively used and abused each day, I felt like a week of daily use was enough time to gauge performance on the keyboard and really get a feel for it. I can say safely that I will probably never go back to a membrane keyboard again, any company is free to try to show me how they can be competitive but there’s a design difference at the core level that divides these two classes for me. Maybe it can be overcome, maybe not, the laptop format keys felt like a last hurrah to try to bridge the cap in distance and try to create a new feel.

The Zero Shine is available online and in stores for about $100 with LED lighting and it also comes in orange lighting if you can track it down. There is a light model that strips lighting out entirely and costs about $20 cheaper if you want just the action and none of the theatrics to go with it. Personally once you get this high, it feels safe enough to just invest the extra if you’re that close.