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About
I host a podcast called Dead Pixel Live. It can be heard Monday & Thursday at 7:00 pm EST (4pm Pacific) on the All Games Radio Network.

I made a game for the Xbox using XNA called Revenge of the Ball and published it under the name Dead Pixel Arcade.

I am Tall.
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When I saw her, the first thing that went through my mind was that she doesn’t belong in a place like this. She’s leaning up against the bar, drink in hand and facing the crowd, oblivious to the mass of people. Her blood red dress contrasts against the dull woodgrain of the world around her.

Her curves. Every line on her body forms a flowing curve. Her shape forces your eyes to make the journey from floor to ceiling. My eyes take note of each destination. Legs. Hips. Chest. Face. It’s as if she was created from the molds of the women I’ve known in the past. The best parts of them sculpted into the work of art thats taking inventory of the room from the bar.

It’s a methodology shared by Brian Provinciano, who has taken iconic traits from legendary games and managed to form them into a fun, expansive title that can be as deep or as straightforward as the player wants. There are the obvious nods to well known classics like Duck Hunt, Contra, and Frogger. But there are just as many influences from lesser known but just as deserving games like Bionic Commando and Top Gunner. From the moment the opening title screen appears, Retro City Rampage makes it clear that its about to take you on a ride into the past.

Her legs. The thin red fabric of the the dress outlines the long supple shape of her legs. Her pose accentuates their tone, creating an angle that allows the slit in the dress to do it’s job, exposing a single, tanned thigh to the world. Exposed is the wrong word. Revealed is better. The cloth separates and is replaced by flesh. It’s an immediate and yet barely noticeable transition. It’s revealing.

Hidden in each section of Retro City Rampage are layers of reasons to replay each level. Not so that you can get extra power ups or max out your point total. Instead you want to make sure that you’ve seen every little in-joke and bit of pop culture that was crafted into the area. Provinciano has taken his time in dotting the game’s landscape with layers of memories from gaming history.

The dress. It was from a different era. A vintage relic from the past that made me question why things had to change. Sheer skirts, low cut blouses, tight jeans, they are all just pretenders to the throne that this dress reigns over. Its fabric hugs her body without being greedy. Instead of being skin tight and trying too hard, the cloth just kisses her skin, tracing the form that nature sculpted for her. The neckline dives down her chest, just barely promising a glimpse at the arc of her breasts.

Like that dress, Retro City Rampage is a piece of the past that has been forced into the modern era. It calls itself ‘retro’ and proclaims that it’s a parody, but thats not true. It’s not a mockup of what people think gaming used to be like. It actually is a game from those times. Its nonsensical story, exacting controls and multiple gameplay styles have created a game that doesn’t parody gaming history, it celebrates it.

Her face. Everything else was just a prelude. Her hair cascades over her shoulders, catching what little light that was in the room and framing her cheekbones. Her pursed lips show only a hint of a smile. It’s a sly expression that lets you know that whatever she’s about to say, it will be about you. Long lashes cast shade over her eyes, and yet their sharp, silver tone still flashes through. She’s scanning the room, like a predator bored with the hunt.

The seconds that I’ve been mesmerized by her feel like hours. It’s as if I’ve been standing in a museum, examining the brush strokes of a Matisse, with more details uncovered every moment. She wasn’t perfection. But she stood there with a smoldering confidence that dared you to notice any perceived flaw.

The faults with Retro City Rampage may be there because they’re inherent in the style of game it is. But they’re still there. No matter how detailed the pixel art is, it’s still pixel art. The reduced color palette may be authentic, but after spending a lot of time with this game (and most likely , you will be spending a lot of time with it), it drifts into being gaudy. But those are shortcomings that can be happily tolerated. Because in return you get a rare title that even though it takes pride in being wholly unoriginal, is one of the most original games released in years.

Score 9/10









Every year, a couple of the local Mercedes dealerships get together and rent out the Richmond International Speedway. They then spend a full day attempting to convince ‘VIPs’ to buy a new overpriced luxury car. They do this by letting you speed around in an assortment of Mercs on an assortment of courses specifically designed to make you want one right now. And being a VIP just means that they’ve sold you a car in the past or they’re pretty sure they’re gonna sell you one on the next week or so. Today, I was a VIP. So that there’s no suspense, I’ll jump to the end. I didn’t leave that day with a new Mercedes. I’m very happy with my Crown Vic, thank you very much. But I did leave with the knowledge of what it means to love driving.

Forza Motorsport 4 sells itself as a game for people who love cars. That’s accurate. With it’s gorgeous graphics and nearly 500 different vehicles to choose from, it’s a must buy simply to scroll through the specs. And the near pornographic Autovista mode that allows you to get up close and personal in the motoring version of a peep show, could be sold on it’s own. But what Forza has lacked in the the past is to ability to convey a love of not just cars, but of driving. While the physics model has continually improved, it has always been wrapped around a bland racing experience.

On the autocross course, each 'VIP' took a turn flinging an AMG sedan around a series of cones. The course was set up so that you never got up to any real speed but we all still immediately started keeping times. You can’t stop people from competing. Forza 4 realized this and corrected the mistake it made in it’s last version by letting players create their own public multiplayer games. What’s the point of having a collection of customized, painted cars if you cant show it off to strangers?

The finale of the day is a full lap around the Richmond Speedway’s NASCAR oval, chauffered by a professional racer. To be honest, by this point I was tired and the constant sales pitches had worn me out. I sat in the passenger seat of an SLK roadster with it's top down. I looked over at my driver and I could tell he was as bored with the day as I was. He was an older man who had spent the better part of his career on ovals like this driving cars with 3 times as much power as the convertible we were in. This must have been be hell for him. Driving a bunch of would be customers in a circle all day for a check. As I closed the door I said, ‘Two questions. How fast does this thing go, and how fast does it really go?’ He smiled and replied. ‘Let's find out.’

He pressed a series of buttons on the dash and the traction control light blinked off. Then he pressed even more buttons on the dash. Suddenly, the gauges flashed and an angry BEEP BEEP BEEP filled the cabin. ‘What was that?’ I asked. ‘There’s a secret sequence to turn all the computerized shit off..for real’, was the response I got.

The tires lit up and I was pressed back in my seat like an amusement park ride as the car blasted down the pit lane/parking lot. I thought we were taking off like a rocket, but as soon as the car reached the exit, a sleek AMG SL 65 walked by us, as if it was on a stroll. My driver was instantly annoyed by this, growling, ‘Guy thinks he’s hot shit because he’s in the 65. 600 horses and all of a sudden he’s a rockstar’.

I pointed at the offender and spoke the only words I would say for the rest of the ride. ‘Can you catch him?’

Forza 4’s biggest new addition isn’t the throwaway Kinect interface that you’ll use once and never visit again. It’s the Rivals mode. A seemingly simple way to compare your laptime against not only your friends, but against the entire world. But not all at once. Instead, a single person is matched against you. Just one. And that makes it personal. Now, it’s not a faceless mass of people with times and scores better than yours. It’s just one driver. And you know you can catch him.

A grin spread across the driver’s face. He shifted down and the car bolted forward. The black exotic that had committed the crime of passing us, loomed ahead, steadily growing larger as we chased it down. My driver didn’t lift his foot from the accelerator as we headed into the turn. The high banking held the car in place, almost. Even the laws of physics pressing it into the road couldn’t stop it from slowly creeping closer and closer to the wall. We were so close, going so fast, that I could actually hear the cracks in the white concrete. The buffeting of the wind following the texture of the barrier.

The enemy was directly ahead of us, now. And just like that, we’re in the draft. The wind noise drops and even though I’m not driving, I know that the car is lighter, less stable. It’s floating from side to side ever so slightly. I’m worried. But the driver’s foot never left the floor.

The black SL 65 must have felt the breath on the back of his neck. The car hunched down as more power was delivered and it started to slowly, quickly pull away.

‘Oh no you don’t’. My driver wasn’t going to give up. Our car was outmatched. But that’s no reason not to win. He dipped out of the draft and goes low into the next turn. I could tell by the constant scream of the engine that he still refused to lift his foot off the gas. Not an inch. Our little roadster shot out of the corner and with the added speed pulled up back behind the 65. Both cars hugged the wall, daring it to touch them. I don’t turn my head to look for fear that any shift in balance will push us into it.

The entrance to the pits was ahead, signalling the end of the run. I brace myself for the shift in momentum that’s coming when he hits the brakes to pull in. But it doesn’t come. His foot stays planted. The engine continues to wail. The black SL is reeled in a little closer.

‘Two more and I got ya. Two more, pretty boy.’ The driver explained his gameplan to me. ‘See, he’s got the power on us. But he doesn’t drive ovals. He’s scared of the wall. Power’s no good if you don’t use it’. He wasn’t trying to sell me a car. He wasn’t trying to show off. He wanted to win.

That’s what Forza has been missing. For a while it got lost in the allure of coveting automobiles, and trading decals like baseball cards. It had forgotten that in the end, the cars are simply a means to an end. That’s what the Rivals mode brings back to Forza Motorsport 4 along with the return of a robust multiplayer setup. Not the drive to collect dozens of exotic vehicles. The drive to compete. Because when you get behind the wheel of a sports car, the most important question isn’t how much it costs or how powerful it is. The only question that matters is, ‘Can you catch him?'


Score 9/10









I’ve driven on two NASCAR tracks in my life. And by driven, I mean I’ve sat in a car, pressed my foot to the ground, and went around those ovals as fast as my nerves would let me. The first time was at Richmond Raceway, a high banked oval designed for the fastest race cars in the world, and I was driving a high powered AMG Mercedes coupe capable of 155 mph, courstesy of the local dealership. The second NASCAR track I drove on was Langley Speedway. A small quarter-mile oval that looks like it was paved in someones backyard. And I was driving my own car, a bone stock Crown Victoria LX Sport. Guess which time was more fun.

To call Langley Speedway a ‘Speedway’ is kind of like calling Snookie an ‘actress’. That’s being a little unfair to Langley, but not by much. Unlike it’s heyday in the 70’s and 80’s, where the track was a haven for short track racers on their way to the ‘big leagues’, now it’s mostly used for Late Model and ‘Legends’ races. The term ‘stepping stone’ would be a fitting caption for most of the divisions that run at Langley now. A few times during the summer though, they open the track to anyone with a license and a helmet for what’s called ‘Wacky Wednsday’. That’s where me and the Crown Vic come in.

NASCAR 2011 for the Xbox 360 and PS3 doesn’t have the lower tier racing divisions that Langley specializes in. Instead, it focuses on the biggest baddest level of racing the sport has to offer, the Sprint Cup. And unlike other racers, it doesn’t force you to work your way up to the fastest cars. As soon as you press start, you’re at Daytona in a vehicle capable of doing 200+ MPH beside 42 other cars just a quick as yours. That’s called ‘diving into the deep end’.

Langley Speedway is a long way from Daytona. But when I put on the helmet, pulled onto the track, and saw the green flag wave, any differences escaped me. Even though it was just a timed qualifying lap, the adrenaline made my hands shake. I dove into the corner and accelerated out onto the back straight. For a split second I wondered if I could make the next turn without braking, and the idea is chased from my mind by the bright white wall that was described earlier by a track worker as ‘the widow maker’. I qualify with a time that places me in the middle of the scoreboard and the announcer proclaims over the PA system, ‘Well looky here, that cop car ain’t that slow...It ain’t quick, but it ain’t slow!’. That was -my- car he was talking about. And that made me smile.

NASCAR 2011 does it’s best to make you feel like you own your ride. With a fairly deep sponsor system in the career mode and the ability to paint and add decals to your car, it almost works. But it’s a far cry from the ease and elegance of Forza’s paint system. After an hour of work, the best I could do was a black and white car with a lightning bolt and my name on the side. But to be honest, the cars I see on SPEED every weekend don’t go too far beyond that. Hell, Tony Stewart’s actual racecar just has the words ‘Office Depot’ written on the hood.

After the qualifying is done, the officials at Langley pair up the would be racers for a two lap ‘shootout’. Somehow, they figure that my rival for the night would a white 2002 Chevy Camaro Z28. Now, if you know something about cars, you’re giggling right now. And if you don’t know much about cars, do a google image search for 2001 Crown Victoria then do another for 2002 Camaro Z28. I’ll wait. Done? See what I mean? The Camaro goes to the line and I pull up slowly beside him. Very slowly. Because to be honest, I was waiting for the official to realize he made a mistake and wave me off so that I could be paired against the Volkswagen Rabbit that I saw sputtering around earlier. But instead, I make it to the white line and wait for the red light to turn green.

NASCAR 2011 The Game isn’t a sim, but it’s far from an arcade racer. You can go through practice and qualifying before you race, and you’ll need as much practice as you can get. Although most of the time you’re ‘just turning left’. You quickly realize that turning left is a lot more involved than you would imagine. Especially when you’re sharing the road with over 3 dozen other cars. NASCAR 2011 is the first game I’ve played that does a good job of letting you know how difficult and exciting it can be to race on a high banked oval. And with a decent damage system, it puts the NASCAR section of GT5 to shame.

The light switches to green and race is on. I hear the Camaro’s tires light up. It’s very impressive. But not as impressive as the miracle of modern technology called ‘Traction Control’ that allows my car to jump out to an early lead. The lead lasts almost a full 100 feet before the 5.7liter, 16 valve V8 of the Chevy takes over and pulls ahead. As we enter the first turn, I have a full view of the musclecar’s taillights and take notice as they go wide around the corner. The Camaro’s driver had went in too fast and was forced to slam on the brakes to make the turn. I tucked the nose of the Crown Victoria underneath and by the time we came around the corner, the two cars were side by side. It’s not long before the Camaro remembers it has 100 more horses under the hood than I do and pulls out in front. But this time, we’re halfway down the straightaway before it walks past me. But again, the Camaro takes too much speed into the next turn and slams on the brakes, it’s nose dipping and tail shaking as it scrubs off speed. And again, I dip into the inside of the corner underneath the tire squeal of the Chevy.

When we come out of the turn, we’re not side by side. Now, I’m in the lead being steadily chased down in front of a crowd of dozens. Once we hit the next corner of the oval, I’m back in second place, but not by a lot. I realize now that the driver of the Camaro isn’t the type of guy that learns from his mistakes. He was going to fly into every turn too fast and rely on 4 wheel disc brakes to claw the beast down to a manageable speed. There are only two turns to go and like clockwork, I’m back in the lead, thanks to a steady left foot and knowing what the term ‘apex’ means. I forget that finesse and technique only beats brute force in the movies and think that maybe, just maybe, I can win. As the two cars make it to the final turn, we are side by side for the last time. He slams on the brakes, I turn down to the inside, and we both floor it.

I can see the finish line ahead. I can see the guy in the Langley Speedway T-shirt waving a tattered checkered flag. I can see that I’m in the lead.

But I can hear the Camaro. It’s engine roaring so loud that my Crown Vic seems silent. It’s gaining ground by the fistful. Each fraction of a second bringing it closer to stealing my victory.

This is the part in movies where the underdog wins. Where we are told that if you do everything right, even if you’re outmatched, you can still win. Hey, I ended up liking NASCAR 2011 more than GT5 and Forza 3 even though it’s a niche game aimed at a niche market. But this wasn’t a movie or a game. This was real life. And in real life, a 325 horsepower muscle car will chase down a 230 horsepower four door sedan every day of the week. You can’t beat the laws of physics. And this was no different.

Coming down the final straight, the 2002 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 flew by my 2001 Ford Crown Victoria LX.

But it didn’t pass me until we were 6 feet past the finish line.

Score: 8/10
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DerrickH
6:39 AM on 04.14.2011









(Please Note: I thought I had posted this months ago, but I was mistaken. I'm posting it now for the sake of completion.)



The best part about video game conventions aren’t the games on the show floor, it’s the parties afterward where a bunch of geeks can hang out and be themselves. Its not like going to the neighborhood bar where the smell of cigarettes and alcohol is outmatched by the cheap cologne of men talking to women with cheaper perfume.

An industry party is different. Mostly you’re just standing around with a drink in your hand talking to someone about how the big name actors like Patrick Stewart are showing up more and more in games. There’s not a lot of cheesy lines or male bravado because to be honest, there’s not a lot of reason for it. The women at a gamer party don’t have a lot to fear from guys who spend a good chunk of time retracing levels to find that one last health gem.

This party was no different. I had come with my friend who just happened to fit the role of a stunningly attractive woman. She may not have officially been my date, but that didn’t stop me from feeling just a little bit good about the approving nod I got from the bouncer at the door. As the night progressed we slowly drifted to opposite sides of the room. Every so often I’d see her out of the cornier of my eye hanging out by a Mrs Pacman machine. Even though I’m deep into a discussion about whether the migration from 2D to 3D in classic remakes is a natural evolution or a just money grab, I can still pick out her laugh across the room amongst the background noise. I looked past the blogger blocking my view and see that she’s talking to a guy we had interviewed earlier that day on the show floor .I also notice that he had ditched the lanyard and controller based accessories he was sporting at the show and swapped them for a shiny dress shirt and jacket topped by a gold chain that would be more at home on an MTV reality show than a bar filled with podcasters. I knew the look on his face from experience. He was on the prowl.

She waves me over and I make my way to their chairs as she sips her drink and he lounges as if a posing for a mid 80’s rap album cover. He offers to buy her another drink and she asks what he’s drinking.He responded with “I see my body as a temple and I choose not to soil it with any type of alcoholic or caffeinated beverage.” What the fuck? I immediately recognized the line as an old standby in clubs and dive bars around the world. It’s purpose is two-fold. 1 - Make the girl you’re staring intently at think you’re a deep and spiritual person. And 2 - Give yourself an excuse to stay sober while you ply her with drink after drink. It’s a move that most guys toss out of their repertoire early. I myself hadn’t used it since one memorable weekend at Hammerheads in ‘99. But I guess he figured in a room full of people who could name every Castlevania hero from Simon to Gabriel, it was a safe bet.

The Player notices me for the first time and sizes me up. I’ve already done the same. This isn’t what I was expecting tonight, though. I was looking forward to getting into heated battles about the importance of plot in an action game while downing a German ale and not engaging in the Mexican standoff of guys circling around the same woman. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. Times have changed. Many of the bloggers and gamers arguing the merits of retracing levels after gaining character abilities were now also attractive women. With that evolution, what used to have been a fun get together between gamers had become the familiar hunting ground that I thought I had escaped.

The Player is going into “Phase 2” of his spiel. He’s telling her how sees games as ‘just one path to exploring your capabilities’. It’s like he’s reciting lines from an old Bill Bellamy movie. I’ll give him credit where credit is due, he almost makes it sound sincere. I give her a look to see if any of the salvos are making a dent. She shoots me a smile letting me know that she’s been on to him for a while. She escapes by asking me if the VIP room is open. Why yes, yes, it is. And it’s a shame but the Player doesn’t have access. We walk away as he resets the table, a spider quickly rebuilding his web so he can try his skills on the cute podcaster who’s just arrived in a short black dress.

There’s nothing wrong with the pick up game. It’s played by men and women alike. Guys pretend to be really impressed by the color of nail polish a girl has chosen. And women pretend to have worn the low cut V-neck because it’s unbearably hot outside and not because it shows off a spectacular amount of cleavage. At some point though, too much cologne seems desperate and too much boob sweat becomes slutty. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow dances dangerously close to that line. The over dramatic narration by Patrick Stewart makes you wonder if they are trying to seduce you into thinking you’re playing more than just another God of War clone. Robert Carlye’s emphatic portrayal of the hero, Gabriel seems genuinely Shakespearean coupled with the epic proclamations of Stewart backed by an orchestra worthy of Carnegie Hall. Its an enthusiastic build up that leads to what seems like a routine series of repetitive actions. Much like many one night stands.

As the night moves on I end up talking to a guy about whatever guys talk about near the end of these evenings. I motioned to my pseudo-date swaying from side to side in her flower patterned dress while singing off key into an X-Box microphone. He smiled knowingly and pointed out a dazzling woman with long onyx hair who was playing guitar on the same rhythm game. We realized that we had both come to the party with women that we weren’t actually ‘with’. We lament about the hell that is the ‘Friend Zone’ and if it was ever possible to dig your way out. When does being a protective friend slide into just being a jealous cock blocker? We reunited with our non-dates as the bartender yells Last Call. The girls excitedly inform us about an after party that’s about to happen. One of the ‘E-Celebs’ has a huge hotel room and has invited just a few people. It needed be kept secret so that it didn’t get too crowded. It sounded great. The celeb in question was riding a pretty big wave of fame and I’m not immune to partying with a big timer.

The bar closes and everyone was herded outside. My non-date spots the E-Celeb and pulls me over to meet him. I may as well been invisible as the Champ greeted her with ‘Hey Roses, long time no see’. My instincts are put on alert for the second time tonight. Did he just pull the ‘Give a girl a nickname’ trick?

Once again, this move has dual purposes.1- It stops you from having to remember a woman’s name as you bounce from target to target all night. It’s easy to mix up Karen and Katherine. But a rose on a dress is always a rose on a dress. And 2 - It establishes a false familiarity with her, making it seem like you’re old friends even though you’ve known the woman in question for 20 seconds. I admit, its a great move.In the past I had seen my friend Tim maneuver from ‘Polka Dots’ to ‘New York’ to ‘Diamonds’ to ‘Goldy’ in one night without missing a beat. But maybe I was over thinking this. The run in with the Player earlier probably just made me hyper sensitive.

I introduce myself. ‘Hey Champ, I’m looking forward to the after party’. He looked puzzled ‘After party’? He’s eyes had yet to move from the chest of the women who was linked to my arm . She tried to help jog his memory through slightly slurred words. ‘You invited me and her’, pointing to the raven haired beauty from earlier. ‘Don’t worry, we know you said you wanted to keep it small so we didn’t tell anyone except our friends’

On hearing that, his eyes finally rose enough to catch mine and you could almost hear the bricks falling as his plan collapsed. It seemed the ‘after party’ the Champ had planned consisted of a guest list of only him and 2 very attractive, fairly intoxicated women. He backpedaled, “Yeah..actually, it’s kind of late. And I have to catch a flight in the morning. I better just call it a night”.

Castlevania lures you in with flowery prose and slick looks while featuring solid, if derivative game play. A lot of people will be happy with that. If it didn’t work for other games, the techniques would’ve died out long ago. The simple puzzles, quick time events, and weapon upgrades all have a satisfyingly familiar feel. Almost like a guy running through all the different pick up lines he’s collected until he finds the right combination of half truths and gin that will help pull a girl out of a club. “Hey, if it worked for someone else, it’ll work for me”. But instead of copying the current flavor of the industry, I would’ve been happy if Castlevania: Lords of Shadow had seemed more sincere. There are benefits to just being yourself.

The night ended with the Champ retreating back into his suite, presumably to prepare for his appointment with the airport and reuniting with his family. The Player was trying to convince the short-dressed podcaster to share the cab which he ultimately left in, alone. The woman I was with (but wasn’t ‘with’) leaned against me as we made our way back to the hotel. There was no trace of regret in her voice when she said ‘Damn, too bad the after party fell through. Hey, lets watch a movie instead.’

Score 7/10
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DerrickH
11:00 AM on 03.04.2011


You really don’t have to go very deep to find the truth about someone. And because of that, no matter how much you change on the outside, the essence of you is still there. It’s a blessing and a curse, because it’s comforting to know that in the end, you’ll always be you. But on the other hand, there are times when that’s not who you want to be. But the fact is, people don’t change. After a certain point in life, you are who you are. Lose weight, new hairstyle, new clothes, new lifestyle. It’s just an exterior that can quickly turn transparent.

When I think about it, I must have known from the beginning that this wasn’t going to work out. When she first offered the invitation I was hesitant and hopeful. In my mind I was declining the dinner invitation even as I heard myself asking the time and the place. The past experiences of arguments and vicious attacks had somehow faded in my mind. And sitting across from her now, those days seemed far from reality. The years have been better to her than they have to me. Her features are softer, her eyes are brighter, and her voice is buttery smooth.

The Gran Turismo series has survived over 3 different generations of the Playstation. It started out as competent, if flawed driving simulator that thrived on it’s good looks. But it wanted to be more than just a pretty face. Underneath lay the foundation for greatness. The wide assortment of cars were upgradable, the tracks had an impressive amount of detail, and the driving was solid. But the graphics were always the real draw. The original PS1 soared when it had a GT disc in the tray. The PS2 became legendary with paired with the game. And Gran Turismo 5 only adds to the impressive resume of the PS3’s visual power.

The woman ordering from the menu in front was also more than just an attractive face. Not far from the carefully sculptured surface lived a competitiveness and intelligence that knew few equals. But there was also a cruelty there. Her sharp tongue shows no hesitation in pointing out a fault. Her quick wit never failed to criticise a decision. But the hypnotic effect her swaying hips had when she moved always seemed to wash away any misgiving.

Once you became acclimated to the impressive images on the screen, the flaws of Gran Turismo 5 rise to the surface. The AI has always been blind to other cars on the track. The damage model was all but nonexistant. Car selection, while numerous, was ultimately shallow. The result of multiple iterations of little known or undesirable cars. Gran Turismo 5 promised to change all of that. Instead it piled on the makeup.

As the night wears on, cracks begin to appear in her facade. A sly comment here, a snippy jab there, and each time it happens, her eyes light up as if remembering a forgotten pleasure. I try to shift subjects, still holding on to the wish that people can change and that the night isn’t about to tumble into a well of backhanded compliments and sideways remarks. She’s laughing now. Enthusiastically retelling the misfortune of someone she never considered her equal.This is when she’s at her peak, at her most beautiful.

Gran Turismo 5’s supermodel looks make a career out of seducing you. They tell you not to worry about the ancient AI. The caress of a spectacular interior view takes your mind off of the user interface that would’ve seemed dated a decade ago. The glimmer of light on the hood of the few ‘premium’ cars entices you not to linger on how the majority of the offerings don’t come close to that level of detail. For every graphical highlight there seem to be twice as many missed opportunities.

As we leave the restaurant, I catch a glimpse of those swaying hips once more. And for a second, I’m mesmerized. But it passes quickly as she points out another of my seemingly endless shortcomings. Part of me missed this. In that regard, I haven’t changed. But its a part of me that’s become smaller and pushed to the side. Much more prevalent now is the part that understands that being attractive on the outside can only hide what’s underneath for so long.

Score 6/10