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VVVGamer's blog

2:24 PM on 07.06.2013

Want to become a racing driver? GT Academy could be for you.

This week the 2013 GT Academy launched in the UK, the winner of which will gain a place in a real GT racing team and become a fully fledged professional racing driver. It sounds straight forward but becoming the best is a lot tougher than many may think. From the hours of practice, to the physical training required for those that make the grade. This is a complete challenge only for the most committed players.

The GT Academy demo is for many a first look at the forthcoming Gran Turismo 6 and a test of the graphical refinements and improvements announced to the handling model. Starting the demo in the electric Nissan Leaf, players progress on to the more powerful Nissan 370z before moving up to the Nissan GTR. Slower cars progressing to more powerful ones in gradually building the skills of the player. The final GT Academy challenge being a lap around the home of British Motorsport, Silverstone racetrack.

If you want to be in with a chance of competing, you'll need to use a wheel, turn off TCS onto a low level, find a balance on the ABS and be prepared to do a lot of laps building consistency while finding speed. Then look online at the top players, that will give you gearing and braking techniques, applying those to your driving will generally knock off up to two seconds per lap. After many laps refining your time it will become apparent whether you have what it takes to make the grade. If so you'll need to look at physical training, some PR training and perhaps some regular karting to also aid in fitness as the final winner will be expected to be a complete product ready to race and thrust into the public eye.

I've been making selection of videos for the Team VVV Youtube channel and you can see one of those below, subscribe at††for more.


6:06 AM on 11.01.2010

Joysticks, R-Type and Oprah power!

It's been a while since I was last on here and a busy year too, besides luanching my new website and running VVVGamer I've been going through all of the usual difficulties of maintaining an independent gaming website.

Last week I was at the Golden Joysticks and made a little video blog of my time there along with other randomness.

But if you love your R-Type the intro for the show was very impresive indeed.


5:27 PM on 06.15.2010

GT5 finally given a date :)

After years and years of anguish GT5 is finally given a date, new trailer looks awesome so I've bunged a few screen shots below. It's been a good show so far, lots to catch up on, I'm also really keen to see Vanquish, so added a few shots for that too. :)

Vanquish from Sega, big awesome mech robot man action with big guns, it looks great, take a close look at the thumbs below.


9:30 AM on 06.12.2010

E3 Excitment building

It's been a while since my last blog post, a busy year but it hasn't quite held all I've been hoping but with E3 coming up it's good to regain that excitement. This years E3 represents a step very much into the unknown, yes we know Natal (or whatever it will be called) will be there along with Move and 3D-DS but the software is completely unknown at this stage and I'm hoping for a few surprises.

On the racing front it's all GT5 but word is that the Criterion Need For Speed is shaping up nicely and then Codies with their ever popular F1. So I'll be on for the conferences, those usual dulcet tones from Reggie as 50cent comes on to show how cool the new Gameboy is, :P so I'm going to get ready, hard work ahead and if you haven't been, always feel free to check out my rambles at


8:48 AM on 01.04.2010

Looking for mature, friendly, automotive fans :)

So Christmas has come and gone and we enter a new year with all of the hopes and aspirations it brings. For me I'd like to expand my local gaming community, arrange meet-ups and talk about my passions so if you'd like to learn more, keep reading :)

VVV Gamer is all about every aspect of automotive gaming, from Forza to Outrun, Virtua Racing to Gran Turismo, Mario Kart to iRacing, basically racing on any format, if you love it, we love it. We also cover the motor industry, meeting racing stars and discussing their careers, below are a few VVV stars from 2009.

Tiff Needell - 5th Gear, Lt Tom Brown - Beat the Heat, Anthony Davidson - F1 Radio 5

Dan Greenawalt - Turn 10, Ken Block - X Games, Murray Walker - Legend!

So be it new games or retro we cover every aspect and always welcome the more mature players to discuss their roots within the gaming genre.

F-Zero - SNES, Outrun - Arcade, Super Hang-On - Arcade and MD,

Right now we're looking to grow our community team and an our community staff in general. In particular we're looking for London UK based (or near to London) racing fans who are over 18. As well as the online action I'm keen to build a group where we can meet up, go for a few beers and discuss our racing passions, giving a personal edge. You don't have to be the best player in the world (of course if you are its a bonus haha) but personality and getting involved on the site is what we're all about.

Of course running a site like VVV requires a lot of work and so we're looking for community staff, helping with competitions, or writing articles, of in you're concerned about your writing skills, whack up a few blogs? And who knows, if you put the work in, you may get some opportunities in return? Some VVV members already have.

A passion for cars or bikes? Show us your ride? If you've got a gaming set-up you want to show off, lets see that too and don't forget to add us on Facebook, Twitter or Youtube!

The key thing is no pressure, just a relaxed place to talk about your passion with like minded people and have an active hand in developing the site. So we welcome all new comers, please feel free to say hello on our forums and get stuck in!


Editor   read

9:49 PM on 12.25.2009

A Merry Christmas Ramble

Well another year passes, another Christmas comes and goes, rather typically I've been burning the candle at both ends and ended up being run-down on the big day. No new games on Christmas day for me this year, its the first time thats happened for as long as I can remember, becoming a fulltime gaming journalist meaning I get many of the titles as they're released. But then things are different, not like say 20 years ago when I only ever got games at Christmas.

But I'm still having never ending fun on the Gran Turismo Academy Demo, the more I play it, the more I realise how subtly brilliant the handling really is. It's important I remember my gaming routes though, always helps in keeping that passion, a few games of ThunderFore 4 I needed I think, though nothing on XB Live arcade is grabbing me at the moment, lets hope Raiden Fighters gets a UK release soon.

Anyway I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and here's my Youtube message :)   read

1:07 PM on 12.05.2009

A visit to the Grand International Cosplay Ball

Last Sunday I attended a rather unusual invitation, that being the Grand International Cosplay Ball. This of course being something slightly outside of my usual remit but itís the lifestyle of gamers, gaming and their associated hobbies that really interest me. Itís often inspiring to see the passion from every aspect, be it motoring or gaming, in taking it that stage further, people releasing their own creative influence. Indeed Cosplay is an interesting phenomenon, I use that word because though itís been acceptable in Japan for many years itís only in recent times that itís began to properly expand in European markets. Popular in Japan, Cosplay is huge and almost common place, the Japanese like to dress up, not as a sexual event but by a fun form of action, essentially acting out their favourite video game or anime characters, you get the chance to be someone else, completely transform while having a great deal of fun.

Moving to Europe and it was initially a cliquey affair, almost dominated by niche Anime fans itís expanded due to a more publicly acceptable approach. Very similar to video games themselves, taking a committed hardcore to expand and rightly so, itís a fun and welcoming scene, though be prepared to drop those inhibitions. This is now backed up by shows such as the MCM Expo we reported on in October with many thousands of visitors attending, demonstrating a healthy level of growth even if it is still not fully understood by many of the general public.

So onto my personal experience of the Ball, located in the decadent surroundings of the Clapham Grand night club, itís a perfect scene for this kind of event. Spread over 4 floors there are loads of places to route around or find your own space. On walking in I was instantly impressed with the quality of costumes, stunning examples that wouldn't have been out of place on a movie set. This being an awfully long way from the poorly made ill fitting examples of yesteryear. Everything was covered from period drama to Disney to anime, gaming and Hollywood. Finding my feet and it was time for a few snaps, and how handy it is for a photographer to find willing participants, everyone was friendly and approachable, as ever a very welcoming atmosphere.

The stage performances were also well selected, a varied range of musical talent and stage live action, suiting the atmosphere. Indeed it was entertaining to hear one the singers hitting the Initial D style tracks, always brings a smile to my face. The longer the evening went on the better it became, not least helped by ever consuming alcohol but on saying that it was a fun and sensible crowd though it has to be said, the drinks certainly weren't cheap. But that didn't stop everyone having a great time and indeed I took the opportunity to bust out VVV Afro Ninja. As you can see he wow'ed the crowds with his unique ninja stylee, or maybe his ninja skills made him just too invisible.

As the night wore on and my feet began to feel the strain it was time to head out into the pouring rain and make my way home but as a closing thought, the Cosplay Ball was both welcoming and entertaining and if you haven't investigated the scene its worth popping along to one of the major Expo's. I for one will be looking forward to covering future events, roll on 2010.   read

5:30 PM on 11.20.2009

Can Forza 3 make you a better driver?

Earlier last week I was invited along to the historic Silverstone race track where Iíd get the opportunity to race Forza 3, then go onto the circuit and see how our skills had improved. As a racing fan this is always a wonderful opportunity to view behind the scenes; in this case a nose around above the pit straight. A bit like ďThrough the Key HoleĒ except you donít meet the owner (or in this case BRDC members), damn I was dying to meet Damon Hill alas that will have to wait, still its very exciting having a nose and rummage, while appreciating the classic events this venue has seen over the years.

A great view above the pit lane, the Champions Room as seen after any given Grand Prix[/B]
On to the morning breakfast briefing and as the racing gaming community expert of the day it was my job to do my bit in informing a range of journalists on the basics of the games content and clean driving, gear changes and braking markers, then giving some helpful assistance where required. Initially it was slow progress but continued practice yielded greater results, of course there was that pre race tension in the air. A great buzz at a circuit, from karting to track racing youíll always feel it before you step into car and get on with the job at hand, everyone just wanted to get their experience and for first timers its always a fear of the unknown, as they sign their lives away on the regular racing forms. Its funny, Iíve been here many times but the buzz of excitement of getting to a new piece of the circuit or behind what are usually closed doors always gets me, imagine watching the Grand Prix from this viewpoint.

Informing the gathered press on the key details Forza 3 contains before giving a driving demonstration

Running the South circuit it was unfortunate that this happened to be the only variant not featured in the game, hence FM3 practice sessions were conducted on the Grand Prix circuit in the Lotus Exige. Following a briefing by the racing instructor it was off to Stowe Corner where lucky journalists would have their opportunity to try the real thing, how would it square up? The Lotus Exige is a very sporty car, a low centre of gravity combined with great power to weight ratio makes it great fun for anyone to drive while giving that racy experience. So making our way down to the corner itís a quick scenic tour of the typically freezing circuit before pulling up next to the two motors that would be the feature of the dayís events.

Mike the Instructor gives an explanation of what we'll be doing

Stowe cabin, our cosy'ish home for the day

Helmets at the ready and the all important, lifesaving heater fan

Alas I couldnít fit into the car or indeed out of the car, but in preparation for this I rolled in Pat; Pat was our cameraman of the day and has supported VVV in many ways over the years so it was nice to give something back. Concealing his enthusiasm he goes for a quick spin around the circuit while I take a few sporty snaps, first a couple of slow laps by the instructor then its time to swap drivers. I asked Pat to give his impressions of the racing experience:

Lotus Exiges at the ready, alas I tried in vein to fit in but with no joy

My years of Yoga and study of special circus contortion techniques came in handy for me when it came to entering the side window of the lotus (Oh sorry was that the door?). You suddenly feel your world has shrunk, surrounded by the race spec roll cage interior of any given racing car; I do up my very elaborate safety belt/harness, as my instructor talks me through what we would be doing today. First a two lap warm up of the Southern circuit by my instructor, with me sitting in the passenger seat as he shouts out over the roar of the engine what gears will need to be selected for each corner, when to accelerate when to brake and also where i need to be positioned on approach to the bends I feel fully confident in taking this power house around the track and giving it my all.

Pat pushes a bit harder in his later laps
The time arrives to swap positions and for me to demonstrate my skills, ( I havenít told the instructor that I already own a fiercely powerful supercar, a 1994 1L fiat Panda. So I expect that vast experience of darting around the Streets of London at 29 miles per hour in the Panda will hold me in good stead. Seatbelts sorted, seating position adjusted and Iíme ready to go, noticing the Pedals are tight, the gear stick is tight, everything feels very close together, forget luxury this is a racing machine!

Pat = Racing Hero

First gear selected, I over-rev the engine darting forward, 2nd Gear, working progressively though the gears reaching 120 MPH and now learning about speed deception. I could compare it to Forza 3, only that instead of hurtling off the track and pressing the rewind button, my friendly instructor shouts "BRAKE!" as i approach a right hand bend, ok so shifting down to 3rd and taking the corner smoothing, accelerating out at some crazy speeds. After a few laps my instructor has a quick talk and explains a few things to increase my speed and handle the car better, so off we go again this time keeping a constant speed around the corners instead of the aggressive and somewhat jerky accelerate/brake/accelerate method I had previously been using. Much smoother driving follows, picking up my vision in to the distance and breezing around the track. The handling of this car is excellent; every bump every turn is felt giving great feedback while I improve my overall feel of the car and circuit.

Note the brake disks used as weights, previous remains of an unlucky spectator

Following a 2 hour session it was back to the pits and a that all important test to see if the driving experience of the real circuit could improve those in-game lap times. The result was a resounding yes with all contenders at least 5 seconds a lap faster, all noticing the key details of the real course expertly recreated within the game. So following his racing experience and as someone not totally sold on the video game realisation first time around, how did Pat find Forza 3 now?

Itís hard putting this kind of experience into words, so Iíve picked out a few key bullet points, main differences and benefits of playing Forza 3 and real race driving are as follows:

1) You donít have any danger of dying if you crash in the game.
2) Game has rewind button / real life doesnít.
3) Electricity costs a lot less then Petrol and i would imagine this baby uses a lot of petrol!

Finally i would like to suggest how you can add a little bit more realism whilst racing along with Forza 3:

1) Play Forza as normal with a wheel set up, use a racing seat and TV positioned fairly closely; important to wear a crash helmet!
2) Position your washing machine / tumble dryer / electric drills/ lawn mower / cement mixing machine and anything else that makes a lot of noise behind you and switch them all on when racing (replicate amazingly loud engine sound).
3) Have someone who shouts really loud sit next to you shouting "Brake" "Accelerate" "get to the left you idiot" and have this someone occasionally take the wheel from you to correct your racing line.
4) Have a few other people kicking the bottom of your chair every now and again for when you touch the sides or spin off in to the distance.
5) On that note you could also have someone nearby with a few very angry dogs to be unleashed if you crash or spin off (Simulate crash injuries ) - could provide adrenaline rush.

So some helpful advice on replicating the experience but did it result in better times for Pat? Yes again he was faster, noting the exact details present in the game and replicated perfectly in the FM3 realisation ďits perfectĒ noted Pat, ďI can see all of the markers just where they are on the real track and recognize every corner, its identical to the real thingĒ. Its great seeing this test working but this is where driving games are quite unlike any other gaming experience. Driving games require exactly the same controls to play the game as it would a real car, the feeling is of common sense and the heightened perception from being in a real racing environment it what worked to improve these drivers. Coming back they focused on what they would do in the real car, what braking markers to look for and how to get out of trouble, how to hit apexes; keep consistent apex speed and acceleration, overall how to be a better driver.

You canít replicate the visceral feeling of being in a racing car but if you can detach that element and look to the basic operations and interaction of the driver its all here and as technology improves itíll only become better. Overall a successful experiment and this is what VVV is all about, gaming fans getting into real racing and vice versa, it gives an opportunity many of us will never experience while the safety of never risking our lives.

If there's one thing about racing, it always brings a smile to everyone's face   read

12:23 PM on 11.14.2009

MCM Expo musings

Wrote this a couple of weeks ago but thought I'd share it here, the MCM Expo has been running for several years now, from its humble beginnings the show has grown to a behemoth of, for want of a better word "creative culture". From anime, to gaming, Sci Fi to cosplay, everything is covered with the offering always expanding.

Having been several times myself, it can be a mixed bag so embarking on my journey I went along not knowing what to expect, always finding shows within the genre to be a mixed bag. These depending heavily on the product range displayed or the quality of entries to the ever popular and ever growing cosplay competitions. On arriving at Docklands Custom House Excel Center I immediately felt a huge buzz in the air, great waves of cosplay fans surrounding the venue.

Let us just add that Snow White is definitely the fairest of them all...

Battling through the huge crowds, everyone was having great fun with a friendly atmosphere, while mixing and open for a natter about any aspect of their given passion. Working my way into the main hall and it was encouraging to see support from games companies increasing in its variety, the Expo is an ideal opportunity to show off gaming wares to a more mixed audience and there's no doubt all who attended were glad they did, all around were positive comments, especially from key Community Managers. Indeed more than just playing games, Koei were selling a range of wares while running show activity really embracing the atmosphere of the show. Capcom, Namco Bandai and Sega also consolidating their ever dedicated following though alas the Bayonetta girl was not present, a missed opportunity but there were more than enough *ahem* sexy cosplay opportunities present.

Elsewhere on the show floor, we found a full size fully working Halo Warthog, a stunning replica of the iconic in-game vehicle; we had a chat with the owner and will be running more in-depth content relating to this soon. Indeed there were other automotive displays including the ever popular Ghostbusters car and a surprising replica of the Back to the Future Delorian, complete with all working internals and accurate movie props, a surprising but exciting find.

Of course from the many stands selling unique bitsín pieces to the all important cosplay competitions and this was an area that has always required investment, happily the organisers have finally addressed this issue with quite frankly the best organisation and selection of cosplay Iíve ever seen. Exquisitely designed costumes were all abound and great kudos to those who really pulled it off, indeed Iíve never seen so many attendees in costume and it demonstrates how the show continues to go from strength to strength, expect an even bigger turnout next year.

Overall itís a great day out, with the options to make new likeminded friends from a range of fantasy genres, but be warned you will need some spare cash as there are simply too many goodies on offer, I for one will be back next year but until then Iíll leave you with a range of pictures of our adventures.

So to finish off the day, how about a bit of music from a rather unusual band...   read

5:46 AM on 08.26.2009

Been playing Need For Speed Nitro

This year we've seen a significant stage in the evolution of the Need For Speed franchise, its now grown to such a level that one game simply can't please all and so the decision was made to break the franchise up enabling a wider range of experiences. This also gave the opportunity to focus those experiences to directly suit the target customer. Barring that in mind the decision was taken to separate the Wii version from the other NFS titles, aimed at a slightly younger audience this will represent yet another new step into virgin territory.

Kicking off with a brief presentation we went straight into a hands-on session and graphically the title is very nicely presented, sharp and bold while running at an impressive 60fps, backed up with a fantastic feeling of speed. The first thing that strikes you about Need For Speed Nitro is its striking artistic approach, combining a well implemented fusion of design, colour and general feel. Cars are all based on real models but altered to fit this slightly surreal racing universe. Featuring a comprehensive car design garage, the colours and designs painted on the car actually alter the environment around you, so whenever a player takes the lead the environment changes to match the colour of that car. You also design your own design / graffiti style which literally paints the town as you drive along. Its a great effect and really makes it worth while when you take the lead and begin overwriting the previous race leader, giving a real urge for competitive racing.

Note how the players car colour and design are reflected in the local environments.

As for handling the game is a complete arcade racer, with car control being basic but effective, simply drive fast, turn in and hit the brake with the car gliding in a very Ridge Racer esque on rails style. So no realism here though there is a car damage system, which racing damage will affect the performance of your car so keep an eye out for the giant floating spanner pick-ups dotted around the course, these are vital to your survival. The other pick-ups you'll see are giant police badges, grab one of these and you can redirect the heat on to a competitor, so while the cops bash them about and damage their car in the process you'll be able to make a few places, of course that swings both ways to prepare for a bumpy rides and some very aggressive cop action. Of course the distinctive art style leads on well to the games many environments, all based in major cities around the world but with a Nitro twist, we look forward to seeing more in the final release including more details on the many vehicles available.

The Wii remote has two forms of implementation, you can either race one-handed then twist the remote from side to side or use the nun chuck to steer, suffice to say I did better with the latter, being rubbish at the twisting motion and feeling like I was straining my admittedly powerful wrists. The game also features some fun 2 player split screen modes, demoed was the Eliminator mode. With the car in last place turning into a cop car and then chasing the field, every 30 seconds another player would become a cop until it all became too much for the front runner, always an exciting mode but the cop element that players always had something to achieve despite being eliminated.

Overall the game looks solid enough, great graphics combined with gameplay carefully tailored to the Wii audience means that this new direction could be the best way forward and demonstrates the quality of EA's support of Nintendo. The length or depth of the game could be its only true weaknesses but as ever EA tend to have these things worked out and Nitro looks like it has the potential to be another Wii winner this Christmas season, Nitro is due out in November with a full review in due course.


2:31 PM on 08.15.2009

Made a video of me playing Supercar Challenge

But then realised I couldn't embed it :/ so I thought I would list my impressions here and if you're interested you can see my brief hands on video here.

2009 is fast becoming one of the greatest ever years for racing fans but surely it's now an unenviable time for publishers and developers as development costs rise and rivals eat up potential market share, and in particular on the PS3 we have the looming cloud of Gran Turismo 5 hovering over the horizon, the racing landscape is about to change significantly. It's also tough for the smaller developers, last year System 3 released Ferrari Challenge as a exclusive for the Playstation 3 console. With little or no direct competition the title fared well, receiving critical acclaim, it was a solid well constructed racer and supported with regular DLC. This year the plan is to recapture that success with Supercar Challenge, similar in structure to FC but adding a wide range of new motor manufacturers.

VVV Gamer has had a lengthy hands-on an almost final build, again with a polished and classy front end backed up with the usual rousing soundtrack taking you into the initial menu options. Moving swiftly into the racing and of course handling is always key, in many respects it's a similar feel to Ferrari Challenge but with fine tuning, again we'll be looking at this in more detail but FC did a decent job at conveying weight and we'll expect this to do the same. For those of you new to the genre, this feel is critical in the way the car reacts under braking giving the handling more depth and enabling expert players to find new limits within any given cars performance.

Enter the System 3 games room and you're faced with a pretty impressive set-up, 60" TV, playseat and G25 steering wheel (see videos below), it gave a great opportunity to test the real racing pedigree of this new contender, alas the gearstick wasn't attached on this occasion and with limited time to alter button configurations I opted for automatic gears. Kicking off with the Time Trial Mode, jumping into a Zonda and hitting the F1 Nurburgring Circuit it was initially an uphill challenge, the Zonda suffering massive understeer when any power is applied, combined with rubbish brakes and terrible oversteer at slow speeds. Very much a tip toeing experience but switching the wheel to a higher sensitivity yielded greater results and improved lap times, though this was still a mighty and somewhat frustrating challenge.

Following a few installation laps I hit the arcade mode and swapped to an Aston Martin DBR9, with ABS, TRC, and STC on, the first track being Monza, turn 1 resulting in the usual 1 mph carnage but swiftly sorting it out as we got up to speed. However the difference in handling was profound, better grip, more control and more fun to drive. The wheel combined with a decent car suddenly brought Supercar Challenge to life, through the chicane then the long right-hander before the second chicane, this being an area that many FC owners will be aware that a great line here with aggressive exit can get you through at a mighty speed, again you'll see more that in the video I managed to smuggle out below. Towards the end of the lap the biggest challenge and weakness at this stage was keeping the DBR9 straight at high speed, the car beginning to feel light and twitchy creating an imbalance. This makes some bumpy or off camber braking zones very difficult to master in a short time, though the general rule will usually keep you on the road "slow in, fast out", keeping the car as straight and balanced as possible under braking, while barring in mind that as a stock set-up there could be greater performance with some tuning.

Further testing revealing the 599XX as being the car of choice on this occasion, great power, controlled power-slides and more stable down the straights and fantastic in Simulation mode. Choosing the right car will clearly be critical to your enjoyment out of the gaming experience.

As for the graphical approach, there have been a range of alterations, though its debatable at this stage whether they will be better or different? They certainly are solid but some course representations still appear to lack vital undulation and gradient changes. Car models are again decent representations but lack some of the polished shine of potential rivals notably lacking in metallic and alloys, however notable effects such as smoke, dust and rain have real impact and I look forward to testing more in our final review. The sound too was very impressive, accurate and individual engine sounds with a range of gear changing effects, this is supported by detailed ambient sound including both crowd and trackside commentator effects.

A possible jewel in the crown is the inclusion of 16 player online racing, the first racing title this console generation to be so ambitious and a daring step that step should be applauded, but will it work? Over the last 6 months System 3 have been running a beta test for the title and so far so good, of course we'll have to wait for the finished game to see how this stands up to the pressures of mass demand. Not too much more to add till we play the title again but expect a detailed review of the final release, handling analysis besides interviews with key figures involved in the project, in the meantime the official System 3 press release is added below featuring many of the keys aspects you can expect to find, Supercar Challenge is released in the UK on the 4th September.   read

4:42 PM on 08.11.2009

Been playing Dirt 2

I feel like a broken record this year, every time a new bit of racing info comes out I go on about how competitive this scene is becoming, of course one of the front runners has now shown its hand. Colin McRae Dirt 2, this being a new evolution of the Dirt franchise and yet again moving further from the games rally routes. Now with the recent announcement of the X-Games partnership it all begins to fall into place, introducing a new style and perspective of where the rally genre is looking to expand its audience to new demographics. I have to admit I'm not a massive follower of the X-Games and hadn't been following the development of the racing scene within, Ken Block is well known as a quality driver but seeing old BMX champs such as Dave Mirra make the leap into automotive racing shows the growing importance of the genre. Of course X-Games is about as American as you you can get, nothing like the standard WRC we all know, they've basically taken the Super Special Stages, combined that with the Race of Champions and then added additional over the top glam with jumps and fireworks, so bigger and bolder than anything you've seen before, and there's no doubt this approach works in finding new audiences. Indeed Codemasters have looked at how best to differentiate Dirt from its rivals in more ways than one going to great lengths in redefining its corporate identity.

The home menu (top) Rally Action (center) Battersea Power station (bottom) but with a hue not unlike the US based courses

So onto the presentation with a commentary by Game Design Manager Ralph Fulton, explaining the basic layout of the game and revealing that this is the result of just 1 years development, a staggering achievement and by the same team that brought us last years commercially successful GRiD title. The game also features the 3rd generation of their in-house developed EGO engine, this clearly becoming a hot property both for racing and fps as demonstrated in the forthcoming Operation Flashpoint, both versatile and impressive in its development and execution. He was keen to point out the artistic approach and design philosophy besides announcing that the feeling from within Codemasters is that this is the strongest racing title they have ever produced, we've had a one to one interview with Ralph and will be putting that up in the coming weeks.

Entering the game and there's a similar 3D world menu process as we've seen in titles such as Grid, every year these are refined and improved, this is no exception with a very polished front end though sometimes it would be nice for the simple menu systems but maybe I'm just being too picky. A range of modes to be revealed in the game and of course we'll go through those in our eventual review.

Moving on to my hands on and I can announce I'm very pleased with the complete redevelopment in the handling, the game now feels much like the older titles in the series, controlling slides with power and and all round a more intuitive feel within the car. I don't feel at this stage that the car conveys weight in the way I would like but that might depend on the different vehicles so its something we'll analyze given more in-depth play. Having said that I did have great fun, the graphics are stunning and provide a fantastic sensation of speed, the final package will no doubt provide a considerable challenge.

This play session also gave the opportunity to test out the 8 player online play and again great fun it was too, rally stages are a good example, you now start with all 8 cars in a queue with 1 released every 5 or so seconds. It reminded me of going to a water tube theme park, seeing your friends dive in and waiting for your shot before meeting them all at the bottom, I sit there seeing everyone power off round turn 1 then bang I'm away. Often gaining on rivals but this style really gave you something to aim for. Next was the full on 8 player races, as you might expect turn 1 can be a tad messy but somehow always entertaining, again something to test more in a relaxed gaming environment.

Overall a very positive event, Dirt 2 looking like the step back to form but walking a very careful line, on the whole I'm very pleased with the handling improvements though can't help but miss the standard rally stages of the earlier titles, of course I could go into huge detail there but instead I'll leave that to our review and interview with Ralph Fulton, in the meantime I've added a video below which gives a good idea of what to expect and I'll be adding a video diary of my progress through the game in the coming weeks.   read

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