TideLog Archive for October, 2009

The long awaited (and I mean long, nearly over 5 years!) PSP version of the Sony exclusive Racing Simulator is finally here. I’ve played it, and am sorry to say it’s a big disappointment. It just isn’t the way GT is supposed to be. Sony has been promising this for as long as the PSP has been out, since 2005, and if they’ve finally managed to cobble this poor excuse together after their other “high priority” stuff, then this ain’t good enough.

Enough whinging, here’s my review, proper style:

Gran Turismo PSP (GTPSP) bears the burdens of being the series’ first foray into the portable realm, and of having been announced (and subsequently delayed), for five years. Despite the long wait, gamers will probably be willing to forgive GTPSP for its tardiness given the game’s impeccable record as “The Real Driving Simulator.” Whether or not the long wait has paid off for this mobile version though, is debatable.

GTPSP certainly feels like a Gran Turismo game; the cars’ handling and the HUD are distinctly GT, and all the original tracks are intact — players familiar with the franchise will automatically feel right at home. This installment’s ability to almost completely reproduce the physics and gameplay of the core Gran Turismo series is its greatest achievement; racing feels nearly identical to its console counterparts. GTPSP also manages the difficult feat of making each car feel unique; you can instinctively feel the difference between a front-wheel drive hatchback and a rear-wheel drive sports car.

The in-race graphics are the best I've seen!

The in-race graphics are the best I've seen!

The game controls very well with the analogue nub, although the default decision to use Up and Down on the D-pad for gearchanges is annoying, as it forces you to abandon steering the car in order to shift, which resulted in me crashing a few times! Fortunately, you can remap the controls yourself, so make sure to switch shifting to the shoulder buttons as soon as you turn the game on. Another annoying quibble is the need to manually adjust the options for each of the individual Driving Challenges; the game simply ignores your general preferences and forces you to switch from automatic to manual for every race.

While GTPSP certainly lands more on the simulation side of the racing genre, it’s not quite as brutal as previous entries. The physics are still real-life accurate and require finesse, but as long as you’re able to keep your car on the track, you’ll win more often than not. The initial racing challenges are a breeze, and opponents don’t get legitimately difficult until you rank up to Class-A on a track (more on this later). The biggest annoyance for me was GTPSP doesn’t allow for vehicle upgrading; instead it opts for “quick tunes,” a mini tuning screen that allows basic suspension adjustment for street cars, and full weight and aero adjustments for race cars. This disappoints me, as being a die-hard player of GT ever since the first game, tuning is a big hobby of mine, even in real life. Being able to tune my virtual Impreza in line with my girlfriend’s real one is a real excitement, which GTPSP derived me of.

GTPSP also carries on the proud but annoying/unrealistic series tradition of refusing to allow race damage or visual modifications to the cars.

Strangely, GTPSP throws a stupid amount of money at you right from the get-go — allowing you to purchase whatever vehicle you like. Almost. For some reason, GTPSP only lets the player access to five car manufacturers at any given time — with the manufacturers changing every few in-game days. Even when a manufacturer you want eventually shows up, the cars offered for sale are also randomly determined. This essentially means that your car selection is at the mercy of random chance, and God help you if you want a specific make and model. GTPSP seems to be teasing the player by handing out cash willy-nilly and then denying the player the ability to buy what they want with it. The abundance of cash also negates any sense of progress, as the traditional scheme of working your way up from a snail (Citroen 2CV, for a laugh!) to a supercar is replaced by letting you buy a Le Mans race car after only an hour or two of play.

In what is probably the game’s biggest downfall, the single player race mode does away with the traditional career and race series format in favour of just letting you pick a course and go for it. The player picks a race mode, car, and course, the game then matches you with some appropriate opponents, and off you go. As you complete races on each course multiple times, your driver ranking goes up for that course, which increases your opponent’s A.I. and the difficulty. Speaking of A.I., GTPSP also seems to feature the same classically dunderheaded drivers that follow a fixed line regardless of anything. If a highway straight to hell opens up in the middle of the course, I imagine every single one of these dunces would dive straight in before thinking to manouevre from their line. While asking for a major A.I. overhaul from a portable offshoot of the franchise is unfair, it’s honestly still boring to feel like you’re racing a group of dumbass clones while games like DiRT 2 and Forza Motorsport attempt to give some sort of character to your rivals.

In-Car view makes you close to the road!

In-Car view makes you close to the road!

The Driving Challenge section resembles the License Tests from previous GT titles, though instead of licenses (as noted earlier, there are no prerequisites for racing on any of the tracks.), the player is rewarded with cash. In fact the player is rewarded with so much cash, that you’ll easily have a million credits after an hour or two (and then that supercar you wanted will never appear!). The Driving Challenge is the closest the game gets to a traditional racing mode though, through setting goals and ranking the player’s performance in navigating difficult portions of the courses. Unfortunately, the multiplayer is ad-hoc only, with online interaction limited to swapping and trading cars with other players.

GTPSP is not a bad game by any means; it’s a great fit for the PSP and offers a genuine Gran Turismo racing experience on the go, but it’s constantly hindered by its boggling lack of structure. More than anything, GTPSP lacks a sense of direction; there are hundreds of cars to buy and tracks to race on, but there’s little motivation to do either; you don’t get much reward for winning. All the cars and courses are unlocked from the beginning, and your only prize is gazing at how many ranked races you’ve won in your driver profile (which is tucked far away in a submenu). For GT fans, the vast car/course selection and peerless gameplay will certainly be enough of a motivator to play, but to the more casual racer, there’s not a whole lot to be had here. GTPSP plays and looks like a GT game, but it feels like a greatest hits album: undeniably quality, but devoid of the essential uniqueness that defined the originals.

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I’m adding this here as a note to ourselves, but others may find it useful. Here’s our comparisons of the different D7E range of engines:

Tidosho's Volvo D7E Engine Range Comparison. Copyright 2009 - Me!

Tidosho's Volvo D7E Engine Range Comparison. Copyright 2009 - Me!

My text version didn’t work so well, so I made an image in Photoshop. The D7E290 is not here, yet!

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This was going to be an article on swapping an engine….now it doesn’t need to be. You’ll see why.

Rikku and myself were discussing the upgrade of the Volvo D7E 290 yesterday, the basis of said conversation was her asking me, “Why? It already goes up to 75MPH!” Well, actual speed is 74.13MPH, but I daren’t contradict her. My reason was for my adrenaline, my “playtime” as she put it later!

When we went down to Donington recently, Kassie was showing me how to overclock (sorry, tune, I’m too used to Overclock, I do it on PC’s so much!), and we managed to get nearly 90Mph out of it before the gearbox & brake ECU’s plus the retarder timings went out of sync, and constantly stalled the engine under heavy braking, which is dangerous, as you lose engine braking. It was fun that day, and since then the ECU has been reset, we don’t want any risk on the public roads.

It IS possible to get the performance of the D7E320 out of the D7E290, but the bus ECUs are stopping us, mainly the gearbox and main computer. I’ve just been thinking, whilst going up to Rochdale (on a B7RLE, co-incidentally). If we take the gear ratios up slightly, and increase the boost pressure higher than stock (if possible, as it is already pretty high), the stalling might stop, until we can figure out how to reflash the ECU’s. I don’t want to risk increasing the cylinder bore, or lightening the pistons and conrods, not on a public bus. Maybe if I can get a B7RLE for myself, I might try it.

I discovered the D7E320, a few days ago, fitted to Dennis refuse trucks, and have been pondering the likelyhood of a straight swap. I don’t think it’ll fit, as the cooling system is attached directly to the engine, whereas the B7RLE has it mounted to the left on a subframe, with the radiator facing outwards to the side of the bus behind the fan shroud, under the far left side of the rear seat bench. The performance increase would have been considerate, with 320HP coming in at 2,300RPM, total power output about 235Kw over the 290’s 213Kw. That would make the top speed probably over 85/90MPH without any tuning.

That, however, might not need to happen. Just tonight I’ve discovered the Tunit system from Gorse Motors, which claims to get the 290 up to the spec of the D7E320 without risk. It plugs straight into the engine and ECU, no manual tuning needed, the computer in the Tunit does all the work, dynamically.

Wow! Bus tuning has never felt so fun! It’s got me wanting more…..

Update: The 320 IS the same engine, just Dennis’s cooling mountings on their refuse truck are different, and the engine can be installed as the B7RLE’s 290, as if you were doing an overhaul.

Thanks to Kassie for talking to Volvo this morning for me… Now we’ve got two possible routes to take, one expensive, one not so….

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I’ve always liked football, and rugby, especially when it’s muddy! Since I left school, I’ve never really thought about training in it properly. Until today. Rikku’s been playing football for 7 years, she moved on from Rounders and Netball at school, and has run her own team, Woodhill LFC, named after the street she used to live on in Prestwich, Manchester. Now she’s moved back to Birmingham, she’s playing for Hopwood LFC, a small amateur team. She’s the team captain, and first aider, so when she’s not playing with the team, she’s treating injuries, and assessing team safety.

I mentioned getting back into football or rugby again, and the lack of lads teams I can join, either due to my height, health restrictions, or cost, and she’s offered to train me with her girls at weekends! She’s best friends with the team owner, they have training on Tuesdays, and matches on Fridays, so she’s going to organise training sessions for me on Sundays. She needs to arrange it with the team girls first, as they all work throughout the week, so obviously don’t want to overwork them.

I’ve never played football or rugby with women, apart from one rugby match at school, just before I left, we were against the girl’s team because there weren’t enough lads in the boy’s team. It was a very messy, wet, and nice experience, being tackled by a cute 17 year old girl, (that I happened to fancy like crazy!) dressed in her school football kit into sloppy mud is an experience I’ll never forget, it was very nice! We all ended up mud wrestling at the end of the match (as if we weren’t muddy enough!).

So this training should be quite interesting, I’m the only guy, with 11 other full grown ladies, skilled in football. There is nothing better than life itself, as my blog motto goes!! It’s probably going to be training, then a 5 a side match each Sunday.

Wooow, awesome….!

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