Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Review: Touch Mechanic for DS

Touch Mechanic is one of those games that I have been pretty curious about for a good while now. I remember reading/hearing about it back in 2008 and I started to look for it. Imagine my disappointment when it was only released in France. I had basically given up on it until Drew saw an advertisement at GameStop a bit ago. Just for the hell of it I decided to pick it up and check it out. I mean, it seems like Trauma Center for Cars…it has to be decent. I tried to look up some reviews for this before I grabbed it, really mainly out of curiosity. Guess what? There were no reviews, and as of this writing, there are still no reviews at the major sites. Theoretically, this could be the first review on the internet for this game. Oh man, think of the e-fame that could come with the first review!

Let’s go over the basics first. There are 75 different “chapters” of the game; however you only actually get to play half of them. The other half is some horrible story involving street racing, murder, incompetent detectives, and some childish love story. The actual parts you play are quite similar to Trauma Center. You have someone explain what you need to do and the basics on how to do it and then you work. You are penalized for screwing up, but only if you do something to actually damage the car. Selecting the wrong tool/nut/part will give you a warning, but it doesn’t actually count against you. Also, any time you screw up and damage the car, you actually have to fix your mistakes before you can go on to the next part.

The parts where you actually work on the cars are really well done. Unfortunately the graphics are fairly bad, but they work enough to convey what you are supposed to do. Even though you have someone explain what you are doing, the game does seem to require at least an arbitrary knowledge of cars. They reference parts by the actual name and also expect you to understand the order to disassemble/assemble the different parts. The touch controls are really well done and nicely mimic the feel of the real tools. The only issue is that the cutting/welding parts of the game are incredibly touchy and if your touchpad isn’t calibrated correctly, you can fail a level pretty easily.

Where the game shines the most is with your own personal car. As you progress through the story, you will unlock new parts for your own car. In the world of Touch Mechanic there are four types of tuning; DUB, Donk, GT and Race. So each time you unlock a part, you will unlock all four types. You can mix and match the different types as you see fit. As you do this, you will have to enter your car into Custom Shows in order to progress the story. If you do not score high enough in these shows, the game will not continue until you modify your own car enough to get the required score. It also lets you swap between all the different parts you have purchased at will, so you can really create the style you want for your car.

All in all, it is a pretty decent game. Although the graphics aren’t that great and the story is downright terrible, the central gameplay is fun and well executed. Since I am a car person, I probably am biased toward liking this game. But as it is, I would recommend it for any car person looking for a fun game to waste time with on the DS.

(All images have been taken from the Publishers website at www.aspyr.com)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sultan of Michigan

Found this on Autoblog and just had to link to it. I guess it is a very avid car collector located somewhere in Michigan. The video is definitely worth the time!

Link to Video
(Autoblog uses a propriety video player, so we cannot embed it here.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

(Late) Thoughts on the Chicago Auto Show

I know it is quite a bit late, but I figured I should finally post some of my thoughts on the Chicago Auto Show. Drew and I both decided to skip the Detroit show this year due to the combination of the amount of companies pulling out, the dirtiness of Detroit and just the lackluster showing it has had over the previous couple of years. This was my first year to the Chicago show, but I feel it was time better spent than in Detroit. There is already talk about Detroit losing the "International Auto Show" title to (probably) Los Angeles, and so we figured it was easy to skip. Also since we are just normal peons, we don't get any cool access to the press days. So I figured I would just list some of my general thoughts during the show.

* Hyundai seems to be missing a huge potential sales possibility with the disparity in style between the Genesis Coupe and the Genesis Sedan. The Coupe is a hip rear-wheel drive sports car and the Sedan comes across as almost "Caddy-ish" in its style. On the Coupe you have a well thought interior that focuses on the driver, incredible race-style seats and track upgrades all around. On the other side you have the Sedan which is almost too posh and seems to lean toward an older demographic. Hyundai really could have filled a great niche with a younger grouping by making the Sedan a bit more sporty and more youth oriented. Look at how Scion was able to grow under that marketing idea and I honestly think Hyundai could have benefited from a similar style. Right now the two cars almost seem like they come from different companies.

* I was really pretty surprised to see Saturn at the show and even a little insulted that Hummer would be there. In this day, not only does nobody care about Hummer, but they are becoming an anachronism. Only the truly out of touch are interested in such a waste of energy and money. Also Saturn is still hanging on, it seems only a matter of time before they are also closed down so GM can maybe some money. That is still to be seen, but I still find it odd they would have such a prominent display.

* Maybe I just don't understand, but the new Chevy Stingray concept is horrible. It is incredibly ugly and almost a crime against nature. While the original had nice flowing lines and gorgeous styling, this new one is just gaudy. It seems like what a rich out-of-touch yuppie would envision how the Corvette Stingray should look. It just a contrived garish design that is all angles. Although in this economy and the way GM is headed, I sincerely doubt it will ever be produced.

* The Mazda M Coupe...why wasn't this produced? This was a sexy hardtop version of the Miata that was produced for the New York Auto Show in 1996. It is so sad that it was never designed. Even though the current Miata is just a drivers dream, I can just imagine how awesome it would be as a full hardtop coupe. It just seems like a missed opportunity.

* I went into the show really wanting to like the new Taurus SHO. The old SHOs just cannot be beat for their sleeper abilities, but this one just doesn't look right. It is freakin' huge and those massive 20 inch stock tires sure don't help anything. The awesome Ecoboost V6 Turbo that it will have is a great choice for an engine. Plus it will have over 300HP and will be All-Wheel Drive. I really, really want to like it, I really do. But with the price, size and styling, I am just not sure anymore.

Friday, March 20, 2009

In the Game of Life, there are No Continues

Note: This was a short research paper that I had to do for an English class in college. This Blog seems like the perfect place to "resurrect" this paper as this whole issue will never seem to go away.

It was July when Charles Whitman, who was 24, killed both his wife and mother. He then took a “footlocker full of ammunition, shotguns, rifles, Spam sandwiches and water” to a clock tower at the University of Texas. In the next hour and half, he shot 46 people, killing 16 of them before finally being shot to death by police. Charles Starkweather was 19 when he led Caril Fugate, 14, on a “weeklong killing spree across Nebraska and Wyoming in which 11 people were shot, stabbed, and strangled to death.” Before this, however, Caril had shot her mother to death with a shotgun for threatening Charles (Lovinger 18,19).

Are these the newest acts in a seemingly endless rash of teen violence? Were these teens influenced to kill by Marilyn Manson, violent video games, or R rated movies? The answer is a sound “No!” These acts occurred before the advent of violent media. According to Lovinger, Whitman killed all those people in the summer of 1966, while the killing spree of Starkweather and Fugate happened during the year of 1958 (18). Violence has always been among the population. Violent video games do not encourage nor induce our kids to commit acts of brutality. People have been killing each other since the dawn of time. Society cannot use violent video games as a scapegoat for its ills. Violent video games do not cause violent behavior in today’s youth, contrary to popular belief.

One of the biggest arguments against the selling and creating of violent video games is that kids are not able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, that when they pick up a fake gun and shoot at pixels and animation that fly across the screen, the game is teaching them to kill in real life. People argue that these games would cause a kid to become a “video gamer trained to kill efficiently by the hyperviolent games he played” (Thompson 36). If these games are really teaching kids to become violently trained weapons of destruction, then society should be seeing a lot more violent acts then it does. According to Joshua Quittner of Time magazine, video games are a 5.5 billion dollar industry, beating out even movies. They have also become the “second-most popular form of home entertainment after TV.” On top of this, Quittner also points out, “9 out of 10 U.S. households with children have rented or owned a video or computer game.” He also goes on to point out that almost a third of the top games in 1999 had some violent content (50). It should be mentioned here, however, that “Doom” and “Quake”, two games known for their violent content, have a combined sale of only 4.7 million copies. Take a look at “Myst” and “Riven,” both very non-violent; they have combined sales of 5.5 million copies (Miller 3). So while a third of the 100 games are violent, the top sellers are not. This does not mean that they are not being sold, just not in the ludicrous amounts that the media leads people to believe. Now if kids are that influenced by video games, the public should be seeing even more violence than what it is seeing now. There is a reason why society is not seeing more violence. That is because children can actually understand the difference between a violent fantasy video game and going out and doing the same thing in real life.

David Grossman, a retired army lieutenant colonel, says that these violent video games prepare kids to “kill and even enjoy the experience” (Quittner 50+). He then equates video games to cigarettes. Kids themselves have even said that they know the violence is fantasy and could never carry out the violence portrayed in real life. Peter Horan, 16, talks about one of his favorite games entitled “Grand Theft Auto.” This is a video game in which killing police and stealing cars will gives the best score. When asked why he plays it, he says, “Because it’s fun. I know that cops aren’t bad. It doesn’t make me want to go out and steal cars. Video games don’t influence me” (Quittner 50+). Look at Brian Wisotsky. He spends hours a day killing online people in the game “Quake.” Brian, or Phlendar, as his soon-to-be victims know him, is one of the best Quake players in Brooklyn. The violence does not bother his dad, Mike, who says, “Anyone with half a brain in their head can’t take it seriously” (Sandberg R4). There also many more testimonies like these in which both parents and kids mention that they can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Still another one is a gentleman known as "Thresh." He was "the first professional gamer" and a "living legend." He has even won a Ferrari in a “Quake” tournament. He attests that "When you hit someone in the game, it's a cartoon. It's cowboys and Indians, that's all” (Howe 36). The writer, Jeff Howe, also agrees with this. He states, "I don't know why shooting games are fun, but however absorbing they may be, they haven't damaged my psyche, or made me more violent, and Thresh would hardly call them a negative influence on his life” (37). Are parents really raising their kids so badly that they are not able to see the line between what is a game and what is real life? If this is the case, should not society focus more on destroying bad parenting than these games?

These are not the only people who say that video games do not affect them. Harry Jenkins, a professor at Michigan Institute of Technology, has studied games for years. He laughs at the idea that any "element of popular culture could act as a motivational factor in a case like the Littleton killings." He says, "According to industry figures, 90 percent of American boys play these games, so connections between Doom and the shooters aren't very meaningful for the simple reason that the games are so ubiquitous" (Howe 36+). The music and media that Klebold and Harris used as their supposed inspiration were dark. But kids everywhere are using supposed dark media in a positive way. Jenkins talks about a young girl who publishes fictional stories on her website based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This show owes its idea to video games. "You can't say that popular culture did something to [Klebold and Harris],” says Jenkins. "It's more accurate to say that they did something with popular culture” (Howe 36+). Society needs a scapegoat, and since most parents either do not understand or fear video games, it is easy for them to blame video games. Even the Surgeon General of the United States says that video games do not affect kids in the ways we are led to believe in their report, which was filed on January 17. David Satcher, the Surgeon General, said, "In the report, while we point out that exposure to violence in the media - especially television - can significantly increase aggressive behavior in youth, it is not a major long-term factor in violent behavior. (Asher 28)."

As shown in the paragraph above, most kids are not affected by video games at all. However, there is always an exception to the rule. For there seems to be some "subgroups within the population of children who may indeed be 'at risk' when it comes to playing video games." Those who play video games "heavily" are more inclined to be at risk then the "casual gamer." Other research also suggests that children with "low self-concepts or low mental age" are also at risk (Van Horn 173-174). That is when the parents should step in. If they think their kids might be easily influenced by these games, it is up to them to prevent their kids from playing them. The parents should not buy the games for them and then blame the games if their kids go wrong. It is up to the parents to regulate what their kids see and play. Parents should also realize that video games could have a good influence. Tom Horan sees it as good that his kids are playing these games. He says, "I'd rather have them and their friends playing video games here than out roaming the streets” (Quittner 50-59).

Now society must come to realize the good things that can come from video games. Not every video game out there is a shoot-them-up, kill-them-all “frag fest.” There are some genuinely beautiful-looking games and games with storylines that rival today’s best sellers. These games can even be conduits for emotions. David Costikyan said it best:

They're blowing up pixels. They're killing bitmaps. They're shooting at software subroutines. They're not a threat to public order ... What they are doing makes them less likely to be a threat do public order. They're getting their jones -- they're satisfying their antisocial impulses in a completely harmless way. Violent computer games don’t spur violence; violent computer games channel antisocial behavior in societally acceptable ways. (Van Horn 173-74)

Violent video games and media have never been the problem. Violence has always existed, even before any form of “media” even existed. Society cannot use these media as a scapegoat for kids’ problems. Parents also cannot use computer games to make up for their bad parenting. It has been shown time and time again that these games are not the reason why society has problems with violence. The violence has been and will always be inside all people; it is just what they decide to do about it that will decide society’s future.

Works Cited
Howe, Jeff. “The Great Video Game Shoot-Out.” The Village Voice 11 May 1999: 36. ProQuest Direct. ProQuest. J.D. Messick Learning Resource Center, Tulsa. 26 March 2001 (http://proquest.umi.com/).

Lovinger, Caitlin. “Violence, Even Before the Internet.” The New York Times 25 Apr. 1999: 18. ProQuest Direct. ProQuest. J.D. Messick Learning Resource Center, Tulsa. 26 March 2001 (http://proquest.umi.com/).

Miller, Stephen C. “Most-Violent Video Games Are Not Biggest Sellers.” The New York Times 29 July 1999: 3. ProQuest Direct. ProQuest. J.D. Messick Learning Resource Center, Tulsa. 26 March 2001 (http://proquest.umi.com/).

“Press Start.” Electronic Gaming Monthly May 2001: 36 uittner, Joshua. “Are Video Games Really So Bad?” Time 10 May 1999: 50-59. ProQuest Direct. ProQuest. J.D. Messick Learning Resource Center, Tulsa. 26 March 2001 .(http://proquest.umi.com/)

“The Surgeon General’s Report.” Computer Gaming World May 2001: 30.Van Horn, Royal. “Violence and Video Games.” Phi Delta Kappan Oct. 1999: 173-174. ProQuest Direct. ProQuest. J.D. Messick Learning Resource Center, Tulsa. 26 March 2001 (http://proquest.umi.com/)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Maturity in Automotive Modification?

I am sure someone, somewhere will take offense at what I am about to say. However, this is just my person thoughts and opinions and I feel like sharing them with you. I want to talk about the concept of maturity when it comes to the modification of vehicles. I know that modifications are always a personal taste type of issue so take everything here with a grain of salt.

When I first got interested into the whole “tuning scene” I was into the more juvenile style of modifications. Large wings, crazy body kits and insane rims seemed to be the pinnacle of modification to me at the time. I thought that if a car didn’t look fast, then nobody would know how fast it really was. I was, unfortunately, the typical “ricer” kid and I am still a bit ashamed to admit it.

After I learned more about how modifications work and what they are, my tastes matured. I started to think that the “JDM” scene was the most incredible thing I had ever seen. Nearly stock cars with subtle changes and well done Japanese parts were my new high. A RHD Civic Type R conversion was my favorite car at the time. It just had to look clean and be basically stock. I still actually like and respect that look to this day, but it is no longer something I would want to own or aspire to accomplish.

After a bit more time I started to really dig the whole drifting and VIP scene. VIP cars were the type of cars that you would think a businessman with a penchant for over-zealous tuning would own. Now I was into slick sedans with crazy camber and insane power plants. The dream car of choice was now either a widebody Trueno or a Supra powered Soarer. I am actually still really interested in the VIP scene and admire the look but it has taken a back seat to my new love.

This brings us to where I am today. Although I still love the import cars and I still really like to see the different tuning styles that are out there…I don’t think I could ever own one anymore. I almost feel like once you mature to a certain point, you just cannot justify driving a hopped up Evo to work every day. At this point, I feel a mildly tuned Euro is the epitome of car modification. Although I am sure that I am a bit biased due to the fact that my wife and I own an E36 M3, I just feel like you cannot beat the feel/power/look of a Euro-Tuned vehicle. I would take a nice S4 over an Evo these days without blinking. It is also what brought me to my current love of the sleeper car. There is nothing more satisfying then having a stock looking sedan that has over 400HP lurking underneath the hood. Seeing the face of another person when you rock them in your Audi S6 Avant is something that I plan on enjoying someday in the near future.

It just strikes me that as a professional businessman; there comes a time to put away the childish toys. Would you take someone more seriously if they showed up in a lightly modified BMW M3, or a slammed and kitted Acura Integra?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

F3000 Hill Climb

Thanks to Cold Track Days I was able to find the following incredible video. It is of Lionel Regal doing a hill climb in a Formula 3000 race car. It is an amazing video of racing dexterity and sheer balls. Listen to this one with the sound up as loud as you can stand it and revel in the pure beauty of a race-tuned engine that is being driven with impeccable skill.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bioshock 2 Teaser Site

I haven’t had a chance to talk about it on here (yet), but I am a huge BioShock fan. I loved the world they created and the narrative just had me from the start. Although it does have some issues in the final act, I still think it is one incredible FPS.

2K Games has just released their teaser site for BioShock 2 at http://www.somethinginthesea.com/. There really is not much info there as of yet, but there are some interesting facts to glean. From what I can tell, it seems that the Big Daddies are now leaving Rapture to kidnap little girls. There is a note that references “the head resembles a helmet” and “the feet could be heavy boots.” And since it is dated for March 1967, we know that this game takes place 7 years after the original BioShock.

That is sort of disheartening for me, as I was really excited for a prequel. I thought it would be amazing to see how Rapture actually was before everything went to hell. Although this game is done by a different team from the first, I still have high expectations for it. Hopefully they will keep releasing these teasers.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Quick Thoughts: Need for Speed Shift

Wired Game:Life just had a nice hands-on preview of the new Need for Speed: Shift. This simulation racing game seems to a be first for the series that made its name with arcade racers. I will be honest here, I haven't been really impressed with a NFS game since Most Wanted. Pro Street had some good concepts, but it just couldn't pull all their ideas into a cohesive product. Add to that EA's incessant need to add “catch up” to their games, and some of the races just are not enjoyable. Having a car blast by you at the last corner, even though they were way behind you, just because you braked a second too long is not really fun in my book. So with that out of the way, I will just quote some of the more interesting bits from their article and add my thoughts.

“In Shift, subtle details go a long way toward enhancing the racing experience. Every car features a fully modeled interior, which we are told will be accurate down to the knobs on the Audi RS4's radio or the distinct logo on the Corvette's speedometer.“

This part is interesting because a lot of racing games are starting to do this. It started with TOCA, got popular with Project Gotham Racing 4, then Gran Turismo hopped on the bandwagon. Now it is becoming standard and that is a good thing. This really helps the “simulation” feel of the game and who hasn't always wanted to see what it would be like to race around in Lamborghini Gallardo? This next part is even more interesting:

“Should you choose to race with a view from inside the cockpit, you'll find a fully animated driver, and an involved driving experience. A helmet-mounted camera will react to your actions -- accelerate, and the camera will pivot back, while braking suddenly will cause it to dip forward. Once you've really picked up speed, you'll experience tunnel vision, blurring your surroundings and bringing the camera's focus onto the road.

These camera effects extend to moments when you're not racing. Hit a wall and you'll experience a moment of disorientation: The camera will jostle, and your vision will blur, with effects intensifying for your more spectacular screw-ups.”

The part in bold is what caught my interest. This will do wonders to help simulate the feel of actually “being there.” It is hard to really “feel” how fast a car accelerates because everything is static in the game. You don't get the movement that your body would feel when the sudden rush of Gs hit. If they can implement this properly, it could honestly revolutionize the way these simulation racing games work. I want to experience it in person but I am very intrigued by this.

“Shift also features full damage modeling, which I saw in its earliest stages. The occasional dent or dirt collecting on the hood might mar the paint finish, but serious mishaps will ultimately affect the performance attributes of your vehicle. If you choose to sit inside the cockpit, you might find your vision suddenly obscured by a cracked windshield or a raised, crumpled hood -- perfect for getting a peek at the fully modeled engine rumbling underneath.”

This is something else that is becoming standard in almost all simulation racing games, with one notable exception. (I am looking at you, Gran Turismo.) The part that caught my eye was the bit about the fully rendered engine. If they do it correctly, I expect to see my tuning changes also affect the look of the engine. I don't want to fully upgrade a car and then when the hood flies off, I just see the stock engine. More racing games need to understand the visual impact of tuning and take appropriate measures to show these changes.

“Computerized competitors will adapt to your performance as you race. Aggressive players will encounter racers who are more than happy to nudge them into a guardrail, while civilized drivers will be left alone. Your automated opponents will also make the occasional mistake -- these can range from locking up their brakes to causing multiple-car pileups, encouraging racers to keep an eye on their surroundings.”

Yeah, we will see about this. I remember hearing this for Juiced, and for Project Gotham, and for Gran Turismo and also for Forza. And yet, if you ask around, none of these actually pull it off. Honestly, GRID seemed to be the best at this. You would regularly see the cars slide off, spin out or just make general mistakes. I am curious about this but I am not exactly holding my breath. Let's just wait and see how it pans out.

“The game will ship with somewhere between 60 and 100 customizable cars, and an unspecified number of tracks that will feature full weather effects that affect your performance. These will range from official circuit tracks like Brands Hatch, to fictional courses in real-world locations like London.“

This was expected, although I admit I would have guessed a larger car selection. It is becoming pretty much standard for these games to have more than 100 cars. So I hope it is closer to the second number and not the first. Although if they implement the customizable aspect well, the number of cars might not matter all that much in the long run. And we will also have to wait and see about the official tracks. Having Brands Hatch is an interesting choice and I hope that means they will be using those over looked tracks that all the other games have forgotten.

....please give us Mid-Ohio! PLEASE?

Thanks again to Wired Game:Life for their informative article.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Hello and welcome to our new blog. Yes, we know the internet is just awash in blogs these days. However, we feel that we are reaching a fairly tight niche of people. Although there are quite a good number of both Video Game and Automotive blogs, we have yet to see one that encompasses both of those as a singular entity. It will be maintained and updated by my good friend Drew (Firetat) and myself (Robert aka Shortt Sirket).

I must say that I have always been shocked by how often the lines of the automotive and video game enthusiasts cross. Although I am sure there is some corollary between them, it just does not strike me as something that would be that common. It is strange how they lead into each other and I am going to take this time to explain to you how I came to be a devotee to both of these pursuits.

My love actually started with video games. Since I have been a nerd since my early years, all sorts of electronics have always intrigued me. It was a magical moment the first time I sent foot into an arcade and I would honestly say I have never been the same since. My father has always been a car fan. Not deeply into it, but he dabbled in buying sports cars, going to car shows and watching racing. But I just never really was that interested, instead opting to lose myself in the different genres of video games.

But it was the release of Gran Turismo for the Playstation that changed everything for me. I am still not sure what made me so interested in the game, but something inexplicably drew me to it. I was able to convince my dad to get the game for me due to some wheeling and dealing involving hauling scrap iron and how it was about “cars and racing.”

The second I popped that game in and started it up, a new love affair was born. Before me was all manners of cars, tracks, and parts that I had never even realized existed before. The start was shaky as I had no understanding of even the basics of suspensions, engines, tire choice and other customization options. Eventually I was able to glean more and more information from this game. I learned to understand how important weight was to both the handling and speed of a car. I learned about how a stiff suspension reduces body roll and how an oil change can do wonders for a car.

And the rest was history, as the saying goes. Gran Turismo 2 sucked me in even more with it’s cavalcade of 500+ cars. Many of which I had never even heard of. My mind was open to TVR, Lotus, Citroen, Daihatsu, Vector and others. It was pure automotive porn and I loved every minute of it.

Now I am a massive automotive fan, going to every race, car show, and drift competition I can. I am also still deep into video games as well. And when these passions mix in games like Gran Turismo, Forza, Burnout and the like…that is where I belong.

And that brings me to this blog. You will see our passion for both of these forms of entertainment brought forth in game reviews, car show updates, and an assortment of original columns detailing our thoughts on both industries as a whole.

Enjoy the ride!