Neither Here Nor There

Published Date
01 - Nov - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Nov - 2006
Neither Here Nor There
The unassumingly-named MotoGP comes across as a game that's trying to be a good motorcycle-racing simulator without compromising on the fun of flat-out arcade racing. To its credit, it pulls it off fairly nicely-you don't need much in the cranial department to fire it up and get started for the first time.

There isn't really much more to MotoGP-you can either race single races in the Arcade mode, or race all the world's official MotoGP tracks one by one till you drop dead from boredom. Every so often, you'll unlock a reward-like a hidden rider or a cool MotoGP movie. Yawn.

For the most part, the game is pretty responsive to the controls, but steering around corners is a tricky thing to execute properly-even at the maximum, the bikes don't seem to be turning as much as we'd like. We even tried tuning the bike for better cornering, but it  doesn't seem to help the situation much. Racing down straight portions is fun, but not fun enough. Simulation geeks are also going to wonder at the fact that no matter how stupidly you execute a wheelie, you seem to come out of it without crashing. Weirder still, you  absolutely can't turn to go backwards!

Honestly, they should have stuck to pure simulation like in all the official licensed games-this one is a confusing mish-mash of both styles.
Insane, Unbridled Fun
Ridge Racer 2 (RR2) has to be one of the most bizarre games we've reviewed here, not because of its concept-it's as simple as it gets-but because it mixes some terrifying flaws with a racing experience that's incredible fun. Good news first: racing in RR2 follows a simple mechanic-go as fast as you can, drift (skid in one direction while you face another) like a maniac to get rewarded with nitrous boosts which make you go even faster so you can drift in crazier fashions. It's a vicious circle, this.

The drifting-undoubtedly the highlight of the game-is tremendous fun, and never seems to get old. The tracks are gorgeous, and are a mix of high-speed and twisty, keeping the interest alive. Opponents are easy to beat till you get to fourth place-climbing beyond will require you to tune your skills a bit more; challenging enough for us!

On the flip side, the car models themselves aren't that great to look at, and the collision physics are awful at best. The in-game announcer is also as annoying as a blister-like I really need to be told that I'm in a heated battle for the lead. If you're into plain-jane racing, this game is going to bore you-it isn't much if you strip it of the drift and nitro.

If you've played the first part, though, you're not going to find anything different-it's almost an expansion. Overall, RR2 stands tall on its own, but buy it only if you haven't played RR1.  
Company of Heroes

Heroism Pvt. Ltd.


Another RTS game based on WWII. Big deal. But to call Company of Heroes (COH) just another RTS game would be sacrilege-the game is as gripping and visceral as any first person shooter out there, and very nearly as visually stunning. A gorgeous graphics engine under the hood always sets the right tone, and COH looks amazing for any genre (especially the typically bland RTS), with realistic aftermath effects like fire, smoke, and fog to match the combat effects and explosions. Unit detailing is phenomenal, and I spent quite a bit of time just zooming in and panning around!

Add to the splendid visuals a real killer audio experience that brings the battlefield to vivid life-I could very nearly imagine myself there (All right, so I got carried away!).

Gameplay is where COH really packs a wallop, with great mission depth and variety that don't always come together in RTS games today. There's a nice collection of both the units and the situations you find yourself embroiled in. In the usual RTS style, certain units counter others rather well and are weak against other units: a sniper might excel against infantry squads, especially if he's garrisoned in a tall building, but will fail miserably to impress against an armoured car!

The cutscenes are compelling: they actually feel like they're integral to the story, and not just afterthought-additions.

Unlike many other RTSes, COH involves goodly doses of both resource garnering (through capturing and holding sectors, similar to the Dawn of War 40K series) and tactical combat situations, and you'll find yourself challenged equally by these activities. A mundane resource-point capture can become a struggle for survival as enemies swarm out of the fog of war. You'll also be challenged while advancing with your entire army, as you need to handle tactical situations. For example, advancing with tanks, though prudent-to protect vulnerable infantry-may not always be the best way out: a couple of squads of Nazis with bazookas in a choke point position can easily take out a tank or two before you can eliminate them. Similarly, using a squad to scout could prove costly if the Krauts have a couple of snipers on high ground. The game encourages you to actually think before making a move, and then think some more!

I can account for more than a few sleepless nights spent huddled in front of my monitor courtesy Company of Heroes. A great concept that's been implemented to perfection! On a negative note, you'll need a killer rig to run COH, and if you're running anything less than 2 GB of memory, expect to see long load times and frame drops, regardless of your graphics card.

Quite simply, if your machine is up to the challenge, join the war!  

The City's There; Where's The Civ?

When we first heard of CivCity: Rome-the city building strategy game that takes its inspiration from Sid Meier's Civilization (Civ)-there were only good things expected. After all, with such impressive pedigree, how much could go wrong? No, this isn't one of those corny reviews where we say "plenty"; strictly speaking, there's nothing wrong with CivCity Rome, and therein lie its faults. Confused yet? 

In CivCity: Rome, you'll be building cities all over Italy and generally doing your bit for the glory of Rome by feeding it resources and researching new technologies. On the surface, it looks like Firefly Studios took Caesar III, fixed some of the minor annoyances we had with that superb game, added a couple of new in-game features, and threw it back at us before Caesar IV could come out. Not that we're complaining. You can now track the location of every resident of every house-where he works, what he's doing and what he thinks of your city. You can even peek into his home, though you don't get to know much from that. 

Playing the game is dead easy-there are no manuals to read before starting. An in-game voice guides you through, and difficulty isn't that high either. An interesting addition is the Civilopedia, which gives you a wide and comprehensive look into the lives of the ancient Romans. If you're looking for links to the Civilization series, though, a microscope would help. None but the series' most hardcore fans can find the connections (save the researching technologies and Civilopedia bits), and even then they don't make much of a difference. 

picture: like I said, there's really nothing wrong with the game. But then again, there's nothing about that jumps out and screams "Play me!". If you're a first-timer to the genre, it's brilliant, and if you're returning, you'd lose very little if you gave it a miss.  

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