Archive for April, 2010

Grand Theft Auto : Episodes from Liberty City Performance Issues

To stay above that smooth 60 fps, you need to turn off Shadow Quality

With the recent release of Grand Theft Auto : Episodes from Liberty City for PC (and PS3), as well as “Rockstar Week” on Steam, I along with many others are back in the world of Liberty City. For those (few) who did not purchase the Xbox 360 exclusive last year for whatever reason, are now able to revisit Liberty City for some fine DLC for one of the greatest games of all time, Grand Theft Auto 4.

The DLC has so much more than the usual down-loadable content we are seeing lately. In fact it feels like a full game, actually scrap that, two full games, not only for the depth of each of the episodes “The Lost and Damned” and “The Ballad of Gay Tony” but for the standalone package format it has been released in. That’s right you don’t even need to have purchased the original GTA IV to enjoy Episodes from Liberty City, although if you have been hiding under a rock and missed out on GTA IV then I highly recommend playing it through before visiting the new episodes.

GTA 4 settings used in the benchmarking

The problem I am finding even after my discoveries in my initial GTA IV performance report, is back again, Grand Theft Auto still runs at a very low frame rate. With the release of Episodes from Liberty City for PC, the original GTA IV and the Episodes have been patched with a new and ‘improved’ scalable shadow solution. Great I thought, a new less memory-intensive, and better looking shadow solution sounds perfect, just what we need to keep the frame rate above 60fps for a smooth cruise around the faux New York that is Liberty City. The problem is performance is still low with “Shadow Quality” at all settings, and the new “Night Shadows” option make things even worse. Back to the benchmarking to test out this new improved shadow patch!

Taking a look at the figures above the only way I managed to maintain a playable 60+ frames per second was to turn off shadow quality completely. The frame rate drops below 60 fps even with shadow quality set to “Low”, and begins to fall rapidly with each toggle in shadow and night shadow quality increase, dropping to an extremely jerky 43 fps on the “Very High” setting. GTA 4 has never been a smooth ride for PC owners, and even on the test bed here at gamdo HQ, a Radeon 5870 and Intel Q9550 @ 3.4GHZ struggles to keep a constant frame rate. Has the patch made a difference? To performance I would say no, but when turned on shadow quality does improve image quality and shadows are less glitchy, but that is a judgment I can only make by sight, with no hard facts to back it up.

Either way Liberty City still looks beautiful on the PC, well worth the wait for those that held out from playing the Xbox 360 exclusive, even with the shadow quality setting turned off. The city is full off hustle and bustle and crime is still as entertaining as it was in GTA IV, the new episodes are fresh and filled with new story, crazy new characters and plenty of achievements to grab. So I’m off back to Liberty City, shadows turned off and Beat 102.7 turned on.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Comments

Left 4 Dead 2 – The Passing DLC Review

The latest DLC for Left 4 Dead 2 is out. We waited patiently all day, and here it is. Normally the release is too late to play and I end up waiting till the next day, but the download started around 11pm (UK) and after some slow transfer rates due to my ‘new’ connection it finally completed, along with most of my L4D2 buddies.

We just finished the new campaign ‘The Passing’ which is the main bulk of the free DLC (free for PC, 560points for Xbox 360). There were plenty of us online waiting for this DLC so four of us hit the servers quick, finishing the campaign in around 30 minutes or so. There are some great scenes, without spoiling it and revealing too much, all I will say is wow, the sewers are great! I’ve not touched L4D2 for a while, but coming back to it after all this time with the new DLC really brought back some fond memories of first playing the original Left 4 Dead. Good times!

What I was expecting to be the highlight, left me a little disappointed. The dialogue between the old L4D characters and the new the first time round was just not as hype as I thought it would be, but on a mass team death, repeating the final battle there was some witty banter aimed at Rochelle from the original L4D characters, nice touch Valve. Although playing as Coach (I always try to) I was subject to some stick being accused of being her dad? All in good jest, no stereotyping at all Valve?!

The Passing DLC for Left 4 Dead 2 is a great freebie, offering some new weekly modes which look interesting, but most of all an entire new campaing which is well worth playing. The final scene is the usual epic battle, but with a little help from some old friends and laser sights, and the sewers, the sewers are wow! What more can you ask for, and all for free? Valve keeping up the good work and keeping us customers happy, long after putting down our hard earned cash.

9/10 For DLC, sorry for free DLC, what more can you ask for? Valve hit the nail on the head again, great campaign!

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Art Lebedev Tetrius Review – The Tetris fridge magnet every gamer should 0wn.

As a gamer and a geek, I often find myself searching for stuff that can lie around the real world reminding myself and others that I’m a gamer, and a geek. In my quest to help you guys (and girls) fill the decorative hole in your home, office or basement, I will be reviewing as much geekery that I can find, as well as bringing you all my usual reviews and views of the gaming world.

Art Lebedev is one of my favorite artists. Combining geek and design, Art Lebedev creates everything from sleek websites to cool looking microwaves as well as all kinds of weird and wonderful geekery. Tetrius is one of Art Lebedev’s greatest products, in tribute to one of the greatest games of all time, Tetris. A fridge magnet that deserves a place on everyone’s fridge, Tetrius offers you one of the only ways to game and make a sandwich.

Tetrius comes with seven multicoloured pieces, each piece consists of four elements combined in every way possible. The build quality of each block is quite high, although the magnet is not the strongest. Enough to attach to a fridge and not fall off, but I would have preferred a stronger grip. Instructions are in english and russian, should you require them?

I must warn you now, Tetrius will consume your time in the kitchen. Every visit to the fridge involves a re-arrange of the pieces, in an epic fail attempt to get four lines in a row (there’s just not enough pieces). I recommend making space by removing all other unnecessary magnets from your fridge, after all Tetrius is a piece of art and requires the white space of your fridge surface to make it really stand out and shine.

Tetrius makes a great gift for any gamer in your life, it also makes a great gift for yourself. Shipping from russia can be quite expensive from Art Lebedev so be sure to checkout their full range and make the most of that delivery. I will soon follow up with a review of other Art Lebedev products to inspire your shopping spree, until then keep Tetrius in your basket.

9/10 The ultimate gamer geekery, every fridge needs Tetrius.

, , , , , , ,

4 Comments

Dirt 2 Review – What happened to rally games?

I’ve always been a fan of rally games, real rally games that is. One of my greatest gaming moments was on Rally Championship PC nearly a decade ago. Twenty minutes into a sunny forest rally, I lost second gear due no doubt to my granny shifting (just like real life). With a good few minutes left of the course, I was forced to maintain speed in third and fourth gear. Slowing down was not an option, without a second gear available I needed to stay in a high gear or end up dropping all the way down to first and crawling along the finish line, losing my position and hard work for the last twenty minutes of perfect rallying.

I crossed that finish line, I maintained enough speed so as not to drop gear and it was exhilarating, racing at full throttle to victory, one of my fondest gaming memories. For those last few minutes I felt like a rally driver, I was so immersed in the game making critical rally decisions, carrying on to the end in a broken car, a scenario that I guess all rally drivers have experienced.

But now we have the new generation of rally games, Dirt 2. Don’t get me wrong Dirt 2 is fun, but only for 25% of the time. Dirt 2 is totally sexed up, it screams X games and feels like someone from the skate boarding world came along and started adding bits until the actual rally game was left hidden behind the liveries (car stickers), rock music, partying, fireworks and radio chatter. Ken Block and his buddies shouting abuse over the in game radio does nothing other than annoy you.

Where there is rallying, Dirt 2 is great, the handling is spot on (unlike the first Dirt which felt like cars sliding around on an ice rink) and the graphics are gorgeous. This was the Directx 11 show case game. After all it came bundled with my Radeon 5870 (well a Steam download code came inside the box) and really shows off some of the Directx 11 features like realistic cloth, of which you end up not even noticing when screaming around at 100mph, but at least its there advancing the background from the days of 2D stick trees!

Either way it looks great and runs perfectly smooth at a constant 60fps now, thanks to the latest Catalyst 10.3 update. I first played Dirt 2 when the demo came out for Xbox Live gold members last summer, but the latest ATI drivers gave me reason to come back to this game on PC and play it all the way through. Ok there are no 30 minute rally sessions with realistic wear and tear to engine, gears and suspension, but I’ve learnt not to expect that anymore. What is disappointing about Dirt 2 is all the other so called ‘rally’ events.

Landrush, domination, rally cross, gate crasher and last man standing have absolutely nothing to do with rallying. The vehicles in Landrush are slow, handle like crap and sound like whirring annoying machinery not roaring throaty rally cars. Domination and last man standing feel like last minute add ons to give some variety but just end up being tedious game modes to play through until the rallying starts again. Gate crasher is another gimmick, which I very much doubt has ever been a real life event. Rally cross, a multiple lap based mode around short tracks set around various non rally locations such as London’s Battersea Power Station do nothing other than showcase the engine’s lighting effects.

If you can stick it out and play through or avoid all these extra game modes, then you can enjoy some beautiful scenery and some great rallying around the jungles of Malaysia and the green forests of Croatia. Ignoring the fireworks at the end of each race there is a hidden joy behind all the X games style overlay and rock music. Ignoring Ken Block and his friends chatter, jump in the MKII Escort and power through the long China countryside and this becomes a great rally game. It could have been so much greater without all these extra’s if they had just focused on the rallying, instead of these extras which only cater towards selling the game to kids who want a quick fix of so called off road rallying.

7.5/10 No longer a Rally game, but worth playing for a few classic rally moments.

, , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments