Category Archives: cars

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – BlazeRush

Hmm. At some point in May 2018, in pursuit of my purging of these numerous PlayStation Plus games I have downloaded over the years and left unplayed on my seriously neglected PlayStation 3, I did a few rounds of this thing called BlazeRush. I’m now coming back to this post months later with little memory of what I experienced, though I remember not being too impressed, much like with other car-based games from this blazing feature of mine.

Allow me to tell you what this is BlazeRush is all about. It’s an arcade racing survival game with no health, no leveling up, and no brakes, hence the rush part of its title. You can play locally or online multiplayer–though I had no luck with the latter–and you play by selecting a vehicle to your taste and chase, blow up, and cut off anyone that gets in your way. There are three planets to race on, each with their own set of tracks, along with 16 cars to pick and a variety of weapons to use.

I’ve seen a lot of others talking about BlazeRush comparing it to Death Rally and Rock n’ Roll Racing, two other vehicular combat-based racing videogames I’ve never touched in my life. My go-tos were the original Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8 and not much more since then, honestly. So this didn’t really hold my interest for too long, though I will say the controls are solid and everything moved rather fluidly. Knocking another vehicle off the track sure felt good…until an opponent knocks you off seconds before you get a powerful pick-up.

Ultimately, I don’t have much more to say about BlazeRush. It was that kind of experience, I guess. Here’s hoping the next game I purge isn’t another racing game. I know, I do it to myself.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

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GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Midnight Club: Street Racing

This might be hard to believe, considering my long and well-documented love for all things racing games, but I willingly bought a copy of Midnight Club: Street Racing for the PlayStation 2 some time back in that wacky, inexplicable decade known as the aughts. I suspect I got it for cheap at the Blockbuster near my college’s campus when they started selling used games–or rather “previously rented”–but that’s just a suspicion, based mostly on the fact that that is where I got a small chunk of my early PS2 collection during my poorer days eating ramen noodles and working a few hours during the week in an art gallery. For the record, and yes, I just looked, here are all the games still in my collection rocking a “Previously Rented Game – Quality Guaranteed” label from the now defunct Blockbuster business:

Yup. Quite a super-squad there. With that said, let’s get on to the star of today’s show. Everybody, start your engines. Vroom vroom vroooooom…

Surprisingly, for a game centered around driving speedy cars quickly and aggressively, Midnight Club: Street Racing kind of had a story behind all its engine-driven action. Granted, around that timeframe, my experience was fairly limited to car-related adventures through things like Vigilante 8, Super Mario Kart, and Crash Team Racing, where vehicular combat was the central element, and it didn’t matter who was behind the wheel so long as they could toss projectiles out like everyone else. So, taking place in both New York City and London, you’re a bored-as-bored-gets cabbie looking for some street-style racing action…for reasons. Magically, you stumble across your first challenger named Emilio and are then invited to join the titular Midnight Club to continue proving your worth and burning gang leaders in races. There’s no real introduction, and the dialogue sections are flat images with character portraits speaking while two cars sit idly next to each other. Look, it’s not Great Expectations, or even Fast Five, but it’s something.

Not shockingly, when you see that Rockstar had a hand in this, but Midnight Club: Street Racing is a bit open-worldish. Y’know, a genre just starting to hit its stride then. You’re able to cruise around the respective cities, looking for trouble in the form of hookmen, which are visible on your mini-map, which, when you glance at the screenshot above, defies the definition of the word mini greatly. I mean, that was the UI for the era–big, bright, and loud. Anyways, once you get behind them, you’ll have to keep up with their ride until they feel that you’re worthy of a race, which is you against that driver’s entire posse. Also, you can call up these hookmen on your cell phone–a novel concept back then–for a more fair one-on-one race. If you win the race, you get to add your opponent’s car to your garage, which I guess is akin to carving up a dead animal and wearing its skin as a prize. I don’t know a lot about cars.

I remember being initially impressed by the scale of Midnight Club: Street Racing offered, but do remember the cities feeling lifeless and empty. Now, I’ve only ever been to New York City, and I remember a lot of cars and honking while there, as well as swarms of people; here, it is just mostly empty streets, with little traffic to deal with, and that just wouldn’t cut it today. Still, one must consider that this game came out before things like Grand Theft Auto III and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. It was also frustrating that, to even start a race with another member of the Midnight Club, you needed to follow them to the starting line first, weaving through traffic and praying they didn’t get too far ahead of your slow whip, which was often more challenging than the race itself.

Most races are checkpoint races, which means you can veer off the beaten path so long as you hit all the checkpoints and cross the finish line before anyone else. That might sound like there’s a ton of freedom at hand, but this is a condensed city-scape and not miles of Smuggler’s Run‘s open terrain, and there were generally only one or two ways to get the job done efficiently. If rubbing and racing isn’t your thing, well…there’s an arcade mode, which lets you set up head-to-head, checkpoint, and two-player races. Also, some sort of capture the flag mode where you need to bump into the car carrying the flag to steal it and then deliver to some hotspot on the map. I don’t believe I ever took down the gang champion of New York City, thus never even seeing the second half of the game set in London.

I have no idea if Midnight Club: Street Racing hold up in 2018, and I’m not interested in finding out. Still, if I had my copy around, I might pop it in randomly one night for a zip down memory lane, but oh well. Much like Blockbuster, this franchise stalled years ago, and newer, more efficient racers have taken the lead, like Burnout Paradise.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Impact Racing

games I regret Impact Racing 1996

For all my gaming history, I’ve never really given a lick about straightforward racing games. You know, the kind where you pick a realistic car, drive around on a realistic track, and make realistic turns, doing all of this for a set number of laps and aiming for first place. I think the closest I came to owning something of this ilk was Midnight Club: Street Racing. Though a fuzzy part of my brain also remembers a Need for Speed title in the stack next to my consoles, but don’t make me figure out which one. Other than that, I pretty much stuck to car combat-style racers, like Vigilante 8, or free-roaming hijinks in Smuggler’s Run. Before those though, there was Impact Racing.

I absolutely know why I bought Impact Racing, way back in the summer of 1996–its cover. I mean, just look at the thing. It has explosions and speed and frickin’ laser beams coming right at you. It certainly stood out against other car-laden covers at the time, and yes, yes, yes, I know. One should never judge anything by its cover alone, but I was a doe-eyed teenager with illusions of grandeur, and so this just screamed stellar at me from the shelf. Alas, I don’t remember it being extremely amazing, suffering from trying to be two very different styles of games compacted into one offering. Still, I should’ve never traded it in.

Developed by Funcom Dublin, who also worked on the colorfully cartoonish Speed Punks, Impact Racing gave players more objectives than simply coming in first place. Each race boiled down to doing the following two tasks: complete laps before the allotted time expires and destroy a specific number of enemy cars. This made each go nerve-wrecking, and if you ended up focusing more on one goal than the other, chances are you’d fail by either a few seconds or exploded vehicles.

Since there are no pit stops or excursions off the course, the best plan of action is to floor the gas, obliterate every and any car drifting into your path, and make it back to the finish line before time runs out. Power-ups can be picked up for bonuses, like extra time, energy, or new weapons, though there’s also a nasty, almost Mario Kart-like pick-up called “flipview,” which, to no one’s surprise, turns your entire screen upside-down, as well as reverses the controls for steering. Avoid at all cost if you’re out to win. Either way, with this power-ups and the two somewhat contradictory goals, driving in Impact Racing is high-tension, all the time.

There are a total of twelve racing variations in Impact Racing via three different main tracks (city, mountain, and frickin’ laser beam-inspired space), and then mixed up through various modes, like mirror, night, or the dreaded night-mirror. At the time of its release, I have to believe this looked amazing. I have to. Unfortunately, now that I spent some time looking up screenshots and gameplay videos for this post, it just looks like a muddy mess, with strange, garbled textures and a less-than-pleasing user interface. Plus, we’ve all seen better sky-boxes. I’m sure as a teenager I looked past that and only saw launching missiles at cars, but it can’t be ignored nowadays. That said, considering you were driving armored cars at upwards of 200 mph, the sense of speed was nicely delivered, and a robotic man-voice gives you updates as you go. If there was a soundtrack, I recall nothing.

Has there ever been a game like Impact Racing in the eighteen years since it came out of the auto shop? Sure, there’s been plenty of racing games and a couple car combat games not called Twisted Metal, but I can’t seem to find many examples where someone tried to fuse both elements together again. Maybe it’s for the best. I guess the best I can do for now is to load up some Crash Team Racing, create a custom battle round, and blow up as many karts with missiles and mines while timing myself on the side. So it goes.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Grand Theft Auto V, crass comedy in a crazy world

GTA V final overall impressions just okay

Grand Theft Auto V is the first game in Rockstar’s entire hooker-killing franchise that I’ve actually completed, and by that I mean I successfully played all of its main story missions, picked my A, B, or C choice for the finale, and watched the lengthy end credits–over thirty-five minutes long–scroll by as I pondered my collective time and experience as three unsavory souls stuck in Los Santos. And…exhale. Considering I still can’t even get past the second mission in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, this is a real, genuine accomplishment, a feat worth featuring.

To be honest, I don’t think much overall about GTA V. Now, please be sure to read that sentence a second time before you blow a blood vessel; I did not say “I don’t think much overall of GTA V,” but rather about. It’s kind of everything I expected it to be based on past experiences with the franchise, and I feel like it went through all the motions, and I went with it, a mute player. If you must know, I enjoyed what I played of Grand Theft Auto III, really dug Vice City for its vibe and tunes, and never got too far in San Andreas. Also, Chinatown Wars is a surprisingly good time, but quite a different beast from its bigger siblings. Truthfully, Saints Row: The Third is more my kind of freedom.

The story in GTA V revolves around three men: former bank robber Michael Townley, repo man Franklin Clinton, and uncontrollable psychopath Trevor Philips. They have their own personal stories to see unfold, but they also eventually all get mixed up in the same nefarious business, which involves running a bunch of heists and making some serious moolah. It’s clearly a videogame story, as things happen so that the player can take part in extravagant setups and scenarios and leap from tall buildings and blow up important locations and all that. A few missions feel like they just came up with some third part to play, spur of the moment, so all three protagonists could be there, even if there was absolutely no need to bring the greenhorn Franklin along. Of the three main characters, I was most disappointed in Franklin’s overall journey, as it seemed like the whole “other guy got the girl” subplot fizzled within the game’s first hour. Michael has heavy family stuff that gets resolved, but not in a way that fills me with confidence. And Trevor…well, he’s pure crazy, a lot of fun to watch, but just walking insanity, and GTA V would actually be a lesser game without him to keep everyone on their toes.

The open-world gameplay in GTA V is everything you’d come to expect from the company that certainly had a big hand in creating the genre. When you’re not accepting main story missions as either of the three gruff dudes, you can drive around the sprawling city and its outskirts, play a round of golf or tennis, do some yoga, get a haircut, shop for new clothes, invest in buildings, visit the strip club, surf the Internet, watch TV or a movie, take the dog for a walk, and so on and so on. There’s quite a lot of miscellaneous, nontrivial time-wasters for those wanting just a bite of action, as well as larger side missions in the forms of Strangers and Freaks. Random events like “Stop that purse snatcher!” occur from time to time, and you can also just stand still and watch the world go by or sit in your car listening to your favorite station. I found a lot of the side stuff more interesting than the main missions, as they are clearly trying to be big and bombastic, and there’s always an excuse for a gunfight, no matter what the scenario. Thankfully, thanks to a rather easy auto-aim feature, shooting down gang member after gang member is no big thing, and probably the biggest aid I had for completing this game next to Franklin’s bullet time mode when driving.

Let me talk briefly about the collectibles scattered around and outside of Los Santos, as I only stumbled across one during my entire criminal career. Which is very similar to my experience in finding those golden film reels in L.A. Noire. Either they are extremely well-hidden or I’m going blind, a likely case. According to the Internet, there’s a ton of things to find: Spaceship Parts, Stunt Jumps, Letter Scraps, Hidden Packages, and more. I found a single Letter Scrap, which ties into the Mystery of Leonora Johnson side quest–and that’s it. I started the missions that opened up the ability to find Spaceship Parts, but never came across them, and I felt like I did a lot of “off the path” exploring, mostly because I was trying to hide from cops, and changing elevation is a vital tactic.

A lot of material in GTA V is extremely off-putting, and for good reason. Rockstar’s treatment and regard of women is abysmal. If they aren’t there to either have sex with the main characters or sex with someone else to anger the main characters, then they are on their way. Take Michael’s family. He has a wife and a daughter. His wife is sleeping with her yoga instructor, and his daughter wants to get into porn. Take Trevor. Past the early intro scenes, you first truly meet him as he’s having sex with meth head Ashley, who never plays a further part in the game. Later, he kidnaps a man’s wife and begins to have a relationship with her. And lastly, take Franklin. He lives with his aunt, who self-describes herself as a “new age feminist,” and the two are constantly bickering. I don’t recall a single time that I returned home as Franklin that she wasn’t whining or complaining loudly from the other room. He has a childhood friend Tonya Wiggins, who is a crack addict. At first, it seems like he’s a man all about winning back his ex-girlfriend Tanisha Jackson, but that plot fizzles very quickly, so much that her sudden appearance near the game’s end was befuddling. Aside from these, there’s a few other women that stand out: Devin Weston’s lawyer Molly Schultz, the athletic MaryAnne Quinn, and celebrity-crazy old Mrs. Thornhill. In short, why couldn’t there have been a female gang leader or a woman working closely with Michael to keep his identity better hidden? Or some role more involved. Because to Rockstar, men do the ruling.

Early on, I actually watched some in-game TV, something I never even attempted before in Grand Theft Auto IV, despite a lot of people going gaga over the fact that such a large and completely skippable thing existed way back then. I ended up watching “Gordon Moorehead”, an animated detective drama radio show that looks innocent enough, that is until anyone starts speaking. I don’t recall the specifics of the episode’s story, just the constant degradation of Gordon Moorehead’s assistant Molly Malmstein, who Moorehead constantly treating her as a woman of little intelligence, often slapping her. I think the show is trying to to poke fun at sexism and misogyny, but actually just reinforces it all the way. It’s extremely disappointing; you literally can’t go anywhere in Los Santos without some knock against women.

I dunno. Looking back over this post, maybe I do think a lot about GTA V, just nothing too great. It’s got its problems, but it also felt very routine and predictable and crass for no good reason. The use of crude language, especially. I played a single post-credits mission, but haven’t really gone back to do any further exploring or money spending, and I just don’t really see myself getting back into the swing of things. I guess I’ve had my fill.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #41 – Grand Theft Auto V

2013 games completed gta 5 franklin bike copy

Three bad men team up
For the biggest score ever
Drive, shoot, open world

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Remember to be a conscientious driver in Mafia II

It’s a nice afternoon. The sky is blue and clear of clouds, the radio is rocking a head-bopping tune of ol’, and Empire Bay is doing its post-WWII thing. Vito Scalleta and his best friend Joey Barbaro are out for a relaxing drive through the suburbs. Well, relaxing for them. In truth, they are heading to a house, and when they get there, they find a man outside watering his grass with a hose, looking all non-threatening. As quiet as can be, the two of them sneak up behind the man, toss out a cliche saying like, “Blah-blah-blah sends his regards!” and then shoot the life out of him.

The dynamic duo speeds away from the pursuing cops, and as they do, Vito runs a red light–at 70 or 80 mph, mind you. Joe, in all seriousness, berates him for this: “Did you not see that light was red?”

Sadly, Vito doesn’t come back with, “Did you not see we just obliterated a man’s body with bullets and now need to get away so we don’t get locked up or shot to death ourselves by the blue meanies and don’t really have time to obey traffic laws?” Instead, Joe’s line hung in the air, awkward and out-of-place, a piece of dialogue added to the game to instill realism, but working completely against that when context is not considered.

Also, this is going to be my last post about Mafia II. I swears it.

Open-world games thrive on minutiae. From idle chatter to signs in store windows to people carrying umbrellas when it starts to rain, it’s the little things that make the big thing whole. This is probably unfair, but I’m going to compare Mafia II to L.A. Noire, mostly because I view the games as quite similar, but far from each other’s levels. For most of the time, you go on missions with a partner in Mafia II, meaning you always have someone to talk to in the car. Conversely, someone’s always there to comment about your lackluster driving skills. This was the same way things went down in L.A. Noire, but when Cole Phelps would get yelled at for running a red light or hitting another car, it was never because it was Cole being an idiot. It had to do with reminding us that Cole was a man of the law and should set good standards for those watching from the sidewalks; it was there to remind us that we were occasionally driving someone else’s car, and he didn’t like to see it get dinged and danged up. It made sense there and then.

In Mafia II, you are a horrible human being. You kill for money, and that is all you see before your Italian face each and every new day you wake up. And so it just sounds bizarre to hear fellow murderers getting all up at arms over misconduct on the road. Especially during missions where you are trying to chase down another car. Of course you are going to run red lights then. That’s how you chase something, Joe. You can’t do both, commit murder and be a safe driver. This was just one of the more jarring moments in the game, coupled with the fact that the law will shoot first and ask questions later. Imagine a world where if you ran a red light you were popped in the face at close range by a trio of officers. Seems understandable, right?

Okay, that’s it for Mafia II. I’m out.

Slowly making progress in Rage

I knew going in that I wasn’t going to love Rage, seeing that its focus is mostly on precise shooting and excessive driving, but I figured it would find a way into my heart through its barren, bandit-infested wasteland, crazy character designs, and handful of minigames. Alas, that has not been the case. Though I do totally dig some of these characters, like race announcer Jackie Weeks and the humming, hat-wearing Coffer. Talking to NPCs and watching their unique animations has been, surprisingly, the best part of coming out of that Ark so far.

Instead, it’s been a game I’ve picked up to play only three or four times since buying it post-Christmas, with a large span of at least a month between one of those sessions. Just hasn’t grabbed me like other games have. I know one reason why is because I’m more reluctant to actual do any story missions seeing as how the last time I ran out of ammo early on due to me lacking them shootin’ skillz, and that made completely that mission above and beyond the call of duty. For some, that’s probably enjoyable, but I just wanted to get to a town, talk to folk, buy some stuff, pick up miscellaneous jobs, and do some side minigames. Eventually, I got there, but meh. Two of the three games are annoying.

In Tombstones, you play a holographic sheriff surrounded by four holographic mutants who advance over the course of three turns. Each turn you roll four dice; crosshairs mean you make a kill, and skulls mean the mutants get one step closer to the sheriff. If you kill all four mutants, you win, and depending on what turn you kill them all, you will win higher amounts of money. It’s easy to comprehend, but all based around luck. There’s an Achievement for killing all four mutants on the first roll, which I’ve tried getting an uncountable number of times now. Grrr. Luck.

In Five Finger Fillet, you place your hand on a table and stab at the spaces between your fingers with a knife. Hit your digits three times, and you lose. The first four rounds are scripted and easy to get into the rhythm of, but the final round is random and fast and is driving me nuts. Especially since, when you cut one too many fingers, you have to start all over again from round one. Grrr. Fingers. 

Rage Frenzy, the minigame that got me over the curiosity line for Rage, is a turn-based card combat thing against an opponent’s deck. I’m still collecting cards for my deck, but this is the most fun minigame of the bunch (I think there’s a fourth I’ve not yet unearthed), requiring strategy and reminding me of the good ol’ Magic: The Gathering days.

At some point, I stopped playing silly fluff fillers with fellow Wellspring neighbors and went out into the wild to shoot some nasties.

Here’s what I’ve unlocked Achievements-wise since my last spurt of activity, which mainly stemmed from online multiplayer action:


Open Minded (15G): Get 10 Headshot kills with the Sniper Rifle


Gladiator (10G): Complete Mutant Bash TV in the Campaign


Arts and Crafts (10G): Construct 10 Engineering Items

Oh, and I found a Vault Boy bobble-head on the mayor’s desk in Wellspring, but there’s no Achievement for that even though there totally should be. Ahem.

Right now, I’m inside some bunker using speedy bomb-laden RC cars to blow up caches of…something. Man, I wish I paid more attention to what these characters were saying sometimes, but all I can do is pay attention to the way they move their arms or head while doling out a new mission objective. Hopefully it won’t be another month until I play again…