Appeared : October 2001
Developer : Grin
Official Web Site : www.grin.se/ballistics/ (page now retired)
My opinion : A nice play-and-forget racing title - once you've got it installed, that is.
Let me tell you a little story. This is the story of a little game that thought it could. It had racing as a subject, but with a rather original twist. It had a lot of nice screens, lots of brand-new pixel effects and a very effective way of giving the impression of speed.
Alas, the little game that thought it could did not have a Quality Control department up to par, and therefor it suffered some rather embarrassing issues.
Installation is the most automated process ever, right ? Well, guess what. Grin managed to make it wrong. Oh, not horribly wrong as in the-game-will-never-start wrong. No, just wrong as in how-ridiculous-can-you-get wrong.
|Here, we have the start screen. Absolutely nothing abnormal to be detected here, right ? Right.|
|The install process proceeds in a seemingly normal fashion, and you observe that the indicator really jumps up the progress bar quickly. So much the better, we all hate long installs.||Suddenly, something tells you that something wierd is going on.|
|While you try to acknowledge the fact that the universe has gone haywire, the numbers continue to climb up, inexorably.|
|By now, you have understood that there is no way on this Earth that that indicator is going to give you any meaningful warning as to when the process is going to end.|
|So you wait.||And you wait some more.|
|By now, your whole disk could have been formatted, for all you know.|
But finally, it does stop. I have included the final count below, just
for the fun of it :
And then you get ye ol' REBOOT request :
Yes, ladies and gents, in our day and age there are still would-be game makers who actually consider that you have nothing better to do with you stupid machine then reboot it when their dumb installer finished whatever in the world it was doing.
And, once you have rebooted, you think you are going to play ?
Why, what an extraordinary thought !
No, there is no special bug screen or fault message, there is just a screen with an option called Start, option that remains desperately out of reach of your mouse. No key command is available, no amount of TABbing is going to get you out of this fix.
The only thing you can do is use the Task Manager and pray that you're whole PC won't crash. Then, once you've regained control of the workspace, you can go hunt for a patch. You don't have Internet access ? Not even dial-up ? Shame on you ! Go bring that game back where got it from ! Or shelve it, and hope that some game mag will publish the patch some day. Or write Grin and pray that they'll actually send you a CD with the patch.
Of course, if you do have internet access, the patch is a trivial affair. Only 569Kb. But without it, no game.
Grin has removed my posts in their forum (actually I'm not even sure the forum is still online), so let me summarize : my rant was greeted by some support person with the handle of SpeedOfSound, who waived me off with the generic "IDTP" message (Idiot, Download The Patch) albeit a bit more politely. I answered by stating that needing a patch on day 0 of a game was shoddy programming, and we all left it at that.
Once you have finally managed to get the game to run, you are treated with a boatload of shiny pixels for your patience. The game really does look good, and plays very well. Justice be done, this game was well written, globally speaking. But if the install process is just hilarious, the no-patch, no-game issue is unforgivable. This makes the game seem to be totally unfinished and unworthy, when the fact is this game is a great entertainment value. Especially if you can multiplay it.
|The title page||
||The Menu page||
||The in-game menu page||
What is there not to like about this game ? Aside from the beginning, not much, but here we go :
First off, no track editor. It is a shame, but eventually acceptable until you hear the lame excuse they use to explain it away : too difficult. Too difficult !? For who ? Avid gamers are building their talent all over the world with 3DStudio and sundry, Half-Life has been TC'd six ways to Sunday and they are saying it's too DIFFICULT ?!
Well, I'll be darned ! To me, it seems very much more that Grin simply didn't want to put in the effort, didn't see the game as a useful workhorse for furthering its reputation. Either that, or they simply didn't realize the value of building customer satisfaction.
The second point is a direct consequence of the first : not enough tracks. The in-game tracks are in limited supply, and Grin has done nothing to add to that number in any way. In other words, they milked the idea as much as they bothered, but not a bit more. Pay, get your patch and go away, you bastard !
Finally, it will be no surprise that in the absence of a track editor, there is no bike editor either.