Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gaming computer build

Before throwing ourselves into part two of the build, a quick overview of the monster itself;
  • COOLER MASTER Cosmos Case
  • Intel Core i7-960 3.2GHz
  • ASUS P6T Deluxe V2
  • Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200 RPM SATA
  • SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5870 x 2

For different reasons, the components came over several deliveries so I had the opportunity to check them out in detail days before the actual build. Whether it was because this computer is the sixth or seventh build or patience has simply come with old age, but this fairly detailed review of the components seemed to help the build go much smoother on the day.
In some ways its just as well. Regardless of the quality of the different pieces and as impressive as the components may have been, the instructions seem to fall to the low standard of disappointing.
From small scraps of paper to the manual being stored on a disc that came with the component, it seems manufacturers assume a builder will have access to not only a computer but also the internet for some much needed research. Only the Asus motherboard had a manual with any detail, but even then certain items were only made clear after some further online research.
The case
In every build before this the case was chosen with the least thought, strictly based on the best price and style over-powering functionality. But as everyone knows, a major killer of performance is heat and with modern computer components running hotter than ever,  not only is ventilation but also room for the air to flow over the different volcanic peripherals an important part of planning out this latest build. This was first and foremost in my mind.
After reading some opinions that not only the processor but also the graphics card were known to kick out some serious heat, cooling was a major concern and more time than usual was given to finding the right case. Oddly enough, it wasn't down to lights, perspex sides or even the look, more to a case that could fit eveything, help with cable management and of course keep its cool. I am not one for fan controls or monitoring case temperatures so I wanted a build and forget about kind of case.
Now it shouldn't be lost on PC Gamer readers that my gaming pc is a practical copy of their latest 'Dream Machine' outlined for most of the issues on the newstands throughout 2010. This came about from PC Gamer picking some phonemenal components as well as the sheer luck of already owning some items on the list.
The girlfriend's cat loved the unpacking of the case itself and as mentioned in the prior post, it came with everything and more. While I've never needed a manual for a case in the past, the Coolmaster came with so many options, filters and quite frankly, fiddly bits some instructions could be considered the most important accessory. A few filters had fallen out of place, but after thirty minutes of becoming familiar with the case, they eventually found their home.

The Motherboard
I had read a lot of good stuff about Asus and everything appeared to be spot on with the different accessories and of course a complete and detailed manual. Visually, the board looks good but with a full enclosed case it didn't matter.

This would ring true throughout the build, although the stuff looked good it didn't matter as much as knowing they would perform up to the high standard promised in the different reviews and recommendations.

Some nice touches; an adapter which helped plug the front panel wires into the motherboard. This saved using adult sized male fingers trying to push the connecters into an insanely small area which is always harded with these older eyes that always seem to have a depth perception problem with pins.

The motherboard was designed with the foresight and understanding it would have to house video cards of the modern, mammoth proportions. Such design considerations included moving the slot for the soundcard well away from the PCI slots allocated for video cards, lifting the worry or concern any slots would be covered or blocked.

The build itself
Like some maestro facing his orchestra of talent I monopolized the kitchen with the old gaming computer open and to my left, a clean work space on the breakfast bar and the case of the to be built gaming machine on a nearby counter to the right. It was as if one gladiator was passing the mantle, the responsibility of leading the battle to the other. With essential pieces coming from one to the other the analogies have never been more appropriate.
It should be noted that the kitchen itself was only renovated about six months prior to this build. Many men in relationships will ask how I managed to convince my better half to allow all the computers, boxes and chaos on the new, pristine counters.
The answer is simple; she wasn't in town.
Her job can pull her away from home a week at a time, giving me the perfect window to complete a build and season the gaming computer with enough games to appreciate just what it can do. Plenty of time for the all-nighters of loading up operating systems, drivers and of course games.
As for the particulars of the build, for various reasons, I screwed in the brass posts first. First, its a nice slow way to start the build, practically impossible to mess up and gives the mind freedom to run through a mental checklist over upcoming tasks and what has to be done.

Where as other cheaper cases have the post guide stamped on the inside of the case, the Coolmaster case came with a paper template taped inside the case with an easy to understand guide indicating which holes needed the posts for the appropriate board.

Speaking of boards, I used the non-conductive bag and padding that protected the motherboard during shipping to rest the Asus on while I built up the beasts engine that would bring so many hours of gaming pleasure. The computer was being bulit in the kitchen/dining room with the tall and clear countertop a perfect hieght with the rooms bright lights offering a well lit working area.

Some buyers of this particular board complained in reviews on Newegg they recieved warped boards. While not being a master computer builder, my board didn't seem anything but perfectly built even after a close inspection. After a good look at the board and a clockwise tour of what the different components on the board, what went where and anything I needed to know about the Asus, it was time to start plugging in the different peripherals.

The placing of the processor was reviewed, rehearsed and the victim of so much attention if it were a women it would have surely blushed. This was the first processor in many years that didn't have a golden triangle on the corner, instead using two symetrical indentations to act as the placement guide.

A large cooling fan for the processor was already 'pasted' so didn't have to worry about the messy job of applying silicon, but the snaps that hold everything in place just didn't feel like they were catching. After several attempts to securing the two corners which didn't seem to want to snap into place and coming close to pushing through the motherboard itself, a quick look under the board showed that they had in fact caught.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Building my way to a new gaming experience

It has been too long since my last post. Real life, a few business interests taking up more time than it should and of course the daily grind have all kept me not only away from this blog, but also gaming in general.

Aside from being robbed of the chance to lose myself in the latest electronic adventure, all those games I complained about just sitting on the hard drive, neglected like an ugly child at an orphanage are still sitting there, unexplored.

Commander Sheppard has been drydocked, my battle record for Bad Company 2 furloughed. I could go on. But there is light at the end of the cyber-tunnel.

Fate has put me in a place to finally upgrade my gaming computer. She has been one heck of a mistress, treating me so well with the very rare and only occassional hiccup. Built in December 2006, it boasted the following;
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe 2.4GHz
  • 775 NVIDIA nForce 680i SLI ATX Intel Motherboard
  • GeForce 8800 GTX
  • 2 GB Memory
I would later add a surround sound speaker system I had long coveted along powered by a X-Fi Titanium  sound card.
Now the reason for buying the 8800 GTX was to take advantage of DX 10 and all the candy microsoft promises game developers would come out with using the latest graphical tools. But that never really happened and for the most part my gaming computer has handled everything thrown at her if not with the newer games dialed down a tad.
But now we are in the age of DX11, and developers are not only taking advantage of it but the games are looking like more horsepower is needed under the hood to get any decent framerates. So the decision was made to take the plunge and prepare myself for a summer of souped up gaming.
What did I go for?
I decided to take the extra step, fork out for that dream system that I read about in the back of gaming magazines. Looking back, it was plain to see if I could get another three years out of this new gaming system, the extra money for the top of the line components would make sense.
This logic translated to the following;
  • Intel Core i7-960 Bloomfield 3.2GHz
  • ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
  • Two SAPPHIRE 100281-3SR Radeon HD 5870
  • CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W ATX12V 2.2
  • Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM
All encased in a COOLER MASTER Cosmos Pure Black Aluminum / SGCC ATX Full Tower Computer Case.
I know there are many reviewers and gamers who post in the forums that feel the two 5870's are overkill, but have you tried to buy a 5970? I was on auto-notify and within three hours of getting an email to say Newegg had them in stock, they didn't anymore!
Besides, the dream list from PC Gamer has the two cards listed, so who am I to doubt.
One package at a time, the components arrived. What caught my eye initially was the size of the coolmaster case. The thing is huge.
But it has to be, the video cards are reportedly long and big. The rods that outline the top and bottom of the case not only gives it some science fiction look, but makes the large case easier to handle.
There is nothing space age about the thick cloth cover that comes with the case though. I'm guessing this is for moving the thing down the road. Nice touch.
I had never spent as much on a case as I did with the coolmaster, but as it was unpacked the quality and care that went into it was obvious, making me feel better about the extra dollars. Everything was painted, inside and out. Padding was inside to help with soundproofing. Four massive fans come with the case, all strategically placed around the inside to create an airflow over the various components. From the unique rack system for the hard drives to fans located on the bottom and top, the cooling jetstream can be imagined peering into the expansive case.
And the vents on the top of the case look so sharp.
The case is also designed to tuck away the different cables, a panel of inputs are located on the top and towards the front. Among the inputs is an ESata. hmmmm. Never had one of those before.
The power supply isn't only located on the bottom of the case, but the fans points downwards to a duct, obviously venting the hot air out of the case instead across the components trying to be kept cool. The case comes with a small plastic accessories case which includes screwdrivers, etc. I couldn't quite work out what the little case was for or even how to open it. Its design would have fit comfortably in a science fiction movie. Although the screwdrivers are nice, they're not to the quality I use, so they stayed in the case. What was very clever where the custom screws for the HD bays and motherbaord giving the finsihed computer a polished look.

The front door can be changed so it swings either way and the drives slide and snap into place in the different drive bays.
More on this build as the different components are unpacked and assembled.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Peculiar paradigms

Even as the PC gaming industry seemingly conspires to drive me from enjoying the latest titles on my computer, an unexpected and unrelated turn of events has earned admiration for the same said developers.

PC gamers have watched in disbelief as intrusive DRM insists on a constant Internet connection to play a single player option. We've sat stunned as developers took a classic title such as Command and Conquer and dumbed it down to the latest flavor of the month. On screen indicators hold the hand of players and power ups not only make the challenges easier, but give that sense of achievement game developers obviously feel we have missing from our lives.

Meanwhile, traditional PC gamers are left feeling robbed of a games value and even worse, the very reason to buy a title, the challenge.

It's with this backdrop the memo comes down with a 'firm' request I get an IPhone for work. Connectivity improves productivity they say.

The gaming silver lining came with this stormy cellphone cloud when I found some familiar sounding titles in Apples App store.

Assassins Creed? Brothers in Arms? On a phone?

Having been disappointed with the $8 games bought in the past for my Blackberry, I tried not to get my hopes up. After all, these games were much less, so how good could they be?

Exceptional actually. Assassins Creed is really fun, great graphics for a phone game. Sonic the Hedgehog takes me back to my Sega owning days with the same playability programmed perfectly.

It's still in the early days yet, but things look good. Of course it's tough to find the time to test all these games.

After all it is a work phone (wink).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:From an IPhone

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Third class citizen: PC gamer

I know its been over a week since my last post, but a few things have been happening, most important of which was learning my place in society.

England's empire was built on one knowing one's place in society's hierchy and to this day India's class system is actively maintained and observed. The gaming gods should be happy to know I have come to appreciate the pecking order of our own world.

What has brought this enlightenment? Like any good story, it was more a series of independent events that combined for one big gotcha. Because they've blurred from one to another, here they are in no particular order.

Coming off of an initial insult of being released on every other platform in every other country, Assassins Creed 2 was released in North America last week.

Why North America was slated last I'm not exactly sure, but I find some strange humor in some bizarro reality the last people on the earth would be the Americans and Canadians. Wouldn't that make for an odd movie? But why the game was released on PC last makes more sense. It was all about the DRM.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), which started innocently as laborously entering a games serial number into a screen during installation has become an intrusive and as we'll see, debilitating method of trying to defeat piracy.

You see, Ubisoft had decided 2010 was going to be the year they kicked the software pirates ass. They were going to take it to the matt, throwdown and make those pirates their b***h. An announcement was made that most of the new releases from Ubisoft would require an internet connection, which in itself wasn't too objectionable. Then the details came out.

The game, such as Assassins Creed 2 would require a constant internet connection, which if lost would also lose any progress made in the game. While this in itself is bad enough, the game wouldn't function. Not just the multiplayer which is understandable, but the single player storyline as well.

As explained by Ubisoft at the time, 'if the player loses the connection to the server, the game “will pause while it tries to reconnect,” according to Ubisoft’s FAQ. In the case that the connection cannot be reestablished, the server will store the player’s last saved game. Once the connection is restored, the player can resume from that point.'

Thats right, there was no offline mode to enjoy the single player storyline of a legally purchased copy of Assassins Creed 2. If your internet goes down then so does your chance of playing the game. In a surprising move, even the reviewers in magazines and on game sites told Ubisoft that not only did the emperor not have any clothes, but he was butt ugly as well.

Like a character from one of their titles, Ubisoft sailed into the storm swearing their new system would do fine and no one had anything to worry about.

Cue news story to prove how hard the confident (and incredibly stupid) can fall;

'For a large part of Sunday overloaded servers are the generally accepted reason for gamers left unable to play legally purchased copies of Assassins Creed 2.' Nothing but PC, March 8th.

Of course, Ubisoft saw the error in what could politely be called 'over-ambitious' DRM and released a patch removing the internet connection.

You my friend, would be wrong.

Essentially the patch allows players to resume the game "from the exact same point" when they reconnect. But whether this move will be enough to help questionable sales when the game becomes available in the North American market on March 16th is another matter. Nothing but PC

Interestingly, many reports put the official release date as the 16th, but Steam has had it available for a few days. Whether this has any relationship to the terrible PR the whole incident has brought about or not, I'm not sure.

So basically, a gaming company can deliver a full priced game ($60) which doesn't work as is generally accepted in the gaming world and no one has complained. Hardly anyway.

But this is a rarity, its not happening with other companies so why would we as PC gamers have to worry.

Wrong again my friend (you're not too good at this guessing game).

Electronic Arts finally brought the Battlefield 2: Bad Company 2 series to the PC after the game's characters had a few adventures on every other platform but ours. Looking to cash in on the Infinity Ward backlash, EA put a dedicated team on the PC development, had destructable environment, dedicated servers and promised to continue the fast paced squad based action the Battlefield series was renowned for.

Oh, by the way, EA mentioned as they left the press conference, there won't be any chance of going prone and the crouch button can't be toggled.


When the game is released, connecting the dedicated servers were fine until 3pm then bang! couldn't get on. Don't worry forums and EA said, we did such a bang up job, everyone and their granny are downloading the game and clogging up the systems a little. Give it some time and everything will be fine.

Cue news story;
Many players feel furloughed with the various technical challenges that have plagued the highly anticipated latest edition in the Battlefield series. For those taking the digital download path, a few missteps kept them waiting just a little bit longer with Steam's servers claiming they were momentarily overloaded. And that was only a sign of what was to come.

As the game found its way onto more and more computers, players apparently overwhelmed the servers with EA acknowledging the multiplayer Rush or Conquest games experienced problems with messages such as "Failed to connect to EA online" or "Invalid EA Online Account".

In this age of extra content for pre-orders, some complained of the needed codes missing.

On Sunday, problems continued to keep players away from the frontline as a message streamed across the bottom of Battlefield: Bad Company 2's game browser acknowledging connectivity problems as well as 'PB kicks'. EA noted that deleting the game's beta from hard drives and re-installing Punkbuster helped some players with the issues.

For those that could connect, play was limited to a short period before being kicked off for losing the connection with the server.Nothing but PC, March 8th.

Understanding we have to give them some time to fix the problem, oh wait is that another news story coming across the wire with perfect timing to prove a point?

EA has been shutting the servers down constantly, to improve their hardware via maintenance updates - PR Product News March 14th.

I haven't gone on for about three days, which is sad as every gamer knows that addictive first few weeks of a new title where its hard to pull away long enough to even go to the bathroom has to be captured and enjoyed at the time. Be in the moment so to speak.

But that has already passed for this game as has my delusion that I, or apparently my fellow PC gamers matter enough for developers to create and deliver an acceptable gaming experience. Although they have no problem charging premium prices for the new titles, the games themselves are either so riddled with DRM they are made unplayable, or the needed work that should have be done during the beta phase was never completed.

The further fact that none of these problems appear to have the attention of the developers, who are showing no appearance of urgency doesn't make me as a customer feel very happy.

But at least there has been a lesson learned and according to my grandpappy, no price can be placed on that (although I'm sure the $60 dropped on Battlefield Bad Company 2 is a good number to start with). Now knowing my place in the gaming world, I will head back to the kitchens like any good subservient should and wait for any PC game morsel the developers feel  like throwing my way. And when that scrap does come, boy I won't complain if its stale, tastes horrible or if its even food, just thank them and wait for more.

After all, that seems to be what the gaming developers expect.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

War can be a love-hate thing - thoughts from the battlefield of Bad Company 2

So, I'm not a huge fan of the linear, movie-type feel over realistic game play, flash instead of substance kind of guy. If my subtleness is too slight, Modern Warfare, I'm talking to you.

But there was something about Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BBC2). Admittedly, some of the charm wore off with the MP demo that brought home prone and lean would be MIA from the game, the former a particular fancy of die-hard Battlefield fans. Graphics looked nice, but a trip through Modern Warfare taught me that storytelling and graphics don't necessarily deliver an enjoyable and repeatable 'gaming' experience.

The first outing of the Bad Company characters never made it to the PC, so being included on their second journey made us red-headed stepchildren feel special and certainly more loved than we have been in recent gaming memory. And DICE claiming they had a group of developers dedicated to creating the PC version put us in the front seat of the car for this first person shooter.

But whatever the factors were, there I was at the checkout screen on Steam forking over some hard-earned cash for the latest journey into the Battlefield world. The plan was to kick the download off at lunch, and have it ready to play when I got home. The annoying message claiming the Steam servers were too busy to handle my request gave a few false starts to my new deployment, but within thirty minutes I managed to sneak into the downloading queue.

So what about the game?

Good looking graphics. I mean, the sharpest thing you'll find out there. From the quality of the characters to the textures used, there is nothing bad to say about the graphics. All the Direct X candy is included, bloom, mist the whole nine yards. Each level is a living breathing world. Albeit one that occassionally runs on rails.

If there were anything bad to say about the game its just that, filled with a lot of sections that have you running or riding on a rail, spraying and praying. Its really the most disappointing part of the effort.

But what they do well more than makes up for it, at least in this early stage of playing through the game.

The game is dumbed down by removing leaning, prone and silly things like the ability to change ROF (rate of fire). Surprisingly, as annoying as this may be on paper, once in battle its not so noticeble. The SP battles are hectic, made even more so by the very buildings crumbling around you. Doors aren't opened in this game, they are busted through.

The excellent sound floods your senses with the loud, confusing battlefield that has danger coming from seemingly every direction. Trying to take a breather and heal (yes, it has the annoying auto-healing) is near impossible.

The rate of fire? Don't worry about it. The game is designed for players to put down a lot of lead and has enough ammo on each level to ensure you'll never run out. The weapons have a nice kick to them, trailing up into the air the longer you hold down the trigger. When your enemy falls, the moment is well done and a far cry from the rag-doll days of Battlefield 2 which could add a comical note to an intense battle.

The upsides to the game, even with the crisp graphics and destructible environment the game runs pretty smooth. And the game does look beautiful.

There aren't enough adjectives to describe the sound. By far the best I've heard in any game, from the atmospheric effects from your surroundings to the mutlitude of layers immersing the player in the battle. The way DICE has managed to fade the sound in and out as a player gets too close to an explosion or is coming close to croaking is by the best in any game. If there was ever a reason to justify the surround sound set up, here it is. An example to the attention to detail, during one of the cutscenes I kept looking around to see if a tv in the house was on. It ended up being a radio in the office my character was standing in, playing out of one of my rear speakers.

Downside? Not sure about the first edition, but the story for this game is weak. Stereotyping is so strong, I'm still waiting one of my NPC's to tell me how much he likes the smell of napalm in the morning. But for PC players, the Battlefield series never had storylines, so no let down there.

However, I'm only three hours into the SP, and hoping the confusing back story set at the end of World War 2 comes into play soon, otherwise what was the point?

Speaking of which, the transition between game play and scripted sequences is clumsy at best and feels like and afterthought. Its as if they came up with all the different levels in a pitch meeting and worked out how to connect them on the elevator ride down to the lobby.

And it was obviously a short elevator ride.

As soon as the developers make me feel good about all the effort they put into the gameplay and level design, I have to run along a corridor or ride in the back of a vehicle to do yet another mini-level on rails.

Glad I bought it though, no ill-feelings about paying full price. DICE seems to have made me feel good (for the most part) about being a PC gamer. The real test will be the longevity of the MP. Many will be looking to see if it can unseat MW2, most certainly reviving the arguement and true need for dedicated servers.

Check back here for my thoughts on that side of Bad Company 2. In the meantime, I need to shred some buildings.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

What is your malfunction, Mister?

So the word came out. Batman:Arkhum Asylum was on sale over at Games For Windows Live. The bargain price of $12 for a game still selling at near the original published price after being released in December 2009.

Two things ran through my mind; the few interactions I've had with Games For Windows Live (GFWL) and the possibility of downloading from a source that doesn't have the best reputation on the internet.

My interactions with GFWL was limited to the interference felt in Gears of War and Dawn of War 2. The pulsing box and message reminding me that GFWL was only the press of a button away may have been put there for convenience but  what it meant to me was the gaming division of microsoft was lurking around somewhere in the cyberbackground of my game.

I had been the picture of patience with Batman: Arkham Asylum, refusing to pay full price for a game that wouldn't live beyond the first play-through. And while the offer from GFWL was very tempting, the world of direct downloads is  dark and mysterious place. Money is given and aside from a download link, there is nothing to show for your hard earned money, wisked away in an electronic transaction.

I mentally assured myself it was Microsoft for heavens sake, how terrible or risky could it be?

Working my way through the different screens, I tried to remember login's and passwords that had been typed in the rushed excitement of conquering another planet in the role of a space marine or eliminating the Locust Horde.

The interface was nice, and the whole thing moved along quite nicely. That is until the downloading started.

This impression is given without any exact facts or statistics, I don't know how big the file was that needed to be downloaded. As with most things, it was mixed in with real life and the exact details get lost in the overal flow of things. Nor did I start a timer when the download kicked off. But I came away feeling it took so much longer than any game bought on the popular digital distributor, Steam.

At least three-quarters of my games are from Steam, and while I'm an old time gamer who misses the excitement and joy of buying the box, running home and loading up a newly bought game to take my latest gaming adventure, practicality of the new age has won me over.

I can reformat my hard drive, update my computer hardware and not worry about having all the game DVD's and serial numbers at hand. One software download to install the Steam inteface on the latest incarnation of my gaming computer and viola, I have my games ready to go.

Looking back, I was fortunate real life distracted me from the slow download. After coming back from an evening of family obligations, the game was only at 93% completed, and although not mathematically possible, the last 7% surely took longer than the rest.

Once the game was finally on my hard drive, it only seemed a matter of time before wits would be matched with the Joker and wearing clothes so tight it was obvious I was confident with my sexuality. But that wasn't accounting for GFWL and the cryptic microsoft error codes. For whatever reason, the game wouldn't install. After following the support screens from GFWL and Microsoft (they quickly become intermingled) and another download later, the game wouldn't install again.

I switched off my computer in disgust.

Even as I dreaded the call to Microsoft support to find out where my $12 game was, the thought of just waiting until I buy the game in a more guaranteed manner did cross my mind. So it was with curious interest I noticed the icon for Batman; Arkham Asylum on my start menu. But having been teased by Microsoft in the past with half-installed products, there was only a hint of hope it would work when I clicked it.

The game started.

To be fair, the demo fairly represented the final game with the scenes that were included giving a familiar air to the finished product, finally playing out before me. Sure the game is 'so console' I wanted to look for the X, 0 and triangle on my keyboard, but taking the mantle of the Dark Knight in the moody halls of a Gotham landmark made up for any key punching, power-ups and incessant on-screen tips.

While this game isn't going to make it onto the replay list, playing through the Rocksteady creation will certainly be fun and something to look forward too.

The same can't be said for GFWL.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The crossroads of enjoyment and enlightenment

Firstly, I have never necessarily followed popular opinion for PC games. If I enjoy a title, its because I genuinely enjoy playing it with no amount of wonderful reviews or awards of 'Editors Choice' coloring my opinion.

Sure, they may loosen the wallet initially to buy the game, but once a few hours of in-game time have been put under the belt, my opinion is pretty much formed. And that opinion may, and usually does fall somewhere between 'awesome' and 'why did I even buy this?'.

Show me someone who swears a game is perfect and I'll show you a 'fan-boy'.

So it wasn't surprising that I stood my ground against the different detractors of Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising since buying the game when it was released late last year. Understanding the need to play the game on hardcore to get the gaming experience desired, I argued its positive points against those who claimed ARMA 2 was the Holy Grail of the easily thrown around title of 'military simulation'. The more extreme supporters of ARMA 2 would effectively claim anyone who owned OF:DR should delete the game, burn the disc and damn the very souls of the developers who dared to soil the hallowed name of Operation Flashpoint.

Indeed, they're passion flowed with such vehemence that they trolled OF:DR forums, responding to those who wanted tips on playing the games with helpful advice such as 'uninstall it' or 'why did you waste your money on this piece of ****'.

The game certainly has drawbacks, but no game comes to mind that I'm not playing but still takes me to the respective forums to lambast it further than an opinion when asked.

Interestingly, I own ARMA 2 as well and would point out that where as I could get into and fight my way through the different levels of OF:DR, the same couldn't be said about ARMA 2 which barely managed to collect an afternoon's worth of play time.

One of the complaints about Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising I couldn't understand was that of the distance detail. When first playing the game, everything appeared fine to me.

Now however, we can safely say I've run a mile in the complainers combat boots. The problem arose with a new monitor which took me from an old resolution of 1650 x 1050 to 1920 x 1080 and away my distant trees and foliage in OF:DR. Because the game is so badly designed in the options menu, I can't force it to show the distant detail.

Will this new view make me line up with the others upset at OF:DR? No. Will I stop playing the game? Nope. Where as I may have considered the game a 7.5 or 8, its now a 6 or 7. But its still great for a small squad based first person shooter with interesting missions.

But what is more interesting to this collection of events, is the new interest in ARMA 2. That too was bought when released, but the demanding game, both in hardware requirements and detailed game play kept this casual gamer away. Certainly my once high-end gaming rig can still handle the higher settings of ARMA 2, but the same can't be said for the aging gamer's brain trying to work through the complex controls and commands.

Patches have been released to address some of the annoying bugs and my tactics to get into the game have changed from a full-frontal assault on the campaign to a flanking manuever by working through the single player stand alone missions. Both of which have multiplied my time in the game over the weekend compared to the prior months of owning it.

My conclusions and comparisons between the two games?

Oddly enough, the AI in ARMA is dumber than that of OF:DR. And though commands can be issued while still moving in ARMA 2 compared to freezing the player in place in OF:DR, they are so multi-leveled in the former that you have to stop anyway to complete the order. So just as I get used to finding the right, safe spot to order my squad in OF:DR, I'll do the same for ARMA 2. Understanding the frustration of looking off into a single texture distance in OF:DR, the NPC faces reforming as they come into view in ARMA 2 kind of ruins the atmosphere just as much.

For a quick run through a small-based first person shooter, OF:DR for all its flaws will be booted up first. But when I want a challenging 'military simulator' with amazing terrain, ARMA 2 is a natural choice.

And sadly, its that reasoning and understanding that appears to be missing from those enthusiastic gamers trolling the forums to give their unabashed, positive feedback.