Euro Truck Simulator 2

I gave up driving Ferraris in Oʻahu to drive Scanias in Europe. That is how much fun Euro Truck Simulator 2 is. Drive trucks, transport cargo and park trailers. And try to do it all without accidents or traffic fines.

Pros

I consider Euro Truck Simulator 2 to be the Falcon 4.0 of truck simulators, although I must admit, it is the only truck simulator I have played. I have not driven a truck in real life (I have not flown a plane either), but the driving in Euro Truck Simulator 2 behaves like what I would expect in real life. The weight of your cargo and the type of truck affects how easy it is to move or stop. Take a corner too quickly and it will easily tip over. Parking the trailer is truly as difficult as it looks. Traffic rules must be obeyed. Fuel and driver fatigue must be managed. There are also day/night cycles, rain, roadside events and different types of drivers on the road to give the real life driving feeling.

Despite all the simulation goodness, Euro Truck Simulator 2 has got a gentle learning curve. Not surprising since starting a truck engine is no where near as complicated as an F-16 ramp start and working the GPS navigation is far easier than operating an AN/APG-68 radar.

To give the game an even easier start, there is also a pretty good tutorial with a short delivery that teaches the basics. It gives a good feel of what is involved, but it is still very much just the tip of the iceberg. The tutorial can be skipped for those that want to get straight into the thick of it.

Even though the roads are not true to life, they are varied and long enough to make locations feel like they are very far apart. This combined with the faster time flow and nice change in scenery really made me feel like I have travelled a great distance, all without the boredom of a long distance drive.

The look of the different locations really blew me away. Individual scenery elements are repeated, but there is enough variety to make different locations look unique. 50 hours into the game and I am still looking around at the scenery. Not good as I am not concentrating on the road! I wish there was some sort of autopilot that allowed me to look around without worrying about driving properly.

The lighting and shadow effects look just like driving in real life. This is most evident as you are driving through shadows cast by trees or other tall objects, and when going through tunnels at night.

The game sounds great. Roaring engines, the sounds of rain, the turning indicator ticking away, other vehicles going past, it all sounds like driving in real life. There are even weird noises that occur when you have damaged your truck too much. One thing though, I cannot say whether the truck sounds are accurate to their real-life counterparts as I am not familiar with them.

Listen to real radio! They may be Internet streaming radio, but they are still real broadcasts including stations like the BBC. It doesn’t get more realistic than driving from London to Reims and hearing more about Brexit over the radio. When you are sick of the news, you can always switch to your own music or another radio station.

The game’s own music also sounds good. It only plays at certain stages so as to not interrupt the whole radio experience, but it does sound good.

Other than being a truck driving simulator, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is also a trucker RPG with some simple transport business management on the side. Earn money and gain experience as you complete jobs. With enough experience, you level up and get a point to spend on upgrading your truck driving skills. Spend money buying new trucks, customising them and expanding your transport business by buying and upgrading garages, then hiring other drivers to work for you.

Almost everything in Euro Truck Simulator 2 is customisable. Customise the difficulty of the simulation. Customise the environment. Customise your truck including paint jobs, decorations, seating positions and mirrors. You can even customise your own trailers.

Mods, mods, mods! There are truck loads of them. Real company names, traffic modifications, truck customisations, custom maps and even a multiplayer mod. So far I have only tried Really Real Company Names from the Steam Workshop, a Hungary map from modland and the multiplayer mod TruckersMP.

The AI of other drivers seem to be pretty good. There are good drivers, bad drivers and really bad drivers that will crash right before your very eyes! Some drivers seem to react to your signalling while others ignore it.

Pause and quit at any time. Progress is automatically saved, even when you are in the middle of the road. The next time you play the game, it picks up where you left off but with your truck at a stand still. Just start the engine and resume driving.

From time to time, there are special events that are provided through the optional online community World of Trucks.  Complete the goals set out for the event and score some freebies!  I have only completed the Goodyear Roll-Out event, but was happy to receive the Goodyear Tyres Pack DLC for free.

The Italia DLC is a worthy addition to Euro Truck Simulator 2.  The scenery looks very much like Italy.  There are plenty of new roads to drive on and some of them are more complex to negotiate.

Cons

The police cars do not ask you to pull over or give chase. They will put on the lights and siren, but they just continue driving as normal. I know this is not Need for Speed or Test Drive, but I expect at least for the police to ask you to pull over rather than just issuing instant fines and driving away.

I understand the game world is scaled down to be less boring and more fun, but the cities feel like very small country towns. A few more blocks with a bit more traffic would make it feel more city like.

Other Points

There are some things in the game that are less realistic. I have already mentioned the scaled down distances and faster time flow. The amount of traffic is definitely less than in real life. There is no need for food, drink and toilet stops. These make for a game that is more fun to play, but I do wish there were options for full realism. I have not placed this as a con as I can see that simulating everything to the level of real life would be a Herculean task.

I know there are real pilots that play flight sims and real race drivers that play racing sims, but are there real truck drivers that play Euro Truck Simulator 2? Would they find it more of a chore or would they actual enjoy the game?

The open world nature of the game reminded me of Test Drive Unlimited. It is not as “open” as TDU though. There are invisible walls preventing you from driving too far off-road. Other than that, you can drive on all accessible roads and discover places of interest.

World of Trucks jobs are a bit unusual in that the time limit you have to complete the job is in real-life time rather than in-game time.  On the plus side, I could take a job with a 10 hour time limit, muck around and sleep in-game a few times before finally reaching the destination to finish it after 21 hours in-game time.  Since the job only took me 1 hour of real-life playing time, I did not get any time penalties.  On the minus side, if I took a job with 10 hours to go, but could only play the game for 10 minutes for that whole day, World of Trucks would flag my delivery as being late when I completed it the next day but only taking 5 in-game hours.

The Heavy Cargo Pack DLC adds cargo types that are extra heavy.  It sure makes for more challenging deliveries, but at the same time it also feels like more of the same.

Here is a montage video of Euro Truck Simulator 2 with Frank Klepacki’s Just Do It Up from the DOS version of Command & Conquer.

Biases

I love simulators, but have mainly played flight and car racing simulators. Euro Truck Simulator 2 is really getting me interested in truck simulation.

I know nothing about trucks except for what I see on the road and in movies, tv shows, etc.

There are other open world driving games out there, but the last one I played was Test Drive Unlimited.

 

Residency Calculator 1.3 Released

Can now export and import locations. Duplicate location names are allowed, but they are treated as different locations. Requires new permissions to read and write to external storage.

Modified the Residency Calculator page change date picker title to be Change “to date”.

Added blank line separation before Australian Citizenship calculation result.

Updated help for changing and deleting dates.

Updated help with more details about the Residency Calculator page.

Added about box.

Calendar Cannot Pick Max Limit Date

Known issue with Residency Calculator.

This issue seems to be a problem only with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop.

If you change an entry/exit date that is not the last date, there is a maximum date limit that you can change the entry/exit date to. This maximum date limit is the day just before the next entry/exit date. The issue is, the maximum date limit date cannot be picked when in calendar mode.

Next entry/exit date
Cannot pick this date

The easiest way around this issue is to use spinner for date selection.

I have tested this issue on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, 7.0 Nougat and 8.1 Oreo, and it works fine. I guess it is an Android calendar date picking bug.

Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition

Mortal Kombat (1992). The versus fighting game that caused great controversy for its over the top violence and gore. Mortal Kombat (2011) is the ninth game in the series with the Komplete Edition incorporating all DLCs in one handy package.

Pros

The training modes are wonderful. The tutorial teaches everything from the basics to the stuff special to Mortal Kombat. The actual keys to perform actions are displayed, even if they have been customised. Very useful for absolute beginners or people like me that are not good at versus fighting games. Fatality training only gives guides for one fatality per character, but it can still be used to practise other fatalities. Then there is practice mode where you can set up conditions for battle and fight without health or time limits.

Challenge Tower is a nice single-player mode that puts you in all sorts of creative situations to test your skills. These include Test Your Might button/key pounding to get your metre up for smashing wood, slowly shooting zombies and landing hits for koins. Some challenges also feel like a continuation of the tutorial as they focus on a character‘s specific action.

Toasty! Loved it in Mortal Kombat II and glad to see it in Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition. Babality also made a return from MK 2, but friendship was left behind to die.

I don’t know when tag team fighting came to Mortal Kombat, but it sure is a good addition.

The game looks good at 1920×1080. There are more blood and guts in greater detail than the last time I saw Mortal Kombat (ie MK 2). I don’t know when X-Ray came into the fray, but it sure fits in nicely with the whole ultraviolent nature of the game. Despite all the graphical improvements, I actually miss the old FMV look of the characters.

There are 31 characters to choose from. It is 8 shy of the 39 in King of Fighters 2002, but it still provides plenty of variety. Too many for me to learn up.

As you play, you earn koins which are used to purchase extras. Apart from art works and music, there are also secret fatality directions that can be purchased. Everything is hidden, so you don’t actually know what you are purchasing until after purchasing.

Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition is very keyboard friendly. Keys can be remapped easily, and the game responds well to key presses.

Moves for the characters are easily accessible through the pause menu. They are also shown with the exact key or button mappings that need to be used to execute the moves.

The story mode is great. The introduction shows that everyone is dead except for Raiden. Just before getting hammered by Shao Khan, Raiden sent a vision to himself in the past, in Mortal Kombat 1. Back in MK 1 time is where the game starts. Unlike MK 1, the current game has cutscenes flowing into fights, flowing into more cutscenes and fights if you win. The plot was quite interesting and is not just about fighting in the Mortal Kombat Tournament.

Freddy Krueger. Nice to see a familiar face from the 80s join the crew. Apparently, Shao Kahn annoyed Freddy, pulled him out of the Dream Realm and beat him senseless. Now Freddy wants revenge before returning to the Dream Realm. I am not a Nightmare on Elm Street fan, but his claw thingies sure fits nicely with the whole blood and guts thing.

The game has five difficulty levels and the easiest difficulty of beginner is definitely easier than the likes of the original Mortal Kombat and MK II. Good for players that like versus fighting games but are simply bad at them. With no limit to retries, I managed to complete story mode and also ladder mode on beginner.

Cons

Hardly anyone plays online. Not surprising since there is the newer Mortal Kombat X and soon Mortal Kombat 11 will be released.

When you are part way through story mode, there is no way to restart the story without finishing the whole story or deleting your save files. If you are like me and forgot what happened the last time you played, the only choices are to finish the story and be puzzled by what is happening or delete your saves and lose all your unlocked goodies and koins.

Keys can be remapped easily, but some sections of the game, like character selection and moving around the Krypt, still use the default keys rather than the remapped ones.

An extension of the previous con, there is a Challenge Tower challenge that displays the wrong keys for you to follow. I had to set the keys back to default so that the displayed keys matched the keys to press.

The game does not output audio properly for my Logitech G35 headset on Windows 10. Half the sounds disappear and the other half plays in stereo properly. It may be a driver issue, but so far this is the only game that has such an issue.

Other Points

I have always felt that Mortal Kombat games moved slower than other versus fighting games like Street Fighter. It definitely felt slower than my recent playing of The King of Fighters 2002. Although slower, I still find MKKE just as difficult as all other fighters.

Biases

The only other Mortal Kombat games I have played are MK 1 and 2. I played them a lot back in the day and against other people too.

I did not get to play MKKE against other people.

I have completed the story mode on the easiest difficulty of beginner. I have also played many games of the single-player ladder and the Challenge Tower.

More recently, I was playing The King of Fighters 2002.

The King of Fighters 2002

The King of Fighters 2002 is a 2D versus fighting game from a lesser known franchise. It is no SF or MK, but it does have plenty of fighting action.

Pros

There are 39 characters to choose from. I have enough trouble getting my head around 3, so I have not tried them all. As opponents though, they do behave different enough to be their own characters.

If you lose a match and elect to continue, you get to choose an advantageous adjustment for the next match. You can choose to drop the difficulty level of the AI, lower the health of the opposition or give yourself an energy gauge boost. This continue option is on by default but can be changed in the game options of the starting menu before selecting “launch”.

The default match setting is 3 vs 3 fighting. Each player picks 3 different characters and selects what order they fight in. Each character fights until their health reaches zero or win the whole match. There is no tagging different characters to enter the fight, but it still makes for an interesting match with skills required for different characters and also varying strategies depending on who the opponent is.

Cons

The keyboard control is one massive con point for The King of Fighters 2002. The keys cannot be remapped. This by itself would not be that big a deal except the keys shown in the options are partially wrong. ‘Q’ and ‘W’ do not work. ‘Z’ and ‘A’ are used instead. This makes the game buttons A,B,C,D map to the keys Z,X,C,A, which makes this con point even worse. Who on earth uses Z,X,C,A as fighting buttons? Z,X,A,S, OK. Or Z,X,C,V all in one line also makes sense, but not what they have.

The game does not support my old generic digital USB 2-Axis 8-Button Gamepad. Windows 10 detects it fine, but the game just says bugger off.

Once the game has “launched”, the game options settings cannot be accessed. So, settings like continue options, number of rounds per match and difficulty level cannot be changed after the game has launched.

The audio sounds washed out to me. I wonder if all direct arcade emulation games sound like this or whether this game just sounds like that to begin with.

Other Points

Moving backwards automatically activates block, so more like Street Fighter and less like Mortal Kombat.

The graphics are low resolution, but the game still looks OK with smooth animations. When playing in windowed mode there is no way to resize the window, so the only view choices are full screen or small window.

Biases

I have only played The King of Fighters 2002 against the CPU.

I am not good at versus fighting games with Mortal Kombat (1992) being the only game that I completed and only with one character.

The only other versus fighting games I have played are Mortal Kombat 2, Street Fighter 2/Turbo/Alpha/Zero/Too/Many/Names/Cannot/Remember, Tekken 3, Soul Blade/Edge and Budokan. I enjoyed all of them despite not being good at versus fighting games.

I got KOF 2002 as a freebie when GOG was giving it away.

On the easiest difficulty level I managed to reach the boss (I think it’s the boss) but could never defeat him.

The King of Fighters 2002 is available DRM-free from GOG.com.

GameSessions

GameSessions is a digital distribution platform that encourages trying before buying. Their platform allows you to download and play full games for a limited time trial. If you are happy with the games, you can buy Steam keys from them.

The best thing about GameSessions is they seem to have regular game giveaways. Be wary as it is not as simple as getting a DRM-free download or a Steam Key. Here is what you need to know.

A GameSessions giveaway allows you to play a game without a time limit. However, the game is tied to your GameSessions account and it is a GameSessions version of the game.

Being a GameSessions version means two things:
1) Multiplayer systems that uses Steam or other platforms does not work in a GameSessions game.
2) A special game launcher is used to start the game and this launcher requires an “always-on” connection to the GameSessions servers. If the server connection is severed, the game stops. Note, I did manage to play for a couple of minutes after an Internet connection drop-out.

A special installer must downloaded to download the game. The installer cannot resume downloads if it is closed. So, if you need to reboot or the PC crashes, the download will have to start from scratch. The installer can pause and resume downloads if it is kept open.

A GameSessions tray applet/icon/thing loads when Windows boots and there is no option to stop this. If you don’t want it taking up space unnecessarily, you must disable the startup manually in the Task Manager. Regardless of the tray thing, there is always a GameSessions Hub Service that loads. I think this is required for installed games to run. To start a game without the tray icon, just run the shortcut installed on the Desktop or the Start Menu.

When playing a game, sometimes a little message pops-up in the bottom right corner. So far, I have only seen GameSessions messages, but I guess it could display ads too.

When you exit a game, a window pops-up advertising for GameSessions.

Recording videos or taking screen shots may be a problem as GameSessions games crash when utilities like Fraps or Bandicam are running. Luckily, I have not had any problems with GeForce Experience recording video.

If you can tolerate all of the above, then GameSessions makes for another fine way to acquire free games.

Trying out games is not bad either, but it is not all pros and no cons over having a demo version of a game. Some games cannot be trialled properly within the given time limit and some demos are smaller to download. It is still an option though and can be handy.

HITMAN 2

Assassinate targets around the world in any way you see fit. Then try to do better by completing challenges, escalations and contracts involving different objectives and methods. HITMAN 2 is like a playground for the wannabe assassin inside your soul.

Pros

The main reason this review is titled HITMAN 2 and not HITMAN is because you can play all the story missions you own in HITMAN with HITMAN 2. This means you get to use some nifty new stuff that was not in HITMAN.

HITMAN 2’s “try before you buy” incentive is even better than HITMAN’s. The first mission, Hawke’s Bay can now be played for free in HITMAN 2. A full tutorial plus one complete mission! There is no reason not to try HITMAN 2 for free… Alright there is one reason. Not a good idea if your PC is not powerful enough to run it.

Each mission outside of the prologue takes place in a big open-world map. HITMAN 2 is as much about exploring as it is about stealth and assassinations. There are so many places to explore, which opens up numerous paths to follow and allowing many different actions to be performed. It is up to you to figure out how to string together all you have learnt, to reach and assassinate your targets. Difficult? yes, but also great fun with lots to discover.

If the game is not difficult enough, there is a whole range of gameplay options for turning off hints/guides/aides. Turning them off gives a more immersive experience, so I am sure some people will like having these options. Make sure to set the gameplay options to default before playing the tutorial or else you may not be able to perform some of the actions they tell you to.

HITMAN’s graphics were excellent. HITMAN 2 looks even better. The world is incredibly detailed and everything and everyone in it looks great. I cannot run the game at full specs on my PC, but it still looks excellent.

There is a lot of replayability in the form of bonus missions, challenges, escalations and contracts. Bonus missions are self explanatory. Challenges are basically guides for different tasks to do during story missions. As you complete them you get rewarded, sometimes with experience points and sometimes with equipment. Escalations are missions that increase in difficulty each time you complete them. The difficulty increase is in the form of more conditions to fulfill. Contracts are missions made by other people. The contract creator determines who the targets are and what conditions must be met to complete the mission. They all use the same maps as the story mission, but they are different enough to make things very interesting.

Since HITMAN, they have added an easier casual difficulty. As they say in the description, “You experiment and have fun. Toy with targets, blow things up and take chances. This is about making a general mess, running and hiding to see what happens. And then doing it all over again.”. Wonderful for people like me who are more like Agent 86 than Agent 47.

The AI is very believable. Security guards act like security guards and will try to find you and flank your position if they know where you are. Ordinary people will sometimes be stunned in their place and other times panic and run off.

The audio is top-notch. The dynamic music mixes together very well and adds to the atmosphere of your current situation. All the sound effects sound realistic. The speech for everyone I have heard so far, sound natural.

Cons

An “always-on” connection is required to play the game properly, even for single-player. There is a privacy policy that must be agreed to for this always-on connection. Without a connection the score leaderboards and the mission mastery lists cannot be seen, and the challenges cannot be accessed or completed if you do continue playing. They say that this always-on connection is for a whole host of reasons including the prevention of cheating. You want to stop people from cheating to get a high score, fine. But why prevent challenges and mastery from being available offline? They could have made an independent clone of the challenges and mastery for offline mode. For most people, I guess this is not that big an issue. Alas! My Internet connection is too flaky and it makes me annoyed every time the message pops-up saying I was disconnected and should not continue. Just like any multiplayer game I guess.

Other Points

To get the HITMAN Legacy stuff in HITMAN 2, you must play HITMAN 2 in online mode then exit the game to let Steam install the Legacy stuff DLCs.

HITMAN 2 is a points game. Although the game does not restrict you on who you can kill or how you go about assassinating the main targets, you do lose points for killing non-targets. The cleaner you are at doing the job, the higher points you are awarded. Kill too many people and your score will be zero. I do wish they went into the negative just to see how badly I performed.

There is a story in there somewhere. I have been having so much fun just messing around that I have only completed two story missions. Not enough to figure out what is going on.

There is some content that is in HITMAN but is missing from HITMAN 2. The good news is, the developers appear to be converting the extra content to HITMAN 2.  I do hope all the extras get converted.  If not, I’ll just have to return to HITMAN.

Biases

I was playing HITMAN when HITMAN 2 was released. I was messing around so much that I only just completed Mission One – The Showstopper, Paris when my download for HITMAN 2 – Prologue finished. After trying out HITMAN 2, it was clear that I might as well play the HITMAN missions in HITMAN 2.

This is more of a “HITMAN 2 with HITMAN content” review rather than of HITMAN 2 good and proper. I do not have any HITMAN 2 content outside of the prologue missions, so I don’t know what the new content is really like.

HITMAN was the first Hitman game I played, followed very closely by HITMAN 2. Or should I say HITMAN 1.5?

The only stealth games I have played before HITMAN were Metal Gear Solid 2 and The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the mentioned stealth games.