Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Volt Won’t Jumpstart GM

It is still a year away but the new Volt from General Motor’s Chevrolet brand is gathering quite a bit of excitement from both consumers and industry watchers. I have my reservations about this new ride but let’s go over the basics, shall we?
The volt is being described as an all electric vehicle, with a gasoline engine that recharges the battery which GM calls a range extender. The Volt can plug into a normal 120V house outlet to recharge overnight. On the battery alone, the Volt can travel a distance of 40 miles, regardless of acceleration. After those first 40 miles and the battery has been drained, the Volt’s gasoline engine engages and extends the range of the car to 300 miles.
So this sounds like a pretty great concept but to me, this seems mediocre compared to what other alternatives there are out there. But first the good this car can offer.
The Volt has a range of 40 miles. While this doesn’t sound like much, especially if you want to go off for a weekend trip to Vegas, it can work for a lot of people who travel less than 40 miles during a single day. And then the car be recharged and you get another 40 miles for the next day. This number is low, though, when compared to that of Nissan’s recently announced electric vehicle which has a range of 100 miles.
The Volt’s gasoline engine does allow for those weekend trips and not be trapped with a useless car if the battery drains. But with a range of 300 miles and an expected gas tank of 8-9 gallons, the fuel efficiency of the car with the gasoline engine on, is only 35 mpg. That is what you could find on a Toyota Corolla and much less than the current generation Prius and other hybrid cars from Ford like the Fusion.
I suppose I would like to have this car as a way to get to work. I am only 7 miles away from my job and so this car would be able to get me back and forth and still have enough range to get some errands or shopping done after work. But the real trouble for GM comes when you see the asking price. Estimated to be at $40k. GM has stated that it hopes that government subsidies can bring it down to the low 30s. This now seems unlikely. I am not going to pay $40k for a car that can only go 40 miles on electric and has a fuel economy that can be found on cheaper cars. In order for the real electric, and GM’s, revolution to begin, the car must be priced in the low 20’s just like the Prius, because that is it’s real competitor. At that price range, it is competing against luxury vehicles. This car is not for the average consumer who wants to save money on gas.
Another thing that GM has failed to mention is that this battery pack in the car will wear down. As anyone who has ever owned an iPod or cell phone, rechargeable batteries start to lose their capacity to hold a charge. So when will we need to replace the battery in car? How much will that cost? With the car being $40k, one could only imagine how expensive that venture would be. Although I do assume GM hopes that the battery technology and manufacturing process will have advanced enough to make the batteries affordable later on down the line.

My own hope for the future…

The secret most people don’t know is that in Europe, where gasoline cost much more, there are already very fuel efficient and affordable cars on the road, made by European car companies and some made by our own American car manufacturers. Diesel engines are the future and while diesel usually emotes a disgusted face from those who are reminded of dirty black soot coming from an exhaust pipe, believe me, things are much different. With the cleaner diesel technology, owning a diesel car is now much more practical and fuel efficient. However the idea of clean diesel has not caught on here in the US and I have only seen an ad for one set of diesel cars so far, the VW TDI cars.
Ford also has clean diesel cars on the road with one getting up to 65 mpg (Ford Fiesta). The Prius at most can only get 50 mpg. And with diesel being cheaper than gasoline, one can only hope that one day we will see more diesel engines here stateside in more than just trucks.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tiger Woods PGA Tour '10 Review (Wii)

Tiger Woods returns yet again for a new round of golf with EA's latest release in the perrenial golf series. As is the case for most EA Sports games, this release builds upon last year's release and introduces new modes, features and the mandatory roster update. The real star, though, is the inclusion of Wii Motion Plus support which adds a new level of depth, fidelity and difficulty to the game.
The game comes with the Wii Motion Plus accessory for an extran 10 bucks on top of the normal $49.99 for a new Wii game. This is a pretty good deal and the support for the peripheral is great. You notice it's impact immediately on your first drive, where you either draw or fade the shot. You start to notice your tendancies in your swing and can compensate by aiming. Also the curvature is something that can become handy for getting around certain obstacles on the course. It makes for deeper gameplay than just aiming and swinging and having the only twist in the balls flight path come from the wind. It just feels more like what you would experience on a real course because no one's swing(except maybe Tiger's) is perfect. So far this is the best showcase of Wii Motion Plus support and the deepest use of it as well.
The game comes with an updated roster of golfers with Rocco Mediate being the biggest inclusion considering how famous he became after taking Tiger the distance, and breaking his leg. Also new courses are now in the game including Beth Page (black course) which is where the US Open is held. This also means that USPGA rules are now in the game. What the big deal about this is, I don't know but I guess it is just cool to have them associated with the game now.
The game still retains all play support and the classic Wii game mechanic support. But the gameplay really shines when using the Wii Motion Plus. Putting is a lot harder but feels more natural. Swinging and getting the right power on the swing is also more intuitive. It just feels good.
New modes include Disc golf which can be a fun distraction and a nice addition. Not really that engaging for me but its easy to see how some could really get into it. Online support is pretty barren and considering this is on the Wii, it's not really a surprise.
The graphics can be good at times, when the camera flies through a course, the water and landscape look beautiful. When being up close, however, it can be bad. Tiger has a good model and animation but the textures on him and on the grass can look terrible. Every time I drive, and my ball passes by trees, I wish the trees looked less like cardboard cut outs. I don't know if they are really pushing the Wii here but I don't see why textures on the land and player can be better. While I am at it, I wish that there would be a higher resolution on this thing.
Tiger 10 is the game I had been waiting for to turn my Wii back on after having finished Super Mario Galaxy. It has a great feature set and amazing gameplay enhanced by Wii Motion Plus. Though the graphics have their ups and downs, the game is at its best right after you swing and wait to see where your ball drops. A great experience that any adult who owns a Wii should own.

9/10 - Must Own!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Movie Reviews

Occasionally I may review a movie I see at the theatre on here as well. So I will set forth a simple 5 star system for movie reviews. Which not the 10 point system used for games, i just think that movies are easier to recommend that movies because movies will only cost you 10 bucks while a game can be 60 bucks that you will be stuck with. So here it is

1 star, terrible movie that no one should see or support
2 stars, crappy movie that a few select will enjoy because they like that type of movie or source material. B-movies and Twilight goes here
3 stars, ok movies that many may find enjoyable but not perfect. Most should probably wait to rent.
4 stars, good movies that will be worth the price of admission to most and are competent pieces of entertainment. Maybe not thought provoking but good.
5 stars. Must sees for all. This is where the academy award nominees go along with the great blockbusters that are worth every penny.

Game Review Format

So I will begin reviewing video games on this blog and will be following a pretty normal standard of scoring games out of 10 points. But many have noticed that there are problems with these kinds of systems and I will try to really change how the 10 point system is viewed, at least here.
Most of the time a site, such as GameSpot will give a game a 4 or a 5. But those scores are basically the same and when a game gets a 6 or below, it usually means no one should buy this game. But other times you have systems like at my favorite web site where there is a looser scoring system but I feel the flaw in that 5 star system is that some games can be close to greatness but not there. A game can feel like 4.5 stars but you can only give 4 or 5. Either score does not feel right. So the following explains my scoring system.

1/10 Reserved for the worst games, those which should never have been made
2-3/10 Games which are terrible and nearly unplayable
4-5/10 Games which a select few will like and can overlook some major flaws
6-7/10 Games which are not without flaws but playable and enjoyable by most
8-9/10 Games which are the cream of the crop and usually a must buy for all
10/10 Reserved for the absolute best games, only a select few will ever get this score

This system will provide some ok games with 4s and 5s more often than most 10 point based systems and the 10 point system does allow me to differentiate which games I think are great and must buys but if one has to make a choice, well then the difference is how you can make that choice. I would buy both 8s and 9s on day one, but one game might be a better choice if you only have money for one.

Introducing my new blog covering everything from politics to video games!

Well this is the beginning of my journalist career. This will be more opinion based but hope to get some people reading and thinking. Video games will be a big focus here but if you are looking for sports and politics and business, you might get lucky and find something for you as well. Lets get this started.