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Tutorial – Combining Paths in PhotoShop

1.0 Introduction:
I have been using PhotoShop for a number of years, but in the last 12 months as I have been creating custom liveries for Need For Speed – Shift 2 (Link) and Project CARS (Link) I have started to started to make greater use of Paths and Vector Shapes.

pCARS_BMW_Z4_GT3_Contest

However, one area that I have always found difficult to master is combining multiple Paths into a single Path. For some reason it just didn’t work they way I expected it to and sometimes the results appeared to be totally random.

When I mentioned the challenges that I was having when combining paths a fellow member (Ryno917) on the Project CARS forum he recommended that I check out this tutorial (Link). Unfortunately, this tutorial did not answer all my questions about combining paths. However, it did start me thinking in a new direction that ultimately led to me finally getting my head around how to combine Paths in PhotoShop to get the result that I wanted.

2.0 Getting Started
For this tutorial I’m using PhotoShop CS2 on the PC, not the most recent version I know but this tutorial should also work for newer versions of the application and for the Mac. I’m also going to assume that you understand how to create vector shapes and select paths, so that I can focus on the detail of combining paths in PhotoShop.

I’m going to start with the basics of joining two Paths together (Union) and creating a new path from the overlapping area between two paths (Intersection). I will then move on to look at how you can create a new Path by removing the over lapping area between two paths (Exclusion). Removing one path from another (Subtraction) is the function that I have experienced the most difficulty with, so I’ll leave that one to the end.

For each step of this tutorial you need a PhotoShop file with two layers each containing a vector shape. To keep things simple for this tutorial I have created a Red circle on the lower layer and a Blue rectangle on the upper layer as shown below:

Tutorial_Combining_Paths_000

You will need to start from this point for each of the 4 exercises in this tutorial, therefore I highly recommend saving this file so you can quickly revert back to this position when you have completed each exercice.

3.0 Union:
This is the most basic and easily understood of the PhotoShop combine functions for Paths and Shapes. You take two Paths and combine them into a new path that defines the same area that the two paths outlined.

Step 1: Select the rectangular path in the upper layer, copy the path and then hide the upper layer
Step 2: Select the lower layer, select the Vector Mask and paste the path
Step 3: Using the Path Selection Tool hold down the shift key and select both paths. You will know that both paths are selected because they will have a small back square on each of their vertexes
Step 4: From the top toolbar select the first icon (Add shape to area) and click the Combine button

You should now have a single shape that defines the same area that the two paths previously outlined.

Tutorial_Combining_Paths_001

4.0 Intersection:
This is another straight forward function to understand. Take two paths that overlap and combining them together to create a new path which only includes the area of overlap.

Step 1: Select the rectangular path in the upper layer, copy the path and then hide the upper layer
Step 2: Select the lower layer, select the Vector Mask and paste the path
Step 3: Using the Path Selection Tool hold down the shift key and select both paths
Step 4: From the top toolbar select the third icon (Intersect shape areas) and click the Combine button

You should now have a single shape that defines the same area that was overlapped by the two paths.

Tutorial_Combining_Paths_002

5.0 Exclusion:
Now we are starting to get a bit more complex. Exclusion is effectively the inverse of Intersection. So rather than being left with the area that the two paths overlapped, you are left with the area the two paths defined excluding the area that they over lapped. I’m not sure how often you would use this option, but good to know it is there if you need it.

Step 1: Select the rectangular path in the upper layer, copy the path and then hide the upper layer
Step 2: Select the lower layer, select the Vector Mask and paste the path
Step 3: Using the Path Selection Tool hold down the shift key and select both paths
Step 4: From the top toolbar select the fourth icon (Exclude overlapping shape areas) and click the Combine button

You should now have a single shape that defines the same area that was outlined by the two paths, but excluding the area of overlap between the two shapes.

Tutorial_Combining_Paths_003

6.0 Subtraction
Now we get to the function that has caused me so many issues in understanding how it works. I’ll begin by sharing the key lesson that I learnt from the tutorial (Link) that I was recommended to look at. In the previous three exercise it does not matter if you copy the circular path to the rectangle layer or the rectangle layer to the circle layer, the end result once you combine the paths will be the same. For the Subtraction function this is NOT the case, and you will get a different result depending which layer you copy from and to.

In the the previous three exercises it was necessary to select both paths once they were on the same layer before clicking the “Combine” button to create the new path. However, for the Subtraction exercises it is important to make sure that only the path that you have pasted into the layer is selected.

6.1 Copying path to a lower layer
In the previous three exercises we have copied the rectangle path from the higher layer to the lower layer containing the circle, so lets see what result that gives when using the Subtraction function.

Step 1: Select the rectangular path in the upper layer, copy the path and then hide the upper layer
Step 2: Select the lower layer, select the Vector Mask and paste the path
Step 3: Select only the path that you just pasted (do NOT select both paths)
Step 4: From the top toolbar select the second icon (Subtract from shape areas) and click the Combine button

You should now have a single shape that defines the same area outlined by the circle, but with the area outlined by the rectangle subtracted from it, which looks a bit like Pac-Man.

Tutorial_Combining_Paths_004a

6.2 Copying path to a higher layer
But what if that was not the result you are after, and you actually wanted a rectangle with a curve subtracted from the lefthand side? Well lets try copying the circle path form the lower layer to the higher layer containing the rectangle.

Step 1: Select the circule path in the lower layer, copy the path and then hide the lower layer
Step 2: Select the higher layer, select the Vector Mask and paste the path
Step 3: Select only the path that you just pasted (do NOT select both paths)
Step 4: From the top toolbar select the second icon (Subtract from shape areas) and click the Combine button

You should now have a single shape that defines the same area outlined by the rectangle, but with the area outlined by the circle subtracted from it, which looks a bit like a chocolate bar that someone has taken a bite out of.

Tutorial_Combining_Paths_004b

So in summary, for the Subtract function you create the path that you want to subtract from on one layer and the path you want to subtract on another layer. It does not matter which layer is above or below the other. Then select the path that you want to subtract, copy and paste this into the layer containing the path that you want to subtract from. With only the path to be subtracted select the Subtract function and click the “Combine” button

7.0 Conclusion
Hope fully this tutorial has explained how to combine paths in PhotoShop to get the end result that you are looking for. Initially it may see a bit confusing (especially the subtract function), but with some practice it soon becomes easy to use and understand.

And a final tip, when you have the two paths on the same layer you can preview the final result by clicking the Union, Intersection, Exclusion and Subtraction options before you click the “Combine” and create the new path.

Links:
Need For Speed – Shift 2 Gallery: Link
Project CARS Gallery: Link
Tutorial: Link

Shift 2 Unleashed

Like the first game in the Shift series, Shift 2 Unleashed was developed for EA Games by Slightly Mad Studios (SMS). However, unlike the majority of the other Need for Speed games, the Shift series focus on circuit based racing rather than illegal street racing mixed with max power style car modification. The big attraction for me was the beautiful graphics, the great selection of real world circuits and the official licenses for the FIA GT3 and GT1 championships.

Having recently built a gaming HTPC I decided to purchase the PC version of Shift 2 rather than the PS3 version for two key reasons. Firstly the graphics are significantly better, and as was the case with the first Shift game, there was the possibility of community developed mods to extend and enhance the game, but more of that later.

Lets begin with the graphics, and in my opinion Shift 2 is the best looking racing game I have played to date. The car models are highly detailed, and the lighting gives the game a realistic quality that the sterile GT5 cannot get close to. The range of cars available to drive includes all of the GT1 cars and with the exception of Ferrari, all of the GT3 cars as well. In addition to these race cars, there is a good selection of cars available from the Golf GTi through to the new Pagani Huayra, and all of these cars can be race modified if desired.

The cars all feature high quality interior views (take note GT5) and multiple pre-defined liveries that you can choose from. Unfortunately the in game editor that is supposed to enable you to create your own custom liveries, in much the same way as the Forza series does on the XBOX, is frankly unusable, as was the case in the original Shift.

One of the hyped features of Shift 2 was the helmet camera, which was designed to provide a more immersive driving experience. It is a nice idea and well executed, but the amount of movement as you accelerate and brake becomes tiring after a short period of time, so I much prefer to stick with the standard in car view.

Once you turn off the annoying American announcer the sounds are generally very impressive, and each car has distinct engine sound (take note of that again GT5), even if there is too much transmission whine, especially in the road cars.

Early in the game where you are racing road cars like the Golf GTi on tight street courses the AI drivers have a tendency to regularly drive into you from behind in the braking areas, which can be very frustrating. I’m not sure if this was a result of the patches or a combination of the class / tracks that I have been racing on more recently, however this issue appears to have gone away. In fact I have driven several close races in the GT3 class against the AI drivers where they have been very clean. I was also impressed to see them moving off line to defend the inside line into the braking zones for hairpin corners.

But its not all good new, unfortunately as there are a few fundamental issues with Shift 2, even after the release of two patches for the game in 2011. Firstly, it appears that the game was designed to be played on a console with a joypad, and not a PC with a steering wheel. As a result the handling of the cars is inconsistent at best, and for some like the Lotus Exige the car is almost undriveable. By adjusting the suspension settings in the game some of these handling issues can be reduced, but the game should not have been released with cars that handle so badly with the default setups.

The two other main issues are the gravel traps and magnetic attraction to other cars. If you so much as put a wheel wide into a gravel trap the car is unrealistically and violently sucked in, irrespective of the amount of steering lock applied. Similarly if you make contact with another car, the two cars become locked together and there is very little you can do as both cars head towards the nearest barrier.

Overall Shift 2 has the feel of a great game that was rushed, not finished or probably both. For example, it was discovered that Shift 2 has 5 hidden cars (Alfa Romeo 8C Spider, Aston Martin DBS Volante, Audi R8 Spyder, Koenigsegg Agera and Pagani Cinque Roadster) already in the game that were intended to be part of a 3rd Down Loadable Content (DLC) pack. Unfortunately, following an announcement by EA Games on 3rd July 2011 that development and support for Shift 2 had come to an end, it looks as though these cars will never be available to drive in the game.

However, all is not lost thanks to the enterprising modders out there in the sim racing community. While surfing the NoGripRacing forum I came across the “Unofficial Community Patch” which has dramatically improved my enjoyment of this game. The handling of the cars when using a steering wheel has been significantly improved. Apparently the location of the fuel tank was in some cases up to 2m behind the rear of the car, and as you can imaging this would have a detrimental effect on the cars handling.

Similarly the quick sand nature of the gravel traps and magnetic effect of making contact with other cars have both been reduced, but not eliminated. This patch also added several new levels to the career structure that enables the player to unlock the cars that would have been available as part of the 3rd DLC pack.

With the PC version of the game it is also possible to create your own custom liveries in PhotoShop and import them into the game, thus circumventing the terrible in game livery editor. Creating a realistic livery takes time and the import process is far from straight forward, however I have successfully created several custom liveries and published a step-by-step guide to help others in creating their own custom liveries on the NoGripRacing forum.

So where does that leave Shift 2, well the various community mods have transformed an unfinished game into one that is highly enjoyable and one that has provided some of my best sim racing experiences. So if you have a PC that is powerful enough to run the game with the graphics maxed out, a steering wheel and pedals, and you are happy to install some community mods to improve the game, then Shift 2 comes highly recommended.

If you would like to see what SMS can do when they are able to create a game that is designed from the ground up to be played on a PC with a steering wheel (and without the interface of a major studio), take a look at projectCARS which is currently in development and is expected to be released in late 2012 or early 2013. I have already invested in this community supported initiative and will share my thoughts on the game as it progressed over the next 12-18 months in future posts.

Related links:

Senna Movie

Growing up and watching Formula 1 on a Sunday afternoon, Ayton Senna was always my favourite driver. The amazing qualifying laps, the dramatic wheel to wheel racing, the multiple race and championship wins. He really stood out as the leading driver of his generation, and the image of him in the red and white McLaren wining the Monaco Grand Prix is how I will always remember him.

However, the movie that carries his name is not a Hollywood dramatisation, but a 106 minute documentary carefully assembled from over 5,000 hours of archival footage by director Asif Kapadia, together with editors Gregers Sall and Chris King.

For many the 1980s/1990s were one of the real high points for Formula 1. The cars were extremely powerful (reports of 1,000BHP in qualifying trim), but with more basic aerodynamics and larger tyres they had a greater dependence on mechanical grip, meaning the cars could race more closely than is the case with modern F1 cars.

There were also some great drivers in Formula 1 at that time including Prost, Mansell, Alesi and Beger. For me Senna was the stand out driver of his generation, exhibiting an almost super human talent behind the wheel, which made is death live on Sunday afternoon television all the more shocking. It is a strange feeling walking into a cinema to watch a film about your childhood hero knowing that it is going to end in his death. At the same time I was excited to see and hear these classic Formula 1 cars on a large cinema screen, to see if it recaptured the excitement and lived up to my memories.

Other than a few YouTube video clips I have not watched any F1 races from the late 80s and early 90s for over a decade, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of picture quality. Clearly scaling up the footage from a TV broadcast and projecting it onto a cinema screen was going to lead to compromises, but I was unprepared for how poor some the video sequences looked. I guess watching the races on a 21” CRT television can hide a lot of picture inadequacies, and when you have not seen a high definition broadcast on a modern plasma screen, you don’t really have a frame of reference to compare with. That being said you soon get used to the visual presentation and get drawn into the story.

The film follows Senna from the point at which he starts his Formula 1 career to the point of his death at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. What surprised me the most was how amateur the races, circuits and safety precautions looked. Some of the circuits looked like minor roads though a park rather than a Formula one race track. The level of danger was extremely high, and in one shocking crash involving Martin Donnelly the car disintegrated around him and he was left lying motionless in the middle of the track.

As you would expect there were several great on track action sequences showing Senna doing what he did best. Driving a Formula 1 car at and in many cases beyond its limits. But for me I left feeling short-changed by the race footage. I could easily have watched another hour of Senna’s best qualifying laps, races and overtaking manoeuvres. Hopefully the director will include plenty of additional footage on the Blu-ray of the movie when it is released later in the year.

But for me it was the behind the scenes footage that were the most revealing. In particular the sequence showing the discussions and arguments that took place in the drivers briefing before the race was very insightful. If you think the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone are bordering on corrupt in the way in which they run Formula 1 today, then very little other than the huge sums of money involved has changed in the last twenty years.

The film concluded with Senna’s death at San Marino Grand Prix in 1994 and the state funeral in São Paulo, Brazil which was handled with sensitivity and respect.

This is a great film, and one which resonates for the average viewer as well as the true Formula 1 fan. However, I left the cinema wanting more, I could easily have watched another hour of footage documenting how Senna progressed from karts through the junior series into Formula 1. Similarly there were so many great races and victories that were absent, the 1993 European Grand Prix at Donnington which took place in the torrential rain for example, that it is easy for the true Senna and Formula 1 fan to feel short changed.

Overall watching this movie was a fascinating and at times highly emotional experience, and the film certainly deserves the praise it has received from critics and fans alike. The archive footage showcased Senna’s talent behind the wheel and the behind the scenes sequences provided a never before seen insight into the world of Formula 1, I just wish there had been more of it.

Related links:

Porsche 911 GT3 RS

GT3 RS

Until last year I was not really a fan of the Porsche 911, which I guess in part comes from living in central London and seeing lots of them on the road every day. With most of these cars having been purchased as status symbols rather than for their performance and handling. However, after driving a 911 (997.2) Turbo back to back with 5 other supercars on the public roads last year, it became very apparent why the Porsche 911 is held in such high esteem as a driver’s car.

The 911 Turbo was extremely quick and with its four wheel drive system had great traction, even in the wet when I drove it. However, I was keen to try the lighter and more track focused 911 GT3 RS at the Porsche Experience Centre which is located within the Silverstone circuit in Northampton.

Externally the GT3 RS is easy to distinguish from the lesser models in the 911 line up. It sits closer to the ground on lowered suspension, has an imposing front splitter, uses the wider Carrera 4 body shell, with extended front wheel arches, a huge carbon fibre rear wing, bucket seats and half a roll cage where the rear seats would normally be located.

GT3 RS

The GT3 RS was fitted with a 3.8 litre flat six engine which develops 444 bhp. This might be the most lightweight track focused 911, but it still weighs a not insubstantial 1370kg. The GT3 RS was available in white, grey or blue with a choice of contrasting red or gold wheels and stickers, which means the GT3 RS stands out, even in a car park full of high performance cars.

Sitting in the GT3 RS for the first time it is immediately obvious how low the car is to the ground, and how low the bucket seats are mounted. At 5′ 10″ I could only just see over the alcantara wrapped steering wheel. The thinly padded carbon fibre seats have a fixed back and only adjust forward/backward with a manual lever, but were surprisingly comfortable and held you securely without being overly tight or restrictive.

Pulling away for the first time I depressed the heavy clutch pedal, slotted the short alcantara covered gearstick into first and gently increased the revs. The heavy clutch certainly requires a strong left leg when changing gear, but it was actually relatively easy to set off without stalling or using excessive revs, and to make a smooth gear change once the car is rolling. The brake pedal is almost solid meaning that it’s the force that’s applied to the pedal and not the distance you press the pedal which determines how strongly the brakes pads are forced against the ceramic discs.

Porsche Centre Silverstone

The Porsche Experience Centre at the Silverstone circuit includes four areas (Handling Circuit, Kick Plate, Ice Hill and Low Friction) where you can explore the performance and handling of the car. I began with the Handling Circuit, which resembles a challenging country road with a variety of cambers, blind corners and elevation changes to test the car and driver. My driving consultant Neil asked me to drive 4 or 5 laps so that he could assess my driving technique and lines around the circuit.

It didn’t take more than a lap to appreciate why the GT3 RS won EVO magazines Car of the Year (CotY) in 2010. The whole car feels so tightly screwed together and there’s not a millimetre of imprecision in any of the controls. I guess that’s German engineering for you. The steering is razor sharp with the sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres generating huge levels of grip and enabling you to position the car accurately on the road, but also giving plenty of feedback as the road surface or camber changed. With the suspension on the softer of the two PASM settings the ride quality was very good, and you could certainly use the car every day.

Having completed 5 laps Neil asked me to return to the holding area so that he could give me some feedback on my driving. Neil said that my lines were good but that I was braking too hard and over too short a distance. He advised that I needed to brake over a longer distance and be smoother coming onto and off the brakes in order to manage the weight transition. After another 5 laps of the Handling Circuit I was beginning to improve my braking and the both my driving and the car became much smoother and more progressive. The tight and twisty nature of the Handling Circuit didn’t provide a great opportunity to experience the high speed performance of the GT3 RS, but accelerating hard out of the corners it was apparent that the 3.8 litre engine was not lacking in power or noise.

GT3 RS

Neil and I then moved onto the Kick Plate, which effectively simulates a large area of sheet ice with a “Kick Plate” that puts the car into a slide as you drive over it and onto the surface. On my first attempt at about 15 MPH I managed to catch the slide, but as we increased the speed to around 25 MPH I had a few dramatic spins as I struggled to control the car. However, on my final attempt I managed to catch the spin, not an easy skill to master and shows that even a small increase in speed can significantly reduce the changes of a driver correcting a spin in poor weather.

Next it was the Ice Hill, a 7% gradient decent with a slippery surface covered by a constant flow of running water just for good measure. The challenge was to get to the bottom of the hill, steering around the jets of waters shooting up vertically from the road surface without skidding. On my first attempt with the traction control switched on, I simply steered around the two obstacles without any drama. Given how good the traction control and stability controls are on modern Porsches you either need to be a incompetent driver or driving at excessive speeds to get into trouble on the public roads.

On the second run with the traction control switched off I got half way down the slope before I spun negotiating the second obstacle. Neil explained that the correct technique was to make very small steering inputs before returning the steering to the straight ahead position. This felt very strange, but was very effective and I easily made it to the bottom of the hill on my next attempt without spinning.

The final area I explored was the Low Friction track, where the objective was to provoke the car into a controlled power slide. A series of corners had been specially polished to reduce the level of grip making it easier to slide the car. However, in a car with as much rear end traction as the GT3 RS it required a hard application of the throttle in first gear to unstick the rear tyres, even with the traction control switched off. For me this was probably the most challenging of the four areas, and trying to provoke the GT3 RS into a controlled power slide was a difficult technique to master. However, after a couple of unsuccessful attempts I managed a couple of respectable power slides, but a lot more practice is required to perfect my drifting skills.

GT3 RS

Overall my 90 minutes in the GT3 RS at the Porsche Experience Centre had been great fun and had given me the opportunity to drive the car in a number of extreme situations that a regular dealer test drive could never hope to match. It’s an expensive activity, but one which I would highly recommend to anyone thinking of purchasing a Porsche as it provides a great insight to the performance, handling and capabilities of the vehicle.

And so to the Porsche 911 GT3 RS itself. The term “Racecar for the Road” is used all too frequently, but I cannot think of any car which deserves this badge more that the GT3 RS. It is a serious driver’s car that needs to be driven well to get the most out of it, but rewards hugely when you do. For me it is the polar opposite of the Nissan GTR that I drove a couple of months ago. The GT3 RS makes you work hard on your driving technique and every mistake is immediately amplified. Whereas the GTR feels like it is doing all the work for you, with its computers cover up any driving errors.

I think I have found my next car when the time comes to upgrade from my VW Golf R32 Mk4. So the saving starts here, both for the car and the Porsche driving course as I improve my technique to make the most of the car’s performance on the road and on the track. But which colour combination to go for?

Related links:

Nissan GTR

GTR - Front

Since being released in Japan during December 2007 and in the UK in the March of 2009, the Nissan GTR has become a performance icon. It’s a practical four seat saloon car that with a claimed time of 7:26 can lap the Nürburgring circuit faster than a Porsche Carrera GT, Ferrari 458 Italia or Lamborghini Murciélago LP670-4 SV. Its profile was raised still further when it was featured on TopGear in a spectacular race where Jeremy driving the GTR raced across Japan against James and Richard on the Bullet train.

The GTR has often been described as “the car of the PlayStation generation”, and this is certainly pertinent, as many gamers discovered the GTRs predecessor, the Nissan Skyline GTR as part of the Gran Turismo series of games. Appropriately the team from Polyphony Digital who created Gran Turismo helped to design the GTR’s multifunction display, which can be configured to provide the driver with information on engine temperatures, oil pressure, cornering g-force, lap times etc.

GTR - Badge

When this, the face lifted and even more powerful 2011 model was delivered, the first thing that struck me was how large, and in particular how wide the GTR is. Photographs do not give an accurate impression of the sheer scale of this car, it’s certainly not lacking in road presence. Other than an increase in horsepower from 480 bhp to 530 bhp from the 3.8L twin-turbo V6 engine, the other 2011 enhancements include lighter wheels, day time running lights at the front, a redesigned rear diffuser and the option of dark blue paint. Unfortunately, the GTR is no longer the performance bargain it was when first released in 2009, as these enhancements also come with a price rise of almost £10K, making the list price for a new 2011 model GTR £69,950.

GTR - Rear

Inside, the GTR has an interior that is almost a match for its rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Unlike many previous Japanese performance cars, a low quality interior is no longer a valid reason for choosing one of its German competitors. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and the dash is clearly laid out with a large centrally positioned rev counter. I was rather surprised to see that the speedo went all the way to 220. Initially I thought that this was kmph, but no it was actually mph. Therefore, when doing 70 mph on the motorway the needle is only one third of the way around the dial. General visibility is good, with the exception of a huge blind spot over the driver’s right-hand shoulder. The sharply sloping roofline and small rear window ensure that the driver will need to be extra careful when joining the motorway or changing lanes. However, with 530 bhp on tap and a 0-60 time of 3.4 seconds, the driver is going to spend most of his or her time with their eyes fixed on the road ahead.

Like most current high performance cars the GTR comes with a paddle shift gearbox, and unfortunately a manual option is not available. At slow speeds the gearbox is clunky and there is significant transmission shut as it changes between gears. If left in automatic mode the GTR is very refined and has already up shifted to 6th gear by around 50 mph, in a futile effort to deliver some level of economy. A swift stab of the accelerator will see the GTR drop a couple of gears in an instant and launch itself towards the horizon. But for real driving thrills the sequential paddle shift is the only way to go. This gives the driver much greater control of the car’s performance, and although still not as much as a proper manual gearbox, it enables you to bring the car alive, extracting much more of the colossal performance that you know is under the bonnet.

GTR - Interior

Once on the move the car appears to shrink around you, but there is no getting away from the fact that this is a large car, particularly on narrow A and B roads, where you are always very aware of the width of the GTR. With 15″ (380 mm) disc combined with Brembo 6-piston front and 4-piston rear callipers, the brakes are as you would expect phenomenal for a road car. And this is just as well because at over 1,700 kg the GTR is no feather weight like a Lotus Elise. Like the width, you are always conscious of the GTR’s weight, especially when braking from high speed or making quick direction changes.

The engine sounds very technical, and you can hear the twin turbo chargers sucking air into the engine when accelerating hard. However, the GTR sounds quiet and refined from the inside, without any roar to back up the huge performance. I suspect that this is largely down to bureaucratic noise regulations, but for me this as one of the big disappointments with the GTR, especially when you see the two pairs of huge exhausts that leaves following drivers in no doubt that this is a serious performance car. However, I’m sure that a trip to a performance exhaust specialist like Milltek Sport would easily (if not cheaply) rectify this issue, but it really should sound better when it comes from the factory.

GTR - Side

The GTR is an awesome car, the performance is breathtaking, the grip and handling are brilliant, and of all the cars I have driven, none has generated as much interest and attention. At huge speeds on the German autobahn this car would be unbeatable, but in the UK on normal roads, the experience lacks any real driver involvement at legal speeds. This is where the PlayStation references comes back to bite the GTR. It is almost too good for the public roads, and this makes the driving experience rather unsatisfying, especially combined with the unwieldy width and hefty weight.

So would I buy a Nissan GTR? Well the answer is, it depends. If you are looking for a saloon car with four seats that you can drive every day and would normally have considered an Audi RS4/RS6 or BMW M3/M5, then I would go for the GTR, no question about it. But if I was looking for a second car in which to tap into my inner racing driver for a Sunday morning blast or an occasional trackday, then I think I would look elsewhere for a lighter, more compact and more involving car. Something like the Porsche 911 GT3 RS that I am due to test drive in the next couple of months perhaps.

Related links:

Split Second (PS3)

Split Second is a racing game from Black Rock Studio which is very much in the spirit of the Burnout and Need for Speed series of games. However, what makes Split Second unique is the highly destructible environments that can be used to wreck your opponents or completely change the circuit opening up new routes and short cuts.

As you slipstream other cars, jump and drift around corners you build up power which can be used to trigger “Power Play” events. These range from blowing up a petrol tanker parked on the edge of the track and dropping bombs from helicopters hovering over the track to crashing a 747 jumbo jet onto the runway or blowing up a hydro-electric dam. I was initially worried that these large set pieces might become repetitive and lose their impact, but as they are not that easy to unlock this has not been the case so far.

Most driving games clutter the screen with a Heads-Up-Display (HUD) that includes a rev counter, speed, lap times and track map. However, Split Second displays only the minimum on screen information, and this is positioned directly behind your car. This enables you to enjoy the full visual spender of the graphics, and it certainly looks stunning. Although, it must be said that the graphics were initially a bit of a disappointment based on the original rendered previews, but once you start playing everything moves at such a fast pace this doesn’t impact the enjoyment of the game.

Unlike GT5 and the Need for Speed series of games Split Second does not feature licensed cars. However, it is clear that many of the cars in the game have been “inspired” by current production vehicles including the Nissan GTR, Ferrari F430 and Bugatti Veyron. A good example is the Cobretti Vortex which looks rather similar to a Lamborghini Gallardo in my opinion.

The core of the single player mode is based around participating in 12 seasons of a television show. If you are thinking of “The Running Man” movie starring Arnold Swarchenegger or “The Killing Game Show” video game by Psygnosis on the Amiga 500, you will get the idea. In addition to the standard races where you incrementally unlock faster cars and more challenging circuits, Split Second also features a number of unusual games modes.

These include “Elimination” where the last car is eliminated at periodic intervals during the race until only the leader is left, “Air Attack” where you have to dodge missiles being fired at you from a helicopter gunship, and “Survival” where you have to overtake trucks which are dropping explosive canisters on the road in front of you. These additional modes provide some variation to the game play and can be a fun diversion from the full on racing.

Unfortunately, there are two faults with Split Second. For some unexplainable reason the developers have decided that you can only use the right should button as the accelerator. This is fine for a short period of time, but after an extended session this can become tiring. And its not as though Split Second is at the more simulation end of the spectrum like GT5, where the extra proportional control of the shoulder button might have come in useful. To make matters worse, there isn’t even an option to change the button mapping so that you can use the “X” button as the accelerator, as has been the norm since Ridge Racer was the launch game on the original PlayStation in 1994.

Secondly there is the Down Loadable Content (DLC). If you can’t be bothered, or don’t have the skill to complete the game in single player mode and unlock all the cars, tracks and modes, you can simply buy the “Time Savers” DLC pack with them all in. I call this cheating! The developers have subsequently made a couple of other DLC packs available that include an extra track or car and additional game play modes. However, these were seriously over priced for what the offered over the original game.

Not with standing these two issues, Split Second is one of the fastest, most visually stunning and enjoyable racing game I have played in a long time, and comes highly recommended if you are in need of some exciting arcade racing thrills.

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RAUH-Welt Natty Dread

I should probably start this post by stating that I am not a huge fan of the “Max Power” style of modified cars where someone has spent £20K modifying a Citroen Saxo or Renault Clio. However, while browsing the SpeedHunters website I came across what I consider not only to be the best modified car I have ever seen, but the best looking Porsche full stop.

RAUH-Welt is a specialist Porsche body shop owned by Nakai-san and which is based in the Chiba prefecture of Japan. The signature details of the cars created by Nakai-san and his small team are extreme body kits, matt black paint and SSR SP1 wheels custom painted with a satin bronze finish. The phrase “racecar for the road” has never been more appropriate.

The 993 model which is featured in this post is a customer car called “Natty Dread”, the model of Porsche that is for me is the best looking 911 to date, although the current 997 model comes a close second. Nakai-san’s personal car, a 930 model is called “Stella Artois” after his favorite beer, of which there is always a well stocked fridge in his workshop.

For more details on RAUH-Welt and the Natty Dread please see the full article on the SpeedHunters website. If I win the lottery this weekend, I’m buying a 997 Turbo and having it shipped out to Japan for Nakai-san to work his magic on it.

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