Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, November 16, 2006




Funnyman and Tonight Show host Jay Leno doesn't seem like he has much to do with cars much les building supercars. That is until you find out he is a certified petrolhead with a vast collection of multi-million dollar rarities, coach-built exotics, and custom one-offs, including a tank-powered 30s style roadster amongst other things. So it's small wonder that he has something to do developing an outrageous GM concept supercar.

The EcoJet started out life as a simple idea in a conversation between Leno and his chief mechanic, Bernard Juchli. Very quickly, this idea snowballed into something Leno actually wanted to go through with. Starting with a simple sketch on a napkin, Leno went to GM to get some help. The comedian worked with GMs VP of global design, Ed Welburn, who took the sketch and transformed it into a real car at GMs Californian design studio.

"A couple of paper napkins later, Ed had begun to capture the essence of the car," said Leno. "I've admired the work of GM's Design Studio in North Hollywood, California, and asked Ed if the studio's director, Frank Saucedo, and his guys could continue the design study."

Inspiration for the exterior of the car came from a variety of different vehicles. The pres blurb tells us that it draws design cues from Formula 1 vehicles as well as jet fighters. Yeah right. We would say it took hints from the current edge styling of Cadillacs with a lot of help from Mister Straight Ruler. Not bad though.

What makes this car interesting and different form others is that it has a non conventional turbine engine. Although the EcoJet isn't the first turbine-powered concept car that GM has built. As futuristic as it is to have this kind of motor power a car, its not the first of its type. Back in 50s and 60s, GM (and other manufacturers) toyed with the idea of turbines to power its cars, and showed the result of its findings in the 1966 Toronado concept, as well as the Firebird I, II and III. During that time frame, concept vehicles were much more radical, daring and just about as innovative as their designers were creative.

The engine found here is the LT-101, an engine normally used to power helicopters rather than cars. Instead of cylinders, the engine has blades, and instead of kerosene (what turbines generally run on), it runs on biodiesel. This particular version develops 650 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque, which should give it plenty of forward thrust, but the fuel consumption is debatable, even if it does run on biodiesel. But the most significant aspect is that biodisel is a cheap and a clean burning fuel unlike fossil fuels.

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel that can be manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant greases. It is also safe, biodegradable, and reduces serious air pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and air toxics. Now ain't that cool?

The Ecojet engine is mounted behind the cabin on a modified version of the Corvette platform. The chassis is made from hydroformed aluminum and magnesium, while the angular body is made of composite Kevlar for light weight and strength.

Performance figures are not available because so far we couldn't find any info on it being tested. But the specs suggest an easily attainable 0-100 kmph of under 4 seconds. Top speed should be stratospheric. Just don't' start expecting a production version.

Vehicle description: mid-engine, turbine-powered, two-seat supercar
Wheelbase: 2795mm
Engine: Honeywell LT-101
Max power: 485kW
Max torque: 542Nm
Fuel type: bio-diesel
Wheels: 20x10-inch front; 22x12-inch rear
Tyres: 255/35R20 front; 305/30R22 rear
Track: 1698mm front; 1692mm rear
Length: 4674mm
Width: 2024mm
Height: 1180mm

The Ecojet was unveiled at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.

When I sat down to watch this movie I couldn't help stop thiking of Madagascar. This was a clone. And clones are not good. There was the same premise. A zoon full of animals including a lion who roars a lot and his assorted friends whom he should eat in a normal world. For example there was a cutesy giraffe, a cutesier koala, a squirrel and an addlebrained snake that shold eat the squirrel, accidentally even. And of course they break out and go across the sea in a grand adventure. But like they tell you in school, never judge a DVD movie by its similarity with another DVD movie cover.

The plot:
Little Ryan (voice by Greg Cipes), the lion cub is the apple of his fathers eyes. So what if in reality papa lions would just as well eat their offspring? Here, Ryan is al cutesy but he is yet to discover his 'roar'. It's a rite of passage similar to human male children first discovering how to belch loudly. Ryan manages a cat like growl that is quite far removed from a growl. For a lion that's disgraceful. He is a laughing stock at the zoo despite how much his father and friends try to say that his roar has improved by an octave.

After a tiff with his father he wanders off and gets into a shipping container that is being taken to Africa. His horrified father Samson (Kiefer Sutherland) races off to save him and ends up chasing Ryan's ship all the way to Africa on a tugboat that gets very good mileage. Along for the ride are pre-mentioned zoo friends as Benny the Squirrel (James Belushi), Bridget the Giraffe (Janeane Garofalo), Nigel the Koala (Eddie Izzard) and Larry the Anaconda (Richard Kind).

Benny is in love with Bridget, not realizing he is a squirrel and she is not. But they do make a cute couple. The cast continues to grow on the journey through New York where they encounter a couple of alligators in the sewer system. In Africa, they meet other characters, including the undercover chameleons Cloak and Camo (Bob Joles and Chris Edgerly) who help disguise them for covert operations. And then there the earth the dreaded Kazar (William Shatner), who is king of the wildebeests. Through some delusion he thinks he can be king of the jungle only if he defeats a lion. And that means also eating a lion. Yes, he wants to become a carnivour. Samson has to face him to save his friends but unfortunately he is not quite the ferocious lion form the wild that everybody would like to believe. So did I tell you the whole story. Not in the least. It's less about the plot and more about how it gets there. And of course the one terribly puzzlig question, what does Samson eat throughout the journey? In the zoo, he gets steak on a motorized tray.

The verdict:
The movie has a lot more action than “Ice Age" or “Madagascar”. And there are few if hardly any references to pop culture making this yet another movie with refreshing new punch lines. Here, the characters do all the storytelling. They are the props, they are the plot and they are everything.

The technical aspect of the movie was so good that it was uncannily realistic. The characters lip-synching was too good making their mouths move precisely in time with their words. The visuals were also top notch taken another notch higher. Just look at the fur on the animals and you will see what I mean. As god as it looks just maybe 'cartoons' need to look a little unpolished and shiny.

It's a great movie for children and the children within the adults. No doubt fun and a barrel of laughs. Watch the squirrel coz he steals the show with his tries at stealing the lady giraffes heart. The plot is great focusing on the high value placed on relationship and love(not necessarily the amorous kind). Just leave aside the scepticism at the beginning as it looks familiar to Madagascar.

Tech info
Minimum System Requirements
System: 2.4 GHz Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent processor or equivalent
RAM: 512 MB
Hard Drive Space: 6500 MB
Other: ATI Radeon 9800 or NVIDIA GeForce 6600 or higher
Recommended System Requirements
System: 3.0 GHz Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent processor or equivalent
RAM: 1024 MB
Hard Drive Space: 6500 MB
Other: ATI Radeon X800 series, NVIDIA GeForce 6800 series or higher video card

The story
As great as the story is in Neverwinter Nights 2, it's difficult to convey without spoiling the plot; but suffice it to say that it will keep your interest throughout the entire campaign--which, at around 50 hours long, is no small feat. You begin the game by creating a character. You can choose a race, subrace, appearance, class, moral alignment, and even a voice for your hero. After you create your character, you are taken on a journey that will see you rise from your beginnings as a humble peasant to become one of the most respected and elite heroes of Neverwinter. It's a long journey that involves the awakening of an arcane and unstable evil power that only a chosen savior (guess who?) can banish. As cliché as it sounds, the story reaches far beyond the usual good-versus-evil plot. You'll get a heavy dose of political treachery; shattered, shifting, and solidified alliances; ethereal mysticism; dark secrets; and much, much more.

Decisions, decisions
If you are forced to make a decision and one of your party members tries to convince you to take a certain course of action, you can comply or simply tell her to keep quiet. Either way, your influence over that person will be affected. It isn't much of an issue at first, but repeatedly going against an ally's wishes can eventually turn him or her against you. The interactive dialogue is well written and so engaging that you'll probably want to save your game often, so you can reload and repeat conversations just to see what will happen if you choose your words differently.

Skills and deals
Even though you create a character who serves as the central hero for the tale, there's a great and varied cast of supporting characters who will join you along the way. You can have up to three supporting characters in your party, in addition to the occasional non-player or special character who will tag along with you. With a quick click you can take direct control over any of your party members at any time (as long as they're conscious), which adds some welcome variety to the single-player experience because you aren't pigeonholed into playing a single class for the entire game. By creating a well-rounded party of casters, fighters, rogues, and rangers, you'll have access to a huge array of skills and abilities.

For the most part you'll use those skills and abilities to combat all kinds of monsters, people, spirits, and animals that always seem to get in your way. The combat takes place in real time, but you have the option to pause the game and assign up to five successive actions to each of your characters. Then it's just a matter of hitting the space bar to unpause the game and watching your characters go to work. The most frequent battles don't usually require that level of management, though, because you'll almost always come out on top by just rushing into a mob of enemies and letting the artificial intelligence do the work.

Stupid AI
If you do happen to lose all your health you'll be temporarily knocked out (despite the cobwebbed corpse icon that replaces your character portrait). Unfortunately, the AI in Neverwinter Nights 2 isn't always reliable. If you're in an open area you can usually count on your companions to stick by you and back you up in a fight, but when you're exploring the narrow hallways and labyrinthine corridors of the games' numerous, sprawling dungeons, your characters will sometimes get lost or stuck, or will just freeze up for no apparent reason.

In addition to experience points, you'll collect copious amounts of treasure that you can use or sell for gold. Since your weapons and armor greatly affect your stats and performance in battle, you'll always be on the lookout for new and exotic treasures that will help you squeeze a little bit more damage out of each blow you land on your enemies.

Like Dungeons & Dragons, Neverwinter Nights 2 emphasizes multiplayer interaction and creative development. You can play the game online or on a local network with up to three other players. The single-player campaign is available to play cooperatively, although you'll need to start from the beginning because you can't add new players into an existing single-player game. You can set options such as a level cap, item restrictions, and whether or not to allow players to damage each other.

Create your campaign
If you've had enough of the main story campaign, you can create your own and share them online. Included with Neverwinter Nights 2 is an editor program so robust that it's seemingly limited only by Your own imagination. It will take a good deal of time and effort to start building your dream campaign, but the possibilities are there if you're determined and moderately savvy with similar software.

Most of the shortcomings of Neverwinter Nights 2 are technical in nature. First off, the game has some fairly steep system requirements, but that horsepower won't get you much. Even on a system that exceeds the recommended specs, with all of the options maxed out, there are some rough spots that make this game look dated. In some of the dialogue sequences the view switches to a zoomed-in, letterbox perspective. It's a nice effect that makes the cutscenes a bit more dramatic than small text windows, but getting in that close also reveals some blurry, low-resolution textures, jerky character animations, and frequent clipping. The game doesn't look bad by any means, and some of the level designs are genuinely interesting and fun to explore.

This game sounds much better than it looks. There's a ton of voiced dialogue in the game, and although some of the voices are annoying, all of the main characters sound great, and their respective voices lend each one a lot of personality. From the sinister-sounding evil wizard to the feisty young demon girl, the voices all sound appropriate and fitting. The music is excellent, with dramatic orchestrated tracks that sound as if they could be taken right from a big-budget Hollywood film. The music does a great job of setting an appropriately grandiose and bombastic backdrop for your adventure, without being overwhelming.

The verdict
If you're willing to look past a few relatively minor technical issues, you'll have a great time exploring the world of Neverwinter Nights 2. The excellent story, characters, and quests will appeal to your sense of adventure without getting overly convoluted. The many paths you can take through the lengthy single-player campaign are enough to make this game worth your money, but when you factor in the multiplayer and the editing tools you'll find that Neverwinter Nights 2 is a fantastic value and a thoroughly enjoyable game.


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

© 2006 The Daily Star