Crysis 3 out for an easy Prophet
Welcome back to New York. This time covered in shrubbery and once more featuring a Nanosuit-clad super soldier, though now sporting a bow and arrow – something of a theme this month.
The cynical ones out there - you know who you are - might say that Crysis 3’s release confirms Crytek’s milking of its existing CryEngine 3 engine for all its worth. That’s before CryEngine 4 emerges on next-generation systems with the inevitably of night following day.
Boom, boom, shake, as they say, the room
If I’m being overly harsh it’s because this is a growing issue. The likes of God of War: Ascension, Gears of War: Judgement and quite possibly Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag all following suit. The major publishing houses each looking to squeeze just one more game out of their existing setups before the licensed technology gets usurped by the next evolution in game design.
Owners of ninja PCs will no doubt scoff and claim that their machines are already next generation, and they might well be right. But does it mean that just because your game looks like the canines gonads you’re not also deserving of a new experience?
As I’ve alluded to already in my PS4 announcement breakdown, there’s little to be wholly enthusiastic about when charged with playing through almost identical situations as before. And here you’re asked to pay full whack for the privilege too.
'Hair are your aerials to the cosmos. This is why bald-headed men are so up tight'
For what it’s worth Crysis 3 does offer a perfectly adequate contemporary shooter action, with a decent mix of interior and exterior sections. There’s also a quite lovely unveiling of the overgrown New York City in which you’ll while away the hours.
The returning hero, Prophet, feels like a real force too. His Nanosuit’s armour and cloaking modes adding tactical layers to encounters as before. Even if the bow and arrow, a weapon Prophet can fire yet still remain cloaked, feels like the unnecessary addition of a studio clutching at straws.
However, the feeling that nothing has progressed is hard to shake, with the game relying on all the same mechanics of cover, energy recharge and enemy AI as previously. As an add-on to Crysis 2 this might have passed muster. As a full-on sequel, however, there is simply not enough new material to recommend purchase.
Tomb Raider reboot leaves Lara at odds with herself
The Tomb Raider reboot throws a younger Miss Croft onto a mysterious island straight out of Lost - then proceeds to get her all dirty as she wades through mud, blood and God knows what else in a bid to survive.
Crystal Dynamics clearly had one eye on Uncharted during production – Lara’s adventure borrowing much of the climbing and platforming approaches that Naughty Dog perfected during the crafting of its masterpiece. Where Tomb Raider ups the ante, however, is in its camera angles: close-ups and tracking cameras infuse a sense of claustrophobia as Lara squeezes through gaps and evades the island’s unfriendly locals.
In tight space no one can hear you squeeze
The general flow improves upon Uncharted too. Lara’s shifting environment ensures that she’s forced to move ever onwards by distinct changes of pace. One minute she’s balancing on a bridge, say, before the next sends her plunging down a waterfall – the action ratcheting up from walking speed to full-on sprint in a beat.
So far so good. The problem comes when Lara starts to encounter enemies on a regular basis. As you play she’ll soon come into possession of the standard tools for killing: a bow, firearms and even a hand axe for those close encounters. But it’s how the combat is implemented that holds her adventure back from greatness.
Next page: Stick it up your Janus
Re: A few comments
Ironclad said: "Plus joypads suck, keyboards and mice for teh win."
This is the key, and belongs up top, way ahead of clock speeds, cores, or polygon capacity. The 'console' as we know it is defined by a painfully 'low-bandwidth' user interface, the ubiquitous gamepad. This feeble device is the chief constraint on console gaming. It offers basic four-way directional control, and a minimal number of buttons, thereby severely restricting the human-game interaction. Witness the Sony PS4 launch, where we saw nearly photo-realistic characters jerking around like insanely detailed 3D versions of Pac-Man. Rendering just doesn't matter - there is simply no way the player can move their onscreen avatar with anything resembling real-life fluidity.
There's another point, equally important. Gamepads have the wrong TYPE of control. They control velocity, not position. Rotation, not angle. (It's a first-derivative thing, if you recall any high-school calculus). This is simply NOT the way humans think and move. When I turn to my friend, I'm rotating to THIS angle... not STARTING rotation, waiting, then STOPPING rotation. Similarly, if I aim a weapon, I don't START sweeping to the right, then STOP. I turn a few degrees right. I turn TO a given location, not AT a given rate.
Taken together, the limitations of the gamepad result in dumbed-down games. Good console games are built around those limitations, so players may not notice what's been done. But the richness and depth of a PC game like ArmA, or Flight Simulator, or Civilization, or even Battlefield, is simply not on the menu. (It's easy to think of other examples.)
Add the openness of the PC ecosystem, and the gap widens still further. The new 'social' features of the PS4 emphasize this gap, rather than narrowing it. Yes, you can press "Share." On the PC, you can connect to multiple services simultaneously. You can count on developers finding new ways to deliver games, sell games, tie games into resources that don't even exist yet. You can count on a 'mod' community inventing anything the developers miss. (And in turn spurring commercial development to new achievements.) This vibrant ecosystem will always produce faster evolution than a console monoculture.
To go back to the car analogy, it's more like the difference between a train and a helicopter. The train can switch tracks, at pre-determined points. It can go faster or slower. The helicopter can wander freely in three-space. The train is constrained by a cumbersome switching system, operated by a very limited number of corporate bodies. The helicopter can be privately owned, and hence upgraded or modified, taken 'off the grid,' to locations not served by the rail network.
Of course, even that strained comparison falls short of capturing the actual gulf we're talking about. A gulf that will continue to widen, given that the growing power of the PC will not be constrained by the human interface, while the advancing clock cycles of a PS4 or even PS5 will be increasingly wasted, as far as gameplay potential.
Re: A few comments
"In car terms both of them have (console / PC) have an engine which produces 500bhp. But the PC weighs in at 3 tonnes and only has rear wheel drive. The console weighs in at 1.7 tonnes and is 4 wheel drive. It's lighter and has more grip off the line (sorry I've been watching a lot of top gear lately)"
Ok, it's Friday and post lunch so I'll take that car analogy challenge and raise it some:
The PC can be fitted with superior cooling and then have the CPU and Graphics Card overclocked (Nitrous and Turbocharged), it can also be fitted with an SSD drive (slick tyres?) while the console has to be stock clocked or even underclocked in order to avoid overheating it's tiny box . So the PC is the drag racer, while the console is the production line machine. If you watched Top Gear a few weeks back when they drove around the U.S.A you'll know how that turned out.
Plus joypads suck, keyboards and mice for teh win.
FPS on a console (no keyboard and mouse) is like sex with the world's thickest condom.
Re: A few comments
Never tried Tomb Raider, but i'm curious.
As for MGR, I agree 110%. It may be a nice action game, but please don't name it Metal Gear.
Metal gear has always been an action/espionage game, not a glorified slash-em-up.
And it has NEVER EVER been a game of kill'em all. I managed to end Metal Gear Solid killing only the bosses. And MG3 without killing anyone.
So yeah, MGR is definitely not part of Metal Gear series.
Sad face, because that was me when i looked at MGR. I just thought "please, don't go that way. Please respect the fans... please please please please"
Re: A few comments
I'll confuse the issue somewhat by mentioning a genre of game where NEITHER a keyboard+mouse NOR a gamepad is the correct choice - the racing game. No, I don't mean one of the myriad knock-offs of Mario Kart (itself arguably a knock-off of F-Zero, but never mind that), but GT, Forza, Dirt, etc.
I have one of the XBox360 controllers-for-Windows (XBCFW), and while it's great for playing e.g. Portal 2 (for which I bought it), it sucks balls for playing Dirt 3. Why?
In Portal 2, I have access on the XBCFW to *all* the necessary controls for actual gameplay (save, load, and quit are not part of actual gameplay, so they don't have to be on the controller). The XBCFW suits the size and shape of my hands nicely, and Portal 2 exploits the force-feedback to e.g. make the controller kick in my hands as Chel completes a long jump. Yes, it's silly having to use a speed-by-deflection analogue stick to turn, but running with it is reasonable, because when running, you set a speed, not a position.
In Dirt 3, however, when using the XBCFW I have to steer with an analogue stick and accelerate / decelerate with analogue trigger buttons. That stick is now actually serving the purpose specified above by other commentators - X amount of deflection means X' amount of rate of steering or (for the trigger buttons) rate of movement/braking (a good thing). The end-to-end throw of an XBCFW analogue stick is less than an inch, and all the steering response must fit into that inch (a bad thing). Dirt 3 does have (buried in the advanced controls somewhere) linearity settings, but the steering is still extremely twitchy on centre. (That said, it's amusing to hear the navigator telling me to "Reste concentré" as I roll the car over and attempt to fell a tree with it, which is all too easy when racing with twitchy steering on gravel surfaces. Never have I heard a fellow occupant of a car with so much sang-froid.)
A wheel controller, on the other hand, is utterly useless for Portal 2 because it doesn't have enough axes fitted, and the movement model isn't suited to a steering wheel and foot pedals. Dirt 3, however, comes alive (even on the bottom-priced wheel I bought) because the input model (wheel, brake, accelerator) matches the input model for a real car, and that murderous twitchiness just vanishes because the wheel throws much further to each side than the stick does.