Here comes a controversial statement: FarCry 2 is a superior game to FarCry, Dunia is a better engine than either version of the CryEngine, and the CryEngine in its current form sucks. The CryEngine is pretty, really pretty, but it's structurally unsound. 3 years later, even with patches up the ass, it's a nightmare. Now, before you get so hotheaded to say I'm just a hater, CrySis and FarCry are good games and I'll admit the first time I saw them running on a good computer, I was impressed. But once you look under the hood, you'll find that CryTek decided to sweep all their duties as programmers and developers under the rug, hoping that the really pretty rug would distract people as they hastily jumped to the next gen iteration.
This affected both CrySis and FarCry as games and as engines. They are both poorly optomized, and both have gameplay flaws that become ever so obvious if you really look hard. Replaying FarCry, I had occasional fun but I was less than impressed. I remember my first time through, I was gawking as I shot people with a nice sounding gun but replaying it, I wasn't gawking and I was frequently finding the game poorly paced, confusing, and frustrating. Sure, I still had bursts of fun but it had really lost its luster. Yet I also replayed FarCry instints, I'm usually biased towards the PC, but I had more fun with FarCry Instincts. Why? I'll get to that a bit later in my rant.
I wasn't able to run CrySis at an acceptable framerate until recently. This is simple, for the longest time I was using a computer from the year 2004; coincidentally enough, I bought this particular machine in preparation for FarCry. I recently bought a top of the line computer about a month ago and it's a nifty machine, and I figured I'd finally play CrySis at more than 12 frames per second and at a resolution that doesn't make the game look like software rendering and the N64 graphics engine had a mutant child. Oddly enough, CrySis chugged despite being 3 years old and the fact that any other game I threw at it, even some supposedly demanding games, all run at a beautiful 60 fps.
My average framerate in CrySis on max was 26, but it seemed a little slower at times. Fine, I'll just lower the settings a bit. This worked, but I didn't see much difference. Out of curiosity I compared each setting, sure, low looked worse than very high or otherwise, but there wasn't much difference overall. Textures, polys, etc. didn't seem that changed. The characters pocked faces were the same, the foes still had the same high poly animations, and the draw distance didn't change. I will admit, I was 'meh' on the graphics overall, but maybe I missed the boat; not to say it looked bad, but save for some particle effects and impressive action scenes it seemed a little dated. The game itself was good fun though, it was superior to FarCry and it was good fun. But it still had design flaws carried over from the first game.
CryTek is a seriously talented bunch, so I have to ask the question, why do they just sweep all the bug testing, opotmization, etc. under a big, lush green covered rug?
So what's my problem in the games designs? They're all over the place, just like the engine. It was a unique idea to take a shooter and let each situation have various entries and exits and giving the player the ability to study their surrounding before heading in, but as novel as the idea was, it just didn't work. This made FarCry sometimes really confusing, adding to its already brutal difficulty. Speaking of which, does it ever explain Dr. Krieger's Binoculoxray Ocular Implants™? I know that's one of the most knocked aspects of the game, but it really does beg the question when a merc on low alert can find you hiding inside a big shack he's not even investigating and you haven't even made a peep inside the base since your arrival. This also led to odd pacing and a tendency to go off the beaten track, driving through a large and pretty countryside only to find out you were supposed to go 30 km the other way. Sometimes the game would be packed with action, others you'd be driving around the island wondering if you stepped into a tourism video.
FarCry Instincts improved upon this aspect by providing a more linear game, sure FarCry was pretty linear in the end, but UbiSoft made the beaten path a little more obvious and tightened the pacing, as well as loosened up the difficulty without making it feel like a cheap port. UbiSoft also made a good point with the CryEngine; that it can be used on multiple platforms. UbiSoft wanted CryTek to develop a port for the Xbox, and CryTek said that the engine was too much for the Xbox. Sure, UbiSoft had to turn down some settings and tweak the engine, but the fact they put it on the console without sacrificing the engines appeal was a big feat. Whilst tweaking the engine, they clearly did some clean up work on the code and made it much tighter.
For the most part, CrySis fixed the problems with difficulty and mercs with Binoculoxray Ocular Implants™, possibly due to Dr. Krieger's unwillingness to share his amazing invention with the North Koreans. The pacing was better, and CryTek marginally improved the concept of being able to scout out and take various routes and gamestyles to each situation, and thanks to the NanoSuit, it added twice the replay value and it really did get intense at times. Regardless, navigation still became a pain at times despite the map which helped things A LOT and in the end, I couldn't help but feel that the ability to take an open ended approach to a linear game with linear objectives was a poor decision.
When UbiSoft's FarCry 2 came out, it met plenty of mixed feelings from FarCry fans. Firstly, CryTek wasn't involved; secondly it had bloody nothing to do with the first games plot or characters. But in my eyes, FarCry 2 is a worthy successor to FarCry in that it improved on the concept of massive, sprawling levels and objective based first person shooter gameplay by taking off all linear constraints. Sure, it had flaws, some missions did get repetitive and the mercs had a funny ability to shoot you even when they were looking the other way, and somed mercs seemed to be completely binary by working shutting on and off sporadically. UbiSoft fixed the binary Merc brains, but in the first version I had several run ins where I'd go get armed to the teeth ready to take on a checkpoint in the most bombastic way possible and I walked up to the mercs and they just stared, I shot my gun and they went "WHERE?!" and searched for me, but even when I did a little jig they wouldn't see me. As I said, this was fixed, but regardless it was a problem out of the box and a pretty big one. But FarCry 2 was fun! Really fun! It could use improvement, but it improved the concept enough by taking away the railigs and if UbiSoft can put some more depth to it, I would gladly welcome FarCry 3 in to my home.
Then there is the Dunia engine in FarCry 2. While some effects weren't as good as CrySis, the Animations seemed a bit more jittery, and CrySis did have a better colour scheme; I think on the whole FarCry 2 looked better. It had a better framerate, less annoying motion blur, and even on my old 2004 computer I could scale it down to low and enjoy the actual game. Now on my new compy, it still looks surprisingly good for a game that's nearly 2 and a half years old and I can finally see it on its max. Plus the engine is just so much more sound, everything is tied together nicely under the hood. The only things swept under the heavily vegetated rug are a few gameplay choices that wouldn't take much thought to improve. The engine's only bug that I can REALLY grind my teeth over after patches is that the mercs still have that funky thing where they hit me with surprising accuracy... by looking 40 degrees away and pointing their gun at a monkey off in the distance. One time I thought I had successfully snuck up on a merc, only to be hit by a combat shotgun when he was in an idle position before aiming up and hitting me with another blast. WTF? Usually these are few and far apart, but they're deceiving and annoying when they appear.
Plus, I just had more fun with FarCry 2 than I did with the first game on closer analysis. CrySis is a good game, bogged down by terrible technology and some neglected and incomplete elements. I can pray that CrySis 2 improves and I have faith in CryTek that it will, they ARE a very talented bunch, but they need to spend some more time under the hood and either settling with a full sandbox style progression, or tighten the rails. You can't have both, it's proven to be a flawed formula in this critics humble opinion.