A lot has been going on in the world of gaming lately. Which is just as well as this Winter has been a bit short on interesting stories and awesome game releases. In fact, prior to the announcement of PS4 (and excluding the one-in-a-million Borderlands 2), my passion for gaming had reached a complete nadir.
Lately though, things are picking up. I was extremely tempted just a few days back to purchase Crysis 3 following critical acclaim and eye watering preview videos. The sheer fact I was comtemplating a full RRP purchase tells a lot about my anticipation for this game. It is rare I fork out the full retail price for any game but this title just had me transfixed. I have written previously in my blog about the delights of Crysis 2 and the latest in Crytek's famous series looks an improvement in every way. Most people have pointed out that Crytek have quite blatantly tried to blend the sandbox and open-ended environment of the original Crysis with the more linear and hemmed-in Crysis 2. If they have managed to do this successfully (and by many accounts they have) then Crysis 3 could well be troubling my 'top 5 favourite games of all time' list. Let me explain why.
Crysis 1 was without doubt way ahead of its time. Not just graphically either. The sense of freedom was impressive and allowed liberal exploitation of the game's physics to literally play the game as you wanted. I can remember many stand-out moments within the first few hours of gameplay including mad runs in the jeep, sneaking through luscious jungle and chasing fish amongst the beautiful coral in the shallows. Impressively the game's AI usually kept up with whichever style you went (minus a couple of glaring infinite-spawn moments).
However, the game was not without its problems. Sometimes I would wonder off on long treks into the island only to meet absolutely nothing as I hadn't 'triggered' a certain point in the game's story. I can also remember a part that caused immense frustration as I was relentlessly pursued by a rocket-firing helicopter that I could not evade. Plus the latter parts of the game often betrayed the open-ended style of the first few hours by becoming tightly scripted and not that exciting. The final boss also caused my poor GTX 580 to almost explode with overheating owing to some badly optimised code.
Crysis 2 was so far apart from its forebear that it could almost be mistaken for a completely different series. I won't go into too much detail as I have described this game in ample detail in previous blog posts. Needless to say, its more linear level design and scripted narrative caused many an upset for the Crysis 1 purists. In contrast, I found it more absorbing as a result with some brilliant level design and some extremely atmospheric moments.
If Crytek can just pick the best from both worlds, it could end up with one of the best shooters ever released. So I am very eager to try it out.
I am also well prepared for the inevitable drop from glorious 60fps to 30fps. This is something I wouldn't normally say on my blog. I love 60fps and I love 1080p and a good chunk of AA. However, on this occasion reality bites. There is simply no way I will be seeing north of 30fps with my current GTX 580. Hell, even the Titan can't manage the 60fps nirvana and that is over twice the speed of my card. Two Titans though and you are getting close - oh and that will be $2000 please... As such, no-one will be maxing out this game for at least a coupel of years. Its Crysis 1 all over again except this time the classic meme-like phrase of 'but can it run crysis' will need a 3 on the end.
In other news I decided to do a random play last night of any game my mouse pointer landed on. On this occasion it was Mirrors Edge. Still one of the most beautiful, stylistic game ever release. Words cannot describe how good this game looks running at 1080p with AA cranked up to 16x. This game is actually a very good argument for artistic style over technical substance. Whereas Crysis 3 ticks every box on the graphics whore wishlist, Mirrors Edge instead uses the artist's paintbrush and a great imagination to invoke a world that is every bit as immersive and atmospheric. In fact, I was so enamored with the artwork from this game a year ago I decided to decorate the office in my new house just like it. As it turned out, the house fell through and I never got my dream office but the vision remains.
Theres just one thing that lets Mirror's Edge down and is in actual fact becoming more prevalent in many modern games:
Or should I put it another way:
SHODDY PHYSX IMPLEMENTATION
I have now lost count of the titles I have had to turn Nvidia Physx off or down because it just ruins the frame rate. Lets name 3 just for starters: Mirrors Edge (as said), Batman Arkham City and Borderlands 2. Each game is totally gimped on current graphics technology when Phyx kicks in. Last night everything was running smoothly and beautifully in Mirrors Edge until a shootout with the local police when glass went flying everywhere. Cue huuuuuuuge frame rate drop from 60 to about 20 for an extended period of time whilst the individual glass shards exploded everwhere. Very pretty - yes. Completely game destroying - also yes.
Physx has the potential to be something great but current hardware just cannot keep up. Either that or the implementation needs some serious revision and optimising. When it works though, it is stunning. The cloth physics on Borderlands 2 and Mirrors Edge are stunning and the particle effects in Borderlands 2 are astonishing. But what is the point when the game engine can't keep up?
Maybe when Maxwell comes along these thing will be sorted. I hope so as I have a lot of games that have the potential to look really really good.
Well, that will do for now. There is plenty more to talk about - in particular my thoughts on my new single player adventure in Gears of War 3. But that can wait for another post.