Archive for the ‘Comparisons’ Category

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Crysis vs Call of Duty 4

December 7, 2007

I wrote a bit yesterday about the three elements needed in a good great game. As it happens I started writing about Gears of War, then it morphed into a Bioshock thing and in the end I settled on comparing the two in order to cover the broader aspects of a great game. Yes, it was a bit of a mishmash I know.

I’m going to delve into that topic again in the near future, but frankly do a better job of getting my point across. The short version is graphics/gameplay/emotion are key. A good game will have two of them, but a great game needs all three.

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For now let’s compare and contrast Crysis and Call of Duty 4, which I finished last night at near 1am. Well, actually I finished the game at about 12:30am, but immediately went back to play bits of it over again. I did this because like all great games, it has all three of the above things going for it. The graphics are there, the gameplay is there and the emotion is there. It’s an absolutely stellar title.

In contrast I finished Crysis a couple of days ago, and I haven’t touched it since. I played it, and enjoyed it but I devoured CoD4 and am keen to revisit bits of it. That surprises me, but I suspect I bought into the prerelease Crysis-hype.

So what does CoD4 have that Crysis is lacking? Let’s look.

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Graphics
Anyone arguing that Crysis has lackluster graphics would have to be blind or retarded, possibly both. It’s gorgeous in ways that games have never been before and the graphics are in fact, it’s biggest selling point. CoD4 is damned good looking in it’s own right, and to tell the truth it’s one of the better looking FPS games I’ve played, but it comes in second after those lush Crysis jungles. So, Crysis wins here.

Gameplay
Both games are linear affairs, and the Crysis fans out there will slap me for that. Firstly there is no arguing CoD4 is linear and makes no apologies for it, it’s designed that way. It embraces it’s linearity and it flourishes because if it. It’s an action movie, and you’re the star. Simple as that. Crysis bills itself as being more open, and in some respects it is but it’s not what I’d consider a true open game. Operation Flashpoint from a few years ago was an open game, Armed Assault is a current example as is a flight sim like Falcon 4. Those games give you a huge world to run around in, and a mission to accomplish within it. Crysis on the other hand gives you levels, just like CoD4 but it tries to open it up by giving you some options as to how to finish them. CoD4 is a linear corridor, Crysis is just a wider corridor that tries to tell you it’s a soccer field. If you’ve never played OFP or ArmA you may not realize the difference. So, for me it’s a clear win for CoD4 here. Yes, it’s linear. Yes, it’s a corridor… but the devs know that, and the players know it. It’s packed full of “oh shit” moments, and bits you can’t wait to experience again precisely because of it’s linearity. Every bit of it is polished to a high gloss because the devs knew exactly what experience they wanted the players to have.

Crysis in the other hand has some awesome combat, and absolutely tremendous environments to fight in… but it’s not what it purports to be. You realize that as soon as you hit the first “loading” screen a little ways into the game as it loads the next level. You can’t go back to the beach you landed on, that beach isn’t even on the island any more. It’s back on level one. You also see it within the levels themselves with fake obstacles and clear corridors guiding you from point to point. Yes there are various ways of getting there, but you have to go. None of this is bad in and of itself mind you, it’s just that having been billed as so open-ended I find it’s lack openness sort of annoying. I also found the combat in CoD4 to be more… immediate. Everything seemed more tense and urgent and it really gave a sense of drive that Crysis lacked somehow. I’d give CoD4 the win here because of this urgency to it’s combat and just because it’s honest about what it is. It might also tip towards CoD4 because it’s so very real world in it’s approach. No sci-fi, no supertech. Just real world stuff I can relate to on some level.

Emotion
You’ve got to care about your character in a game, and you’ve got to care about the characters around you. You’ve also got to hate the bad guys, and you’ve got to develop a personal attachment to the fight such that you will willingly suspend your disbelief and let it immerse you. Crysis comes up a bit short here. The Korean enemy are little more than targets, the aliens are never much more than faceless “things”. Why are they on that island again? I finished the game, but I’ve already forgotten the plot points. Sure I saw my team mates killed at various stages of the game, and there were some attempts at twists and plot structure to pull me in but none of it really worked. CoD4 on the other hand, had me cold from the first level. The urgency was there. I wasn’t playing a game, I had to complete my mission. I was instantly and completely immersed and that drove the emotion. I got attached to the characters around me and grew to despise the bad guys. There were twists and some gut wrenching portions of the game I won’t divulge that created a total sense of “holy shit, I can’t believe that just happened”. This occurred more than once. You actually play more than one character in the game, which I’d have thought would limit the immersion aspect given that you couldn’t latch onto your own identity through the whole game but as it turns out, it helped. Whenever the game would pull me out of the SAS role and put me into the US military role I’d be dying to get back and see how the SAS stuff would play out, and vice versa. It all involved me, and pulled me in just like a great game should. CoD4 for the win in this category.

Verdict
So, in the comparison we have Crysis winning in graphics and CoD4 winning in gameplay and emotion. That explains why I’ve already started playing CoD4 again and have yet to go back to Crysis. Yes, it’s graphics are stunning but I’ve seen them once and they’ll still be there next week. CoD4 has some situations that I’m eager to play through again, just to witness it all with fresh eyes.

Crysis has stunning graphics, pretty good gameplay, and emotion, well… that just wasn’t there for me. Two out of three should make for a good game, but not a great one and that’s how I’d define Crysis. Excellent in some areas (graphics) but overall just good, not great.

As said initially way up above, the graphics 4 in CoD4 are certainly not sub-par, they’re just not quite as good as Crysis. I think on it’s own CoD4 is a winner in that area as well giving it a solid showing for all three of my key categories. By my own definition that should make for a great game, and that’s exactly what CoD4 is.

Overall win for CoD4.

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Gears of War and Bioshock

December 6, 2007

I started playing Gears of War for the PC a couple of nights ago after a very unsatisfying attempt to get into Bioshock. As odd as it may sound to anyone whose played these games, they strike me as similar in some odd way.

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Where Bioshock was graphically attractive, emotionally deep and tactically challenged I find Gears of War graphically attractive, tactically challenging and emotionally retarded. Graphics, tactics and emotion. There’s something about those three things a game needs, and the loss of any one of them gives the same feeling of soulessness.

Graphics are always a big thing with games these days as the visual aspect is the first thing that really slaps people in the face. Though it’s certainly possible to make a good game with bad graphics, ugly visuals are just hard to overlook. Bioshock and Gears of War both win here.

Tactics is a catchall word I’m using as a not-so-clever substitute for gameplay. Graphics show you what it looks like when you shoot at the bad guys and tactics cover how you actually go about shooting them. A game needs to be compelling and fresh from a tactical stand point these days to stand out and get/keep peoples attention. Gears of War wins here in that it’s combat/cover system is really very well done. It may not be entirely revolutionary but it’s a good idea, well executed. Bioshock on the other hand, despite attempts at tactical daring with the plasmid nonsense really doesn’t offer anything new or compelling in this area.

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Emotion is arguably the most important of the three, though that depends on who you talk to. Graphics show you what it looks like when you blow up a tank, tactics deals with how you go about it and emotion wades into the morass of why you’re doing it. Sure the tank looked great when it blew up, and the process of slapping the sticky-bomb on it was fun but if the story plays out such that the tank commander turned out to be my former squad mate, or my long lost sister or something, well… that’s different. Those are admittedly pretty lame examples but you get the idea. Why we are doing what we’re doing in a game, that’s emotion. In this aspect Bioshock wins for the unique setting and the sense of immersion created by it as well as the inclusion of at least some effort at a moral dilemmas. Gears of War on the other hand is just run, hide, shoot. I don’t really care who I’m shooting at, and honestly I don’t care. They’re bad guys, that’s enough. While this works on some levels, it lacks that emotional connection that makes a really stellar gaming experience.

So Bioshock lacks any form of decent tactical/gameplay devices, and GoW lacks any real sense of emotional attachment. Pick another game that has both of those things yet lacks decent graphics and all three will feel vaguely similar in that each will be lacking something important.

Now none of this is to say that Bioshock is bad (it is) or Gears of War is horrible (too early to tell but I don’t think so), it’s just that to me both lack something fundamental.

I need to come up with an example of a game that has all three elements, those are hard to come by but when you find one, you know it.