Archive for the ‘FPS’ 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.

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Biosuck

December 5, 2007

As mentioned at Rock, Paper, Shotgun there’s finally a patch for Bioshock out and as mentioned in an earlier post I conveniently decided to give it another shot.

The first time I tried playing it, my old system couldn’t deliver all the graphical goodies so I thought I might be missing out. “Maybe”, I thought “if it looks better graphically, it will overcome my inherent dislike of the entire horror-genre!”. Well although I haven’t applied the dandy new patch yet I’m sorry, and not overly surprised to say that better graphics really just can’t make up for the failing of an entire genre. That’s right, an entire genre.

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With me there are a few things that are automatic losers. These things include zombies, undead things, homicidally insane monsters, people who talk too much and large mutant ape things on tropical islands. Hate. Hate. Hate those things. Bioshock fits squarely in the “homicidally insane monsters” category to the point that it’s borderline retarded. As I said in my previous post on the topic, I knew I was on shakey ground as soon as the elevator landed me in Rapture and I saw some monstery Gollum sounding thing kill a man outside the porthole I was forced to look out of. Yes it was clausterphobic and scary. Yes, for what it was it was very well done. No, I just don’t like that crap. I don’t find it “too scary” and no it doesn’t keep me up at night with bad dreams. I’m 38, I’ve seen scarier stuff than Bioshock in my daily life. I just find it inane, and silly.

An example is those stupid syringe things. I mean really, the main character finds himself in a plane crash and whisked away to this mysterious underwater city where very early on he sees some pretty horrific things. It’s very clear things aren’t quite right down there, yet upon finding a strange syringe full of some mystery fluid out intrepid hero promptly slams the needle into his wrist and injects this crap into his system. The game doesn’t even give the user an option. Once you pick the thing up the cut scene starts and for reasons beyond comprehension (but well within convenient the domain of convenient plot nonsense) he sticks himself. Yeah, that’s what I’d do alright. No question about it.

It’s inane. Really.

So, despite the spiffy new machine and maxed out high-res graphics… for me, Bioshock has a bad case of Biosuck. On the plus side, I won’t have to bother applying that new patch I guess.

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Gametrailers Crysis Review

December 4, 2007

Gametrailers.com put up a good Crysis review, in both crappy regular res and superduper high def. **

Can’t argue with any of what they said really, short of the comment about the game not running well “even on the beefiest of machines”. Runs perfectly fine here (30+ fps) at 1680×1050, max settings plus the “very high” tweak for DirectX9.

As I’ve said elsewhere on the internet, although I enjoyed Crysis I find I’m enjoying CoD4 a bit more. That surprises me as I think I bought into some of the Crysis hype and hadn’t been following CoD4 at all. I think I’ll write up a good indepth comparison of the two in the near future.

**note to self… sort out how to embed gametrailer vids on the blog

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The end of Crysis

December 3, 2007

The actual ending to the game I mean, and no don’t worry no spoilers here.

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I finished it last night, and honestly I was a bit underwhelmed. For one thing the game was a lot shorter than I had expected and for another, the ending just wasn’t all that satisfying somehow. Imagine someone takes you on a beautiful drive through the countryside during which you cruise through gorgeous countryside, see wondrous sights, and stop at fun interesting places… only when you arrive do you find out this wonderful trips destination was your mother-in-law’s house. The end of Crysis gave me a similar feeling.

Maybe I was just expecting more, but without giving anything away there really wasn’t anything happening at the end that came as a surprise. I think it could have used a twist or something, instead of what I consider a rather predictable wind up. It was better than the ending of Half-Life 2 mind you so I shouldn’t be too hard on it. I guess just like in the rest of life, the journey is often more important than the destination anyway. I’ll try to keep that in mind the next time I end up at my mother-in-law’s house. <Insert shudder here>

Crysis was a pretty spectacular gaming experience, so a sort of run of the mill ending can be forgiven. I’ll likely play it through again just for the sake of enjoying the environments all over again. A good co-op mod would do wonders for the replayability.

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t even mind the alien parts but I’ll write about that later.

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Revisiting Bioshock

November 30, 2007

I picked up Bioshock back on release day, not because I’d been swept up in all the hype (and there was a LOT of hype) but more because I was curious what all the hype was about. The game didn’t disappoint in that it seemed to provide what was hyped, but the problem was I’m not much into what is so lovingly offered up.

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Don’t get me wrong I love a game with solid atmosphere, a rich backstory, well fleshed out environments, striking characters and original storyline. Bioshock has all of these things in spades. What I don’t like, is horror games… or movies for that matter. There’s enough scary crap in life as it is if you pay attention to it, and personally I’ve never found sitting down to willfully scare myself very much fun. That said, I’m sure Bioshock isn’t terribly scary at all to the desensitized gamers out there half my age, but to me it’s tense and… well… scary in that horror film sort of way and I don’t dig that. I realized I wasn’t going to like the game much as soon as I saw my first monster type thing, through the porthole of an elevator early in the game. I was trapped inside and this creepy looking, zombie thing you couldn’t quite see was outside trying to get in. The sense of claustrophobia was great for what it was, and from that moment on I realized what sort of game this was going to be. Very well done, but not my bag at all and I stopped playing after a few sessions.
Still, that was a couple of months ago on my old system. Now that I have a nice shiny new supercomputer I’m considering revisiting the title. Not because I think it will be any different in the sense of atmosphere with the graphics maxed out (I had to play it on medium settings and low res the first time) but because from what I’ve seen and heard the game really is beautifully built. So, I may be reinstalling and revisiting the undersea city of Rapture in the next few days.

Hopefully I’ll overcome my inherent dislike of the horror genre so I can fully appreciate what the game has to offer. If that doesn’t work out I’ll go back to killing Koreans in Crysis for a bit. At least I’m not feeling claustrophobic while running around in the jungle.

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Best online co-op experience… Swat4

November 29, 2007

More games need online cooperative play. Yes it’s fun to shoot your buddies in the head now and again in CS:S, and it’s equally fun to destroy the digital aspirations of AI bad guys in CoD4 single player… but what’s more fun is combining the two. Play with your buddies, and kill the AI bad guys. That’s ace and the best game for it? Swat4. Hands down.

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Swat4 is an older title by a couple of years now, but it’s holding up remarkably well. With a current machine it’s not hard to crank the graphics up full at a resolution of 1680+ and it looks pretty spiffy all things considered. It’s not Crysis, but that’s ok. It’s got co-op. oh and tasers.

There’s something to be said for getting on Teamspeak (or a VoiP of your choice) and donning your Swat gear to go bust some arms dealers together. I do this fairly frequently with a friend of mine and have been for almost a year now, it’s still not gotten old. Sometimes we take it less seriously than others, and we’ll mix it up now and then by playing pistol only maps, or the odd “Rambo” map where it’s a matter of killing all the bad guys as fast as possible. More often than not though it’s standard Swat play. Casing a situation, readying up by the door… breach, flash bang then clear. Swat 4 offers up countless gobs of replayability to the point that the same map played twice in a row will often give a different experience. Maybe the bad guy at the door will give up this time? Maybe he’ll give up then snatch his gun up off the ground as you are about to cuff him? Maybe he’ll have a hostage? Maybe he won’t even be there this time. It’s always nice and random like that, which keeps it fresh and interesting.

Add to all that the community map packs and mods available at sites like hot-swat-mods.com for instance and I really don’t see an end to playing this title. If you have at least one friend (online or otherwise) and are looking for a good game to play co-op, give Swat4 some careful consideration.

Oh yes, and as mentioned above the game does have tasers, although I’ve yet to hear an AI bad guy yell “don’t tase me, bro!” as I stick him with it. Repeatedly.

Maybe someone can make a mod for that.

-ab