One useful rule of thumb for cross-platform titles might be “If it was made for consoles, it probably needs a console”…by which “console” could mean the Sony or Microsoft toys, or could instead refer to the debugging console that PC gaming grognards have used for years in order to optimize game settings. Get it? See, it’s a pun. The word “console” means two different…bah, never mind.
Right, then. Moving on. Crysis 2 is getting strong initial press, including a pretty adulatory note from Jim Rossignol over at RockPaperShotgun. But there’s a fly in this butter-smooth ointment of gaming-goodness: despite a history of pushing the PC platform’s graphics capabilities (in Far Cry and the original Crysis), developer Crytek ditched any pretense at letting PC users crank this one up to 11. The PC version of Crysis 2 offers very limited configurability of its graphics options.
This leads us to the other meaning of “console”: the game’s debugging console is the best way to actually open up the throttle on this newest version of the Cry Engine that powers Crysis 2. Arcane knowledge is apparently a prerequisite for PC gamers wanting to take advantage of their machines’ power.
Or I should say, the game’s console was the best way to optimize the game’s graphics. Enter PC user “Wasdie”, who posted a tiny little program to help you generate an autoexec file to be placed in your Crysis 2 directory – basically giving you easy access to all of the game’s graphical options which are otherwise accessible only through debugging console fiddlery. Those who read our Bulletstorm wiki might recall similar user ingenuity behind the tools needed to configure that game. Borderlands is yet another obvious example, a title whose PC user community created separate applications for optimizing the game’s “hidden” settings.
Funk, Zeus, and I have spent a lot of time in the past 10 years mucking around with debugging consoles and config files, for multiplayer PC games like Unreal Tournament 2004 and Call of Duty 4. This isn’t a new pastime. This used to be a technique for fine-tuning a game’s framerate or optimizing its network performance, however. What’s different now is that consoles and config files are often required for the PC versions of AAA games just to look as good as they were designed to look.
Think about that for a second. It’s idiotic. I understand some of the factors that led to this situation – for example, the economics of creating the PC-specific interface that would be required to expose the more advanced options supported by PC hardware – but it’s still inane.
Thanks for your service to PC gamers, Wasdie. Crytek should be cutting you a check…but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.