Apr 272011

According to Crytek staff posting in the official game forums, a hefty Crysis 2 patch is on the way. The promised changelog includes some welcome bugfixes, but the most striking improvements are at the top of the list: “Vote-kicking feature added; Further improvements to anti-cheat measures.”

I found the multiplayer side of Crysis 2 to be consistently more enjoyable than online play in both Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops. That sound like damning with faint praise, but the core shooting and movement systems are polished and satisfying. Maps are generally better than we’ve seen in recent online shooters, too. On the other hand, this patch reminded me of the game’s biggest problem since launch: rampant cheating.

Crytek seems to have shipped the game with no anti-cheat protection, a baffling decision which undermined its viability online. Funkmaster and I ran into cheaters only a few days after the game’s release. When I fired up Crysis 2 again last week, I had to try out several different servers before finding one without an obvious cheater.

I’m conservative about calling hacks. I’ve dabbled in online competition for shooters like CoD4, and most experienced gamers I know have been falsely accused of cheating in public servers. In Crysis 2, tho, I was encountering players with names like “CRYN3TkillahLOLOLOL”, racking up 55-0 nets with 100% headshots. The glaringly obvious killcam shots were just icing on the (exasperating) cake. And with no vote-kicking, honest players had no recourse but to move on and try to find another server – or “Quit to Windows” and choose another game.

With Crytek giving more attention to anti-cheat measures, will this patch make Crysis 2 playable again? It may deserve a second look from those who, like me, shelved the game due to the rampant cheating. But it’s notoriously difficult to rebuild multiplayer communities once they begin to contract, and Brink’s release is less than two weeks off. Time may have already run out for Crysis 2.

Mar 292011

I started playing a bit of Crysis 2 last night.  Of course, there’s lots of “crappy console port” rage flying around this game, but in thinking about it, what PC games don’t have that element these days?  Even huge PC sellers like CoD and Bad Company 2 have been assaulted by the rage of PC gamers, so does “crappy console port” have much meaning these days?

As we previously covered, much has been made about the glaring lack of options available through the game’s menus.  Thankfully, there are many configurable options under the hood, and Wasdie’s GUI utility makes them simple.  Why weren’t these options available in game, or made accessible via a Crytek config utility, like other notable PC games have used?  My guess would be to meet the game’s release window, corners were cut.  Rumors are already swirling (some started by Crytek devs)  that we’ll see DirectX 11 and advanced configuration options in-game in a soon to be released patch.  It’s great to hear Crytek will be providing some meaningful post-release support for the game, but at the same time, it’s continually disappointing that developers use post-release patches to actually finish their games.  I’m looking at you Bad Company 2!

The single player story early on seems serviceable enough, continuing on some random bit of time after the end of Crysis 1.   Playing through the streets of NYC is sufficiently interesting and provides a refreshing setting for a shooter.  You still have some freedom in completing objectives in that you can try to go the stealth route, relying heavily on your cloak, go for a full frontal assault with lots of shootery goodness, or some mix in between.  The game also continues the trend of providing plenty of collectibles and upgrades along the way to keep dangling the carrot on the string.

I was dismayed, however, to find the lack of quick saving in game.  Saves are all automatic checkpointing, and there’s really no way to save your game yourself.  Consolification?  Possibly.  Checkpointing saves can actually be acceptable if done right.  The Assassin’s Creed series is a great example of this.  Crysis 2 doesn’t seem to get it quite right, as I had to quit out of the game and was disappointed that I had to replay a few minutes of a level I had already done where there should have been a checkpoint.  Obviously, a full on save system is almost always preferable.  Devs, please be considerate of gamers. Having to keep playing until I hit the next checkpoint to quit, rather than being able to save and quit at any point, is annoying and frustrating.  Ugh.

Giving the multiplayer a test, not much has changed since the beta aside from more game modes and maps.  The server browser works a bit better, although I think it’s still not reporting accurate pings.  I couldn’t find a server that pinged under 100, even though they were nearby, which leads me to believe that you’re better off just ignoring the ping.  I was mildly surprised to see that it kept my friends list from the mp beta, after how fickle it was with us at the time.  I’ve yet to play through all the maps and modes, but the few maps I did play on “Team Instant Action” (don’t call it TDM!) were varied and seemed more interesting than many of the maps in CoD Black Ops.  The gameplay is very much CoD inspired, from the level up system, to the kill cam, to the end of round kill replay and match rewards.  Entertaining enough to play a few rounds here and there.

So all in all, Crysis 2 seems relatively solid so far in both aspects.  It’s hard to say it’s outstanding in either sp or mp, and there are plenty of well-documented frustrations to complain about, but if you enjoyed Crysis 1 and/or like CoD-style multiplayer, I’d suspect you’ll be reasonably content with Crysis 2.

We’ve started an entry for Crysis 2 in our wiki here.

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Mar 262011

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.

You heathens.

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.

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