Jan 032012

I’ve  already established that 2011 had lots of great games, more so than any recent year.  But being a gamer, there’s always something to complain about, and there was enough this year to keep my bitter and jaded attitude alive and well.

I wasn’t planning to just rattle off names of games that came out this year that were just terrible; that’d take too long.  Instead I want to go through games that I had at least some sort of expectation for that just fell well short of those goals.

Early in the year the indie/downloadable game, Breach, hit Steam and XBLA during a lull of quality releases and promised to have a fully destructible environment unlike anything we’ve seen before.  Of course this fell flat and the result was a bland, low budget shooter with a scattering of destructible assets and bad shooting mechanics.  Luckily, the low cost of under $15 at launch made me forget the pain quickly enough.

Also in the first quarter Crysis 2 hit the streets.  With a new focus on multiplayer, which felt like a hybrid of CoD and BF, Cyrsis 2 had potential to make a lasting impact in the multiplayer shooter scene.  Needless to say, that never happened mainly because of two reasons.  First off, the PC version was severely crippled and was the poster child for “consolization.”  From the splash screen that said “Press Start to Begin” to the complete lack of video settings beyond changing the resolution, Crytek did a complete 180 from the original Crysis, which was PC only.  The second nail in the coffin on the multiplayer side was the lack of anti-cheat measures which meant that you were almost guaranteed to join a server and see at least one, if not more, aimbots in play.  Botting seemed so prevalent that cheaters made no attempts to hide it — Crysis 2’s CoD-style kill cam made it painfully obvious, as you watch your killer snap off 4 to 5 headshots in a row from across the map in a 3 second span.  Pile on the fact the single player was average at best and it’s hard not to be supremely disappointed with Crysis 2.

While Crysis 2 had its issues, a game that topped it in the disappointment category was Brink.  Touted as the next coming in multiplayer shooters (even by our own Suibhne) and the pedigree that comes with Wolf:ET developer Splash Damage, it was hard to not get excited about this one.  Except it didn’t even come close to meeting those expectations.  The shooting was bland, the gameplay wasn’t very focused and the difference in classes and sizes didn’t add anything interesting to the game play.  The game also suffered from technical issues out of the box which hindered uptake online and caused many never to come back.  Then they pulled some shenanigans with the DLC in that it was only free for the first two weeks before they started charging for it.  Brink was clearly a game that had much potential that was never fulfilled.

Sticking with the multiplayer shooter disappointment theme, Red Orchestra 2 came out this fall.  While I don’t have any specific knock against RO2 and Tripwire Interactive will always be a favorite of mine, RO2 didn’t do anything especially exceptional either.  During an off year, RO2 might have risen to the top, but instead it just got lost in the mix.  Launching with some performance and technical issues, the gameplay didn’t quite do it for me as the original RO mod had grabbed me some 7 years ago (wow!).  I’m willing to give RO2 another shot down the road, but worry that the player base may have been thinned too much by then.  I’ll chalk it up to bad timing.  Maybe with a bit more polish and an early 2012 release, RO2 may have done much better.

Rounding out my disappointments for 2011, I call out Assassin’s Creed Revelations.  I’m going to give Ass Creed Rev an “incomplete” for this year because I simply haven’t had time to invest in the game, but given its first couple of hours of gameplay and the overall reception of the game, AssRev doesn’t match the outstanding level of AssBro (Assassins Creed Brotherhood).  A very slow start, high expectations and a tough competition has put AssRev back on the shelf for me.  I’ll check it out again in 2012 and see if Revelations can redeem itself, but I worry that the Ass Creed saga is starting to suffer from too much repetition and player fatigue, something the CoD series is becoming synonymous with.

That pretty much wraps up my take on the 2011 gaming lineup.  2012 should be interesting with some marquee titles coming out like Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3 (maybe) and some other potential hits like the sequel no one wanted, Prey 2.

Happy New Year!

Jun 162011

Yes, I’m a fan of bad puns, get over it.  After yesterday’s news over Crysis 2 getting mysteriously pulled from Steam and then the assumed demise of future EA games on Steam, we get news that the Crysis 2 deletion was done by Valve, not EA,  over Steam policies.    EA was quick to direct the internet’s wrath directly on to Steam, although I don’t think it’s safe to put your Origin conspiracy hats away just yet.  Here’s a quote from EA on the matter:

“Steam has imposed a set of business terms for developers hoping to sell content on that service – many of which are not imposed by other online game services. Unfortunately, Crytek has an agreement with another download service which violates the new rules from Steam and resulted in its expulsion of Crysis 2 from Steam.”

No word on what “new rules” are in place and what Crytek agreement with another service (Origin?) is at fault with Steam’s terms.  Basically, it’s business deals that most gamers don’t and shouldn’t care about.  It doesn’t have an impact on those who previously bought Crysis 2 on Steam, they will still be able to re-download it if need be — but right now, no new purchases are available, hardly a tragedy on a 3 month old game, except for those holding on for a great Steam deal.  Valve is typically tight lipped about this things, so it’ll be interesting to see if they ever address this issue publicly.

What remains unclear is if this will affect future EA games, since Crytek specifically was called out and not EA in general.  Will this weaken any relationship between EA and Steam, especially with EA pushing it’s Origin service, or will it force the companies to work things out?  It is interesting though that Steam is one of the few places where you can’t pre-order Battlefield 3 today, although previous Battlefield titles remain on the service.

May 182011

Today marks another day of all video game deals on Amazon.  The deal of the day is [amazon_link id=”B004S73HS8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Crysis 2[/amazon_link] for PC, 360 and PS3 for $35 and the PC download version for $30.  Don’t be afraid of Amazon’s game download service, it’s easy and you can re-download at any time, as we previously detailed.  Other games to look for in today’s gold box could be Dead Space 2, Madden, NCAA Football, a couple PSP games and what ever you can guess for the others.  While not part of this gold box event, definitely take a look at [amazon_link id=”B002I0J5UQ” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]L.A. Noire on Amazon[/amazon_link].  They are now offering a $20 credit with purchase.

Also worth mentioning is now Steam is doing a daily deal of the day, on top of their other reoccurring deals like “mid-week madness” and their weekend deals.  Just another way for money to leave your wallet.  With gaming deals running rampant across all major retailers, no one should be paying full MSRP for games anymore.  It definitely seems to be a relatively new phenomenon, and I can distinctly remember a time when video games cost the same exact (full) price in every store you went to.


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.

Download Crysis 2 Now!

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.

Download Crysis 2 Now!

Mar 082011

A post on the Crysis 2 Ea Blog alerts us to a new patch for the Crysis 2 multiplayer demo.  A few “welcome” changes in the list, the most important being the un-consolification of the demo, by changing the text on the first screen from “Press start to begin” to “Press enter to begin. ”  Also, now the servers show no ping at all.  Nice work guys.

The patch will auto-update the next time you launch the game, and will also be pushed out via Steam.

  • “Press Start to Begin” has been changed to “Press Enter to Begin” on the main menu
  • Ping changes in server browser – no ping for anyone now (all 0)
  • Fixed crash if getting force disconnected from a dedicated server (although the force disconnect issue has been resolved anyway)
  • Account creation now works properly
  • G35 headset fix now implemented
  • People not able to sign in with certain characters such as “-“ or “numbers” in their username, now can

The servers for this multiplayer demo will only be active for another week, so if you’re planning on checking it out, now’s the time.