Thursday, November 22, 2007

Recently Played: Crysis

Crysis is an exercise in so many things gone right, and so many things gone wrong. At one point my son made a comment to the effect that, "They made a movie out of this game!" He didn't mean cheap Hollywood derivative crap. There are moments in the game as visually stunning and epic as any movie, which is really saying something. I partially shrug at the whole "nanosuit" thing, which basically means your character can choose between armor, speed, strength or stealth. Only one can be selected at a time, and each drains power at a different rate depending what you are doing (getting shot, sprinting, hitting things or moving, respectively). As a sci-fi theme it isn't exactly inspired, but it does let you approach any of your objectives from a lot of different angles - speed in shooting, or sneak through without raising any suspicion.

The system requirements are astronomical. Now, I have a hard time faulting them for that, because the game does look fantastic. On the flip side, Half-Life 2: Episode Two also looks fantastic and doesn't grind my moderate-to-high performance system (Intel Quad Core 6600, nVidia 8600GTS) to dust. I think there must be a balance there that wasn't sufficiently met.

But the really bad stuff is the bugs. I've seen exactly the same issues reported by others (but curiously, not by everyone) so it's not just me. Some are genuine bugs, some are design issues, but here we go:
  • Several bugs that prevent missions from advancing. In particular, some "death animations" for enemies don't work all the time, leaving them hanging in the air. This would be just a graphical glitch, except in several circumstances this also prevents the proper events from getting triggered and allowing you to continue through the game, forcing you to load an old save game. (Either by fortunate chance or good design, the game does save your progress in individual files, rather than overwriting the same one, so you can go back fairly easily.)
  • Cutscenes are often very, very slow, much worse than the rest of the game for some reason. Occasionally they will simply pause for seconds at a time, causing the audio to go completely out of sync with the visuals.
  • The end-game involved dying. A lot. Which is fine, except it was almost always for completely random reasons. Game designers figured out that was a bad idea many years ago, what it's doing in one of the most high-profile modern games is beyond me.
  • The end-game didn't exactly communicate objectives well. You get the Stupid Big Gun at the end, then go off to defeat the Super Big Bad Guy, but you can't use the Stupid Big Gun against it for some reason. After defeating Super Big Bad Guy through conventional means (which takes forever and gives little indication that you're actually doing any damage), Big Daddy Super Big Bad Guy comes out, where you CAN use the Stupid Big Gun, but only in a very specific way. Since BDSBBG is a big pushover compared to SBBG, if the whole thing wasn't presented with such style it would be immensely disappointing, instead of merely being underwhelming.
  • Did I mention the end-game involved a lot of dying? So while you're stumbling around trying to figure out what you're supposed to be doing, you tend to get killed a lot, without any idea if it's because there's a bug in the game (since we established that is a problem), you're not doing it right (which is possible, it's all explained so poorly), or you just suck.
  • The end-game is really where the framerate issues become a problem, because despite having acceptable framerates on medium settings for the whole game, even with everything on low settings the whole thing turns into a slideshow at the very end, compounding all of the above problems.
I loved this game on the whole. Still, as was a common complaint with its predecessor Far Cry, it starts off marvelously, then just takes a wrong turn at the end, which is really unfortunate. Now, maybe I'll come back to it in two years with more computing power and a few patches and be blown away. If only they could have spent another couple weeks fixing the bugs.

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