Monday, October 29, 2007

Far Cry 2 & Crysis

One thing I was happy to see was the first glimpse the general public got of Far Cry 2 - No photos, they made damn sure of that. However I took notes as best as one can with literally no light to write by, and I'll try and piece together what I jotted down:

For those of you still confused, Far Cry was created by CryTek and published by UbiSoft, at least that's how I understand it, and then they went their seperate ways. CryTek teamed up with EA to make Crysis, a sci-fi near-future-themed game, and UbiSoft maintained the Far Cry name and is making Far Cry 2, a more realistic take set in Africa.

First off, don't think that Far Cry 2 has suffered from lack of CryTek; the game is still gorgeous. The best part is that there's not a lot of faking, thanks to some clever optimization tricks; the detail fades off quite naturally with distance, as opposed to the various "detail level" distance cutoffs many of us in MMOs suffer through.

The game takes place in Africa, in a 50-square-kilometer space surrounded by desert, with no loading screens as you travel from one corner to the other. As you go back and forth on a quest for vengeance/assassination of a criminal boss figure, you must combat a very advanced AI with mobile stockades/ammo dumps with the help of buddies. Buddies are NPCs with their own looks and personalities, but they're created as necessary by the game. If you murder a buddy senselessly (and shame on you for turning down the help), sure enough by the time the script calls for a buddy, you'll have met someone new. The game tries to do cinematic tricks behind the scenes, like, for example, building up a storm so it might start raining at a particularly dramatic point which you may be approaching.

Speaking of storms, boy howdy, the weather system is a beaut. From wind effects that can tear branches off if they go fast enough to brushfires that follow the wind direction and realistically grow and die, this game doesn't need anything fancy to wow you; the run-of-the-mill stuff like fire is that good.

The AI also seems to be much improved. When the demonstrator fired a sniper rifle at an encampment, hitting a guy in the leg, he dropped to the ground clutching his leg, and everyone else scattered for cover. Halfway back in the darkened room, I almost rolled my eyes; the animations were good, but this was how he was showing off his "amazing" AI? But then after a long moment, maybe 6 seconds, someone rushed out to their comrade - and started dragging his buddy to safety. The demonstrator put one in the head of the would-be rescuer, then one in the head of the bait. The crowd erupted into applause and cheers.

Finally, the game takes realism to a whole new level not just in graphics, but gameplay mechanics as well. Rather than just say, "OK, you're in the gunner's seat now", or "OK, you used a first aid kit", your character actually goes through the motions of swinging out of the driver's seat, or prying a bullet out of your leg with a knife. Catch fire? You'll pat at your sleeve to put it out. Weapon jammed? You gotta fix it. Want a look at your map? Your character literally pulls out a folding paper map and a compass. There's even an option to turn off all HUD indicators for maximum realism. This is UI immersion I've rarely, if ever, witnessed.

Crysis, sadly, didn't make an appearance at PAX. However, the single-player demo is available for download, so if you have a decent PC you can check it out immediately. Sadly the top-end graphics would make for too big a download I guess and aren't available, so people with champion PCs can't open up and see what it can do. Regardless, it's a good deal of fun for such a short demo, but there's a few things you need to know, at least on Normal difficulty and above.

  1. The gunboat can see you. No, it doesn't matter that you have your cloaking device on, are halfway behind a tree, immobile, prone, in tall grass, and was last spotted or did something noticeable 300 meters away. The gunboat can still see you.
  2. Do not ever, ever, ever use strength mode in combat. You will die, and everyone will laugh that you tried to throw a crate or another person at them instead of using your perfectly good guns.
  3. This is still, spiritually, a Far Cry game. Even after you've made a massive debacle of an objective, if you go unseen for a minute or two everyone will assume you probably left. Similarly, if your commanding officer tells you to keep a low profile on an upcoming area, feel free to take off the silencer and go wild, then waltz in while everyone is 100 meters away, investigating the site of your firefight.
  4. No, the gunboat can still see you, it's just not firing because there's 4 feet of solid rock between the two of you. You are not going to sneak away from this thing in the grass, Predator-movie-style. Run.

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