Welcome to the first installation of what will hopefully be a regular blogging habit of mine: talking about the latest in PC gaming. Not like I'm some big official news source or whatever, but just sharing my thoughts on what I'm playing, what I'm looking forward to, and what's going on in the industry. Enjoy! Or don't. It's whatever.
Okay, I certainly don't think Crysis is actually going to be vaporware. It'll come out eventually. When, though, is anybody's guess. This game was originally supposed to come out over a year ago. Then it got pushed back to fall, then the spring, and now people are saying maybe November. Rumor has it though that the game is still in alpha, so it may be a good while before it's finished.
Crysis is definitely the game that a lot of PC gamers are really stoked about, and one that could convinced some people to upgrade their PCs to join in the fun. Crytek recently released about three minutes of in-game footage, and boy does it look sharp. I don't think this game is going to reinvent the wheel, to be sure. In terms of real first-person shooter innovation, I think that Bioshock and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Skies are going to be a lot more interesting. But Crysis has those ridiculously pretty graphics, some jaw-dropping physics and some pretty unique gameplay. It looks really sharp and I'm certainly not the only one getting a little impatient here. It's not Duke Nuken Forever yet, but it'd be nice to get some official confirmation that Crysis will at least hit before the end of the year. I was hoping that E3 would have brought with it a firm release date, but no dice. Sigh.
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2: No thanks, I'll pass...
With all those ads from Direct2Drive plastered all over IGN touting Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2's recent release, I felt compelled to pick up the demo. I managed to restrain myself from picking up the full game. Partly because I'm moving and don't have a lot of cash to blow right now, and partly because I really wasn't so confident that the game would be worth $49.95.
I'm a big fan of tactical action games, even though quality tactical action is hard to come by these days. We've all watched in horror as Rainbow Six went from being the PC's premier tactical shooter to a run-and-gun twitch-fest in the name of appealing to console gamers, who apparently are way different than PC gamers and can't handle real tactical strategy kind of stuff. Or so the publishers seem to have decided, anyway. But fortunately Ghost Recon still has a dedicated PC version that is quite different from the console version – more tactical, less twitch, more realistic, less Rambo.
So I downloaded the demo and, despite a few annoying crashes that spontaneously caused my PC to restart (apparently the game has issues with nVidia's latest drivers), played through the first level of the game. It was pretty much exactly as I expected. You have these large, semi-non-linear areas with assorted objectives, and you go around shooting guys until an area is cleared. Then you might have to blow up some stuff before you move on to the next area. Rinse and repeat. Despite my drab tone, I think that's actually a perfectly acceptable formula. The problem is that in GRAW 2 (not to be confused with GWAR), it's just kind of dull. There's a lot of planning, a lot of waiting, and some firefights that are more like little skirmishes than anything really intense. I like that you can get killed really easily if you're not paying attention, but it does stretch the believeability a bit sometimes. I died countless times having absolutely no clue that I was in danger to begin with. Don't those guys ever miss?
Anyway, what's holding back the series at this point is that the world just seems so dry (and not just because it's in Juarez). The AI is really rudimentary. Your teammates are your puppets, and don't take any initiative of their own (running for cover when in obvious danger, for example). The enemy AI is similarly weak. You can take down three guys, and the one guy left will go about his business like all those corspes were there when he clocked in for work. They don't retreat, flank, work in teams, or do anything else that makes them really believable. They have superhuman awareness and aim though, making it pretty easy for them to take you out if they spot you first.
So as much as I love tactical action, we're just in a stalemate with GRAW 2. Okay, I played just one level, so maybe things pick up later. But that one level convinced me not to spend $50 on this game to find out.
The Witcher: Sleeper hit?
All the talk these days seems to be about Call of Duty 4, Bioshock, Crysis, etc. etc. But there's another game coming out that I really hope gets some attention, called The Witcher. It's being developed in Poland, home of delicious sausage and the death metal band Behemoth, and it's shaping up to be a very impressive and creative game. The developers seem really ambitious in trying to craft an unconventional RPG and creating a game where morality is both more ambiguous and more relevant to the gameplay than it's been in past games. I get the feeling that this game may get overlooked in the Fall flood, but I hope it turns out well and finds some success.
AMD introduces quad-CrossFire! ....?
In a move of obscene excess, AMD/ATI has, along with pulling the curtain back on their new processors, also introduced something that will surely make many a wealthy gamer salivate over: quad CrossFire! In case you haven't been following the news, nVidia is pretty comfortably dominating this generation when it comes to performance. ATI's cards just haven't been able to cut it. So, when CrossFire gets killed by SLI, what do you do? Buy more cards! Personally, I think SLI and CrossFire are ridiculous. You spend double the money and get performance increases that range from about 90% down to 0%, depending on the game and the drivers. Let me tell you from experience, it sucks spending an extra few hundred bucks on a second card only to find out that some games don't support dual-card configurations. But, I can understand that if you're gaming on a 30" monitor and you just have to have every detail at maximum and you don't want to upgrade for three years, maybe it's not such a bad idea to have two 8800 Ultras. But who on earth is going to buy four cards? That's idiotic. I'm a bit more surprised that AMD didn't go nVidia's route with the 7900GX2 and build a dual-PCB card for a sinlge PCI-E slot. Eh... maybe down the road.
Vista: Still a no-go
I thought I'd wrap this up with a little rant about Vista. I'm still using XP. Not because I don't like Vista – I installed it for a while, and it was pretty slick – but because as a PC gamer, there's no reason to switch. The drivers are getting to where the performance differences are pretty minor, but XP is still ahead. There are a few DirectX 10 games out, but most of them are pretty forgettable, and switching to DX10 seems to be a sure-fire way to send your frame rate into a nose dive. The whole idea behind DX10 is getting more visual bang for your processing power, but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe it's because the DX10 games out now were designed as DX9 games, and DX10 was just tacked on at the last minute. Still, given that this is the only real reason I personally care about Vista, I want to see something a little more impressive before I upgrade. Maybe when Crysis comes out sometime in 2012.