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Built with CryEngine2, the original Crysis raised the bar for PC gaming graphics in 2007 with stunningly detailed visuals that crippled even the fastest of rigs. Looking back at our first Crysis performance article, which was based on the game's demo, the fastest GPU available at the time (the GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB) struggled to average 30fps when running at 1920x1200 with high quality settings on DirectX 10.
Given how punishing the first game was, we were excited to explore 2011's CryEngine 3-based Crysis 2, but it was quickly apparent that the second installment wouldn't be a repeat performance. Not to say it didn't look better, but relative to Crytek's first title, the sequel didn't really set any new benchmarks. It was just another computer game that made great use of DX9, though DX11 was eventually patched in.
Fast-forward two years and Crytek has given us another opportunity to hammer some hardware with the arrival of Crysis 3 this month. Like the second title, the third installment has been built with CryEngine 3, though that doesn't mean you should expect lousy PC features, as the engine has been updated with improved dynamic cloth and vegetation, better lighting and shadows, and plenty more.
Plus, PC gamers won't have to wait for graphical extras. Crysis 3 launched with high-resolution textures, DX11 support and plenty of customization options that set it apart from the diluted consoles builds. The result looks incredible and we get the feeling this will prove to be the game that folks who are heavily invested in multi-GPU setups have been waiting for. Here's hoping we aren't woefully disappointed.
We'll be testing 18 DirectX 11 graphics card configurations from AMD and Nvidia, which is considerably less than the 29 we tested for Far Cry 3 because even with the medium quality preset activated, there are almost no low-end graphics cards that can play Crysis 3, even at 1680x1050.
The latest drivers will be used, and every card will be paired with an Intel Core i7-3960X to remove CPU bottlenecks that could influence high-end GPU scores.
We're using Fraps to measure frame rates during 90 seconds of gameplay footage from Crysis 3's first level, "Post Human." The test starts as soon as Michael "Psycho" Sykes hands you his backup weapon, we then simply follow the party leader until the time runs out.
We'll test Crysis 3 at three common desktop display resolutions: 1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600, using the DX11 mode. For the very high-quality test, we'll set the "overall quality" in the video quality menu to very high while also setting the SMAA level to 1 (low). The high and medium-quality tests will also be conducted with SMAAx1 enabled.
Ramping up to high quality, the GTX 680 landed square on the 60fps mark when testing at 1680x1050, while the GTX 670 followed with 55fps and the HD 7970 GHz edition was forced into the 4xfps territory with the GTX 660 Ti. It seems like the non-Ti GTX 660 or the HD 7950 are about as low as you'll want to go, as both were near the 40fps mark with the Nvidia card on top by 3fps.
At 1920x1200, Crysis 3 kicked the GTX 680 10fps below our ideal and the GTX 670 joined AMD's flagship in the 40fps range—albeit with a 5fps lead. The HD 7970 GHz Edition averaged 41fps, narrowly beating the GTX 660 Ti by a single frame.
Crysis 3 is barely playable when running on high at 2560x1600, with the GTX 680 and HD 7970 GHz Edition barely offering 30fps. If you want play with these settings on a single-GPU card, you'll likely need Nvidia's new GTX Titan.
With the high quality preset being so taxing, we wondered if there was any point in testing on a more intensive setting. But we did, and things aren't pretty—or, well, they're too pretty. At 1680x1050, the GTX 680 managed 44fps and stood as the only card to exit the 30fps range, which is populated with the GTX 670, HD 7970, GTX 660 Ti and HD 7950 Boost, though anything below the HD 7970 GHz Edition is pushing it in our opinion.
Not much needs to be said here: the GTX 680 is your only hope of achieving playable performance, barring the Titan or a multi-GPU solution.
This is the resolution I typically game at with one GTX 680 and, naturally, I like to crank everything up. That's not an option here. We'd be interested in seeing how a pair of GTX Titans in SLI perform.
A game most famous for its beautiful visuals can be beamed directly into your eyeballs, thanks to some clever modding for the Oculus Rift. Modder Nathan Andrews, who previously worked on Half-Life and Black Mesa mods for the VR device, has started cracking into the CryEngine and produced a neat proof-of-concept video to prove it.
PC Gamer reports that the mod is incomplete, as it lacks things like a crosshair and iron-sights. But he has the mod up and running, at least, in both Crysis and Crysis Wars. He also mentioned that he's ported the mod to CryEngine 3 "if anyone is interested in building a game from the ground up with VR support."
We're probably witnessing the way humanity ends. When aliens are picking over our bodies and wondering how we died, they'll discover it wasn't famine or nuclear war. We all just had VR equipment strapped to our heads and no reason to leave our picturesque tropical islands. Still, what a way to go.
Well, actually not the future. The present. See, when first they announced the Oculus Rift VR headset, I thought, "Oh, virtual reality. I liked The Lawnmower Man. This should be weird."
Then, modder Nathan Andrews got the headset working with Half-Life 2, and I thought, "Oh, wow. Okay. I'd love to use this thing." Now he's done the same thing with the original Crysis, and watching the above video, my feelings are somewhat more refined: "Yep, I still want to play this thing. Also, I miss the first Crysis."
Behold, independent head and arm movement. Nifty. Andrews notes that he hasn't yet modded the crosshairs to track properly, which is why his aiming is a bit off. He's using a Mag II gun controller, which he says works well. If you want to see what it looks like with him wearing it, check out the Half-Life 2 video linked above.
So how far would you guys say we are from full-on Far Cry 3 cybersex here? A month? A couple months? Like, four months?
(H/T PC Gamer)
"Nanotechnology offers unprecedented possibilities for progress—defeating poverty, starvation, and disease, opening up outer space, and expanding human capacities. But it also brings unprecedented risks—the specter of devastating wars fought with far more powerful weapons of mass destruction." - Chris Phoenix, Director of Research, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology.
When you step into one of the games in the Crysis series, you step into something called a "Nanosuit." It makes you a stronger, better soldier.
The Nanosuit is supposedly made up of a material called CryFibril, also referred in the game as Nanoweave or Nanofiber. CryFibril is the single most important component of the suit, as it is the medium for the various Nanosuit functions. In Crysis 2, the CryFibril got a major overhaul, making the Nanosuit lighter, stronger and more energy efficient.
Someone at Crytek must have been doing their homework because CryFibril looks suspiciously like a recent real-world breakthrough in nanomaterial technology.
Medical and military scientists alike claim that nanotechnology will transform the future as we know it. With the global proliferation of nanoscale technologies, from the research bench to the consumer market, it is both inevitable and fast-approaching. The question remains though, what will the future landscape look like? The answer really depends on who you ask.
My previous article about nanotechnology in video games—specifically, the Metal Gear series—took a glimpse at how nanotechnology could completely revolutionize the future of warfare. Using some not-so-far-fetched science, soldiers and machines can be integrated into a massive command-and-control network with the help of computers, epidermal electronic sensors and wireless communication systems. The central combat environment would provide detailed battlefield information and control to commanders in real time, in what Colin Milburn (nano culture researcher), dubbed the "Digital Battlefield". Or maybe more appropriately: War—the video game.
"Taking inspiration from the Future Warrior 2020 program, we developed the Nano Fibre Suit [a.k.a Nanosuit) that can enhance strength, speed and armour levels. The player can max the speed and dash across an open field, change to the strength setting and silently punch out a sentry." - Bernd Diemer, Senior Game Designer, Crytek 2006
Crysis 3 is the newest installment in the Crysis series. For the unfamiliar, Crysis 3 is set in the near future (2047ish) and follows the adventures of
Alcatraz Prophet, a soldier equipped with a nanotechnology-inspired battle suit, aptly named the Nanosuit. Prophet must protect the human race from complete extension from the Charybdis, a race of technologically-advanced aliens that are dead-set on our destruction. The Nanosuit comes fully-fitted with three primary combat modes: Armour, Power and Stealth. These modes allow Prophet to battle the Charybdis with superhuman abilities. Let's take a peek behind the curtain and delve into the science of the CryNet Nanosuit.
Coincidence? I think not—CryFibril on the left and nanoscale carbon (graphene) on the right
Graphene (pictured above) is a one-atom thick sheet of carbon arranged in a repeating hexane pattern that has some really amazing mechanical properties. It might not look like much, but the discovery of graphene in 2004 was a big deal. In fact, the researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize just 6 years later, which is almost unheard of. So what's so special about this graphene stuff anyways?
Well in short, graphene is one the strongest materials ever manufactured. It has a breaking strength 100 times greater than steel and weighs thousands of times less (10,194 times less to be exact). Graphene can be rolled up into tubes, called carbon nanotubes, which are even stronger than graphene sheets. Carbon nanotubes can then be spun together and woven into fibers which are much more flexible and useful as engineering materials, making them the ideal fabric for the Nanosuit. If you can believe it, carbon nanotubes are even harder than diamond. So it comes as no surprise that research is already underway towards developing carbon nanotube composite body armour for police and military applications as well as building an elevator to space, just to name a few ideas.
Graphene can be rolled up into a tube just like a sheet of paper and spun into super strong carbon nanofibers, the perfect material for an armoured Nanosuit.
"From shape-shifting armour to fabric that can turn away microbes, as well as bullets to new power sources, the defense industries are launching major initiatives and planning for Nanotechnology. The basic research in Nanotechnology conducted at these centers will provide the foundation upon which real world applications can be built." - Kevin G. Coleman, Senior Fellow, Technolytics Institute
In a pinch, Prophet can divert power to the CryFibril Nano suit armour to temporarily increase protection from incoming high-speed objects, blunt trauma and energy blasts. This process, called Armour Mode, supposedly tightens up the suit's outer weave, which decreases the suit's power upon impact, rather than valuable health.
Interestingly, there is a real world nanomaterial counterpart currently under development called D30 gel. This protective nanogel is a dilatant non-Newtonian fluid, which is a very fancy way of saying it is flexible when moving slowly, but rigidifies upon impact, before quickly returning to its flexible state again. These types of materials behave very strangely. Check it out on YouTube, you won't regret it. Studies have down that D30 gel can absorb much of the energy from a shock or impact, greatly reducing the damage to the wearer. It is already in use in protective sports equipment and is coming soon to a battlefield near you.
Shock-absorbing nanogel (D30), real life Maximum Armour
When Prophet needs to quickly sprint across the battlefield, leap to cover on top of a Pinger or toss a wrecked car at a pesky group of Ceph, Power Mode is the way to go. Power Mode uses up Nanosuit energy for as long as it is active and grants the player superhuman strength.
How can we rationalize this with some real world science? Well, we could talk about a powered exoskeleton like the Raytheon XOS. This would fit the bill in terms of Power Mode functionally but it is hardly a nanoscale technology. No, we need to go smaller, much smaller.
An international team of researchers lead by Ray Baughman at the University of Texas have come up with a nano-sized alternative. They have developed an artificial nano fiber muscle. These nano fibers are made up of ropes of carbon nanotubes which are twisted together into thicker yarns and set into paraffin wax.
The bundles of nano fibers can contract rapidly when exposed to heat or electricity, up to 200 times stronger than human muscle. The manufacturing process will have to be improved to weave larger fabrics, like our trusty Nanosuit, but the basic premise checks out.
Ropes of carbon nanotubes can be spun into thicker yarns forming high strength artificial muscles.
"Military camouflage outfits that blend with a variety of environments without needing an outside power source—blue, say, when at sea, and then brown in a desert environment—is where this work could eventually lead." - George Bachand, Team Leader, Sandia National Laboratories
Is there an annoying Ceph patrol up ahead guarding the objective? Need to sneak by a sentry and avoid being detected? No problem. Disappear from sight with Stealth Mode. This Nanosuit ability also drains power but makes the wearer invisible. The suit's surface can dynamically scan the surrounding area and modify its skin colour to match in real time. This is the principle behind active camouflage. Animals like the octopus, chameleon and sea horse have already figured it out. Humans, on the other hand, are still working on it.
One of the first experimental active camouflage prototypes came out of the lab of Susumu Tachi from University of Tokyo in 2003. They developed a camouflage system in which a video camera captures the background behind an object and displays it on a cloth in front using an external projector. It didn't really work very well, but it inspired others to try and make their own cloaking machines. There are several new approaches currently under development using metamaterials which can actually bend light around an object. This technology only works for extremely small objects, so what about our Nanosuit?
The secret behind Susumu Tachi's active camouflage prototype
Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories (a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin) have been working on a dramatically different strategy since 2009. The principle is to fabricate a material with differently-coloured lights attached to motors, which are embedded at the surface. These lights can be rotated and turned on and off dynamically to match the colour of the surroundings. Sounds pretty straightforward right? Well it is, until you scale it down to the molecular level.
Their motors are not electric; they are protein motors which run on tiny microtube rails. Their lights don't have bulbs. They are made up of quantum dot nano crystals. Quantum dots are highly fluorescent nanoscale metal semiconductors which can absorb and emit light of different wavelengths (colours). They are commonly used in nanomedicine as imaging and diagnostic tools due to their small size and favourable optical properties.
Now imagine millions of quantum dots that are differently coloured (red, green, blue) all moving around in controlled patterns at the surface of the Nanosuit. By controlling the intensity and position of these quantum dots, and with the proper video input to capture the surrounding environment, you could get very energy-efficient cloaking. While this technology is clearly in the early stages of development, it is an interesting possibility and one to consider for the Nanosuit.
"Video game traditions here shape the way that military nanoscience presents itself to the public... striving for a digital future where wars are rebootable and soldier's lives are replayable, thanks to the struggles of intrepid researches." - Colin Milburn, Nanoculture Researcher, Everyday Nanowars: Video Games and the Crisis of the Digital Battlefield
It is a wild, wild world down at the nanoscale, and scientists are just beginning to scratch the surface. Whether in our socks and sunscreen, or on the dystopian battlefields of the future, it won't be long before products made with nano technology are an inescapable part of our everyday life. I tip my hat at Crytek for coming up with an extremely cool (and more-or-less plausible) science-inspired Nanosuit.
No offence to Alcatraz, I think it is pretty clear that in this case, the suit makes the man.
"The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. It is not an attempt to violate any laws; More »
OK, OK, I admit, I want an Oculus Rift and I will do unspeakable things to any human being of your choice in order to get one. (Er, better not hold me to that.) Stereoscopic 3D in games has left me either unmoved or with a headache to date, but these VR goggles are so much more than that. They mean videogames BEAMED DIRECTLY INTO MY BRAIN, or thereabouts and, as this video of an OR modification for Crysis demonstrates, they also allow the use of natural head movement to look around game environments. (more…)
If you've played Crysis 3 on the PC, you've probably noticed that the first level, even on a powerful system, chugs. Badly. It gets you off on the wrong foot with the game, because you start worrying more about hardware than the experience, and that sucks.
Stick with it, though; bizarrely, as the first level's tight corridors open up into vast expanses of a ruined New York, Crysis 3 runs a lot smoother. Which doesn't make sense, seeing as it should be the other way around.
This weird scenario has a weird solution, though: it's all to do with ropes. Yup. Ropes.
When the ropes are stationary, everything's fine and dandy at 60fps. If they move in the wind or are shot at, though, things can drop to under 40fps (that's the rate recorded by MaLDoHD... for me, it was much, much lower).
Strange, yes, and currently without a fix, but at least now you know it's the game's fault, and not that of your hardware.
Remember the dancing CELL soldiers from Crysis 2? No? Well, either way, the easter egg is back in Crysis 3—all you have to do is press a certain button while in a certain menu. Check out this video by Game Front to see what I mean.
Also visible: frogs and robots. And, sure, Prophet himself (but that's not as interesting!)
Crysis 3: a first-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic, alien-invaded New York, in which you wear a Nanosuit which enables you to temporarily become invisible, damage-resistant or able to leap moderately-sized walls in a single bound. It has a lot of graphics. It’s out now in the US, and tomorrow in the UK. Here is an opinion.> (more…)