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Crytek, the developers behind the Crysis series (and the CryEngine), will soon be helping release their own online multiplayer gaming service. It has a stupid name, but everything else about it is very interesting.
It's called GFACE. Seriously. Get over the name, though, and you see it's trying to take online gaming on a PC (and other devices) to a very slick and sociable place.
While saying that the product is run by a "a small team with big ideas", GFACE's creators acknowledge they are "backed up by a well known critically acclaimed game studio: Crytek. We share not only technology and vision, but the commitment to deliver the highest possible quality". All the group's vacant job positions are all hosted on Crytek's website.
As a network, GFACE is built around friends lists, obviously, but with a few key alterations to the way most existing services do things. For one, it's got embedded video chat right there in the framework. It also has a drag-and-drop invite system similar to the way Battlefield 3's Battlelog rus, and again like Battlelog, GFACE operates in a browser.
And that's where it gets interesting. Unlike Battlelog, which was designed for a single game, GFACE's browser plug-in also operates as a streaming agent, meaning you don't actually play the games off your PC, you'd be streaming them in from off-site, ala OnLive.
So, like you can see in the multi-device shot in the gallery above, the guy on the PC plays a traditional 3D first-person shooter game, while other players on iOS devices play command or support roles designed specifically for their hardware. Yet they're all playing the same game, because it all - in theory, at least - runs in a browser and not on the actual device.
It's also taking a page out of Xbox Live's books by letting you access those same friends lists and functionality while watching media.
Perhaps most ambitious, though, is the fact gaming is just part of what Crytek wants GFACE to do. There's a whole raft of social applications similar to what Facebook and Twitter currently do built into the system as well, which you can see in the video in the gallery above.
GFACE is currently in closed beta.
A couple weeks back I ran an enjoyable feature on Duncan Harris, the video game photographer behind the website DeadEndThrills. Harris takes some of the most evocative, beautiful video game screenshots I've ever seen, and we've been sharing some of his work each week here.
This week has some good stuff. Let's get into it, shall we?
First up, at top:
"I Am The Very Model of a Sideways-Scrolling Beat-Em-Up"
Or really, Mr. Harris? Well then:
I've information vi-o-lent and beat the bad guys to a pulp
I know kung-fu-ian theory and am teaming with a lot-o-moves
with many cheerful ways to shred anonymously evil dudes
(with many cheerful ways to shred anonymously evil dudes!)
Bonus points for the Gilbert & Sullivan reference! Here are Duncan's notes on this terrific shot from Bulletstorm:
Tools and tricks: custom game build, debug camera, custom FOV, 2160p rendering, FXAA injection, timestop.
Yet another shot that captures how gorgeous Modern Warfare 2 was in its wanton destruction. As I careened through this single-player campaign, I always felt like the art team had slaved over this incredible stuff, only to have us pass it by in the blink of an eye, actively penalized for pausing to take it in. It's nice to slow down and dig the lovely particle effects.
Tools and tricks: game client 1.0 (boxed version), MW2 Unleashed command console patch, high quality ambient occlusion, custom LOD bias, 2160p rendering, FXAA, no-HUD, timestop, free camera, custom FOV.
A beautiful shot from STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl (screw it, I'm not doing the periods anymore and you can't make me). Gotta play more of this game. Duncan's notes:
Tools and tricks: 2160 rendering, antialiasing (SMAA), free camera, time demo recorder, no-HUD, STALKER Complete 2009 mod, custom FOV (hacked game DLL @ FOV 50).
A very cool shot from The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Dark Athena. Duncan's notes:
Tools and tricks: 2160p rendering, antialiasing (FXAA), free camera, timestop.
The ferris wheel from STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl, which also makes a cameo in the best level of the first (and best) Modern Warfare. As Duncan points out, "In a city where the average age was just 26, it's fittingly cruel that the Pripyat Ferris Wheel, a decaying symbol of Soviet nuclear naivety, is today its most irradiated landmark. It might also explain where Modern Warfare's John ‘Soap' MacTavish got his superhuman powers and giant bollocks"
Tools and tricks: 2160 rendering, antialiasing (SMAA), free camera, time demo recorder, no-HUD, STALKER Complete 2009 mod, custom FOV (hacked game DLL @ FOV 50).
To fill out this week, I'm looking back at Dead End Thrills' Crysis collection, which is truly a game made for this site. They are all gorgeous (how many amazing shots of an island can you drool over?), but I really like this one.
Too many games that have lovely looking surface water drop the ball once you go under water (I'm looking at you, Skyrim). But not Crysis. I love how this shot celebrates that—few games go so far as to have an underwater view look as gorgeous as this one.
Seriously, go download the entire collection.
Remember back in May, how we showed you that footage from the US military's new "video game" simulation suite? Well, it's back. And it looks more amazing than ever.
To recap, this is the Dismounted Soldier Training System (DSTS), a new simulation tool for the US Army. It's cost the government nearly $60 million to develop, but if you get to use it you'll probably think it's totally worth it, as it's designed to be played not on a screen, but in a virtual reality rig, complete with goggles.
A lot of what you're seeing here, especially in the second video, aren't "levels" in the traditional sense, they're massive outdoor environments being rendered by CryEngine 3 (the engine that powers Crysis 2).
Looks like a very pretty version of ArmA. Which makes me want to play this. Badly.
Even if you have zero interest in sunk ships or James Cameron movies, you need to see this video of the interior of the Titanic, built using CryEngine 3. It's as amazing as it is shiny.
Today, Crytek's landmark 2007 PC game Crysis was re-released as a downloadable game for both Xbox 360 and PS3. I've already had a chance to play the game and really liked it, in particular its improved controls, strong visuals, and directly-translated open gameplay. It's a strong port of a good game.
Now I've got my own copy, I thought I'd put together a video of some highlights from the first half-hour to give a sense of what the game is all about.
The Crysis re-release is single-player only, but that's okay—it has a chunky campaign that features a lot of variety both in terms of locations and enemies, and it does a great job of imparting the thrill of the hunt. Playing it again, I realized that as much as I enjoyed Crysis 2, I miss the larger, more open battlefields of the first game.
Crysis can be downloaded on either console for $19.99, and if you've got the scratch to spare or are looking for a less expensive, more tropical counterpoint to the just-released Rage, I recommend giving it a go.
It's true. You can finally download PlayStation 2 classic God Hand to your PlayStation 3, people. That's the wonderfully wacky beat 'em up from the people who made Okami. IGN labeled it awful, while Kotaku contributor Tim Rogers likened it to "being a professional chainsaw-wielding glacier demolisher at a party where the penguins are going to need a lot of ice cubes."
If polarizing PS2 games aren't your thing—though at just ten bucks a pop, those emulated last-gen games are certainly worth experimenting with—there's much more on tap in this week's North American PlayStation Store update. NBA Jam On Fire Edition, the original Crysis and the lovely looking Eufloria, for example.
But if "new" video games aren't your cup of tea, Sega Bass Fishing, Odin Sphere and Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition are also recent adds to the PlayStation Store. See the full list of new PlayStation 3 and PSP games in the very long list below.
Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition ($29.99)
NBA Jam On Fire Edition ($14.99)
Shift 2 Unleashed Digital ($39.99)
Sega Bass Fishing ($9.99)
Space Channel 5 Part 2 ($9.99)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 Demo
PSone Classics - Chrono Trigger ($9.99)
PS2 Classics - Odin Sphere ($9.99)
PS2 Classics - Maximo: Ghosts To Glory ($9.99)
PS2 Classics - Grim Grimoire ($9.99)
PS2 Classics - Ring of Red ($9.99)
PS2 Classics - God Hand ($9.99)
FIFA 12 ($39.99)
Portal 2: Peer Review (free)
Rage – Wasteland Sewer Missions ($9.99)
Dead Rising 2: Off The Record Free Support Pack (free)
Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition Match Pack 1 (Fight For The Future) ($3.99)
NBA Jam On Fire Edition – Time Is Money Pack ($4.99)
Magic The Gathering: Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2012: Foil Conversion "Auramancer" ($0.99)
Magic The Gathering: Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2012: Foil Conversion "Cloudburst" ($0.99)
Magic The Gathering: Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2012: Foil Conversion "Grave Whispers" ($0.99)
Magic The Gathering: Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2012: Full Deck "Auramancer" ($0.99)
Magic The Gathering: Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2012: Full Deck "Cloudburst" ($0.99)
Magic The Gathering: Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2012: Full Deck "Grave Whispers" ($0.99)
Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2012: Alaskan Rocks (free)
Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2012: Chile Plateau (free)
Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2012: Texas Woods (free)
Rock Band 3 tracks
Rock Band Network tracks
Qore 10/4 Edition
NBA 2K12 – Momentous Trailer
NBA 2K12: 3D Trailer
Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning Gamescom Trailer
Need For Speed The Run – Porsche Reveal Trailer
House Of The Dead: Overkill Gameplay Trailer #1
Final Fantasy XIII-2 2011 TGS Trailer
Jurassic Park: The Game – Action Montage Trailer
Metro: Last Light – E3 Gameplay Trailer
Metro: Last Light – Teaser Trailer
Saints Row The Third – Killbane: The Walking Apocalypse Trailer
Twisted Metal Vengeance Trailer
Resistance 3 "Follow Capelli" Trailer
Resistance 3 "No Mercy" Trailer
Resistance 3 "Radio" TV Spot
GT Academy Behind the Scenes – Helicopter Cam
GT Academy Behind the Scenes – Rally Course
Rochard Skyrig Theme (free)
Rochard Theme (free)
Rage Wellspring Dynamic Theme ($2.99)
Rage Premium Theme ($1.99)
A Murder of Crows Dynamic Theme ($2.99)
Amphibian Delight Dynamic Theme ($2.99)
Bombshelter Blues Dynamic Theme ($2.99)
Flirty Girl Dynamic Theme ($2.99)
Xuriga Static Theme ($1.49)
Tatsuka Static Theme ($1.49)
Misti Dawn Playtime Static Theme ($1.49)
4 Elements Hd: Wallpaper 2
Rochard – John Rochard Wallpaper
Lost Planet 2 Avatars (x20) ($0.49)
Rocket Knight Avatar Collection 2 ($2.99)
Red Faction Armageddon Avatar Bundle ($0.99)
Explodemon! – Sale (PS3) (now $6.99, original price $9.99)
Tales From Space: About A Blob – Sale (PS3) (now $5.99, original price $14.99)
Enigmo – Sale (PS3) (now $1.99, original price $3.99)
Jane's Hotel – Sale (PS3) (now $1.99, original price $3.99)
Zombie Tycoon – Sale (PS3) (now $2.99, original price $4.99)
Zombie Tycoon French – Sale (PS3) (now $2.99, original price $4.99)
Stardrone – End Sale (PS3) (now $7.99, original price $4.99)
Bulletstorm – Digital Download – Price Change (PS3) (now $29.99, original price $39.99)
Costume Quest (free)
Elemental Monster (free)
PSP minis - 1000 Tiny Claws (free)
PSP minis - Speedball 2 (free)
PSP minis - Street Smarts (free)
PSone Classics - Warhawk (free)
Resident Evil 5 full game trial
Shift 2 Unleashed full game trial
Eufloria – 20% off
Explodemon! – 30% off
Tales From Space: About a Blob – 40% off
Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition – 25% off
Elemental Monster Online Card Game Booster Box DLC – 50% off
Lost Planet 2 Avatar Bundle (free)
The original 2007 Crysis has a benchmark-y quality to it. It is no longer the Best-Looking PC Game In The World, but it retains some of that "must-have" mystique nonetheless. Perhaps it's because it's one of only a few hardcore first-person shooters that has never been ported to consoles. But every time one of my console-playing friends builds a new gaming PC, first thing he or she does is go straight to Steam and download the game.
Well, it's a PC exclusive no longer. Crytek and EA have announced a coming downloadable version of Crysis for Xbox 360 and PS3, which will use the updated CryEngine 3 that powered this year's Crysis 2. Earlier this week I had a chance to play it on Xbox 360, and I was so impressed that one of my first questions was, somewhat unbelievably: "Is this being ported to PC?"
Sadly, the answer was "No." I took a moment to reflect on the question I'd just asked: "Will I be able to play a PC port of your console port of a PC game?" Dogs and cats! Living together!
So here's the part where I commit heresy and say that yes, I rather like using an Xbox 360 controller with my PC. Blah blah, PC Master Race, superiority and precision of the mouse and keyboard, blah. I love precision as much as the next guy, and I play a good number of games with a mouse and keyboard (including the original Crysis). But I also like to kick back with a controller in my hand and relax, and I even like controller-rumble! It feels good on m'hands. Furthermore, I've recently taken to moving my PC over to my giant HDTV and running my games on the big screen, (you should see The Witcher 2 running on a 55-inch display, good god), and at the moment, I'm unable to play mouse/keyboard games while sitting in front of my television.
This is all a disclaimer-filled preamble to where I talk about how I played Crysis 2 on PC with a 360 controller. It worked great, and as I've mentioned before, I liked that game more than a little bit. I played a ton of Crysis with a mouse and keyboard, partly because the way that the game mapped to a 360 controller never felt right (and couldn't be customized, boo). The crouch didn't stick, the iron-sights did… and iron-sights were assigned to RB? Left trigger brought up the suit menu, but there was no one-button way to toggle between the suit's abilities. And worst of all, there was no way to go prone when using a controller… none. You had to use the keyboard. It was all a bit of a mess, particularly when compared to the intuitive controller-mapping in Crysis 2.
So when I sat down alongside Crytek's Miles Clapham to play through a chunk of Crysis's campaign on the Xbox 360, the first thing I noticed was how good the new controls felt. The mapping has been redone to match with Crysis 2—RB now toggles stealth mode, sprint and power-jump are tied to the left thumbstick and the A button (you hold it down to do a power-jump). Other strength functions are tied to the environment—for example, get close enough to a soldier and you'll be given a prompt to grab him.
The second thing I noticed is how great the game looks—thanks to the improved tech of CryEngine 3, Crysis on consoles looks just about as good as the (un-modded) PC version of the game, albeit not running in as high a resolution. I played through a chunk of the fourth chapter of the game, "Assault," which Crysis fans will remember as the mission that begins with a nighttime beach-run under heavy artillery fire. Midway through the level, the sun rises over Lingshan Island, and it looked as spectacular as I remember it from the first game. The lighting, foliage, and sense of "alive-ness" has been carried over intact. The small details are present, too—as I made my way up the beach, a small family of crabs skittered out of my way, and grenade blasts knocked over trees as reliably as ever.
Some aspects of the gameplay have been tweaked—I noticed that stealth mode depleted the nanosuit's reserves far more slowly, making the game feel a bit closer to its more-forgiving sequel. Inventory has been mapped to the "Y" button, with a nice four-direction menu like the one found in the console versions of Half-Life 2. But by and large, Crysis on Xbox 360 moved and played just like its PC counterpart. The physics and gunplay have that same precision, and the world has the same sense of complex reactiveness.
Clapham told me that, by far, the hardest part of getting Crysis to work on the Xbox was getting all of its AIs and systems to run simultaneously on the 360's comparatively small memory reserves. "I played through Crysis on PC on medium/low settings," he said, "and it used up 1.6 Gigs in the end. And we've got that down to 256MB [on the PS3], so we've had a huge squeeze there. The console has lots of processing power, but just to be able to run the kinds of things [the number of simultaneous systems] we're running in Crysis was a real challenge. Running this kind of visual quality on the PC, with the same hardware spec as the console, it runs at half the framerate of what we have now. CryEngine 3 has been huge, we've got huge improvements to the rendering pipeline."
The entire time I played, Crysis ran beautifully, with nary a hitch or a framerate dip. Even on my 2011 gaming PC, Crysis hits some framerate issues when I run it at ultra-spec. But I saw no slowdown as I fought my way through guard posts, across bridges, over beaches and through the jungle. All of the open, emergent fun of Crysis is here, and it's more playable than ever.
The game will be out on October 4 on PS3 and Xbox 360, and will go for $19.99, or 1600 Microsoft points. It will be single-player only, and will not include Crysis's "Power Struggle" multiplayer mode. Most of the human enemies are North Korean soldiers, but they always speak English unless players put the difficulty all the way up to "Delta" mode. Sadly, there will still not be an option to turn on Korean enemy barks without changing the difficulty, but Clapham told me that the team is using the much-improved English audio enemy dialogue from Crysis: Warhead instead of the painfully bad tracks in the original Crysis, so that's something.
Crysis will never look as good on a console as it does on a high-end gaming PC, particularly if the PC version of the game has been modded or tweaked at all. But I was impressed with how thoroughly Crytek has translated the game to the new (old) systems. And perhaps more importantly, Crysis now handles very well—suit abilities are easier to access, vehicles handle better, and the whole thing feels nicely streamlined. And while the very mention of the word "streamlined" will make some PC players grumpy, well… there'll always be the original PC version. I, for one, would love to see a CryEngine 3 version of Crysis running in DirectX 11 on a tricked-out gaming PC. Sigh… we always want what we can't have.
By dropping the game into October Crytek and EA have chosen a… challenging time to release an FPS. A 2007 PC re-release stands no real chance of competing with Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. That said, neither of those games offer Crysis's uniquely engaging blend of sandboxy-shooting, stealth, and reactive action. Then again, they also don't share Crysis' dramatically inferior third act and finale. (Unless one of those games features hugely annoying flying squid enemies that no one's talking about.)
While it's tough to say how Crysis will do commercially, from what I saw, it plays well and looks lovely. Console players will finally have a chance to experience one of the longest-standing PC exclusives that they've never gotten to play, and the rest of us can kick back on the couch, grab a controller, and revisit an action classic.
Crawling through the leaves
Enemy patrol is near
Frog goes hopping by
The game isn't due out for another 1 1/2 to 2 years, the company said in a press release.
"We see Homefront as a really strong universe that has a lot of potential and that has been expertly created and marketed by THQ," said Cevat Yerli, Founder, CEO and President of Crytek. "We believe that bringing our level of quality, creativity and production values to the next Homefront title creates an opportunity for both THQ and Crytek to deliver a truly blockbuster game. It's really important to us that THQ has the faith in giving us a lot of creative freedom over one of its most important properties to allow us to bring the Homefront world to life in a new and innovative way."
Homefront, which hit earlier this year to mixed reviews, took place during a future America occupied by North Korean forces. The game featured brutal portrayals of an occupied country in the year 2027. The game ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, with rebel forces taking back part of the country, but with still much to do.
THQ says Homefront was a commercial success and that the "yet-to-be-named sequel" is scheduled for release during THQ's fiscal 2014 on console and PC. THQ's 2014 fiscal year runs from April, 2013 to March 2014.
However, that commercial success didn't prevent THQ from shuttering the New York City-based developer behind the game. Kaos Studios was shut down over the summer as part of a "strategic realignment within its internal studio structure," the company told Kotaku at the time. THQ also said at the time that THQ's Montreal studio "will take over product development and overall creative management for the Homefront franchise."
So why shift gears and go with an outside studio?
"Selecting Crytek to take Homefront forward underscores our strategy of working with the industry's best talent," said Danny Bilson, EVP Core Games, THQ. "Homefront's unique setting and storyline captivated gamers the world over. With Crytek's industry leading technology and legendary experience in the FPS genre, we're supremely confident that the next Homefront will deliver that AAA-quality experience that players demand."
There's been talk of this happening for years (no surprise, given the fact the game is four years old!), but it's finally happening: PC benchmark Crysis is coming to the PS3 and Xbox 360.
It'll be out next month (talk about short notice!), and has a few new features courtesy of developers Crytek's advances over the past four years, including new lighting and new effects.
The clip below is showing the 360 version, and for the 360 version, it looks pretty damn good. Not top of the range PC good, but then, an Xbox 360 isn't a top of the range PC.