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But it's interesting to look at them as a reflection of the increasing horsepower and ambition of mobile games—they've certainly come a long way since Hero of Sparta, anyway.
This exclusive trailer for their newest game, Nova 3, demonstrates the ever-increasing sophistication. In fact, Nova 3, which is the third game in their FPS Nova series, looks like nothing so much as Crysis 2, which… well, for a mobile app is no small feat.
When one thinks of this industry's true tech-driven developers, one doesn't have to think too hard. Count them on one hand—Id, Epic, DICE, Valve, and Crytek. When these teams reveal their games, the titles often feel more like tech demos than game demos. Last night in San Francisco, Ca., Crytek debuted Crysis 3, and it was very much like seeing a tech demo.
OK, it was a tech demo.
So let's be honest: CryEngine 3, which runs Crysis 3, is an in-your-face, razor-edged visual sledgehammer that will wow you. The demo I witnessed didn't stray from the now clearly-understood memes the game industry is known for: dazzling light effects, enormous guns, and even bigger explosions, aliens, and deaths. The presentation was a muscular audio-visual display of powerful technology. And demos like this don't come around too often.
But the experience was bigger than just better shaders, more lens flares, and bigger vistas. For those who played Crysis for the PC in 2007 or last year's multi-system sequel, you know the Crysis series has always been about setting up new ways of playing. The innovations each of the games has brought, whether they're multifunctional weapon sets or futuristic interfaces and suits, delivers a great gameplay experience, too.
Crysis 3 takes place in 2047, 20 years after the events in Crysis 2, and it returns to New York. The Big Apple has been obliterated, severed, and contained. Director of creative development Rasmus Hojengaard explains that in the aftermath of the ongoing war with the Ceph—the futuristic alien race that arrived on earth to eliminate all human life in Crysis 1—and the ever-expanding control of the international conglomerate, Cell Industries, New York has been sectioned off into containment domes. (Check out the game's new trailer up top.)
Remember the dome in the sci-fi film Logan's Run? How about the Halo in Halo: Combat Evolved?
Cell Industries has developed domes to contain Ceph threats and eradicate remaining alien cells. The drastic cleansing method means that all human life has either been moved out of the nano domes, or wiped out by the alien diseases. The domes also create perfect gameplay sandboxes. "We wanted to go beyond your standard urban war field," says Hojengaard. "The architecture of the domes gives us the ability to create a distinct artistic vision. The domes act like super-accelerated greenhouses, and in each one there are different geographic regions. In this demo we're seeing the swamps. They also tie into our gameplay philosophy."
Our demo started one-third of the way into Crysis 3 in a rainforest dome, replete with croaking frogs that leaped through the level's murky creeks. Called the Liberty Dome, it contains the "Seven Wonders"—a "wonder" represents a different geographical type, such as grasslands, swamps, rain forests, etc. And each wonder shows off Crytek's "AAA" gameplay philosophy: Assess, Adapt, and Attack.
Players will slip on the nano suit of the character Prophet, who returns from the dead in Crysis 2 (apparently he didn't die). "We brought Prophet back because he has the most heritage; he's the most layered, flawed, and the most interesting characters in the franchise," says Hojengaard. "He was a good soldier before, but now he's returned to find out what happened to his squad (killed in Crysis 2) and to redeem himself by becoming the hunter, not the hunted. It's the theme of the game, redemption and revenge."
Prophet starts the demo inside an abandoned building within the Liberty Dome and his nano suit enables him to read the new hostile situation accordingly. Sneaking through the shadows, Prophet's gaze identifies enemies, their threat level, and the weapons they wield, giving him an idea of what he's up against. This is the assessment.
Now he can adapt to the situation. Should he run in with guns blazing or pick them off one by one? Prophet's nano suit retains many abilities, the first of which is an invisibility cloak, enabling him to sneak quietly in the shadows—or silently kill. Before dropping down into the swampy muck, Prophet slings his tech bow with a standard arrow and kills a grunt-level Ceph. On the ledge below, he spies three more enemies. He quietly slays them all.
The tech bow might raise some eyebrows. What on Earth is such an archaic weapon doing in such a futuristic game? "The tech bow brings new functionality to Crysis 3," says Hojengaard very seriously. "In the previous games, weapons drained your energy. The tech bow doesn't. Also, you can use it while cloaked, giving Prophet certain advantages."
The arrows come in a couple of different flavors, standard and explosive (and we expect Crytek to reveal more in the future). Moving forward, Prophet sees a new Ceph enemy called a Seeker (or Decloaker), a small, scout hovercraft that can recognize the nano suit and send up an alarm. Silently taking out the Seeker, Hojengaard switches to an explosive warhead and lights up a squadron of Ceph in the near-distance, starting in on the third phase: attack.
The rest of the 10-minute demo featured full-on combat ranging from straight-up headshots to actual melee uppercuts, using assortment of weaponry and attack styles. There were some surprises concerning the new nano suit. In Crysis 1, the nano suit was not a multi-tasking suit. Players had to switch from one mode to another, one at a time. In Crysis 2, the suit could multitask. One of the new features in the third game is Prophet's ability to wield enemy weapons, not an option in previous games. EA hasn't revealed everything about the suit's new functionalities, but it's clear the suit has been infused with alien technology that enables it to adapt to alien weaponry. Crytek's visuals showed how, one-third of the way through the game, the nano suit was having trouble identifying various alien weapons, with confused numbers and tech phrases popping up.
For a sandbox FPS, the bow won't always be useful, so Prophet will have to pick up alien guns. One of them is the Typhoon, which shoots 500 rounds per second (yes, that's not a typo, 500 rounds per second). The other is a heavy mortar, which shoots plasma grenades and plasma missiles.
Another new ability is hacking. After zipping around and kicking the crap out of a bunch of Ceph, Prophet quiets down and sneaks over to a two-story building in the bush and spies a turret. From a distance, he hacks it. As it starts to mow down its own kind, he rushes toward a massive red tower structure, encountering new enemies such as the Scorcher, "the first quadruped in a Crygame," and a Pinger, a Star Wars AT-ST-type walker. "The hacking characteristic gives us a deep and varied level of play we didn't have before," says Hojengaard.
All this splendor, and yet Crysis 3 is still a ways off. Scheduled to appear on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in Q2 2013, Crytek's shooter will likely be one of the last wave games of this current generation. There was no mention of a multiplayer game, although certainly Crysis 3 will have it. We expect to see EA dribble lots of details out across the coming year, with E3, Comic-Con, GamesCom, PAX, and TGS coming up between June and September.
EA and Crytek showed off a playable title that, since the series debut with Crysis in 2007, has matured in character and grown in design complexity, has deepened with layers of options and gameplay styles, and continues a path of innovation. It's a tech-driven game, but one that consistently scores high with hardcore gamers. Here's hoping the game remains as important as the tech that's driving it.
So don't get too excited, OK? Actually, given it seems to be little more than a tease for a longer trailer, it'd help if you don't get excited at all.
When we talk about games, the word "immersion" gets tossed around a lot. It's generally held to be a good thing: If a game has amazing graphics and audio, and a convincingly built world, we will become immersed in it to the point that it feels real.
But is it the right word? Is it actually something for which video games should strive? Does the word have meaning at all?
In this cool video essay, game academic/critic/Critical Distance maestro Ben Abraham takes a look at the word and the concept and draws some interesting conclusion. Attention, he argues, is a more useful term than immersion when talking about games that command us sensorially. Vitally, games require attention at some times but not at others, and the best games that are thought of as "immersive" (including Far Cry 2 and Crysis) give players space to find their bearings so that they're not overwhelmed when it comes time to pay attention.
The video's also got some some thoughts on Starcraft 2, the awesome theatrical production Sleep no More, Enter the Void, Uncharted developer Richard Lemarchand's by-all-accounts brilliant GDC talk, and books. Yeah! Just like, regular books. That you read.
Attention and Immersion [Ben Abraham Dot Net]
This morning EA and Crytek have officially unveiled Crysis 3, the third installment of the high-tech military shooter franchise and the second set in New York City's lush rainforests and teeming swamps. Wait, what?
The first Crysis took place on a tropical island. The second Crysis took place in New York City. The third mashes these two environments together, thanks to the power of the sinister Cell Corporation's Nanodome. Yes, New York City has been encased in a bubble and transformed into an urban rainforest, with seven distinct environments (known as the Seven Wonders) ready to put Prophet's skills and technology to the limit.
It's the perfect place for a bow, as it turns out, like the one we saw during last week's leak.
"Crysis 3 is a thrilling mix of sandbox gameplay, advanced combat and hi-tech human and alien weaponry that shooter fans will love," said Cevat Yerli, chief executive officer of Crytek via the official press release. "Leveraging the latest CryENGINE technology, we're able to deliver seven unique themes that offer stunning and visually loaded gameplay experiences. We cannot wait until people get their hands on the game."
And EA cannot wait to get fans lined up to play. Despite the game's 2013 release date, Origin is already taking preorders, with customers that commit early to the Crysis 3 Hunter Edition scoring early access to the bow weapon and double experience points in multiplayer up to level five.
They've even lined up retailer-exclusive preorder bonuses already:
So yes, EA and Crytek would really like you to play Crysis 3, eventually. Did I mention the hunter has become the hunted, and that everyone is a target in Prophet's quest for retribution? I probably should have. That sort of originality must be lauded.
With Crysis 3 on the way, even if we know almost nothing about it, we can at least guess it'll feature improved visuals from the second game in the series.
Especially since developers Crytek just announced a range of upgrades to their proprietary engine, including "revamped DirectX 11 tessellation, advanced character rendering options" and an "improved AI system".
What does that mean? Pretty things can now look a little prettier. As you can see in the video above.
Free CryENGINE 3 SDK 3.4 available [Crytek]
Crysis has long been a benchmark for PC hardware, a high-octane series packed to the brim with nasty aliens and powerful graphics.
So it only makes sense that developer Crytek's next project is a cartoon game for your phone. Coming this spring for iOS and Android, Fibble is a physics-based puzzle game starring adorable extraterrestrials with names like Byte and Vroom.
Speaking in a press release, Crytek CEO and President Cevat Yerli called the new project "an incredibly exciting step."
"The way that people play games on mobile devices is a real blessing," he said. "This allows us to get back to our roots, experiment and focus our energy on creating great gameplay experiences while still keeping Crytek's high production values."
Hope my iPhone's graphics card can handle it.
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.