On this installment of Games You Shouldn't Buy (GYSB), we have a guest writer for this issue, and it's a pleasure to introduce this issue's writer: codezer0! Without further ado, we look at a game that is not only become a running stereotype for PC gaming, but is both paradoxically lauded by the "PC Master Race" fanboys and symptomatic of a studio that clearly has nothing but contempt for the very consumers supporting it. A game that clearly launched with no realistic expectations at launch, or for the future of gaming at large, as it systematically makes computers bleed and wallets drain for unrealistic expectations and a curiously disturbing vegetation fetish. Fellow tempers, without further ado, the next in the list of Games You SHOULDN'T Buy? Crysis. I know ahead of time that I'm probably going to get a lot of flak from some people, who will cite professional review sites and metacritic scores and sales figures, but truly that means nothing in the scope of this segment. This segment is taken from a very personal experience and account with the game specifically, and in trying to figure out why it was this bad, and why people were still harping on like it was the second coming to gaming. The further I delved in, the more I realized that Crysis wasn't just the cause of something, but rather the symptom of a much larger problem with the industry at large, and especially with its fanboys. Allow me to get into the meat of the matter... Before I can talk about Crysis in depth, I have to start by discussing specifically its creator, Crytek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crytek ). For the large part, and especially more evident now, Crytek has existed in large part as the pet project of EA to become a new "tech demo" company, in a similar vein to how id software (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id_software ) was one before being bought out by Bethesda. The key difference here is that Crytek in its business decisions and corporate attitude, wishes to have the clout and the presence of id, without the years of contributions to the game development industry at large, or the shared achievements and experience to back it up. If it weren't for the contributions from id being made public, 3D graphics as we know them would still not be possible on the large majority of systems, or would have taken far longer, and relied on more proprietary engines and environments, instead of being shared to become a practical necessity. The problem is Crytek wants you to think you need them, without actually demonstrating why you need them. I also use tech demo company to be more succinct about the nature of the company, because that is essentially all they ever want to be. Crytek's business model seems to hinge entirely on the process of "make a new engine, make a game running on the engine, then license the engine to everyone else to use." On the face of it, there isn't anything inherently wrong with this business model. The problem is in the game part. See, in order to make a game engine attractive enough to get other parties to want to license it, you have to make a game with it... and this is where Crytek fails. It is famous for being the progenitor of a tech demo company, and for a large part got a free pass at it for making the likes of Doom and Quake, and being able to make a lot of engine and technologies that have allowed their games to have incredible longevity. Croteam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croteam ) behaves as a tech demo company on the face of things, and a similar business model, as does Epic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_games ). The difference is that both of these other studios make fun games - Serious Sam, and Unreal Tournament, respectively - whereas there was no fun to be had with Crysis. In short, Crytek appear to be a group of Germans who spent all their budget on making a game engine but had nothing left to figure out how to make a fun game with it. Another thing that must be brought up is why the game was famous in the first place. The developers went out of their way to laud the technical achievements of the engine powering the game, and how it would likely tax a lot of computer systems at the time. A lot of console fan boys would start referring to this as bloat, and have their reasons for doing so. See, a taxing game engine isn't bad in and of itself. If it's taxing because it really is doing a lot of stuff to make for a more immersive experience, this isn't a problem. If it's doing it to create a more accurate simulation, or to help create what would be a convincingly living and breathing world, then there isn't anything wrong with the idea of a game engine being taxing. If it's aggressively using the available resources to create a visually stunning world, or an audio environment where you can really see, feel, and hear everything around you precisely, those are good reasons to be a taxing game engine. Why? because usually such reasons to be taxing only get better when the hardware gets better at coping with the demand. The problem with Crytek and Crysis specifically, is that the experience doesn't get any better, or any more fluid on new hardware. This isn't a taxing engine. This is an unoptimized and poorly written engine. Where do I begin to explain this? At the time of the game's release, my computer consisted primarily of a Core 2 E6600 CPU, 2 gigs of RAM and an 8800GTS graphics card and Windows XP. Not top of the line, but certainly no slouch in any regard. I had my initial reservations, and naturally wanted to see what the game would run like before buying it. So I did the legitimate thing and downloaded the Single Player demo, as that was the most likely mode I'd be running with the game, and that was also the part of the game that interested me most anyway. In summation, at the only configured settings that did allow me to play fluidly - not exactly 60frames/sec all the time, but not getting hiccups and stutters anywhere either - the graphical quality was somehow worse than running the original Half Life on my prior main computer. I don't just mean poorer quality textures... but an exorbitant amount of aliasing and pixelated textures that I thought companies stopped doing since the PS1 era. To be honest, the poor experience had me legitimately concerned that there was something wrong with my machine, until I tested a variety of other games and demos available, and realized everything else ran like it should. This led me to conclude that it wasn't something wrong with my computer, per say... but with how the game itself handles a lot of things based on those settings. Many of the fanboys and press about the game lauded how the game featured fully destructible buildings, and advanced physics and AI. At the Medium Setting, I found that not only was this untrue, but the AI for the enemies that there were in the demo were basically devolved to a hiveminded set of robots with the singular purpose of eliminating you from across the island if they could get a bead on you. Most obnoxious was getting sniped to death repeatedly by enemies *I* could not see but somehow knew where I was. What I discovered after fiddling with the settings to experiment, was that on High, you could get the destructible buildings, and even being able to chop down trees with your weapons fire. Admittedly this was a cool feature at the high setting. But what I discovered was that by playing it on the more playable Medium setting at the time, the game would treat destructed buildings and foliage as if they were indeed destroyed, but did not render them as such. So the game was having an unfair advantage, where they were able to see me as if I were standing in a bare parking lot, but I couldn't see them through the still-standing trees. Can you say logic failure? Also, because this was a demo, it managed to create the cardinal sin above all things else in regards to being a demo...it was boring. At no point were there more than a handful of guards, the world felt as on rails as Final Fantasy X, and by the time that we as players start actually seeing something mildly interesting, the demo is over. There was no followup action. There was no interesting boss encounter or fight, there was no hint of a stereotypically awful story even getting better. It just... stopped. There wasn't even a chance to play a chapter further into the game where there might have been more action or more going on. Better demos, even better FPS demos, usually feature more than one segment you could play from that might let you see a more exciting portion of the game, to motivate you to want to play the full game. Unfortunately, great graphics don't make a game great. In the interest of trying to rule out as many variables to why my experience with the game was so bad, I came back to it about another year later, once I was able to actually do a set of sizable upgrades that should have greatly improved my experience. Again, if it were a taxing engine, it should have improved with better hardware to run it under, right? Well... get this. While the in-game framerate counter was now saying I was pegged at about 90 frames/second in running it, even with everything at the official "Very High" setting ( the upgraded included Windows 7), the whole thing stuttered and spasmed like I was running at 10 frames a second... As paradoxical as that sounds, you heard it right - upgrading actually made the game run worse. Looking into it I did read that the full game did receive a bunch of post-release patches that were supposed to address these engine problems. So then why didn't Crytek ever apply these patches to their DEMO? See, the other thing that a demo (especially a PC game demo) has to do, is to give you a realistic expectation of how the game will run on your hardware. And as it stands, the SP demo was never updated to give a more realistic expectation of how it would run on my system. Literally, the only thing that did look visibly better as a result of the upgrades was the foliage and grass... which in a first person shooter, is pretty low on my internal list of things I would care about looking good in an FPS. As if to add insult to injury, my roommate at the time had a spare copy of Far Cry 2 he had received with a graphics card upgrade of his own. If I remember right, FC2 used the same engine, but had time to be worked on by Ubisoft, right? Well, after installing it, not only did the game run much better, and could be turned up to much higher settings than Crysis, but I actually had a hard time believing the in-game frame rate counter because it ran so delightfully smooth. I was not only able to kick a few of the visual settings to Ultra, but even with it reporting it was running at 25frames per second, it was running so smoothly that I would have just as easily been convinced it was really running at 60, or 120 for that matter. This confused me to no end, so I had to do some investigating to try to find out why Crysis sucked so much to play even this much later. It was around this time that I stumbled across one of their dev blogs (sadly lost to the annals of internet history) with the timeline from around when they were working on Crysis and its follow-up Warhead. To be honest, I felt utterly insulted by the amount of complaining and whining that the devs were doing about the duties EA requested of them... which really boiled down to basically trying to optimize any given facet of the game, so that it wouldn't run horribly on 90% of the available computers on the market. They complained about being requested to optimize the graphics. They complained about having to optimize the controls. They complained about optimizing the sound, the framerate, everything. It's rare for EA to look like a good guy these days, but as their publisher, all they were asking for was some basic optimization so that more people could actually run the game, and want to buy it. It seemed it was Crytek's opinion as a company, that only people who could afford to spend into god-box territory for a computer were worthy to run their game, and a collective ignoring of everyone else that wouldn't spend as much as a car for a machine to run their proverbial magnum opus. To this day, there are a number of things that befuddle me about Crysis and Crytek. And given this attitude, I'm honestly surprised that EA hasn't wholesale punished them or simply shut them down like they did so many better and more capable studios, like they did: Westwood Studios ( all the good C&C games ) Pandemic ( Destroy All Humans ) Bioware ( KotOR whyyy?! ) But still leave Crytek intact like they've done nothing wrong to deserve such treatment. It also always got on my nerves to hear the amount of fanboys defending them, claiming crytek and crysis are the be-all, end-all of PC gaming... the next bastion after the likes of VALVe. Yet if pressed, you'll find that none of them actually ran the game at a level to justify such outlandish claims, and continue to parrot off the likes of paid-off reviewers like IGN as gospel, instead of - oh, I don't know - actually playing the game to see how terrible it really is! In summation, we already have one tech demo company in the form of id Software... well, we did until they got bought out by bug-infested Bethesda. However, even id has actually shared their breakthroughs as contributions to the industry, so that everyone as a whole can make better games. Crytek wants to be a famed tech demo company so hard, but has completely forgot that it needs to contribute to the industry, and more importantly, make a fun game, before it could earn that status. It's the story of a company that wants to be known as a tech demo company, without the years of contributions or successes to back up such outlandish entitlement. Crytek as a business seems to have no interest in sharing its breakthroughs, and instead wants to demand the industry at large to fix their broken messes. The whole thing ticked me off enough, that I hand wrote Crytek a letter explaining in so many words, that not only did I find their software awful, but that it was so detestable, I wouldn't even waste the time to pirate their shlock because I'd only be able to see it as an immense waste of disk space. At the time, I couldn't even really care if I ever got a reply back... I was just so infuriated with the game and their attitude that I wanted nothing to do with them, and even to this day, I find that I couldn't be bothered with any of Crytek's own work, because a lot of it simply has been a terrible, bloated mess. And that, my friends and fellow Tempers, is why Crysis should be added to the list of GAMES YOU SHOULDN'T BUY! And look at that, we've got ourselves a great article. Please keep the comments clean, everyone, and it would be appreciated if you guys stuck to the game at hand. Feedback on the series and submissions are welcome. Please note that if you wish to submit an article for the series, having a solid grasp of the English language is an absolute must. Thank you!