All About en3sge
After buying a new PC, I have discovered a whole new world of exciting gaming. Follow my progress as I burn through my Steam library and discuss recent gaming news
A lot has been going on in the world of gaming lately. Which is just as well as this Winter has been a bit short on interesting stories and awesome game releases. In fact, prior to the announcement of PS4 (and excluding the one-in-a-million Borderlands 2), my passion for gaming had reached a complete nadir.
Lately though, things are picking up. I was extremely tempted just a few days back to purchase Crysis 3 following critical acclaim and eye watering preview videos. The sheer fact I was comtemplating a full RRP purchase tells a lot about my anticipation for this game. It is rare I fork out the full retail price for any game but this title just had me transfixed. I have written previously in my blog about the delights of Crysis 2 and the latest in Crytek's famous series looks an improvement in every way. Most people have pointed out that Crytek have quite blatantly tried to blend the sandbox and open-ended environment of the original Crysis with the more linear and hemmed-in Crysis 2. If they have managed to do this successfully (and by many accounts they have) then Crysis 3 could well be troubling my 'top 5 favourite games of all time' list. Let me explain why.
Crysis 1 was without doubt way ahead of its time. Not just graphically either. The sense of freedom was impressive and allowed liberal exploitation of the game's physics to literally play the game as you wanted. I can remember many stand-out moments within the first few hours of gameplay including mad runs in the jeep, sneaking through luscious jungle and chasing fish amongst the beautiful coral in the shallows. Impressively the game's AI usually kept up with whichever style you went (minus a couple of glaring infinite-spawn moments).
However, the game was not without its problems. Sometimes I would wonder off on long treks into the island only to meet absolutely nothing as I hadn't 'triggered' a certain point in the game's story. I can also remember a part that caused immense frustration as I was relentlessly pursued by a rocket-firing helicopter that I could not evade. Plus the latter parts of the game often betrayed the open-ended style of the first few hours by becoming tightly scripted and not that exciting. The final boss also caused my poor GTX 580 to almost explode with overheating owing to some badly optimised code.
Crysis 2 was so far apart from its forebear that it could almost be mistaken for a completely different series. I won't go into too much detail as I have described this game in ample detail in previous blog posts. Needless to say, its more linear level design and scripted narrative caused many an upset for the Crysis 1 purists. In contrast, I found it more absorbing as a result with some brilliant level design and some extremely atmospheric moments.
If Crytek can just pick the best from both worlds, it could end up with one of the best shooters ever released. So I am very eager to try it out.
I am also well prepared for the inevitable drop from glorious 60fps to 30fps. This is something I wouldn't normally say on my blog. I love 60fps and I love 1080p and a good chunk of AA. However, on this occasion reality bites. There is simply no way I will be seeing north of 30fps with my current GTX 580. Hell, even the Titan can't manage the 60fps nirvana and that is over twice the speed of my card. Two Titans though and you are getting close - oh and that will be $2000 please... As such, no-one will be maxing out this game for at least a coupel of years. Its Crysis 1 all over again except this time the classic meme-like phrase of 'but can it run crysis' will need a 3 on the end.
In other news I decided to do a random play last night of any game my mouse pointer landed on. On this occasion it was Mirrors Edge. Still one of the most beautiful, stylistic game ever release. Words cannot describe how good this game looks running at 1080p with AA cranked up to 16x. This game is actually a very good argument for artistic style over technical substance. Whereas Crysis 3 ticks every box on the graphics whore wishlist, Mirrors Edge instead uses the artist's paintbrush and a great imagination to invoke a world that is every bit as immersive and atmospheric. In fact, I was so enamored with the artwork from this game a year ago I decided to decorate the office in my new house just like it. As it turned out, the house fell through and I never got my dream office but the vision remains.
Theres just one thing that lets Mirror's Edge down and is in actual fact becoming more prevalent in many modern games:
Or should I put it another way:
SHODDY PHYSX IMPLEMENTATION
I have now lost count of the titles I have had to turn Nvidia Physx off or down because it just ruins the frame rate. Lets name 3 just for starters: Mirrors Edge (as said), Batman Arkham City and Borderlands 2. Each game is totally gimped on current graphics technology when Phyx kicks in. Last night everything was running smoothly and beautifully in Mirrors Edge until a shootout with the local police when glass went flying everywhere. Cue huuuuuuuge frame rate drop from 60 to about 20 for an extended period of time whilst the individual glass shards exploded everwhere. Very pretty - yes. Completely game destroying - also yes.
Physx has the potential to be something great but current hardware just cannot keep up. Either that or the implementation needs some serious revision and optimising. When it works though, it is stunning. The cloth physics on Borderlands 2 and Mirrors Edge are stunning and the particle effects in Borderlands 2 are astonishing. But what is the point when the game engine can't keep up?
Maybe when Maxwell comes along these thing will be sorted. I hope so as I have a lot of games that have the potential to look really really good.
Well, that will do for now. There is plenty more to talk about - in particular my thoughts on my new single player adventure in Gears of War 3. But that can wait for another post.
It probably hasn't escaped attention that I have been trumpeting lots about consoles lately. On a blog that is meant to be about PCs. Time to atone.
Amidst all the noise about the new Playstation, a certain new high end graphics card has also launched from Nvidia and, in many ways, this is more news worthy than the new Sony product. The Nvidia Titan is due for release any time now and has literally come right out of the blue. Most of us were not anticipating a new graphics generation until at least summer this year (and probably later) but it seems Nvidia has other ideas.
In a way, Nvidia has massively cheated on this latest release. The Nvidia Titan is not the result of extensive product refinement and exploring the limits of current graphics technology. It is simply a borrowed product from the Nvidia Tesla super computer division - shoehorned into the commercial product line.
I'm still unsure what I think about the Titan. It is massively exopensive - over-priced even. Nvidia knows it cannot be closely matched by any single AMD graphics card and (by virtue of this monopoly) has set the RRP ludicrously high - $999 as of writing. Only wealthy enthusiasts need apply then but oh boy, if you can afford this card then you really are set for at least 2 or 3 years high end PC gaming.
Then again, the same was said about my precious GTX 580 when it was released. Cries of 'future proof' and 'max settings assured for at least 5 years!' were commonly heard upon launch of Nvidia's former flagship card. One and a half years later the card is struggling to 'max out' most modern games and don't even mention Crysis 3...
The crazy thing is, the Titan will probably out-perform the flagship 7 series card when it is released sometime towards the back end of this year. This will make for a bit of a quandry. Do you opt for the latest product of lesser power or an older model that is the most powerful overall? Or do you simply wait for the greatly anticipated Maxwell lineup the following year that by many accounts will blow everything currently available out of the water. And where does the PS4/Durango fit into all this? Just how powerful will they be and what kind of PC setup will you need to comfortably handle the latest next-gen ports?
So many questions, so much anticipation. Lets see how this all plays out...
A simple title with big meaning.
Sony officially showed its hand yesterday and unveiled their latest games machine - the Playstation 4. Well, I call it 'unveiling' but in truth it was simply a congregation of press hearing exactly what the rumour mill had been churning out the past few weeks. These days rumours are getting more and more accurate - its uncanny. Back in the days of PS1 and even PS2, rumours were simply fan boys and journalists getting very excited and talking about their next generation wishlist. Most of it was complete guesswork although it did make for entertaining reading. These days, rumours often come from reputable links inside the games industry and more often than not are bang on target.
So yep, we already knew the PS4 had an 8 clore AMD Jaguar processor, blu ray hard drive and we roughly knew what the graphics would be like. The big surprise at the official Sony event was the confirmation of 8Gb *fast* RAM. Most people thought 4Gb would be closer to the final figure but Sony came out and surprised everyone with double that. That in itself is quite unprecedented - most consoles ship with far less RAM than developers lobby for and for the next 5 years all we hear are endless complaints from games companies of memory struggles. Take the PS3 for instance. Sony completely hamstrung their new machine before it was even released by shipping with a paltry 512Mb. To add insult to injury, it wasn't even unified with the graphics memory so developers had exactly 256Mb of main RAM and 256Mb graphics RAM. The problem with this setup? A game doesn't always take up the same graphics and main RAM space. One game may be more main RAM intensive and another might need more graphics RAM. On the Xbox 360 this was easily accomodated by its unified architecture. Taking the OS memory requirements out of the picture for a moment for simplicity, lets say a game required 300Mb main RAM and 212Mb graphics RAM to fully function. No problem on the Xbox 360! Big problem on the PS3! If said game was then ported over to the PS3 it would require either a complete re-design or a partial cull of features to fit into the restricted 256Mb. This is quite likely the reason for a number of slap-dash ports like Splinter Cell Double Agent and Bayonetta.
Gladly, this shouldn't be a problem in the next generation. Even now, 8Gb is overkill for almost all games. Even on a bloated Windows 7 PC (with far greater overhead than the streamlined operating systems on consoles) you can get away with 4Gb main RAM and 1Gb graphics RAM should be fine for resolutions up to 1080p.
Sony has therefore learned a great lesson and it should be applauded for this. It may add on an extra £20 to the stock price of the console but this is scant extra to pay for something so incredibly vital to cross-platform porting and general console longevity.
Something made me laugh today though (in the most geeky way possible). I read an article by PC Gamer trying to build an equivalent PC to the recently-announced PS4 specifications to prove that PC gaming was still the superior way to play games. They came up with a perfectly adequate system that is probably roughly on par with the power of the next PS3. It cost about £450 and was meant to show how flexible PC architecture can be around almost any budget to provide a well-rounded gaming platform. The problem is, they completely missed the point.
Actually they missed three points:
1) Closed architecture
All three of the above points are attributable to console gaming and are not attributable in any way to PC gaming.
The console (by definition) is a closed and unchanging system that will be the same in 5 years time as it is today. This helps developers become familar with its quirks and nuances and this will therefore lead to excellent code optimisation.
PCs come in all shapes and sizes and technology moves like a proverbial steam train in this industry. No game can ever be optimised for all systems and this often shows with console 'ports' requiring comparitively much higher specifications than the console to run the game. Lets take Crysis 3 for example. Minimum requirements:
DirectX 11 graphics card with 1Gb Video RAM
- Dual core CPU
- 2GB Memory (3GB on Vista)
- Nvidia/Intel example setup: Nvidia GTS 450, Intel Core2 Duo 2.4 Ghz (E6600)
- AMD example setup: AMD Radeon HD5770, AMD Athlon64 X2 2.7 Ghz (5200+)
These are the MINIMUM requirements for the game to run (let alone look any good).
Notice the video RAM graphics requirement. Remember, the PS3 has a mere Geforce 7800 (far inferior to even a GTS 450) and 256Mb graphics and main RAM. Yet it will run Crysis 3 on the PC equivalent of low settings.
Going by PC Gamer's methodology, you would think the PS3 must have the equivalent specifications as above. Yet of course it has components that are probely 3 to 4 times weaker than this. The developers make up the difference through optimisation and familiarity with the machine.
This is great news for us gamers as it means that the specifications confirmed by Sony are probably (in real terms) closer to a GTX 680 or higher once they have a real handle on the architecture. Moreover, this can only be good news for PC gamers that continuosly have their gaming hamstrung by ports limited to the hardware they were principally developed for.
Its a win-win for both console and pc gamers alike. I do feel we are entering a golden generation of gaming and I will most certainly be at the front of the queue when the PS4 is released in the UK. Can't wait.
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