By all counts last week’s launch of Crysis 2 has been a success. But for many PC gamers it has been a bittersweet moment, tinged with forum rage and entitlement issues. Crysis was supposed to be our franchise, a PC only effort that laughed in the face of the meager power of consoles. Instead we got a game that clearly demonstrates the shortcomings that are associated with cross platform development.
Crytek’s first two games, Far Cry and Crysis, featured lavish open worlds, ones that pushed the boundaries of what a PC was capable of. There is good reason that Crysis remains our go-to gaming benchmark – it’s expansive world combined with scaleable, fancy graphics makes it the perfect stress test for even the most recent of hardware.
With Crysis 2 though Crytek has had to tighten the focus and abandon the open world in the process. Gone are the lavish open jungles laden with tactical potential, and in its place is an urban canyon. Crysis 2 effectively takes place in one very pretty corridor, which at times widens a little to allow for a modicum of tactical behavior.
It is still a very competent shooter, and the whole lone gunman approach is oh so refreshing after being cast as team member number 3 in oh so many military shooters. There is no waiting for a scripted player to open a door, and the annoying trend towards loss of consciousness as a convenient transition point is kept to a minimum. Weapons feel superb (once mouse smoothing and its ilk is disabled) and this makes combat eminently enjoyable.
The game very much feels like the product of an experienced shooter team doing its best to work with the restrictive nature of consoles. In fact, this video from three year old Gamespot interview basically explains exactly why the game is as it is.
While that explains the level design and restrictive nature of the environment it doesn’t explain how Crytek has gone from graphical champion to not even bothering to include a control panel for graphics options. As is so often the case, the interface seems wholely lifted from the console version of the game, from the press enter to start screen all the way through to the simplified options menus. It is still boggling that this happens, especially when the PC doesn’t need the long platform qualification lead time that console versions have to endure.
You can tweak the graphics settings in Crysis 2 thanks to a third party launcher that can be found here. It isn’t the best solution, manually tweaking the settings did cause a few graphical quirks, but it gives the ability for control that is strangely lacking from the ingame menus.
Unfortunately no matter how tweaky one gets, PC gamers are still stuck with DirectX 9. From a development perspective it is easy to appreciate why this is the case. In the latest survey of Steam users just under 90% were using DirectX 9 or 10 GPUs, while only 5.6% had DX11 ones.
Unfortunately for Crytek the 5.6% of users contains a chunk of its traditional fanbase. Crysis was the game that enthusiasts bought new hardware for, and the expectation was that Crysis 2 would be the next system killer (it seems that a lot of people are now waiting for Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim to upgrade). It was always assumed that a DirectX 11 version of the game would be available, which hasn’t been helped by companies like NVIDIA using Crysis 2 to show off its new flagship dual GPU GeForce GTX 590 card.
There had been rumours that a DirectX 11 patch would hit sometime this week. But that has now been officially shot down on the Mycrysis.com website. Eurogamer is now reporting that we won’t see DirectX 11 for two to three months, as Crytek supposedly only began work on the patch late in the development cycle.
One does wonder if that will be too late. Crysis was once the champion of PC development, and even after the allegations that Crysis sold badly because of piracy the PC community stuck with Crytek in the hope that it could move graphics forward. After copping a game so clearly restricted by its console focus, one wonders whether Crytek has lost PC games for good.