Yes, I’m alive, I’ve just been tangled up with lot’s of non-tech, non game related issues. I had to talk about Orange Box and Crysis, even if it might be overdue. Just bear with me.hltob-win-cover.jpg

Orange Box (Half Life 2, Episode 1, Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2) is a game-of-the-year contender. Everything you’ve heard is true: the rich story, updated graphics, sublime gameplay make it a must-have game bundle. TF 2 probably represents the current pinnacle of online shooters. Portal, the big surprise of the bundle, is a true gift to everybody who claimed PC-gaming lacked innovation. It’s challenging, fun and surprisingly hilarious. Episode 2 gives you more of that great Half-Life gameplay that you’ve come to love while adding a few innovations.I respect people when they say something like ‘I just don’t like this’ or ‘this just isn’t for me’, everybody has their own preferences. I don’t think this applies to the Orange Box. If you’ve ever been interested in gaming, you have to check this game out. You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t. However, that’s not what I want to talk about. What I’d like to bring to your attention, is the in-game commentary.

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t particularly like or care about commentary on today’s DVD-movies. You can’t actually watch the movie with the commentary, you basically have to watch it twice. I don’t see anyone except the biggest movie buffs try their hand at this. Games however, provide a unique opportunity. You can play the whole game as you’d normally do and you can activate the commentary during natural lulls or breaks in gameplay, so instead of supplanting the game, the commentary actually supplements it. It’s a very natural system that I hope we’ll see other developers implement in the future. It also made me realise (even more) how intricate and complex some of these games are. A small lighting difference or a differently placed object can have dramatic repercussions in-game. Once again, big kudos to Valve. They’re up there along with Blizzard, Relic and the late Westwood. Those developers have never let me down and I don’t think they’re about to break that tradition.

On to the other item on my agenda: Crysis or more specifically, the Crysis demo. Let me start by saying that I didn’t like Far Cry. I didn’t like the damage model, or the way the game felt when I pulled the trigger. I quickly put that behind me, entranced as I was by Crysis’ beautiful graphics.

crysis_boxart_final.jpgThe demo however, was basically more of the same. Last time I checked, Far Cry 2 was being developed by Ubisoft, not Crytek. Except for the nanosuit and the new physics system, this is basically Far Cry on steroids. What about the vaunted graphics? Well, I’m sure they’re beautiful, but I wouldn’t really know. Despite reports to the contrary and me having a pretty decent rig (which will receive a couple of minor upgrades in the next months by the way 🙂 ), Crysis is incredibly demanding. I had to top the settings out at medium with only low AA and no AF. I’m used to more than that. Sure it looks good but not especially great at these settings. The argument that this game is ‘future proof’ is nonsense. If pc-gaming is ever going to be as easy to use as console-gaming, these kind of issues have to go. We know it can be different. Case in point: Half Life 2. When it came out, everybody clutched their pc’s in fear of the system requirements. Surprisingly, it ran pretty well, even on low-end pc’s and it still looks up to par today, especially with the new engine upgrades. Some people just don’t seem to understand that.

So what’s today’s lesson? Orange Box: thumbs up! Crysis? Thumbs down!

Here’s hoping my blogposts will be more frequent in the future…