Thoughts on Crysis, Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Assassin's Creed

Matt Barton's picture

I've been slogging through a lot of games lately and thought it was time to try to post some thoughts on them. Instead of posting about them individually, I thought I'd discuss them together, comparing and contrasting.

Off the top, Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed are third-person; you actually see the character running around a la Tomb Raider. This setup works well when the main character has a pre-defined personality or interacts a lot with other characters. Crysis tried to get around this by showing the character in third-person during cut scenes, but you also heard a disembodied voice from time to time. Bioshock simply didn't ever have the character speak, which was also pretty weird. Which one's better? It's hard to say. The pure first-person is probably best for that "I'm there" sensation, but you lose the ability to see what's immediately behind the character. It's also much harder to do platform-action like jumping around rooftops (Assassin's Creed). In any case, Crysis switched to 3rd-person for vehicles, which I suppose would simply be too hard to control in first-person (though that was an option). Okay, anyway, on to the games.

Crysis is the most standard shooter of the lot. If you've played Far Cry, you've already played this game. The only real differences are the greatly improved graphics, which are immensely detailed. Another gimmick is the nanosuit, which basically turns you into a superhero with one of three powers (speed, strength, or stealth). Unfortunately, even these powers are limited when you start taking fire, so they are really necessary. I greatly enjoyed this game, mostly because of all the outdoor settings (being in the woods is nice for a change), and playing with the suit was cool. The story and characters are limited, though there are some decent performances from Nomad's (your character's) comrades. The most interesting of these (Psycho) is now in his own game, so you might want to play that instead. Nomad reminded me a lot of Jack from Far Cry. I'd give Crysis 4/5 stars, with an emphasis on audiovisuals and gameplay. It's definitely worth checking out.

Bioshock is essentially a mix of Fallout and a game like Doom 3. Your character is trapped inside some giant underwater city called Rapture, which is swarming with mutants that highly resemble zombies. As you blast your way through the levels, your character gets all sorts of powers and abilities. The system is a bit complicated, but basically you can either focus on weaponry or what amounts to magical abilities (shooting fire from your hand, affecting gravity, etc.) The setting is very creepy and disturbing, and mostly dark, which I dislike because it never seems to show up well on my monitor. Still, there are lots of nice touches, and this game is really more about atmosphere than gameplay. It makes excellent use of music and sound effects to really create some disturbing moments--the kind where you're always jerking around to see if something is behind you. The storyline here is also pretty interesting, though you're usually so busy killing the mutants or flying security bots to worry much about it. Annoyingly, the mutants reappear even if you've cleared an area, so it's pretty much constant slogging. This greatly reduced the thrill for me, since you could never really just explore an area in peace. I also thought they got carried away with the gore; I mean, does every room have to be littered with decomposing bodies? I think someone got seriously carried away in that department. Bioshock isn't a bad game, but it's not something I'd ever care to play again, so I'm giving this one 2/5. However, raise that to 4/5 if you love Fallout *and* Doom 3.

Mass Effect is by far the best of the lot. What makes it the best is the great story and truly memorable characters. I liken it somewhat to Knights of the Old Republic, but this game feels fresher somehow. The shooting segments are probably the weakest; you don't get the tight control of something like Crysis, but it's still fun. I prefer shooting games with "real" guns versus pulse or laser rifles, but this game did a good job of making these fictional weapons seem realistic. What was really fun about this game was riding around in the ATV, exploring the solar systems, and, above all, interacting with the characters. Bioware did a great job making you feel that what you did in the game really had an impact; it wasn't just fighting to the next waypoint to watch a cutscene. I also liked that you could customize your character and even your party if you so desired, and it was fun playing through levels with the "wrong" characters just for the sake of variety. The only negatives about this game are the cumbersome inventory system and a bit of backtracking in some parts. Otherwise, though, it's the best bet for your money and a must-have. 5/5.

Assassin's Creed is a very interesting game, something of a cross between Tomb Raider and...Damn, I don't really know! The setting is the Middle East during the Crusades, and you play an Assassin who seems to be something of an atheist or agnostic. Most of the game consists of riding to a city on horseback (very cool), gathering evidence, assassinating a boss; lather, rinse, repeat. Indeed, this game does get repetitive, and I was definitely ready for it to end when it did. The biggest draw here is the amazing rooftop sequences; you can really run, jump, cling, and climb like no game I've ever seen before. The fighting scenes are also good and visually exciting, though there seems to be an issue sometimes with recognizing inputs; I frequently countered or dodged and got hit anyway, though for all I know it's bad timing on my part. There is a quasi-RPG element here in that the character (Altair) gets new weapons and abilities as the game progresses. The story here is very interesting as well, though sadly Altair is very dry, to say the least. The people Altair must assassinate are actually much more interesting, and it's a shame you couldn't interact with them more. I really liked the setup here and the graphics and controls are amazing, but the sheer level of repetition keeps this game from being a true winner. You will face the same scenarios and hear the same lines of dialog over, and over, and over again, even when it's supposedly a different character (and even a different voice actor!!) talking. It might have helped if there were more variation in the different cities, or at least different kinds of missions. Another quibble--for a supposed assassin, Altair is about as stupid as you can possibly be. Yeah, let me assassinate this guy by challenging him in front of all his guards. These encounters were mostly staged, so it was either do it the hard way or not at all. Hello, Altair--why not get a friggin' bow?? 3/5.

All in all, if I were going to ever replay any of these, it'd be Mass Effect followed by Crysis. I doubt I'd ever play the other two again, though I certainly don't regret playing them. Assassin's Creed is supposed to be the first of a trilogy, so I'm going to keep my eye on this series and see if the reviews indicate the next game will be less repetitive. If it is, forget it. As far as Bioshock goes, I would've liked it much better if the gore had been toned down and a little more variety introduced in the settings. I don't want to spend 6-8 hours trapped in a goreflick, no matter how clever.

I've ordered Fallout 3, which will probably arrive in the next few days. In the meantime, I've gone back to trying to finish up Age of Empires III and the War Chiefs expansion, so that ought to be keep me pretty busy.

Comments

Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
DRM & success?
Matt Barton wrote:

I will say this, though--it's not true that PC games are by necessity more difficult to get running than consoles. It was a cinch to get these games installed and running. The only problem is that the copy protection is making them unreliable. Thus, it's nothing to do with the PC itself--it's just lame-o copy protection stuff.

This is true for modern games on a modern platform. But the PC platform evolves steadily and older games give more trouble than simply digging out your old console and slinging the disc/cartridge in.

Quote:

I betcha these guys are losing as much money as they would to piracy over this. Imagine how many people will simply return these games saying they don't work, tie up tech support lines, etc. Or how many more will be scared off because they hear about these issues and not buy the game. I compare it to the Sony rootkit fiasco. Consumers will only take so much before they get really pissed off, and the waves of negative publicity aren't anything to laugh or shrug off. Imagine if Sony had just said, "Well, if you don't like it, just buy our proprietary CD player." Yeah, right.

While I sympathize with your opinion I think you are dead wrong about the things the publishers learn from DRM at the moment:
http://news.bigdownload.com/2008/08/05/ken-levine-still-shocked-at-biosh...
http://www.psxextreme.com/ps3-news/4071.html

This will cement their belief in the necessity of DRM - even if it has nothing to do with the success of the game.

take care,
Calibrator

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Bill Loguidice
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Sales versus DRM
Calibrator wrote:

While I sympathize with your opinion I think you are dead wrong about the things the publishers learn from DRM at the moment:
http://news.bigdownload.com/2008/08/05/ken-levine-still-shocked-at-biosh...
http://www.psxextreme.com/ps3-news/4071.html

This will cement their belief in the necessity of DRM - even if it has nothing to do with the success of the game.

take care,
Calibrator

I think sales are the key here. It doesn't matter how much the vocal minority bitches - just look at Spore's Amazon page - these games still sell in droves regardless of DRM. If these publishers think there's a piracy problem - and there is no denying that there is one - there's no incentive for them to go to less restrictive methods. Sales are king. As long as people keep buying the games, they'll continue to have the draconian protection schemes, if not worse. Frankly, not enough people will not buy the game to make it worth it to these publishers to remove these restrictive schemes.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
DRM & copyprotection

When DRM & copyprotection schemes make the experience for the legal user harder than for the illegal user then there is something definitely wrong here.
Good old games, http://www.gog.com does an excellent job of offering affordable games without any DRM whatsoever. This is great!
Also services like Gametap and Steam have their games up and running on various computer systems without much hiccups.

For me personally I really don't care if the game is played on a PC or a Console. What I do care for is a user friendly gaming experience. Didn't mean to start a 'console vs war'. Anything with a CPU and RAM in it that is able to play games gets my interest. Personally I love the control schemes for quite a few games better on a PC where a mouse and keyboard offers far more flexible use. And a 'controller' has its drawbacks for quite a few games.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc. | www.markvergeer.nl

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Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Introversion Software's no-copy-protection stance

Introversion Software apparently does not use copy protection in their commercial games, and they appear to be a successful game developer. One of the best games I've played in the last few years is Darwinia, a truly innovative game that I recommend highly to all AA members! Not only do I not need the game disc in the drive to play the game, but the game actually opens with a faux "CRACKER INTRO," Amiga style!!! "What the heck?" I thought to myself upon booting the game for the first time and seeing "cracked by....."

(a side note: Darwinia is the only modern game I know that has a "chip tune" style soundtrack!)

Here's a link to Introversion's blog, where they very intelligently discuss their stances on DRM and copy protection from a developer's perspective:

http://forums.introversion.co.uk/darwinia/introversion/viewtopic.php?t=1046

And here's a funny video spoof on the harsh anti-piracy ads you see at the beginning of most movies: :-)

http://spikedhumor.com/articles/124668/Harsh_Anti_Piracy_Ad.html

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Hi, guys, just got back from

Hi, guys, just got back from Iowa. Anyway, a few thoughts about this piracy thing. I've talked to several smaller or independent developers who don't worry at all about copy protection. Their argument is very logical: People who are determined to pirate a game will find a way to do so, and there's nothing in the world to stop them. Besides that, stuff like securom costs a lot of money, and that can be a real problem for a smaller developer. Their argument is that there are enough honest people in the world to offer them a living, and that seems to be born out by their sales figures. Beyond that, copy protection schemes inevitably amount to increased demand for tech support, since so much of it doesn't work with certain CD-ROM drives, people will lose the code, etc.

I would add to this the "piracy = loss sales" is impossible to prove. How can you be sure that someone who pirated a game would have bought it? What if the game just sucked, or people thought it wasn't worth buying? I can imagine people who put games into three categories:

1. Worth buying.
2. Worth playing but not buying (i.e., worth pirating)
3. Not worth playing.

I say, focus on making a game that fits #1 and you're good to go. If a game is only so-so, expect lots of #2.

Let me also add that REAL piracy is people who copy games and sell them illegally. Those are the real criminals. People who copy and distribute games for free (but still illegally) are still doing wrong, but at least they're not trying to profit from it.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Piracy excuses

I just don't like the idea that a game is "only" worth pirating and not worth buying because they won't play it enough or some similarly lame reason. To me, that's a poor excuse and a lot of people use it. If you want to use it, you should buy it, plain and simple. There's no life and death reason to have any game.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I don't necessarily like the

I don't necessarily like the second option, but I can understand where people are coming from. If a game costs $50 and it's just barely fun enough to play, they figure they'll just pirate it. These are people who've likely been stung after spending that much (or more) and ending up with a shitty game they can't return or sell. In any case, I'd argue that someone who spent more than a few hours playing a pirated game ought to buy a copy. Maybe there's a ratio--say, $10 per hour. If you play a $50 game for five hours, there's no excuse not to buy it. If it really sucked; why'd you play it for that long?

I don't really see this is a good excuse when there are playable demos out there, though.

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Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Worth playing and not worth paying is a crime

There's no way to enforce the time of piracy/legal rate Matt is suggesting here. If you want to play a game you gotta pay, unless it is freeware or something like that.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc. | www.markvergeer.nl

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Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
Yuck

I agree with Mark and all "reasons" for shining a more positive light on piracy are dubious at best and more often than not silly excuses of lazy, stingy and anti-social people with no self-discipline living like parasites on the labor of other people. These people simply want to enjoy a game or movie for free and spend their hard-earned cash on other ventures! These unthankful asses even have the nerve to brag that they've already seen (for example) the new Bond "way before" it hit the cinema!

Now, I don't want to debate all those wacky explanations but there is always the one stating that piracy is necessary to "test out" a game.
What !?!
There are demos out there, there are places like shops where one can test games, there are friends to swap games with, there are reviews - in fact more than one can read - and lots of other options like videos on the net to get a feel for a game, to decide if one wants to spend money on it.
If one is still unable to make up his friggin' mind he should stay away completely or play freeware games - there are way enough!

Also there is no way to test out a movie! Either you see a movie or you don't! If you really want to "test out" a movie you should watch one of those ridiculous Making Ofs made for TV where nearly the whole movie is being spoilt!

I'm really sick of piracy discussions as they lead nowhere and change nobody and that's my final posting on that.
The only thing making me glad is that all people here at AA have more or less the same opinion about that.
One of the reasons I come here, actually.

take care,
Calibrator

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