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Crysis 2

Crysis 2 brings the FPS franchise onto the HD consoles on March 25th, but to show the masses of its new MP, 360 users were given access to a rank-capped one map affair. After the lag was eventually resolved, I put in somewhere in the region of 2-3 hours over two or three sessions. The result? Call of Duty with a few more tricks up its sleeve. And that would be the sound of innovation and creativity in the gaming industry leaving the building. That’s not to say there was nothing new or well done, but when I was playing it all I could think of was “this is a re-skin or a mod of CoD.”

Being issued a power (read: Nano) suit, you can shift its power to augment certain features. Some are initiated automatically, such as melee boosts power to Strength, whilst others are manually activated, such as the cloaking device. One of the neat side-effects of the suit is the impact on movement. Being able to slide along the ground and fire at the same time by running and then hitting the crouch button might seem impractical, but with the right weapon (ie. shotgun) it makes for a ridiculously cool sequence that along with terrain climbing certainly gives the MP a unique aspect.

There are tons of unlocks to be rewarded, but the menu to check these out was rather clunky and at times I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I needed to be doing to use these unlocks. In the full game, there seems to be a crap load of things to customise, so y’know, if making sure your shotgun has a suppressor for your custom kit 2 that has a fast firing pistol with a red dot sight or whatever the hell is important to you, you’ll love this!

The graphics are pretty damn amazing and the gameplay is tried and tested. You shoot, you might kill them or you might not. If you do, you can run over their body to pick up a dog-tag which after gathering enough enables you to use them for a special ability. Health regenerates quickly so long as you’re out of combat and the rest of the movement and gun-play is fairly fluid. I’m not sure if it was the lag, but it did seem to take a fair bit of time to kill someone with the basic rifle, whilst the shotgun proved to be slightly inconsistent with damage dealing, even at point blank where melee becomes a favourable option. Again, could have been the lag though.

Ultimately, the experience was pretty fun, but it is essentially CoD with some neat tricks on the side. It’d have probably been in their benefit to demo some of the single player at the same time, but apparently that wasn’t to be. I dunno, for a developer team that boasts a pretty staggering engine, I kind of expected more creativity. This one isn’t for me…in fact, I’m not entirely sure who it’s for. People who play CoD are going to keep playing CoD. This isn’t the game to break that hold.

Bulletstorm

Arguably the more fun experience for me, even if the demo is only about 10 minutes long. On another new (or significantly rejiggered engine) Unreal engine, the demo has you go along a linear path and makes you kill a variety of bad alien dudes with a variety of weapons at your disposal from the first person perspective. Weapons are seemingly standard fare – you have your rifle, your revolver, a grenade/explosive launcher and a leash that pulls an enemy towards you or bounces an area of baddies and keeps them suspended into the air as well, as your boot which sends your enemies flying backwards in bullet-time.

These weapons only appear to be standard fare, of course. The bliss comes in the alternative fire modes, over-the-top gestures displayed in true overkill fashion. Of the three my favourite was the revolver’s which essentially launches a firework into the enemy, propelling them into the air and whizzing them about till exploding. You can also use parts of the environment to attack your enemies, although in this demo I counted maybe three opportunities in total to do that.

The aim of this short demo was to score as many points as possible. You score points by killing in a variety of ways using as many means at your disposal. Headshots get bonus points, as well as leashing an enemy towards you, kicking them back then 1-shot killing them in the head with your pistol firework all in one short sequence of actions. To stop abuse and as a clever means of making sure you don’t use the same tactic over and over, points diminish over time so you have to be creative. Sure, you could play the game as a straight up FPS, but you’d be missing the point entirely of seeing loads of points hover on the screen with a name for each action you do.

There’s a particularly amusing point about half-way through when you discover a bottle of alcohol. Simply drinking it gives you bonus points, but you then get further bonuses for killing inebriated. Easier said than done, mind, as the screen goes a bit hazy and wobbles about, making it hard to focus on either your weapon or the target, but as the score-based leaderboard shows and as the game would tell you, don’t be a pussy, just get it done. Which nicely leads me onto the tone.

From the short intro and outro to the demo along with a few lines of dialogue, you’re given a sense of the plot and tone. The game doesn’t want you to take it seriously (and why should you when you get bonus points for killing an enemy by shooting it in the bum?) and hits you fairly hard with an irreverent tone. CoD this isn’t. The developers have clearly gone to town here and thrown in quite a bit of comedy, although whether or not you think things such as ‘dicktits’ is funny is obviously going to be subjective. I personally didn’t find that one funny, but the rest of it at the very least made me grin.

The gameplay is fluid and like Crysis 2, it looks very sharp. Unlike Crysis 2, there’s a fair bit of variety in colours making the game really crisp and vibrant. Okay, so I’m in some brownish ruins, but the background of the planet I’m on is a bright orange, some of the baddies have bright green skin, my revolver’s firework is a nice red and my leash is a very bold, bright blue. There is great use of colour here and I hope it’s maintained throughout the rest of the game.

I’m on the fence about picking this up. On the one hand, it’s clearly going to be jockeying for position with Duke Nukem Forever as it has that same feel and tone about it, but on the other this is out about 3 months earlier on February 25th (PS3, 360 and PC) so there might be plenty of time to enjoy both. I’m also worried that the tone will maybe wear a little thin and that as the game’s difficulty will no doubt progress, you might face enemies where some actions are arbitrarily disabled on them, such as the leash. That’s for the main game though and as far as the demo goes, it was certainly very fun.

Update 2012 (September): Having since played both these games on the PC (including Crysis 2’s single player as well) I have to say that whilst I stand by my comments regarding C2’s MP, its single player is certainly worth the price of admission. Bullestorm, on the other hand, I did not feel fared quite as well. Not a bad game, but one I found its negatives matched the number of positives.

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