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Cry(ENGINE) Me a River… The Birth of Realistic Video Games

/ Nov 2nd, 2012 No Comments

Crysis 3 from EA
Crysis 3 from EA

Crysis 3 from EA

While Call of Duty has proven that a First-Person Shooter (FPS) with mediocre graphics can not only succeed, but be the most popular title in its genre, developers continue to look for a way to immerse the player in that true first-person experience. The most important thing to a video game is its engine, simply because without the engine there is no game. Currently, Crytek‘s CryENGINE 3 and EA‘s Frostbite 2 engines are top of the line, with CryENGINE 3 having the upper hand. With that said, EA’s first game using the Frostbite 2 engine, Battlefield 3, looks comparable to Crytek’s first game running off of CryENGINE 3, Crysis 2, which was released seven months prior. While Battlefield 3 is comparable to Crysis 2 in terms of graphics and fluidity, there is a clear gap between the two titles. Thanks to CryENGINE 3, Crysis 2 has an obvious upper hand in realism due to the emphasis on detailing to the smallest pixel.

In most FPS titles, the player only has a few options: walk/run, shoot, throw grenade, jump, crouch, switch weapons, and knife. While Crysis 2 adds “Cloak” and “Maximum Armor” to the button layout, it sticks to the usual trend. Crysis 2′s most unique and outstanding quality is that it is a first-person shooter, but the character is as capable as one in a third-person shooter. The player does not feel the same restrictions they might playing another FPS. Most FPS titles focus on what the player sees as opposed to the motions the character’s body makes with every action. Because the character’s full body is shown in third-person titles, developers put more focus into not just the look of the player and the environment, but how the player and the environment interact. In Battlefield 3, although the player can feel the character put his hands on and pull his legs over the object being hurdled, the realism is lacking because the player’s hands remain on the gun. In Crysis 2, not only does the player feel the realism of hurdling an object, he can jump and grab ledges. The player sees the character’s arms extend and his hands grab the ledge just before pulling himself up and reestablishing balance. Mirror’s Edge, an EA DICE production that utilized Unreal Engine 3, boasted similar First-Person qualities, but was more of an Action/Adventure focusing on freerunning than shooting. In Crysis 2, climbing a wall is not where it stops. The player can choose to slide on his back mid-sprint while continuing to aim down the gunsights, taking out multiple enemies. Another unique interactive option in Crysis 2 is the option to steal an armored truck, and not just use the turret attached to back, but detach it and walk around using it for total carnage. CryENGINE 3 was not only capable of replicating the fluid freerunning of Mirror’s Edge and expanding upon the interactivity of a third-person game such as Grand Theft Auto IV, but also brought in groundbreaking graphics.

Crysis 3 Preview

Crysis 3

Where the Frostbite 2 engine strives visually is in its buildings, roads, and pretty much anything else with concrete or pavement. The quality most important to Crysis 2′s spectacular visuals is the lighting. While Frostbite 2 does a good job with how light refracts through smoke and dust, due to its focus on creating a more destructible environment, there are times when the player’s shadow does not appear, as if the lighting effect is pre-rendered and not happening in real time. CryEngine 3 is capable of casting a shadow of the character in each appropriate situation, even when the character is in his invisibility mode, showing that these lighting effects are realistic and happening in real-time. The importance of real time is not limited to seeing shadows, the environment as a whole relies on the lighting. Two of the most visually stunning effects in Crysis 2 are the vegetation and the water. The rendering of environmental objects such as these rely heavily on how the light reflects off them. Much like in real life, light not only shines off the water and leaves, but travels through them in order to create a more full and realistic feeling. With many gamers and developers looking for the next generation of gaming to take realism to the point where it can nearly replicate movie quality CGI in real-time game scenarios, Crytek’s CryENGINE 3 seems to be on the right track and ahead of the curve.

“Frostbite 2 was built for the next generation,” former Digital Illusions CE (DICE) CEO, Patrick Soderlund said in a recent interview with Gamasutra. As impressive as that may sound, in a 2009 interview with GamesIndustry, Crytek CEO Cevet Yerli claimed that CryENGINE 3 was made “next-gen ready” in order to prevent developers from being “victims of change and repositioning.” Simply put, Crytek has been developing for the next-generation of gaming three years longer than their closest competition, and with the fact that CryENGINE is made to render everything in real-time, is far ahead of the competition. With Medal of Honor: Warfighter sporting an updated Frostbite 2 engine and Crysis 3 showing off an updated CryENGINE 3, gamers will have to wait and see who has made the bigger leap. It remains to be seen which one of these upcoming EA games will come closer to providing that true first-person experience, but CryENGINE 3 can currently claim that title.

Chad Whitney

Chad Whitney

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Chad is a contributor to Gaming Illustrated. A part of the Editorial team, The Chad has also dabbled in Reviews and Previews. The Chad has been a gamer since he became conscious of life. He has stated on more than one occasion that The Chad doesn't wear aluminum foil on his head, thus he is vulnerable to having his mind read. Mind reading can be a strain though, so FOLLOW The Chad @ChadNorris1390 on TWITTER.
Chad Whitney

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