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

Mark Vergeer
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The controls of Asassin's

 Signature part 2 - animated icons The controls of Asassin's Creed are very well defined but a bit too complicated on a controller is my opinion. It isn't really intuitive like so many other games are.
The Crysis series are a good FPS series with a lot of tension and suspense but not really my cuppa. Make love not war....
Bioshock is just great - I can stomach the FPS gameplay elements when there is a good story that goes along with it.
Doom 3 also has a great storyline as far as I am concerned.



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www.markvergeer.nl

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Bill Loguidice
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DS

I'm actually playing Assassin's Creed on the Nintendo DS at the moment (I also have the Xbox 360 version). It's nothing like the console versions, but is rather impressive from a 3D standpoint for the DS. I also like the pick pocket mini-game. It's sort of like "Operation".

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Mark Vergeer
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Hmmm will check out the DS version as well - I am curious

Hmm pretty solid 3d graphics on the DS platform. They manage to achieve something approximating PSX quality graphics which is quite an accomplishment. It basically has turned into some sort of platform stealth game on the DS from the few minutes I spent playing the game.



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www.markvergeer.nl

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Matt Barton
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I played AC with a

I played AC with a controller on my PC. FWIW, I thought the control setup was okay, but it just didn't seem to always register when I applied a counter-move or dodge. That could have been bad timing on my part, though, it was hard to tell. If you're going to make so much of the game involve hand-to-hand combat, though, you really ought to make damn sure you've got ultra-tight controls. It is very frustrating to see your character take blow after blow even though you're machine-gunning the dodge button.

I didn't really mind the combat, though, since the save system was such that it was easy enough to replay those segments. The only real bore was the inexplicable repetition--I mean, you'd be in a different town, even, and rescue a different person, but they'd always say one of same three exact lines of dialog, even though it was obvious different voice actors were used! That doesn't make sense. I'm also very curious why all the beggars were female--there were no male beggars in the Middle East?

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Rowdy Rob
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Interesting games

"Bioshock" has received great reviews, particularly for its "you are in our control" subplot and varied ways to destroy enemies. And "Crysis" has received great reviews for its realistic graphics and fast-paced gameplay. From the videos you included, however, "Bioshock" looks no different than "Doom 3," and "Crysis" looks very nearly a clone of "Far Cry."

"Mass Effect" looks totally amazing, however. I'm going to have to play that one some day.

Actually, the video for "Assassin's Creed" looked very cool, too -- fairly dramatic, hinting at a deep story (which apparently didn't pan out, according to your review). However, What is that full-screen "electric flash" that happens every so often in the video? Just curious...

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

Calibrator
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Joined: 10/25/2006
Reviews

Bioshock has garnered very high ratings worldwide but one shouldn't expect a System Shock sequel.
It's a very atmospheric shooter and has some nifty abilities - but personally I doubt that the carefully chosen setting to enhance the atmosphere explains the high ratings of around 95% on some websites.
It seems to me that these reviewers either don't know their gaming history or they are already brain washed and have accepted that advances in game creation are mostly in graphics.

The youtube videos of Crysis don't do the game justice - they are simply too low-res and the compression is way too high.
A free demo of the first 15-20 minutes of the game is available and one can judge the graphics and test the destruction of various parts.
It really is a continuation of Far Cry, technically, as the nano suit is a new name for the mutant abilities of the console version of Far Cry (the PC version of Far Cry doesn't have these). It remains, however, a standard ego shooter - nothing more, nothing less.

take care,
Calibrator

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Matt Barton
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All I can say is... FALLOUT

All I can say is...

FALLOUT 3, FALLOUT 3, FALLOUT 3.

Get this game now.

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Mark Vergeer
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Matt, stop being a toad!

Matt, stop being a toad! ;-)

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
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Matt Barton
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LOL, sorry, Mark. It's just

LOL, sorry, Mark. It's just that I like the game so much I don't want to stop playing it long enough to write a solid review. I will when I'm done, of course, but I just wanted to let anyone know who's sitting on the fence to go ahead and buy the game. Hell, I could barely watch the election coverage last night for playing it.

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Mark Vergeer
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I'll probably get it when it's in the bargain bin!

I'll probably get it when it's in the bargain bin! Or I'll get persuaded by your review! ;-)

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Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc. | www.markvergeer.nl

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