|System: Xbox One|
|Release: November 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Jake Valentine
Crytek CEO Cevalt Yerli had a proud look on his face as I took my seat in the private theater. Ryse: Son of Rome is a game that Crytek has been working on for quite some time. It’s made several appearances at past Microsoft E3 press conferences, but now it’s been fully unveiled, demoed, and made playable on the show floor.
So why now? I’ll get to that answer in just a bit, but first, let me share with you three words: “Mashing vs. Mastery.”
If I had a dime for every time I heard that phrase during the press showing of Ryse: Son of Rome, I’d have enough money to buy a slice of pizza at the Los Angeles Convention Center food court. This was a point that developer Crytek wanted to drive home, and for good reason. There was a lot of personal concern that the game’s combat, based on what we saw from the demonstration at the Xbox One Media Briefing before E3, was quick-time event driven.
Thankfully, that’s not quite the case. The quick-time events, used to perform executions, are 100% optional. However, using them will help you level up much faster, allowing you to be able to take on the tougher enemies you’ll eventually face as the game progresses. The goal is to create a fluid style of combat, chaining attacks with vicious cinematic killing blows. The result is a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. While yes, at its heart Ryse is a button masher, it’s also a finesse-based button masher.
You can easily hit X and Y, the attack buttons, while occasionally throwing in a block with the A button, and more than likely be able to beat the game. But there’s a certain sense of timing involved with the game that helps combat flow better. Should you time your block perfectly, the enemy will stagger for a second, opening him up for the perfect counter attack. Sadly, the enemies in the demo were pretty bad at blocking; they allowed me to chain attacks and execute at will. It was like Assassin’s Creed combat, only the enemies weren’t as aggressive.
“This is a pre-alpha build, isn’t it?” I asked the Microsoft rep on hand at their booth.
“Yes, it definitely is,” he replied. “The final product will probably look nothing like this.”
Thank goodness, because this has the potential to be a fantastic launch title, yet it played like it wasn’t ready for prime time. I’m not necessarily talking about the traditional hiccups you’d see with an alpha game, though I did see floating textures. The demo was easy. It wasn’t fun. A challenge was completely non-existent. Again, this can easily change with time as enemy AI is both improved and fully implemented. For now? I kind of wish the game wasn’t playable on the show floor; it left a pretty bad taste in my mouth.
You know what didn’t disappoint me? CryEngine 3. This thing continues to set the benchmarks for graphics in a video game. Already pushing my high-end PC to the brink with Crysis 3, Ryse isn’t afraid to show next-generation games what they should look like. The familiar facial details, water effects, and tessellations I’ve come to expect from CryEngine 3 are all there. Without hesitation, I’d say that Ryse was one of the best looking games on the entire E3 show floor.
But, as I’ve already said, the gameplay isn’t quite there yet. Then again, this is a pre-alpha build. A lot can change between now and launch this November. Given the patience Crytek has had with Ryse, I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Let’s get back to that question I posed earlier in the article: why now? Crytek’s Nick Button-Brown told me that while the game has been in development for quite some time, the team wasn’t happy with past prototypes. He confirmed what we all suspected: Ryse has been through a lot of changes.
Ryse began as a traditional game, then became a Kinect-focused game, and is now more of a traditional game once again. Crytek hasn’t been afraid to take their time with the game, ensuring that it meets their expectations. They weren’t afraid to demo the game before our very eyes. While yes, this wasn’t a hands-on experience at first, the Microsoft rep on hand played the game like an average person would. In a nutshell, he didn’t walk and take in the scenery, instead choosing to play in a way that allowed him to show off the game’s combat features on cue. More importantly, they even let us try the game for ourselves.
Yes, the game’s demo was a bit of a disappointment, but don’t tell that to Cevalt Yerli. He probably kept that smile on his face the entire week, proud to show the world that Crytek is capable of making a game that isn’t a very pretty FPS. He didn’t have the smile of a happy and proud man; he had the smile of a confident man, one that knows Crytek will overcome the game’s issues before it launches this November.
If they’re looking to create a game worthy of a day-one purchase with the Xbox One, they have plenty of work left to do. But the foundation is there, the potential is there, and clearly the confidence is as well. Only time will tell if the long wait for Ryse: Son of Rome is going to be worth it.
Date: June 17, 2013