Game impressions

Posted by Jon Peddie on September 7th 2016 | Discuss
Categories: Software Review,
Tags: nvidia gtx 1080 cat intersteller deus ex no man's sky

We looked at three new games— Deus Ex, No Man’s Sky, and Cat Interstellar—and tried them on the latest graphics AIBs

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (DEMD), one of the most hyped PC games this year, and the sequel to highly touted 2011 Deus Ex: Human Revolution, came out last week. It is set in a cyberpunk-themed action RPG/FPS, and it’s the fourth game in the Deus Ex series. It was developed by Eidos Montréal and Nixxes, and published by Square Enix. 

DEMD follows the aftermath of the Aug (mentation) Incident, a day when mechanically augmented citizens all over the world were stripped of control over their minds and bodies, resulting in the deaths of millions of innocents. The year is now 2029, and the golden era of augmentations is over. Mechanically augmented humans have been deemed outcasts and segregated from the rest of society. Crime and acts of terror serve as a thin veil to cover up an overarching conspiracy aimed at controlling the future of mankind. 

There is a 12-minute narrative explaining the back story from the previous game, which, if you haven’t played it or haven’t played it for a while, is a good investment to be reminded of who is who. 

My first half hour with the game was pretty disappointing. It’s boring. Same old same-o, with too many trick moves, odd instructions on the screen, too much teammate attitude, and a contrived plot. 

Problem for me is, I started with the very first Deus Ex, developed by Ion Storm and published by Eidos Interactive, and I loved it. Number two, Invisible War, was good, too. Then they sold the franchise, and now it’s different, and over amp’ed. I can’t relate to the protagonist; he’s a jerk. And the voice—oh, give me a break; it’s like that phony deep-whispered voice used by John the protagonist in the TV series “Person of Interest.” In the first two versions, the protagonist, Jensen, develops—he learns things about the world, and himself. In the Human Revolution and Mankind Divided, he is just another FPS bad-ass with a snarly attitude, like the protagonist in Doom, just not as interesting a character. There’s no discovery for him other than finding out where the bad guys are and figuring out how to kill them. You can’t develop any empathy for such a character, and without that, there’s not much to keep you interested other than shooting at things and people. 

However, putting the protagonist issues aside, the game has a lot of richness to it. The general story follows a specific path, although several elements are subject to the player’s decisions. The game also offers some subplots, which the player may or may not encounter, depending on their actions within the game. So that means you could go back and play it differently several times. 

Nixxes used their new Dawn game engine in DEMD, which offers subsurface scattering, ambient occlusion, tessellation, cloth physics, parallax occlusion mapping, volumetric lighting, screen space reflections, and chromatic aberration. 

It is, however, a great benchmark and really stresses the GPU—the GTX1080 only got 24 fps at 4K. We ran the benchmark in Dx11, as the Dx12 patch wasn’t ready yet. We’ll rerun it when the Dx12 patch is available, and if there is a significant (i.e., over 10%) difference, we’ll report on that. 

We ran three AIBs—AMD’s Radeon Rx 480, Nvidia’s GTX 1060, and GTX 1080—at multiple resolutions in multiple modes, with MSAA and V-sync off. We used a 3-GHz Intel Core i7-5960X test bed. 
The GTX1060 got the lowest scores, so we used it as the test bench to generate baseline for the chart shown on the following page. After we had all the data points for the 1060, we then made spot checks (Low, High, Ultra) on the other AIBs and extrapolated in-between to generate the family of curves in the chart. 

As the chart shows, none of the AIBs can handle this game maxed out, which means it will have long legs and that it will be a great multi-AIB generation benchmark. We played with the settings in every complexity (but always with MSAA off, as that just killed the performance for all AIBs) with different resolutions trying to find the optimum settings for the best game play, and then drew a 30 fps line to show the “don’t use” modes. 

After having done that work, it occurred to me that the game developer should already have that information. Granted we did hold the platform fixed, and running the benchmarks on various PCs would probably require a lot of work, but it should be estimatable. 

Nonetheless, the tests show that when using a good processor, and the best AIB, you simply can’t play the game, in DX 11, at 4K above medium settings, and with mid-range performance-class AIBs, you can’t get above medium setting at 2560 × 1600. 

In terms of game play, story, and characters, I like Deus Ex: Invisible War best. I’m going to continue exploring this version and see if I can get sucked into it like I did ROTR, FO4, and Stalker.

Cat Interstellar

As for Cat Interstellar (CI), from Ionized Games, it’s totally different from Deus Ex. You play as the pilot of Dog V4, a drone trying to reunite with his partner after being separated by a mining accident. The game takes place on Augusteen, a planet in the process of being terraformed. They call the robot Dog, so I’m not sure where Cat comes from in the game’s title. 

It is an exploratory game, intended to be finished in one sitting. However, it was difficult to figure out what to do to get the game started. The graphics are really nice. People talk to you with speech balloons, and no one has a face. The game is based on the Unreal 4 game engine. 

Once you figure out the controls (basic Unreal), it’s easy to play. However, there is no up/down control, so the drone can fly only a pre-determined height above ground. You can’t fly over mountains, but you can fly up them if they have sand on them, or smooth rocks, and you can jump to get over things. 

CI is a story-driven game, with a twist that differentiates it from standard walking simulator games. Players find and uncover secrets about Mars as you follow story-based clues that tie into a fully interactive environment. After a predictable yet unfortunate accident, Dog finds himself uncovering the past of a seemingly barren planet. 

It’s a fun game with very good-looking graphics and pretty good game play. It’s definitely worth the cost ($4).

No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky is an action-adventure survival video game developed and published by the indie studio Hello Games. The game is built on four pillars: exploration, survival, combat, and trading. OK, so far so good. 

You, the player, are not visible. The game starts with you on a very small planet—maybe it’s an asteroid—and your ship has crashed. You have to find stuff to fix it. Once you can fly it, then you visit anywhere like other planets— there are 18 × 106 planets that are generated procedurally. 

Players participate in a shared universe, with the ability to exchange planet information with friends. The game is also fully playable offline; this is enabled by the procedural generation system that assures players find the same planet with the same features, 

The game is not difficult, but it is not intuitive. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what to do and how to do it. 

The game developers wrote their own game engine, which, given the procedural processes of the game, was necessary. An impressive bit of work, by a relatively small team (fewer than 10 people). It could use some tweaking on user advice, and the developers have been regularly uploading patches, so I imagine they’ll get it sorted out. 

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