So, Dad's old machine finally kicked the bucket. I took the opportunity to flex the company's connections and get a discount on a new workstation. Athlon 3000+, a gig of memory and a 6600GT. An infinite improvement over the Athlon XP 1600/256mb/GeForce MX400 that we were stuck with for the last four years. Dad doesn't believe in upgrades.
And here's the thing: although pretty decent, it is by no means top of the line. Which means that it will not provide effortless performance on the brand new games, and instead I have been trying out the ones I've had lying around for some time, waiting for the hardware to make use of them. Namely Far Cry, True Crime: Streets of LA, and TOCA Race Driver 2.
Now, Far Cry is a game most renowned for its extraordinary beauty. It actually auto-rated the new machine as Very High on all accounts, but then it is a year old at least. I started it up, and... to be honest, was unimpressed. Oh, it's pretty alright, but despite the fact that I'm a shooter person myself (Serious Sam: Second Encounter is the most likely contender for my favourite game of all time, along with the original Unreal), it just didn't pull me in. First impressions are important, and the impression I got was, "run to the next location, shoot people in the face, keep running". It doesn't have the ambience of Unreal - which was the only game that completely terrified me in God mode - or the carnage factor of Serious Sam; graphics will only get you so far.
True Crime was infinitely better. In a couple of days (and using a trainer) I completed the core storyline. I am quite impressed by the idea of presenting different endings depending on in-game behavior, and intend to try for the two better resolutions to the plot. I'm not as convinced by the pressure to be Good Cop - KOTOR showed that it is possible to provide equally involving motivations for both good and evil. The other annoying thing is the sneak and follow missions, which in my mind have no place in a game that is supposed to be the more violent alternative to Grand Theft Auto. Otherwise it feels like a mod for Vice City, which is not at all a bad thing. Oh, and the console-port controls are preposterous.
And then there's TOCA 2. I actually got it to run on the old machine, but the framerate was too low for the game to be reasonably played. Now, it runs smoothly and looks great, and I'm really enjoying it. Still, it can't match the ultimate driving game of all time: Colin McRae Rally 2.
You can see what I'm getting at here. As a PC gamer, I am resolved to the fact that hardware becomes obsolete quickly. But the studios tend to lose the plot, and graphics is only a support branch of the industry - neither Far Cry nor Doom 3 are in any way revelations. I played through Half Life 2 on the old PC, and then got a chance to try it out on a friend's more powerful machine; it was certainly much more beautiful, but that's not why the game was so good.
At the end of the day, it's really all about gameplay.