Yesterday there was a general internet outage in our area. It was fixed up just a few minutes before I went to bed, but prevented me from writing anything on the site for the entire day. As far as I was concerned, it was nice having the day off. I got some writing done for the AH publishing challenge, but mostly just took the day off.
Since I had no internet, I decided to fire up a game for the first time in a long time. I had purchased the entire Crash Bandicoot series on a 60% Steam sale, and hadn’t touched it. I played the first in the series, as well as the third, “Crash Bandicoot: Warped,” back when I was a child, so I was wondering how they would hold up. The answer is: terribly.
To be clear, the remake/remaster includes modern graphics. This is supposedly an improvement, although I felt that the original Crash had a certain unmistakeable charm.
It’s not the same when you have a high poly character model stretching itself out to re-enact the feel of the original.
I am aware that I am not the target audience, not being five years old anymore. But if your story is this cartoonish, photorealism is a weird choice.
Seriously, what the hell were they thinking with Crash’s girlfriend thing? In the original she’s too low poly to be offputting. In the remake she looks like a women cosplaying as a furry at some convention. Incredibly odd, and it’s even worse in motion.
Furthermore, even though the game supposedly runs at 60 frames per second, I felt that my controls were gummy and unresponsive. This is particularly bad in a game where you get insta-killed after falling off the map, and the platforming can be quite difficult.
You get these mask thingies, but they are almost worthless since 90% of your deaths will be to falling. If you get three you’re even invinsible, yet falling down some tiny hole instantly KOs Crash. Modern platformers typically reset the player after they fall back onto the platform they fell from, up to something like three times. Going between long checkpoints and then falling because you swear you pressed jump but the game ate your input is design that should have died in the 90s.
Worst of all, probably due to the high poly and texture assets, the remake has these truly awful loading times. I didn’t capture it on camera before uninstalling the game, but it took about 10 seconds to not just load into a level, but to load out from a level and back to the world map. Then you had to spend another 10 seconds loading the next level. These loading times were shorter on the original PS1, and this is on a computer with an SSD.
This totally ruins the flow of the game. It’s even more unforgivable, since there’s an unskippable scene that plays after you beat each level where they smash Crash over the head with the boxes he missed. This can take up to ten seconds, but apparently that just wasn’t enough time to load the world map in the background, probably because the developers have never heard of this radical concept known as “load things in the background while an animation plays.” This is not a one time offense.
The N. Sane trilogy download was ~30 GBs, so I’m not about to re-install it, but it was only using around 300 MBs of memory at any one time. It mystifies me that they couldn’t just keep the world map loaded in memory, and then predictively load the next level. The priorities here are asinine, and the execution is bad. I don’t know why they thought people trying to take a trip down memory lane wanted to be slapped with multiple ten second loading times, but I guess they had to prioritize pretty screenshots instead.
However, that’s the remakes. Crash 4, a game that came out in 2017, was also included in the bundle, so I fired that up and started playing. I skipped all the cutscenes, since I am again not five years old, played for a few hours, and ragequit the game never to install it again.
Part of that is the annoying Do It Again, Faggot level design. It’s incredibly tedious repeating the same section of the game over and over again because you keep dying in between checkpoints. In fairness, the game gives you extra checkpoints if you keep dying, but those should have been there from the start, only partially solve the issue, and there should be even more of them. This is because a game like this becomes exponentially difficult the worse you are.
Think about it this way. Let’s say that there are 10 obstacles in between checkpoint A and B that can cause you to die. These can take the form of enemies, platforming, whatever. Player 1 is pretty good, and has a 90% chance of living through each of them. Player 2 is almost as good, and has an 80% chance of living through each of them. Since Player 2 is twice as likely to die per obstacle, he must replay the same section twice as much on average, right?
That would only be true if there was one obstacle. With ten obstacles Player 1 has a 34.9% chance of clearing all of them on one run and getting to the next checkpoint. Player 2 has just a 10.7% chance of doing the same. If we have to clear 20 obstacles, Player 1 has a 12.1% chance. Player 2? Just 1.1%.
It’s even worse than that, because Player 2 will undoubtedly become agitated far more than Player 1, which causes them to rush things and perform even worse on the easy stuff. They also have less experience getting to the end, so will be even less practiced, while also being more nervous, and therefore even more likely to fail. And the frustration of getting nearly to the end of a sequence, before having to start it all over again is extreme.
Yes, the above is from the first game, but the idea holds for the modern game, Crash 4. It doesn’t help that Crash controls like a tank. I was also playing on mouse and keyboard, and never got fully accustomed to the control scheme. What does your twenty fifth death on a section feel like, especially when it’s due to you accidentally pressing the wrong button when you could see the next checkpoint box?
It’s not a great feeling. It’s at this moment that the gamers are saying things like “skill issue,” or “git gud.” The first problem is that the game also suffers when you’re too good. Some of the early levels are tedious, simply because you do not die because they are so easy and unchallenging. Then the latter levels are tedious because you die way too often, and have your time utterly holocausted.
Secondly, I don’t care about “gitting gud,” at some stupid video game made for children. I fully embrace my total lack of hardcore-ness when playing video games. I don’t care that I am mediocre at best. I want a game that respects my time, and Crash 4 simply does not do that. And that’s not helped in the slightest by how goddamn long it takes to let you start playing.
When you die in the level you have to watch a painfully long animation before respawning. It gets worse when you die in a bonus area, since you then have to respawn, jump on the platform, wait for the platform to take you to the area, get off, and then die again. Below is an example. Imagine watching the first part – but longer due to the restart animations – about 30 times in a row.
As bad as that is, the outright loading times are the worst. So bad that I captured them with OBS, then I created this video so you can suffer as well.
For the record, booting up the game gives you over 40 seconds of unskippable title screens. You’re then treated to the first loading screen, which wastes fifteen seconds of your time in order to load the second loading screen, which takes about another ten seconds to get your to the main menu. When all is said and done, it takes over a minute to truly boot up the game and get to see the privilege of waiting on additional loading screens to get to the world map, where you can then enjoy further loading screens to get into the game. Again, this is all on an SSD.
I didn’t focus on that, since you only have to sit through it once. However, you will have to wait 11 seconds to load in the level.
They split this up into two different loading screens. There’s the first, which displays concept art, and which builds anticipation for the glorious second loading screen, utter blackness.
This isn’t even a quick fade to black. This second loading screen takes about five full seconds. I have no idea why they did this, but then again I have no idea why it takes 11 seconds to load in the level in the first place.
If you want to get a certain item that unlocks other content, you need to beat a certain portion of the level without dying. If you die, you need to restart the level again from the beginning. No problem, since the level is already loaded in, this should be instantaneous. Nothing more than a matter of resetting the positions of certain entities, resetting the level manager to the initial values, that sort of thing.
In fact, if you restart at the start of the level, as I did in the above video, it’s equivalent to dying and restarting from the starting checkpoint. Surely, this is a task that should take a few dozen microseconds, right? Maybe a full millisecond if they do it some weird way?
Fuck you. The game decides that it needs to load in the already loaded level, and this takes just as long as it did the first time.
I can see why the engineers did this. They could have introduced a bug where they didn’t reset the level properly when the player hits restart. They knew the LoadEntireLevel() function was working, so they didn’t bother doing figuring out how to reset a few flags right, and just called that. This function clears out the existing level, since they need to free up that memory, which necessitates them loading in the same level again.
Don’t think of this as me making excuses for them, I’m simply explaining how terrible and lazy they are. This is an embarrassing failure.
It’s even more embarrassing. When you click on the right level, you get an animation playing of the character jumping into a portal thing. This takes about three and a half seconds. You’d think that this would mean restarting the level would take around 14.5 seconds, since loading it the first time takes 11 seconds, plus another three and a half seconds where the level is loading in as the animation plays. After all, that was the point of the animation, right?
Clearly, the level is not loading as the animation plays. Instead, they just waste three and a half seconds of your time making you watch this slow animation that isn’t even masking a load, because no load is happening. And it’s even worse than that, because before this Crash has to maneuver around the world map. You click on a direction, and it takes him a few seconds to get there.
All in all, this process probably takes a good five seconds, minimum, when selecting a new level. But that wasn’t enough time to load in the next level, because they aren’t even bothering to do this while you run around, despite the game being designed in such a way that this would be trivial.
It’s like the developers saw that other games occasionally have quick animations play when the user does something else that requires loading. But they didn’t get that, and thought that people really enjoy watching these time consuming animations, so much so that they don’t even bother loading in the background while this is happening. Apparently it would be a crime to skip that loading screen. Sorry, both loading screens.
Then the loading itself takes way too long, since much of the assets should already be in memory, but clearly aren’t. Finally, the engineers are so incompetent that they reload the already loaded level back into memory when the user presses the “restart level” button, which isn’t some weird edge case, but is something that is commonly done due to a gameplay feature of theirs.
I am amazed that there is not one piece of software I use on a daily basis that I can’t bitch about, and doesn’t have laughably bad technical performance in at least one very important way. Although to be clear, I won’t be using Crash 4 on a daily basis. In fact, I won’t be using it ever again. That’s my review of a five year old game, for all who are curious.
The rest of my impromtu day off was much more pleasant.