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Top 5 video game engines that need to be overhauled

This is my top 5 list of video game engines that need the most work and probably need to be thrown out and built from the ground up. Do you agree?


#5 – God of War Engine

Yes my beloved  God of War franchise as great as it is needs a engine overhaul but not in the graphics department (they have one of the best) I mean in the animation and gameplay department. Very oldschool in it’s approach probably one of the few games that are a true ode to the oldschool that still thrive in today’s gaming. From the almost 2D side scrolling, to  the style of combat, to the puzzles, to the difficulty, to absorbing orbs, to even the way boss battles are set up — heck,  just having a boss battle is oldschool. Indeed it is time for a change.

When I first saw the God of War 3 trailer I was hoping  that when Kratos was done slicing and dicing that he’d be standing on a pile of enemies but instead the game kept the kill them, they evaporate into orbs system.

Actually overhaul might be the wrong word, it may just mean use the engine in different; more dynamic ways, but the God of War franchise is coming dangerously close to having an outdated control scheme (see MT Framework Engine). The best way I could describe it is alot of oldschool gaming concepts with a fresh coat of paint.

The camera: I will say they do a great job with the camera, so good in fact they may even be able to get away with it next-gen, however I want more. A 3D camera may be in order, although I understand the use of a fixed camera; to show the Epic grand scale, sheer power and reality of what Kratos faces via immersion. You get a real depth of how small Kratos is compared to the Titans, gods and the mountains he traverses; also it displays how big of a journey it is he will embark on. It’s like not appreciating how big the Earth is until you fly in a plane 60,000 miles in the air and the people look like ants — I get it, it’s all about perspective.  But maybe there is a happy medium where it could be a combination of the 3D and fixed camera, using the fixed camera only when necessary to show these elements.

Kratos’ moves don’t feel as natural as it could be when he rolls out of harms way or swings his chains, it feels a bit 2D-ish. He, the enemy and his  chains should be dripped in physics; blades, as it slices through should sometimes get stuck in an enemy (and not just as a move) to replicate permeating thicker flesh — then feeling the force of him pulling it out. Flesh should tear with each connecting swing, limbs should sometimes dislodge depending on the force of the swing and the size of the enemy. Arms, legs, heads, clothing and whatever else should fly about. Blood on Kratos should dry up but never fade completely especially on his clothing unless he falls in water or physically wipes it off. Enemies should be able to grab the chains when Kratos hurls it at them (depending on the circumstance) and drag him or toss him along the ground . Kratos himself  should show the wear and tear on his own  body and clothing courtesy of going through a battle. When he climbs and traverses on mountains it feels like the animations are a bit clunky but it too should replicate a more realistic experience. AI is robotic and moves in predictable patterns.

‘Ascension’ did some cool things like the long awaited tethering of the chains and I could have sworn I threw the chains at a particular enemy but he caught them and threw me, not only do we need more of that all these things should be non-scripted.

Bottom line, this engine is heavily based off it’s PS2 counterpart and IMO is not the evolution it needed to be. The PS2 versions of God of War could probably do most of the things the newest God of Wars offer from a gameplay standpoint, it was tolerable this gen but let’s hope this trend doesn’t carry into the new generation with God of  War IV and beyond.

#4 – Madden Engine

The new implementation of the Infinity (Physics) Engine is cool but more is needed, rumor is it’s still running on the old  PS2 engine, much like what was said about the WWE engine (see later) and it comes across as a band-aid, throwing new on top of old instead of a build from-the- ground-up, take advantage of the hardware’s capabilities sort of thing.

Players shouldn’t still be static on the sidelines, camera men too should be dynamic, the AI should be unpredictable,  crowds need to behave more realistic and look more realistic, players shouldn’t still clip through each other, features or game modes that worked in the past should not be taken away and no play should be pre-determined.  Not only should the movements of a football player be dripped in physics but everything should be, the engine should allow Football jerseys to be tugged and grabbed on, jerseys should sometimes come out of the players pants, jerseys should get ripped from time to time, shoulder pads out of place; helmets moved to the side from a result of crunching hit. I’m still waiting for true field degradation – not predetermined – not for just five minutes then back to a perfect field — all game; the grass depending on conditions should be tore up by games end. The players should sweat through their jerseys and trickle sweat down their faces. Weather Conditions should feel and look more realistic. Each football player because of physics should be dynamic; controlling a 260 pound Running Back should feel different than controlling  a 190 pound Running Back and these are just a few things.

All those Features EA were able to cram into the PS2 and original Xbox shouldn’t be missing on it’s more powerful counterpart (Xbox 360, PS3).

Pretty much with this football generation, the only thing that truly took a leap forward is the graphics (which I’m not mad at) just expected a lot more. The Physics Engine has great potential and needs to be in a football game but EA needs to not build off the old engine, it needs to build a new engine from the ground up to truly take advantage of current-gen hardware and beyond.

#3 – WWE Engine

(See Madden Engine) Nah, all jokes aside these two engines nearly mirror each other in terms of their story. Rumor has it that it too is running off the old PS2 engine which recently got itself a physics engine THQ/Yukes calls ‘Predator’ Technology. But again the band-aid theory is not what gamers want. We want a true next-gen this couldn’t be done last-gen experience. In this case however, they may just simply need to borrow their brothers engine and throw out their own.

Don’t get me wrong the Physics engine is essential especially in Sports games but in this case the Physics engine just made it look a little less old. It still overall looks outdated and quirky the engine almost sells you the idea of physics more than it actually being physics, not really executing real-time, real-world physics. Things like how the rope gets over-the-top (no pun) exaggerated  in a rag doll manner when interacted with or how Rey Mysterio can pick up the Big Show and not only pick up the Big Show but pick him up as if he’s picking up himself — the engine shows it’s weakness.

The UFC game was an engine that is a perfect example of what a next-gen WWE  game should have looked like,  if not better. I could say ironically what THQ/Yukes did with that game truly is next-gen. It felt so natural and unforced the way the two combatants locked up,  it was so life-like it really added to the immersion and allowed the game to shine.

The WWE new Predator Technology (engine) on top of the old (PS2) engine looks like it’s fighting itself and getting in it’s own way because even if they have cool ideas on paper (which they do) they don’t quite play out as smoothly or as natural as what you see on TV.

#2 – Unreal Engine

Awww man, what can I say about the Unreal Engine, it’s actually “unreal” how many developers leaned on this engine this generation it may be the most overused engine yet. I’ve seen the unreal engine so much I know an unreal engine game just by looking at it.

The problem with the Unreal Engine is it has this quirky look to it, a B movie look and feel if you will and all games made by it looks the same, suggesting the engine doesn’t have a lot of flexibility.

Where the Unreal Engine really suffers is in the lip syncing and character models. It looks really cheap and really dated with the textures bringing a blandness that doesn’t feel alive. Overall the “most used” engine is a couple steps behind the top engines out there.

On a positive note one thing the engine seemed to get right is the lighting effects; one of the best lighting effects I’ve seen this gen, other than that this engine needs an overhaul.

And of course you could say well the Unreal 4 is here but two problems one, is it based on the Unreal 3 engine with little tweaks and refinements? If so not good enough. Two, yeah it looks pretty good but we have to wait and see how it stacks up against other engines next-gen — we need a relevant comparison, of course it’s going to look better than current-gen. Unreal 4 could actually be the Unreal 3 of next-gen. Remember the Unreal engine looked pretty good too in the beginning until games like Uncharted, MGS 4, God of War 3, Heavy Rain, Red Dead Redemption and Dead Space came along.

#1 – MT Framework Engine (showcased in Resident Evil games)

Agggh, the engine that spurred this article in the first place (that and the Unreal) The biggest culprit and by far the most outdated looking engine of all the above and it shows ridiculously.  I’ll go as far as to say it’s the exact same engine as PS2′s Resident Evil 4 accept for a graphics upgrade, which actually produced one of the better looking 3rd party titles.

Outside the graphics nothing about this engine screams next-gen. Even when the engine was first implemented it probably was a step behind and then to not change it all these years makes it worse. Even with finally implementing the moving and shooting mechanic everybody wanted, featured in RE 6 it still plays rather clunky, camera still clunky, movement is still clunky, rolling on the floor – clunky and the worst mechanic of all time the 180 degree spin, in a word…CLUNKY.

Ultimately a lot of these engines may be held back by the hardware’s RAM but then again developers seemed to have gotten comfortable with what worked last-gen instead of pushing the latest hardware to it’s limits.

Strangely enough putting my thoughts on “paper” has allowed me to see that most of the engines I have a issue with sport a common theme;  a modfied version of the  PS2 engines’ counterpart. Which leads me to conclude ALL developers moving forward should build a new engine from the ground up at least once each generation, with tweaks to follow.

For next generation I feel these 5 engines need to receive a serious overhaul or they’re in danger of it’s product going stale and ultimately being left behind.

What do you think gamers? Do you agree these are the 5 engines that need the most work? CCU wants to hear from you.


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