So,Crackdown 3might be the most impressive demo I've ever seen. We'll have a full preview up later today, but suffice it to say that all that bluster about "leveraging the Cloud" to bring hitherto unseen levels of physics-based destruction is totally accurate. That moment in the CG teaser trailer where an Agent collapses a building into another building to kill the naughty crime boss inside? You can do that. Easily. I've seen it happen. I have seen such things.
While the offline single-player game plays out like the Crackdown of old, it's in multiplayer - set in an entirely separate city - where the game flexes its next-gen muscles. It works off of a startlingly simple conceit - the city is divided into distinct sections, each governed by a single server. When you start destroying things in an area, the physics calculations are sent to its server, and the results are sent back to your Xbox, which resolves that into everything from a single bullethole to a skyscraper tumbling down.
If you, say, blow a chunk off of a building, which then flies into an adjacent area and smashes the window of the tower block next door, that neighbouring server then helps the original to resolve this. Destruction is persistent, and every piece of rubble remains interactive, and can continue to be shot, blown up or pushed around. Servers can be piled on servers to keep this working - in our demo, we saw 11 being used at once. Producer, Dave Jones, assured me that that was the tip of the digital iceberg.
You'd think this would require an immense internet connection to keep it rolling, not least when four players (this is the current maximum size for a multiplayer party, although it could increase) are doing the same thing in four separate corners of the city, but the relative ease of swapping information between Xbox and server means the strain is fairly small. Jones says that his team are optimising the game for a 2-4mbps connection.
So, I ask the question - does this technology make the Xbox One more powerful? Jones nods. Does it, effectively, make it the most powerful console ever made while those servers are running? Jones nods. While Crackdown utilises it purely for physics, the opportunity here is clear. Who knows what another company could make with this, given the time? For the moment, though, I'm not entirely bothered - I just knocked a penthouse balcony off its moorings and watched it take 20 others out on its way to the ground. I'm still smiling.
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