I like the Cortex system and posted some messages on the old forum... Which unfortunately disappeared.
But I won't content myself of being sad! So, here I am.
I don't really agree with the fact that the Cortex system doesn't handle combats well. In my humble opinion, it does. I still play to another game in which combats are very detailed (several hundreds pages only about this topic): GURPS.
Of course, it is very different in the Cortex system. Combat rules are very light. But, actually the Cortex rules are also very light for everything. Because, contrary to the GURPS system, most things are left up to the GM. The cortex system, from this point of view, is like GURPS lite: it gives fundamental basic and universal rules and what they will exactly become during play mostly depends on what the GM wants.
During combat, he can for instance take tactical ideas of players into account by converting them as bonus or penalty steps to their rolls. "OK, you attack him from his left, and you from his right... That's hard for him. Both of you have a +1 bonus step to the attack roll..." Combats can then become very strategic!
Furthermore, the attribute + skill system (where you can change the attribute) allows a precision that is not possible in most other role playing games: the difference between an agility + shortsword roll (striking the most rapidly possible), a strength + shortsword roll (striking as strong as possible) and an alertness + shortsword roll (striking when you see an opening in the foe's guard)...
Finally, the fact that combats are fast may be true. But they are in some other role playing games which use much more written tactical rules too. In the Basic RolePlaying system, for instance, the first blow often kills or knocks the foe unconscious. GURPS combats are also quite quick, even if they are longer to play... I only see a real difference with high level D&D combats. In this precise game, characters have a lot of hit points and, then, combats last for many rounds... But if D&D is designed to be tactical game, it isn't realistic. Depending on how the GM handle things, Cortex can be much more realistic.
So, to my mind, the Cortex system is not really a storytelling-oriented game. It is a game who falls just between storytelling and simulationism*, with very light rules. Which allows the GM to do exactly what he likes.
* I even noted some common points with GURPS in the Cortex rules. Advantages and disadvantages (Oh, sorry, Assets and Complications) are just one example.
Oh! I forgot to tell...
The D2 has been removed from the new version of the Cortex rules (Smallville, Leverage, etc.). And the "how to hack cortex" book was the intention to explain how to use this new version with other settings. It was supposed to be named "Cortes plus". But it has never been published out.