With the single-player demo of Crysis freshly out, I couldn’t help but grab it and give it a spin. Now, most people have heard of Crysis; it’s the game that’s meant to redefine how good a game can look, etc. And it’s pretty hard to argue with this hype, because when cranked up onto the highest settings (and even the not-so-highest settings) it really is an incredibly immersive experience. This game represents a generation of graphics beyond the Xbox 360, beyond the PlayStation 3, and beyond any PC games before it; in pictures it looks great, and in motion it looks incredible.
But that’s not what’s prompted me to write this post. Because you see, Crysis is actually really, really fun, too!
Crysis has essentially taken the formula and groundwork that Far Cry set several years ago, and then expanded upon it. You’re on a huge, paradisal island again, and you’re free to tackle the nasties all over it however you want. You’re directed to areas via checkpoints on your map, many of which are quite far away; this means you have to make a choice about how you want to get there, which invariably involves deciding which of many routes through the jungle, beaches, cliffs, and roads you want to take.
Wherever you go though, you’ll encounter enemies. Instead of being placed along a path you’re guaranteed to go down as you’d expect in most first-person shooters, they have encampments and patrol routes all over the place: some are permanently based in camps, some drive around the island, etc. So you’re going to run into some of them.
It sounds very reminiscent of Far Cry of course, but because the enemy AI has been developed so much more and their locations on the island have been well chosen and integrated, each encounter feels a lot more dynamic and exciting; indeed, despite the sandbox nature of the game it feels like every last detail is scripted, even though the reality is that it’s not and it’s entirely unpredictable.
The other major advance from Far Cry is the high-tech suit you’re kitted out with. This is the bread and butter of the game, and allows you to play the game in four completely different ways (or a combination of them all). Your suit has four modes: armour, speed, strength, and cloak. Each mode uses up your suit’s general energy reserve in different ways: armour uses it when you take damage, speed uses it when you move insanely fast, strength uses it when you hit or throw something, and cloak uses it when you’re invisible.
The energy metre fills up again within seconds and you can get a lot of mileage from one metre if you play to each mode’s strengths. For example, if you stay still your cloak can last for over a minute, crawling will make it deplete about twice as fast, and if you run it’ll be gone in less than 10 seconds. Speed mode will bump up your normal running speed a touch without using any energy, but if you go into ‘speed of sound’ mode you’ll be drained within seconds, thus making it ideal for dashing between cover and quickly recharging. Armour mode naturally performs its best when under heavy fire, and strength mode is just begging to be used to throw stuff at people rather than just to punch them.
Cloak mode lets you play the game like a first-person shooter version of Metal Gear Solid, and is my personal favourite. The AI and environment is really geared towards playing the game in a truly stealthy way, so if you’re into that kind of thing like I am you’ll really love it. Playing it in this way becomes even more fun once you realise you can pick up practically anything and use it to beat your enemies to death. You can pick up rocks, turtles (and many other animals), enemies’ helmets, and pretty much anything else you can think of using for a good bludgeoning. Or if you prefer to do it the more traditional way, you can just sneak up behind them, grab them by the neck, and perform a brutal neck snap/throw combo. I hate to say it, but Solid Snake could learn from this guy.
But with all that said, if you don’t like the stealth gameplay so much the other modes will suit you fine. There’s no shortage of bombastic firepower lying around in caches and on corpses, which are an excellent accompaniment for your suit when it’s in armour mode (allowing more damage to be taken as you do your business). If you prefer to be a bit more like Predator or something, speed mode will allow you to dash between trees and other cover at the speed of light, playing a wicked game of psychological torture. Pop up, take an enemy out, and vanish again just as quickly.
And of course, if you’re one of those guys who used the gravity gun in Half-Life 2 all the time, you’ll love the increased power that putting your suit into strength mode brings. It’s no exaggeration to say that in this state you can pick up washing machines, tables, and essentially any reasonably-sized object you can find; then, of course, you throw them at your enemies with all your might, often cracking 90% of their bodies’ bones.
The fact that the game has an excellent soundtrack that crescendos, climaxes, and slows down during tense moments; fantastic sound effects; great enemy AI that makes each encounter dynamic and unpredictable; and a really strong general structure only adds to the quality, truly making Crysis feel more exciting to play than any single-player first-person shooter I’ve tried in a long time.
All-in-all, the gameplay in Crysis is very sandbox-like just like its predecessor’s was, but Crytek have taken the concept a lot further and made each potential encounter with the enemy more interesting, given you more ways of approaching each one, and of course if you want to go around the environment specifically tracking down encampments to commit genocide on then that’s up to you. The longevity value here is incredible, and I myself have gone through the demo a few times now – something I know a lot of other people are doing.
And this is only the demo. The media (and the demo) clearly shows that the enemies you face will change dramatically as the game progresses, and so will the environment. This may be a sandbox-like game, but it’s one fortified with a solid storyline and changes that’ll continually mix your approach to the game up. If the full game manages to keep up the standard of quality set in the demo, I can very easily see Crysis becoming the game that everyone remembers as the highlight of 2007 for the PC, not BioShock or the Orange Box (despite both being superb).
I highly recommend you check the demo out, with the only negative thing I can think of saying about it being the steep hardware requirements. I think it’s safe to say that pretty much nobody can hope to run this game with the ‘Very High’ settings smoothly on a high resolution, and many will be forced to opt for ‘Medium’. Do experiment with the settings, though; go as high as you can, and then try lowering the ‘Post Processing’, ‘Shadows’, and ‘Textures’ settings first. These seem to make the most crippling difference without actually making the visuals that much worse when lowered. I’m sure Tweak Guides will have a great guide up soon, too.