In 2004, European developer Crytek released the popular first person shooter Far Cry, a game which generated a lot of publicity for its large, lush environments, open terrain, as well as a large variety of weapons and vehicles which could be acquired throughout the game. It was considered innovative in the way the game allowed you to choose which tactics best served you in combat, be they run-and-gun, stealth and evasion, or a combination of both styles. While some blasted the actual story and settings for Far Cry, especially when all the mutant creatures began surfacing, most acknowledged the game as being a beautiful, open world, something which had yet to be truly accomplished in the linear realm of first-person shooters.
I think it important to note that I actually didn’t enjoy Far Cry all that much. As much as some folks were praising the game’s artificial intelligence (A.I.), I found it to be rather uninspired, as I was often able to crawl on the ground right in front of an enemy who didn’t react until I was putting a bullet in between his eyes. I found the difficulty uneven – ranging from easy to unfair – which led to a whole lot of quick saving and quick loading, as well as frustration. The story was also a bit too much for me, presenting characters that I simply didn’t care about, even if some of the situations were interesting and well done. A few years later, Crytek released another shooter which has also generated quite a bit of hype.
Crysis revolves around a group of Nano-suited Delta Force operatives parachuting onto a small island in the South China Sea to rescue a group of U.S. archaeologists who have been taken hostage by the North Korean Military. All that is known is that the archaeologists had made a major find on this island and, judging by North Korea’s interest, the find was something with the potential to change the balance of power in the world. You are Lieutenant Jake Dunn, code name Nomad, and it’s up to you and your team to infiltrate the island, rescue the hostages and neutralize any opposing forces in your way. What starts as a simple infiltration and hostage extraction mission quickly becomes a battle for survival against both the North Koreans and a force which may not even be terrestrial in origin.
While not necessarily the most original of stories, Crysis does borrow from enough different sci-fi genre favorites to make the game entertaining for all. I personally saw elements taken from Predator, War of the Worlds, and Independence Day while playing through the single player campaign. I draw these comparisons, not as a complaint but more to indicate that there are some fairly popular sci-fi themes and devices included in this game.
|"...Crysis does borrow from enough different sci-fi genre favorites to make the game entertaining for all."|
While this game is your basic first-person shooter and feels nearly identical to Far Cry in most ways, it does have some significant departures from your standard shooter fare, in the form of the Nano-suit your character wears. The Nano-suit provides four different powers that you will need to use in order to make it through the journey in one piece. These abilities are triggered via the middle mouse button and are fairly easy to trigger and use on the fly with a little practice. Each of these abilities requires power for its use. While activated and in use, the abilities cause the power to steadily drain. When you aren’t using abilities, your bar quickly regenerates, as does the health of your character. These abilities include the damage shield, strength, speed, and optical cloaking.
The damage shield protects you from physical damage as long as there is power remaining in your energy bar, but depending on the attack can power down rather rapidly. Once your shield is gone, your character will begin taking damage, often leading to near-instant death. The shield is your default Nano-suit ability and the one that will keep you alive the longest.
The cloaking ability bends light around you, making you blend in with your surroundings, similar in look to the creature in the movie Predator. Much like the Predator, moving while cloaked can give you away and will drain your energy much faster than standing still. There are also the Speed and Strength abilities, both of which are fairly self-explanatory. The main difference is that with Strength enabled, you are capable of jumping much higher in the air, as well as being able to swiftly kill an enemy with a melee strike and also allowing you to lift heavier items and throw them at your foes.
Outside of these abilities, this game is a very standard FPS game, with the usual array of weapons, scopes, and the now standard Night Vision Goggles. The ability to customize your weapons with various scopes, flashlights, as well as different ammunition types is certainly a nice touch and allows you a bit of variety and customization. There are a few unique weapons, like the powerful Gauss rifle and the Tactical Nuke gun and of course the alien weapon you receive later in the game. However, your standard pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and rocket launchers will be your constant companions throughout your travels. As you are only able to carry two long arms at once, your choice of weapons and your preservation of ammunition will also have a bearing on how challenging the game is for you. While you can certainly play the game however you wish, having the right weapon at the right time becomes very important in the later stages of the game; not doing so and can lead to some overwhelming odds if you aren’t careful.
There are a few different vehicles that you are able to use in the game, some by choice and others by mission design. The vehicles include boats, trucks, humvees, tanks, and fighter craft among others. For the most part, the vehicles move and control as you would expect, but they all seem to be very vulnerable to weapons fire, and I was just as capable of destroying a boat or tank on foot as I was in a vehicle. In fact, sometimes the fragile nature of the vehicles required multiple reloads through various levels – then again, perhaps this was more realistic in terms of the amount of damage a vehicle could take prior to exploding. One thing I found that made the vehicles easier to control was the ability to switch the camera to a third person perspective, making it a more familiar environment to navigate in.
Graphically, this game is what you make of it. The system specs for this game are a make or break point for your average gamers, and it is rare that you can install this game, use the optimal setting and proceed to play without any type of issues. Even with a brand-new Alienware rig, dual SLI cards and 4 gigs of RAM, I had various issues with Crysis. When I started the game, I was running it at 1600x1200 resolution and all details set to high, which worked for about a half-hour before the slowdown became too much, and I was forced to lower the resolution to 1280x1000 and merely high instead of very high effects. I was able to play through about three quarters of Crysis, but as the game proceeded my PC began locking up and I was forced to reboot. By the last level of the game, I had to lower the resolution to 1024x768, just to be able to play through the last level.
|"Even with a brand-new Alienware rig, dual SLI cards and 4 gigs of RAM, I had various issues with Crysis."|
While much of this can be attributed to issues with Crysis and dual nVidia 8800 series graphics cards among other issues, not all of this was my fault. Many of the solutions asked me to alter BIOS settings or download nVidia-created hotfixes that Microsoft advised were not guaranteed by them. It quickly became clear that any changes I made would likely not be covered by my warranty and as such I chose to lower specs when necessary to play through the game.
All issues aside, Crysis is easily one of the best looking PC games ever created. The lightning effects are amazing, and the water effects are possibly the best ever produced. I cannot count the number of times that I stopped and was just blown away by what I was presented with. I am hesitant to mention much of the story, particularly the later levels of the game, but suffice it to say the sci-fi twists provide for some amazing and ethereal level settings. So, while the game features some of the best graphics and effects ever produced, you may not actually have a PC that can display them.
The sound effects for Crysis were also second to none, with the expected bangs, explosions, and gun fights ringing out with cinematic quality. The sounds your enemies make, particularly the larger enemies which attack later are truly stunning and often create a very edgy atmosphere. The voice acting was also fairly solid and helped move the story along, at least on par with a good action movie.
The single player campaign will eat up about ten hours of your life and perhaps given the short length encourage you to play through more than once. Much has been made of the semi open-ended nature of the gameplay, but ultimately the story doesn’t branch, and the only open-ended portion of the game relates to the tactics you choose to employ while playing. In fact, if you choose to, you can run away from the majority of the enemies you face in the game, barring some set encounters that you are faced with.
Crysis does feature a fairly extensive set of online multiplayer modes, including a mode which allows you to use vehicles and involves taking over various strategic command points which allow you to develop more powerful weapons, ultimately leading to the ability to unleash nuclear weapons on your enemies. I spent a few hours exploring the various maps and online modes and was fairly entertained. Crysis easily has some of the largest multiplayer maps I have ever played in, and this is both a good and bad thing in terms of how many players you find on a given map. In larger settings with 20+ players and a good connection, the team based matches were fairly intense and sometimes rather long affairs. I played one match that lasted nearly an hour as my team and the opposing team traded war factories and bunkers, neither team quite strong enough to completely dominate the map.
In multiplayer, Crytek chose to go the route of earning points through gameplay. These prestige points allowed you to purchase weapons and vehicles in-game. I must admit that after months of playing Call of Duty 4, I was very rusty on using vehicles in multiplayer matches. I found the multiplayer mode to be fairly entertaining, and it certainly added to the gameplay experience without feeling like an added on mode to enhance the single player campaign.
Now for those who scroll down to read the summary and scores, here is what you need to know. This game started out feeling fairly generic and I was beginning to wonder if I was missing something with Crysis, especially given the amount of hype and awards the title has received. The single player campaign may have started slowly, but it continued to improve as the levels progressed and ended up having me hooked by the end. I was actually disappointed that the game didn’t continue after the climax. In this instance, I think the ten or so hours you get out of the single player campaign may be short for some and just right for others, but either way it had me wanting to continue the fight, something I am sure sequels will handle for us.
At its core, Crysis is a standard FPS title with a few new tweaks in the form of Nano-suit abilities. While these abilities were fun, I didn’t feel like they were explained enough, at least not enough to allow gamers to know just how versatile they could be. It wasn’t until I completed the game and checked the FAQs that I saw all the different techniques and strategies that the powers made available. Generally in this type of game, the game itself includes some area where you have to use your abilities in a way the leads to the development of tactics, but with Crysis, you never really actually “have” to use your abilities.
Crysis contains some amazing sound effects and graphics, the kind that sells hardware to gamers like yours truly. This game was the first software I put on my new rig, and while I was able to enjoy the game, the sheer amount of issues I had getting the game to run in a stable fashion was disappointing. While not all of this is Crytek’s fault (Microsoft and nVidia were also to blame), for this game to be the supposed poster child for DX10 and Games for Windows, I was not impressed with the hoops I had to jump through in order to play it from start to finish. I felt like I was back in the DOS-based days again, tweaking and editing to get a game to work.
Still, Crysis was a solid action title with a fun story and setting that kept me wanting to play until the very end. This was not a revolutionary game, this was more Far Cry in a slightly different setting with a Nano-suited character. I don’t say this as an insult, merely to point out that as lauded as the open world, open-ended nature of this game is, it has been a bit of a victim of too much hype. I would strongly recommend the purchase of Crysis to anybody with the PC powerful enough to run it. Crysis was one of the better games released last year on the PC, but definitely not the best game released.