Crysis

What you already know is that Crysis was relentlessly designed to press even the most modern PC hardware to extremes. In the years since the game was first announced, coverage of Crysis has overwhelmingly paid attention to its steep future-proof requirements, and become, as Doom III once did, the upgrade mile-marker for enthusiasts eager to perch themselves on the sharp and bleeding edge of PC gaming. Developer Crytek showed off stunning field-of-vision, motion blur, volumetric and HDR lighting, real-time ambient maps and many other technobabble buzz words that mean nothing to me but make affordable computers the world over wince and whine. And, in the end, the CryENGINE2 is everything Crytek promised, an absolutely mind-blowing visual experience that is commonly breathtaking in its seemingly limitless capacity for rendering unparalleled environments.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/CrysisSunrise.thumbnail.jpg)

But, Crytek was also making a game, a spiritual follow-up to their successful if inconsistently good freshman effort, Far Cry. In fact, at times it seems as if Crytek was not merely creating a new game as an extension of Far Cry, but was in many ways trying to remake Far Cry itself in a new image. Taking place in a similar environment, with a similar free-form structure and style, Crysis' callbacks to Far Cry make Bioshock's similarities to System Shock 2 look subtle by comparison. And, as unlikely as it seems with so much attention paid to creating a stellar visual product while rehashing familiar material, Crysis is, in the end, a surprisingly fun and inventive entry into the FPS market. For those with the system to run it, Crysis offers a tense and cinematic shooter that will challenge your skills as much as it challenges your video card.

I ran Crysis on a Windows XP machine with a Core 2 Duo at 2 Ghz, a GeForce 8800 GTS (320 MB) and 2 GB Patriot DDR2 800 RAM. At a resolution of 1280X1024 and all settings set to High I enjoyed a usually steady framerate of 25-35 FPS with occasional but largely unobtrusive stutter during the most intense firefights. Frankly, it ran better than I expected, and the good news for those with less heft under the heatsink is that the ability of the engine to scale down while still looking phenomenal is surprising. Even at 800X600 on low settings the game looks better than virtually any other PC game on the market, and can be played reliably on systems at the lowest end of the game's requirements.

And, with that I unceremoniously end the discussion of Crysis' visuals. Frankly, anything short of jaw dropping would have been completely disappointing considering how much hype the game received in the months and years to release. It is simply enough to say that the game lives up to its billing as a visual powerhouse, and let's let that be the final word, because I am a firm believer in the necessity of game first, visuals second (and occasionally third, fourth or one-hundred and eighty-second).

When I set out to critique Crysis, I did so completely aware of how the dog and pony electric light show could be designed to distract me from mediocre gameplay, but was instead pleasantly surprised to find an open-ended structure, complicated AI behavior, a smartly presented story and interesting environments. Crysis isn't a one-hit wonder, and is perhaps one of the best titles out there at presenting the player with a series of goals and then really leaving the details of how to complete that goal to you. The gamespace is rarely confined, and the variety of approaches you can take toward assaulting, tricking, bypassing or wounding your foes is staggering.

What is perhaps the best surprise is that where Far Cry began as an outstanding shooter that lost its way once the mutants showed up, Crysis actually becomes better as the game leaves its mercenary trappings for something decidedly more sci-fi. The game ramps up the tension steadily toward the revelation of your true foes, and rather than losing the thread that had made the game worth playing until then, Crysis instead enters a whirlwind pace deserving of the name and becomes even more engaging with some truly inventive and complex level designs and enemies who offer entirely new challenges.

If it seems like I'm being obtuse, it's perhaps because I don't know where exactly the spoiler line exists. I take it for granted that the alien presence in Crysis is well known, but I hesitate to go into detail. Suffice to say that rather than being the loose thread that unravels the whole tapestry, Crysis actually maintains its quality with their presence.

The fundamental gameplay of Crysis revolves around your ability to use your surroundings and a high-tech combat suit to overcome typical overwhelming forces. Your suit offers you stealth, armor, speed or strength, and switching between the four during the heat of combat becomes second nature while opening up the playbook to decide how to kill your enemies. The environment too becomes part of your arsenal, and can be used to create distractions or, better yet, traps, and outsmarting your AI opponents feels like a victory, as they use tactics, cover, suppression fire and flanking maneuvers to sneak up on and behind you. As much as I hate to admit, the enemy more than once managed to outmaneuver my position as I waited to unleash some elaborate trap and I'd frequently find myself flushed out with a grenade or a shotgun blast. Without ever being unfair, the AI is impressive.

That's not to say this is the perfect game. While the later enemies do display some complex behavior, they do tend to take a few of the combat options off the table and force a more traditional straight-forward combat. In fact, the third act of the game can feel like some of the free-form nature of the previous two-thirds has evaporated as you drive to the inevitable final battle. Think of the gameplay as shaped like a funnel and you might begin to get a rough idea of the play experience.

Further, North Koreans apparently have skin made of some kind of advanced bullet-soaking polymer, and you'll need to bring all your bullets to the party. And, unlike the ground based enemies, helicopters in particular seem to be able to spot you even when stealthed and under heavy cover, which can make the sound of choppers coming in over the hills an unwelcome addition.

Crysis also packs some passable multiplayer under the hood, featuring its power struggle mode which is pretty easily recognizable as a Battlefield clone with Quake Wars tendencies. Though you do bring your suit powers into this mode of play, they are considerably muted, leaving traditional vehicle combat and gunplay as the familiar centerpiece. A satisfying enough experience, Crysis multiplayer doesn't particularly stand-out nor drag the overall game down. It's the sort of thing you may try a few times before going back to better multiplayer games.

What Crysis does offer is an engaging single-player experience wrapped in a pretty package. Its requirements are no joke, and if you have a borderline system there is a demo available that may offer a nice benchmark for what kind of performance to expect. However, the CryENGINE2 is a stable beast that offers consistent framerates with the right kind of hardware. With engaging enemies, a well-enough told summer popcorn flick plot, surprisingly varied environments and gameplay that actually improves as the game enters its final acts, Crysis proves to be far more than a pretty face. An intense and fun game from start to finish, Crysis is an easy recommendation for gamers looking to show off their beefy system.

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/CrysisCold.thumbnail.jpg) IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/CrysisVTOL.thumbnail.jpg) IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/CrysisInTheLight.thumbnail.jpg)

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/CrysisAlienCave.thumbnail.jpg) IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/CrysisTankKill.thumbnail.jpg)

Comments

So the whole game doesn't fall apart when the killer monkey monsters show up? Good. That's all I needed to know.

I noticed in the demo that I would have to destroy three legs of a roof supported by four total (at the corners) in order for it to collapse. Destroying the two on any side was not enough, and the side with the destroyed supports would then just hover there until I broke a third leg.

Has this been fixed, or did anyone else notice this behaviour?

Obviously that was the load-bearing leg.

I haven't made it to the aliens yet, but so far my experience mirrors Elysium's article to the letter. I'm enjoying the action quite a bit. Compared to the demo, the full game seems to be a bit tougher, but that's a good thing. Keeps you on your toes.

Uberstein wrote:

I noticed in the demo that I would have to destroy three legs of a roof supported by four total (at the corners) in order for it to collapse.

I wasn't looking for it in particular, but I didn't notice any wonky physics. Things seemed to react fairly accurately.

Elysium wrote:

It is simply enough to say that the game lives up to its billing as a visual powerhouse, and let's let that be the final word, because I am a firm believer in the necessity of game first, visuals second (and occasionally third, fourth or one-hundred and eighty-second).

1) Gameplay
2) Beards (general)
3) Boobies
4) Beards (bushy)
.
.
.
182) Visuals (see no. 3)

Wow, I was fully expecting mediocre gameplay accompanied by rockin' visuals. Thanks for the writeup, Ely.

I'd love to get my hands on this title. But there's no way my current system could handle it. I'd have to get a new rig but that would mean cutting my spending money way down...

I'm still tempted though. This game looks like something I could really dig into.

I don't know if you caught Sean Elliot's 1up review, which beats up on the latter portions of the game (it's also a bit over the spoiler line, be forewarned). I'm a few hours in and I've been waiting for it to start to veer downhill. So far, as you indicate, it feels very much like a souped-up version of Far Cry's earlier scenes, which is a good thing for the most part.

Even at 800X600 on low settings the game looks better than virtually any other PC game on the market, and can be played reliably on systems at the lowest end of the game's requirements.

The animations and environment detail are very impressive at any setting, for sure. When you drop shaders and shadows down to low, though, it loses a lot of ambiance and starts to look flat. I can run the game well with light-related effects at medium and most other effects at high, but I've been tinkering with it a lot, and I've played a fair amount of the game at the lowest settings just to see how well the gameplay holds up without the shiny. So far, pretty damned good. And, as you note, it's a very stable, steady engine--hardware hungry, but it does what you'd expect.

I just started the game, but for the most part I agree with this. I'm playing with a mix of high/very high settings and it looks gorgeous, but I was surpised by how tactical the gameplay is. Even though I played the demo five times, I still found new ways to use the environment against my enemies.

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed for the AI for the most part. I also find them quite good, but was worried it was only a matter of time since the online world seems to be shouting how broken it is, even though I haven't noticed any of the quirks on youtube at all. I wonder if it's an uncanny valley thing, though, where the more realistic the physics and A.I. gets, the more the inconsistent stuff stands out.

It's sad playing the game after reading the reviews, though, since I know I'm in for a dissapointing ending. Here's hoping it sells well enough to justify a sequel, a resource heavy PC-exclusive title isn't exactly the type of thing that sees dollar signs these days.

Have you played Power Struggle on any public servers? I like the concept but it seems like the type of game that attracts douchebags and/or idiots who think it's an every-man-for-himself death match.

Crysis owns all. I picked it up last night and played till 6am and now I am a zombie at work! But it so worth it.. the Aliens are not like the monkeys of farcry once you get(spoiler)

[color=#FFFFFF]incidenary ammo for the AK

[/color] (/spoiler) they go down easy. I ran out of guns 'n ammo so I ended up stealthing behind them and Donkey Punching them in the back of the head to get through some areas.

The gameplay singleplayer wise is just crazy good.. as soon as I finish it tonight it is onto Multiplayer!

Only wierd items I have seen was in the first level, I took the power boat out for a spin and got shot at, so I cloaked and got in seat two. Then when I hit the shore and got out, I had two of everything, Arms, Legs, Pistols etc. I also enjoy putting people to sleep then going max strength and punching them GOOD TIMES!

I've seen the weird building thing - I punched 3 supports out and the roof stayed up on the 4th, and I also shot a large chunk out of a tree and left the top suspended in mid air.

Wonder what the physics setting in the options does? Maybe thats the cause of the occasional wonkiness?

Goo wrote:

I've seen the weird building thing - I punched 3 supports out and the roof stayed up on the 4th, and I also shot a large chunk out of a tree and left the top suspended in mid air.

Wonder what the physics setting in the options does? Maybe thats the cause of the occasional wonkiness?

I bet it's just a physics quirk/bug.

I messed with the physics settings. I'm not sure it affects gameplay physics--I wasn't scientific about it, but from what I could tell ragdoll and object physics behaved the same even at lowest settings. Buildings came apart and fell down as before, tires could still be shot away from vehicles, trees could still be deconstructed by gunfire, etc.

I suspect the physics settings primarily impact physics-driven visual effects--i.e., the movement, quantity, and quality of larger particles and shrapnel. Transitory and aesthetic stuff, that adds a lot of visual flare but doesn't have any persistent affect on gameplay.

The problem for me was when I noticed this it completely dragged me out of the game world, and killed my immersion. The world is so damned detailed and pretty that a little thing like this is just jarring.

Not that it'll stop me from purchasing this game.

Pharacon wrote:

I ran out of guns 'n ammo so I ended up stealthing behind them and Donkey Punching them.

Sounds pretty sexual. What's the ratio of clothed to non-clothed Koreans?

I don't know if you caught Sean Elliot's 1up review, which beats up on the latter portions of the game

I like Shawn Elliot, but I'm not sure I'm with him here. I'm sticking by my funnel analogy, and frankly the change of pace toward the end wasn't totally unwelcome. He's focusing a lot of attention into what turns out to be about an hour and a half of gameplay, and it's not that it's neceesarily bad but different than what had come before. In many ways the game ends very traditionally, though I felt like it did it with a lot more finesse than Elliot gives it credit for. Still, I see where he's coming from and it is worth mentioning that Crysis ends differently than it begins.

That said, I certainly appreciate his angle more than the Exclusive Review in this month's PC Gamer which, I think, performs acts on Crysis that are illegal in seven states. It really is an exploration of irrational exuberance.

Elysium wrote:

That said, I certainly appreciate his angle more than the Exclusive Review in this month's PC Gamer which, I think, performs acts on Crysis that are illegal in seven states. It really is an exploration of irrational exuberance.

After reading the six page review, which being the third exclusive cover review of an EA-published game in a row (which once again, means it skims over the multiplayer and avoids talking about bugs, as is required when you a review a game a month before the final code is locked down), and with so much hyperbole it ended on him saying he now sees the world in "pre-Crysis and post-Crysis" terms, I promised myself I would never buy the magazine again. Son of a bitch, that made me angry, and I love the game.

"pre-Crysis and post-Crysis" terms,

You noticed that too did you.

My favorite part of the whole magazine was the 20 page (I'm not joking) advertisement for AT&T.

kuddles wrote:

and with so much hyperbole it ended on him saying he now sees the world in "pre-Crysis and post-Crysis" terms

That's some hyperbole. He makes it sound like 9/11.

I signed up for a free subscription to PC Gamer at some point. Junk mail. New issues typically sit on my desk, unread, until I work up the motivation to remove the shrink wrap so I can toss them into the recycling.

I so miss the PCGamer from the old days. I'll never forget getting issues that were over half an inch thick and had tons of articles in them.

Uberstein wrote:

I noticed in the demo that I would have to destroy three legs of a roof supported by four total (at the corners) in order for it to collapse. Destroying the two on any side was not enough, and the side with the destroyed supports would then just hover there until I broke a third leg.

Has this been fixed, or did anyone else notice this behaviour?

2 possibilities:

1) They may be "cheating" with the roof - ie. instead of actually simulating the load between the legs, they just count how many legs are left before "collapsing."

2) They may not be cheating, but the roof was just tuned improperly. So, maybe they had some weird values for the amount of force holding the roof to the legs or something, causing this unrealistic thing to happen.

If they're cheating, they're doing a damn good job of it. If not, they're doing a damn good job of it.

Well I think it's akin to how Havok goes about applying physics to a lot of objects. It evaluates every possible object it would have to worry about, and then largely ignores any that are likely to be static for a while. Only when something happens nearby does it think to see if that static-tagged object might need to have some physics applied to it. Sounds like their method of deciding when to de-flag is a little unrealistic.

I guess I'm easily impressed, but really, anything visually at Far Cry level or above is going to be impressive enough for me. FC still looks wonderful, and runs so smooth.

I get on tonight to play after work, and all of a sudden, I get 'choppy sound from hell' (c), so bad that the game is unplayable. Exactly what little bastard gremlins infiltrated my PC and screwed something up while I was out fighting the good fight, I don't know, but I'm pretty damn peeved with the situation.

I like the game, it's pretty well done. Only I think it could have been way better if the suit was a little more powerful. As it is now, everything you try to do drains your suit so much that any other suit action you want to do after it does not have enough power.

Speed a bit and then hit someone on the head with strength? Jump on a building, smash through the roof, smash someone in the face? Go cloak, get close, hit 1 of 10 in the face with strength and run away cloaking?

I want to do all those thing, but every time I get into doing these things, halfway my suit start whining about low power, and I give out a backhand slap instead of the bone crushing stomp I want to deliver.

I have the most fun playing with the AI enemies and with my suit, but when the suit energy gives out, I need to shoot my way through. And without the suit, it's pretty much "generic shooter 5" with some added cool effects.

Yoyoson wrote:

Wow, I was fully expecting mediocre gameplay accompanied by rockin' visuals. Thanks for the writeup, Ely.

That is what I was expecting too... Having read this review, I am gonna go pickup the game after work today for sure. If I can find a compy that is...

Thin_J wrote:

I so miss the PCGamer from the old days. I'll never forget getting issues that were over half an inch thick and had tons of articles in them.

I miss Daily Radar... that site was the $hit. Oh well...

PAR

McChuck wrote:
Elysium wrote:

It is simply enough to say that the game lives up to its billing as a visual powerhouse, and let's let that be the final word, because I am a firm believer in the necessity of game first, visuals second (and occasionally third, fourth or one-hundred and eighty-second).

1) Gameplay
2) Beards (general)
3) Boobies
4) Beards (bushy)
.
.
.
182) Visuals (see no. 3)

I'm pretty sure 5-10 are:
5) The Packers
6) Brett Favre
7) Beer
8) Brett Favre's "sensitive teef"
9) Cheese
10) The presence of Illinoisans

The order might be a tad off, though. 11 might have something to do with passive-agressive ice fishing, while I'm fairly certain various kinds of beer round out the teens.

Nyles wrote:
kuddles wrote:

and with so much hyperbole it ended on him saying he now sees the world in "pre-Crysis and post-Crysis" terms

That's some hyperbole. He makes it sound like 9/11.

Not to drag this into P&C, but that's hilarious, Nyles. Well done.