Summary: The Miss Universe of computer games has finally arrived in time for Christmas and we have a review.
Crytek decided to make a second game, Crysis, that not only isn't a sequel but uses the second version of their impressive CryEngine. While Crysis is an excellent follow-up to Far Cry in many respects there are some issues that keep it from being the title that were hoping it would be.
The game is set in the year 2020 on a South Pacific island that has been invaded by the North Koreans. There's some kind of secret that has been buried at the island for millions of years. Your character is a US Special Forces military officers that is equipped with a Nanosuit; basically an outfit that can do some interesting tricks to keep you alive. As you and the rest of the US military battle the North Koreans on the island, its secrets begin to come to the surface; in other words, there's some aliens from outer space to deal with and they are very unhappy.
The first half of Crysis kept up to our high expectations of the game we have had for so long. Your character's intro via a HALO jump gets things going with a bang and the Nanosuit's functions get a workout as you go though the tropical jungle settings of the island. The Nanosuit has several different abilities that are limited by the suit's energy bar; there's super-strength (mostly use for leaping great heights); super-speed (very fast movements for brief periods) armor (the most used ability that keeps you alive from attacks and regenerates you if you get to cover) and stealth (a Predator like light bending field that keeps you hidden from enemies). Of course you get the assorted weapons to choose from; machine guns, rocket launchers, shotguns and later some alien weapons. There's also some customization of weapons to add scopes, grenade launchers, laser pointers and more. There's also some drivable vehicles to use (jeeps, tanks and the like).
Crysis's first half is basically an improved version of Far Cry as you fight the North Koreans on the island. The enemy AI in the game is quite challenging and you will likely find yourself dying a lot, especially in the first couple of levels as you find yourself out gunned and out numbered. Enemies try to out flank you constantly and back up and take cover if they find themselves under fire. You will find yourself entering enemy bases, shooting down AI helicopters, sinking a cruiser inside a loading dock and engaging the enemy in a vast outdoor tank battle. While the North Koreans are mostly human you do deal with some Nanosuited powered foes who have the same abilities you do; speed, strength, stealth and armor.
The multiplayer aspect of Crysis has two halves; the first half is the simple deathmatch mode where you just run around the levels and kill everyone. The second part of mutltiplayer is a complex team oriented objective mode called Power Struggle. It resembles the "Titan" mode in Battlefield 2142. The teams in Power Struggle battle to keep and hold locations in the large outdoor areas. Teams have to hold onto power supplies to gain access to facilities that can create special alien based weapons; its these weapons that you will need to take out the enemy's headquarters. It's highly strategic and not a mode that you can just jump in and enjoy from the get-go but at least it tries to do something original with the first person shooter multiplayer genre.
Oh, and then there are the graphics. Crysis has been promoted from the beginning as the game that PC fans have been waiting for to upgrade their hardware to play and it doesn't disappoint in this area. Whether you have a Windows XP/DirectX9 rig or a high powered Vista/DirectX10 machine, Crysis will definately give you perhaps the best looking PC game you have ever seen. From photo-realistic jungle enviroments (complete with trees that can be shot down) to lighting effects that can create rainbows from seeing the sun through a waterfall, the game could fool some people they are watching a live action film at times. The game's physics engine is also impressive with some destructible structures and vehicle and weapon physics that look and feel real. As we mentioned before the alien chamber is visually stunning and character and weapons models for both human and aliens are impressive, as is the facial animations when humans chat with you in the game or with in-engine cut scenes.
However it's no secret that the game, however gorgeous it looks, does suffer from the fact that you will need some high hardware requirements just to get the game up to a decent 30 frames per second and even then you will likely have to reduce the resolution down to 1024x768 or even lower to achieve that frame rate if you want to see the game with all of its bells and whistles. It's been a while since a PC game has pushed the high end hardware as much as Crysis; that could be welcome news for some but bad for others.
Mention must be made of the high quality voice acting for the game which is welcome in a medium that usually lacks in that area. Music and sound effects are also first rate and if you want to make new levels and mods for Crysis, Crytek has their full CryEngine mod tools included with the game for you to use.
Solid single player experience in first half - Crysis has some challenging, open ended and spectacular battles in the first portion of the game
Average single player experience in second half - Alien AI isn't as smart as humans; final boss battle too quick and set up already in previews
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