Review by Great_Khan

"A Decent Shooter in an Extraordinary Environment"

With only two games released, it's quickly becoming obvious what the guys at Crytek are capable of. They can make one hell of a graphics engine, Farcry was stunning at it's time of release, and this game needs no introduction in terms of it's graphics, no one has been able to come close in the year that this game has been out, and it appears until the next Crytek game comes out it'll be unchallenged. They can make quality Hollywood cliche based scripts, with a stunning range of huge military battles for you to witness, completely unintelligent and predictable as anything ever made, but good fun, and quick moving. They can make an AI which is fun to fight, completely stupid, but you can manipulate them, making it fun to torment enemy soldiers. And they can make levels spanning huge distances, making the games seem very impressive in scope, even if the game is largely linear.

However, there are some things they just haven't got the slightest grasp of: Graphics have always killed the hardware of computers around the time of release, movement has always been slow and boring, the games have never been terribly original and ground breaking in any field other than graphics and scope, and they haven't got the slightest idea how to make monsters. The last one is the most noticeable, because in both Farcry and Crysis, the games have taken a mighty dive in gameplay quality once the aliens and monsters get involved.

Crysis is first and foremost a game based around you saying "Oooooh pretty". The events that occur as the game goes on become bigger and bigger and more visually impressive, and can truly be stunning. It's like each of the levels are trying to one up each other in major visual events. One level blows up a car, the next crashes an aircraft right in front of you, the following level may just show half a mountain collapse into rubble, this would be followed by a level filled with a succession of tornados tearing apart forests, then they may sink an aircraft carrier under a giant robot. It's shallow and pure ego worship of their graphic engine, and it's quite contrived, and in some ways becomes quite preposterous, but it's really quite a fun, thrilling ride. Sadly, there is a flaw in the graphics engine which makes a lot of these events seem far less impressive; it's greedier than a Captain Planet villain.

My hardware which was near enough to top of the line in late 2006/early 2007 when I got it was initially crippled by this game. In order to play the game, I had to have every setting set on low, and even then it wasn't terribly fast. On any hardware that isn't top of the line, this game is just not going to run well. And on low details, this game is ugly. I mean, really, hideously ugly, I'm talking Shane MacGowan ugly. Really, this looks worse than any game released in the last 3 years on all low settings, 4 years if you factor in that I can play all those other games on high settings. My computer can run games like Call of Duty 4 on all settings (Apart from resolution) maxed quite easily at 60fps, but this on the lowest, most insignificant settings would run at barely above 30. So, since this game is so gleefully based around making you marvel at their graphics, I quickly got bored, and stopped playing the game by the tank mission, about 5 maps in. If I was to review this game then, it would probably be getting a 4/10 or so. But luckily, I came into some money, doubled my RAM, and could play the first half of the game all settings on medium, and it actually looks quite impressive, still not as good as Assassins Creed or COD4 on the same hardware, but good enough that I could see the point and at least some of the majesty of the set pieces of this game. And the game now seems much more exciting and fun. The graphics actually do play a huge part in this game being any good, since it's the location that makes the game stand out, not the gameplay.

Sadly, once the aliens show up, the lag issues came back, and I was forced to have at least one or two settings turned down to low, and one some levels, basically everything had to go down to low again. This is because the aliens are basically Matrix worship, and in turn have a lot of animations during movement and lighting on them, and the world suddenly develops a lot more airborne particles and explosions, all of which combines to be a heavy drain on your poor sensitive graphics card. It'll kill most any hardware that hasn't been released [i]after[/i] this game. It's quite annoying constantly having to adjust your settings for every separate event that occurs.

So what does Crysis offer other than graphics that fluctuate between stunningly beautiful and obese pug awful you ask? In short, if offers a solid FPS, with not a whole lot of innovation, but still brings quite a lot of fun. Crysis is a short game, this is a side effect of the movie script-like writing style which doesn't leave itself too much free time. It does have a positive effect in the game having zero annoying missions such as escort missions, and limits the numbers of pointless dungeon crawls, since everything you do has a plot purpose, but in turn the game doesn't have very much in it. In fact you can count all of the guns in the game on your fingers, and if you don't count the plot only TAC cannon, you've got a thumb to spare. There are only 12 missions in the game, and while the first 6 are quite time consuming for their low numbers, the style required for fighting aliens is far faster and more careless, making those 6 missions only take about 3 hours to complete. In fact, the style of the two halves of the game are so drastically different you'd struggle to notice it's the same game. And unlike Farcry, this game has no crossover between the two approaches, now it's People first, Monsters later. You won't see a single KPA guy after the aliens become a threat. They must dissipate or something, because they're just gone.

The first half of the game deals with a simple hostage rescue situation, where you and your ragtag group of walking cliches must fight your way through hordes of mildly idiotic Korean soldiers in order to save some archaeologists who have found an artefact that will evidently destroy the world. The second half of the game deals with said artefact coming to life, forming an army, and destroying the world. The plot is pretty straight forward, as you, Lieutenant Nomad, blindly follow orders to successfully rescue exactly one person, witness the deaths of a few dozen people who in all likelihood didn't need to die, and eventually learn how to defeat aliens using poor pseudoscience. It's a basic plot but it's not irritating and you never do anything without reason. And apart from the stupid solution to defeating already weak as all sin opponents on the last level, it's pretty compelling for what it is.

The game is fairly standard in it's implementation for the main part, you head from A to B, occasionally stopping off to pick up some plans or maps, but as a rule, just kind of wandering towards your best guess location of the hostages are. The second half of the game brings in a few new aspects, such as flight levels, and a no gravity level, but it's still set out in the standard "Get to this place" manner. The big thing this game prides itself on, besides the epic visual events of course, is the nanosuit. This is a simple quasi-scientific explanation to using the auto-regen health system, and it lets you have a few super powers too. Sadly, there are only 4 super powers, and sadly, most of them are fairly useless. Armor is basically in constant use by default, and actually has no specific applied function apart from explaining why you can survive getting shot 30 times. Strength needs specific things placed in the game consciously by level designers to be of any use, like half broken doors and vertical cliffs blocking the only path forward, because strength punching is useless, often non-fatal and clunky. Speed is good for nothing, and is basically a last resort option for the player who has gotten into a little too much fire, and has thought, "Alright, I've charged this place a little too soon, I'd like to leave". It pretty much makes it impossible to die, since you rarely get hit while running with this set, and you still regenerate health. The only one I found any real use for was invisibility. It wasn't particularly necessary beyond feeling a little more comfortable when going around blind corners, but it makes playing with soldiers a lot more fun, since you rarely need to go stealth to deal with opponents at range, or even in more closed in areas. Although it is a nice little back up card to have when things get a little too intense to deal with.

The gameplay is clearly split in half from the two sides of the game. The levels involving the Koreans are much slower paced, are moderately more difficult, and actually make use of the nanosuit. In fact, it's not a terribly exciting game in terms of objectives or options during these earlier stages, but the opponents you're against are fun to kill. As there are a large number of soldiers to mercilessly slaughter, and they can hit you at range, hanging back and fighting them with an assault rifle with a sniper scope is a good technique, one hit kills with a shotgun are handy too. You'll actually find yourself using stealth quite a lot when fighting the KPA, as you'll sometimes want to try infiltrating enemy camps silently, which is quite fun to do, despite being truly unnecessary as blasting through is easier and faster. The human AI is laughable, but fun, more or less like it was in Farcry, They can be distracted by noises, and become more aware of you as they see people die. Unlike the rock throwing of the previously mentioned game, now they'll just look towards they see bullets hit. This is really, really stupid of them, because every shot you take which whizzes by their ears, they don't look for where the shot came from, they turn around and look for where the bullet hit. Its fun watching them get confused and wander about in a frightened daze, but it's really easy to exploit.

You'll quickly notice how horribly unbalanced the guns in this game are, as machine guns do barely any damage at all unless you're scoring headshots, resulting in you needing to hit somewhere around six or seven times to register a kill. So basically the devastion you see in the intro/teaser video is totally impossible. Shotguns on the other hand are one hit kills, it's really quite unbalanced. Interestingly, the hardest opponents you'll fight are during these levels, Nanosuited Koreans. Like you, they can go invisible, and like you again, they can become super strong and beat you to death. Oddly enough, they don't seem to have a strength mode hitting animation, you just lose giant hunks of health as they seemingly stand there looking all red and confused. They exacerbate the problem with unbalanced weapons once more, With machine guns you're looking at somewhere over 15 (That's when I gave up trying) headshots before they drop, or as little as two shotgun shells will do the job. Still, despite the unbalanced reaction to getting shot, the human opponents offer some pleasure in their meagre resistance.

The alien side of the story completely flips the gameplay on it's head, the battles get more intense, the game becomes much faster paced, the levels themselves become interesting and varied in structure, you lose all purpose of using your nanosuit, and the enemies become nauseatingly boring to kill. Suddenly, you have levels with no gravity, giant bosses, and flying slow moving aircraft through valleys full of tornados, in this regard, the game becomes far more enjoyable than the first half the game, because it's certainly more thrilling, but there's a drawback. The aliens are a both an easy enemy, and one that renders your suit useless. Again, the worth of each gun suddenly changes, as aliens are highly susceptible to the Gauss rifle, a gun that was useless against hordes of Koreans, and develop quite a thick skin towards shotguns, instead requiring steady bursts from machine guns and mini guns. 15 shots with an assault rifle is an easier method than three shotgun shells, hell, a minor two shots with a gauss rifle will bring down one of their big ships, which is just far too minimal, hell, I think it takes three rockets.

This basically renders your only halfway purposeful nanosuit ability, stealth, completely useless, since you don't need to get close to opponents anymore. Just take aim at range with your Gauss or SCAR rifle and they're done, since now creeping up on them to hit them three times with your shotty is time consuming, and increases their chances to damage you with their painful melee attacks, which like the nanosuit guys, don't seem to have an animation. I suppose you could use stealth to get up close and using the grabbing technique, since simply grabbing one of these weak aliens is enough to send them to freezing alien heaven. Which is laughable, considering in order to kill a person with your bare hands you need to go strength mode, you don't need to against aliens. But sadly, the game doesn't register grabbing very well, and often you'll find yourself become visible standing right next one of these guys madly mashing the F key to no avail, at which point you resort to old fashioned shooting. The other thing about aliens which ruins invisibility is they are fast, where before you could take a shot at a guy, then quickly cloak before his friends can get close enough to exactly pinpoint your position, these things will slither their way at you so fast you'll barely be ready to take a second shot by the time they're within hitting range. Just charging and moving out of the way of their inaccurate slapping with all guns blazing seems to be the most effective way to deal with them. Clearly, this renders speed useless too, since you'll never out run these guys, and really the only way they'll hurt you is if you've got your back to them, so fleeing is really the worst option around. One thing that the now enhanced speed of the game brings up is just how short this game is, where the other missions could theoretically be done in half an hour each, it always takes longer since the game doesn't really lend itself to aggression, but since the aliens basically require run and shoot strategy, it does only take 30 minutes per map.

The other problem with the game later on is that important events get too heavily scripted. This is so they can really show off their snazzy graphics, but at the same time, it makes some things a little annoying. Undefeatable enemies, weapons that can't be used until specific scripted moments, and bosses that are just too easy all become a problem. Without the whole "Using the suit with a mix of science of a questionable nature to kill the bigger machines" the game would be considerably less annoying. Because it kind of sucks to have a last boss you never have to leave cover to defeat. It just makes a lot of the game feel unrewarding. Speaking of unrewarding, you've got the end of the game, which ends with an irritating cut out and no closure, it's like Crytek want to spit in the face of those who feel the urge to clock the game.

With all that said, I really enjoyed this game when I got the graphics up to an acceptable state. Sure it's shallow, it overstates all of its truly minor innovations, and it never gets the game play truly right, because the setting is either boring when the enemies are fun, or the environments are brilliant while the enemies are boring, but this game is a lot of fun. It's like playing fetch with a half blind dog with three legs, it does it all wrong, when it succeeds it still messes up a bit, but it's so damn cute you don't care. In this case cute is replaced with stunning and gratuitously vast, but the effect is the same. For most games I tend to ignore graphics for the main part, and usually any game that needs to rely on it's visuals to be playable would have to be a poor game, but Crysis gets away with it. Really, I'm not recommending this game for any reason other than the visual ride it takes you on, even if you can't do completely maxed out graphics, the set pieces are stunning, and it's quite a majestic adventure. If you're a couple of years behind the times you'll get nothing from this game at all, because when it's ugly, it's ugly, and you really miss out when it's on low, and the epic scale of what happens is ruined. However, if you've got a solid computer with some up to date technology this is quite a majestic game, and you'll love it, just make sure you can run it on at least medium.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/16/08

Game Release: Crysis (AU, 11/15/07)

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