Review by Great_Khan

Reviewed: 01/26/09

Crysis for the Poor

Ah Crysis, simultaneously a stunning and majestic game fulfilling in every way imaginable and total flop on an immeasurable scale. After a year off Crysis is back again with Crysis Warhead, a stand alone expansion, or in other words, a sequel which was so similar not even Ubisoft could bring themselves to release it as Crysis II. Indeed Warhead is pretty much the same as Crysis, just a little more geared towards to poor folks out there. It showcases the same basic graphics just a little more optimized on low end computers and a little less greedy for the higher quality machines. It showcases the same basic environments and gameplay all slightly tweaked to add a little bit of excitement while cutting down on the grandeur to spare us with computers of 2006 grade hardware. It is effectively Crysis for people who couldn't get their PC's to show off just how majestic it was.

Crysis Warhead is indeed a far better game than the original, it's more action packed, the two types of opponents are nicely shared around keeping up the surprises, the aliens have a little bit of variation, and there's a couple of new weapons which add to the fun. Finally without the huge periods of nothing going on it's a much more rewarding and much faster. In fact, the only things that hold this back from being miles ahead of Crysis is simply that the creators knew far too well that it was just an expansion and made it ridiculously short, even for just an expansion, and even with all of the tweaks to the gameplay, the set pieces are still the main draw of this game, and Warhead doesn't deliver on the big booms as well as it's full length brother.

The game revolves around the exploits of Sgt. "Psycho" Sykes, previously the friend and ally of the previous protagonist Nomad, as he fights his way along the other side of the island starting from roughly when the aliens started showing up. Those of us who were wondering where all the Koreans went when they appear in the first game will quickly discover they all ran away to the other side of the island supposedly. The storyline basically revolves around Psycho chasing after a cargo container holding the body of an alien all around the tropical paradise for a few hours while chewing scenery along with his colleagues O'Neill and Emerson, usually via radio transmissions. Like Crysis, it's very simple and straightforward Hollywood action-blockbuster worship, but it works and it is a thrilling ride. The characters are cardboard cut-outs of general action films, just as they were in Crysis. Psycho is a truly irritating protagonist playing up his rugged English character in the hammiest way feasible, at least Nomad was nice enough to be quiet and not full of forced British sass, but in a way it's all expected and even part of the charm of the game. It's pure Hollywood tripe in video game form, but it's what Crytek do.

The environments are far more detailed and carefully designed here, no longer trying to show off with sheer size and magnitude, the levels now have quite a lot more effort in design and thought out placement so as too keep the world exciting without needing to resort to the large scale hardware killing events such as knocking down mountains and sinking aircraft carriers. For the main part this works; Looking out on the ice fields as you chase after the cargo through icy plains is a rush, as it walking out to a ledge and finding yourself confronted by a giant frozen battleship hoisted up along side a jagged cliff face, but the lasting feeling of amazement is largely gone. What can I say, as nice as big static things are, big moving things which explode and shoot missiles are a little bit more a visual feast. So while the low end users will get a better look at the game than they will with the old Crysis, they won't get the same feeling of wonder from the scenery. As I said earlier, it's a far better game than Crysis, but Crysis was showier, and even with gameplay improvements, this series is still a demonstration of showiness above real quality, and that's the one thing Warhead doesn't deliver on better than its predecessor.

Gameplay-wise the game is still effectively the same, just the spaces between areas of combat have been shortened dramatically, this is a good thing for us who can't truly get everything we'd like from the graphics, but it really puts the emphasis on how brief it is. Warhead plays much like the second half of Crysis, all of the sneaking and suit manipulation is generally not really necessary, you'll charge from place to place using your new and improved weaponry (or the exact same weapons as before, whatever floats your boat, none of the new ones are particularly special) to quickly dash through hundreds of nanosuited Koreans and shield projecting space monsters. And much like the last half of Crysis, these missions will be over in less than half an hour each, which is where the flaw comes in: This game took me just two sessions of an hour and a half long to complete. I'm talking about three hours to clock to whole thing, and I'm not a particularly aggressive player of FPS's, so I'm sure many more run-and-gun type players could probably knock this over in a scratch over 2 and a half. It can be as much of an expansion as it likes but that just isn't going to cut it. I suppose the problem comes from the first Crysis only being the length of an expansion in the first place, it really didn't leave them anywhere shorter to go.

As for how you'll go about your business, you've got maybe 3 new weapons to use, and the suit is exactly the same. And just like Crysis you don't get one of the weapons until the very end, you have a little more freedom with the awesome PAX Cannon than you did with the plot only TAC Cannon from the first game, but still, it's such a fleeting moment of fun that feels like a bit of a gyp, although it's clearly too powerful for general play.

Sadly despite the improvements across the board Warhead has over Crysis, once you're done the main things that stick in your head are brevity of the experience and the lack of the monolithic set pieces. Crysis pulled off an amazing thing by making me ignore the gaming quality and just sit back and let the visual adventure take me wherever it wanted even without much actual gaming depth, and this effect still looms over Crysis Warhead, the visual adventure just isn't as good. It looks better on my computer, but it's still not as grand, and it may very well be the grandeur, not just the shininess of the graphics that made that game stand out. And I have to point out even on the gameplay side of things, while it improves on Crysis; it still sucks compared to a lot of the other big games around right now. Crysis was never a brilliant shooter and neither is this, it's a slightly better shooter, but there are still dozens of better ones around. And while it looks better, it still doesn't look the best on low to mid quality hardware, even with the optimization Call of Duty 4 and Bioshock still look better on the same hardware. You still need a tank of a computer for the highest settings. So, in its role of 'Crysis for the poor', while it is closer, it still isn't quite there. Sure it's cheaper than a full game, but this is half of half a game, it is good fun, but it's still not as good value as the lower price tag would suggest.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Crysis Warhead (AU, 09/25/08)

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