Review By: Andrew Joy
|# Of Players:||1 (32 online)|
|Accessories:||Supports DirectX 10|
Over the years, I’ve learned to expect some things from myself that are rather strange and perhaps even ironic (though that begs the question of whether the expectation makes them coincidental, but I digress). For example, even though I never made it past Fellowship, the nicest book on my shelf is a gilded, leather-bound copy of Lord of the Rings. Even if I already have it, or perhaps never even wanted it, I may buy a DVD simply because it is a Collector’s Edition. And, even though I prefer the cost efficiency of console gaming, I still bought a PC capable of playing Crysis. Of course, Crysis made me question some of my other gaming beliefs, too – until I saw this game, I wholeheartedly fell in the "gameplay over graphics" demographic. Nintendo has been pushing ahead with the credo these past few years, but it is not an easy sell, despite its current success with Wii and, before that, the Nintendo DS (which managed to fend off Sony’s technically superior PlayStation Portable). Despite our love of innovation, first-party games (no matter the system) tend to sell well thanks in no small part to the amount of polish they receive, so what are gamers supposed to do when a game like Crysis comes along? Long before any of us ever got our hands on it, this title was already blowing up the collective skirt of the gaming community with little more to show than a few odd bits of admittedly awe-inspiring media. Since there was no question that this game was going to look good, all that remained to be answered was whether this visual feast was going to have any substance, or if Crysis was merely more eye candy on the path to video game diabetes.
Story-wise, there were warning signs right from the beginning that things weren’t going to be all we had hoped – Crysis didn’t just dip into the big bag of sci-fi clichés, it practically scraped the bottom trying to pull out every last one. As the game starts out, you and a group of futuristic special-ops are dropping into North Korea in order to rescue a team of archaeologists being held by the military there. While attempting to sneak in under the cover of darkness, your jump is disrupted and your comrades – which go by such highly original codenames as Jester and Psycho – are scattered across the jungle below. However, before you can all rendezvous, one of your numbers and a group of North Korean soldiers are all brutally killed, though the attacker – whoever, or whatever, it is – is long gone by the time you arrive. It’s at this point in the game when you want to turn to Crytek and say, "Hey, your plot lines are showing!" But things only get worse. Over the course of the game, you’ll see the how-long-has-it-been-there alien ship, the oh-my-god-he’s-a-she female doctor and the ZOMG-our-nukes-can’t-stop-it enemy force, and every inch of it surrounded by dialogue so hard to swallow you’ll feel like a python eyeing an elephant. Of course, if that’s what you’re interested in, I could save you loads of time and cash by pointing out a dozen like-minded movies released in half as many years, because Crysis is just a few inexplicable skinny dipping scenes (and cup sizes) short of sitting on a shelf next to the straight-to-video horror movie du jour. The only crisis here is one of originality.
Being a first-person shooter, the gameplay in Crysis is predictably...uh, predictable. You run around, shoot bad guys, likely blow something up, shoot some more bad guys, possibly rescue or retrieve someone or something and then shoot even more bad guys – lather, rinse and repeat until the credits roll. Thankfully, Crytek did their best to, if not remove, at least try to disguise some of the monotony. There aren’t a lot of different environments, for example, but you will notice a distinct difference in not only how it looks, but how it plays when you’re in a lush and thriving jungle one minute and a frozen and desolate area the next. There are also a few moments when you’ll find yourself floating weightlessly in the belly of an alien ship or zipping through the sky in some futuristic aircraft. Of course, all of this is held back by the fact that, yes, there are only a few environments, the spaceship levels are somewhat nauseating and confusing and a few other little niggles, like the enemy A.I. that could shoot a flea sitting on the top of the Empire State Building...while never leaving North Korea. Though, as that might have indicated, it also displays a significant amount of intelligence to go with that artificial, doing such smart things as shooting at the last place you were after going invisible. However, most of these little problems are offset by what is perhaps the biggest boon in the game: freedom. From my experience, first-person shooters are generally very linear, but in Crysis you can tackle a mission in almost any way you like. And then, of course, there’s the nano-suit.
If there was ever a feature that came as close to headlining this game as its graphics, it would have to be the nano-suit. This futuristic armor has four modes that not only enhance the wearer’s attributes but provide some level of cloaking, and each with useful side effects as well. For example, in the default armor mode, which lets you take more damage, you also regain health. With super strength activated, you can naturally pick up far heavier objects than normal, as well as jump higher and farther than before. When you’re using super speed, you can not only run faster, but also reload more quickly. And, finally, if you use the cloaking device you become more or less invisible to the naked eye and make less noise. Of course, like anything else, the nano-suit does have limitations...in this case, one of the power gauges located in the lower right corner of your screen. Some of the abilities seem to last longer than others (or at least invisibility doesn’t last nearly as long as you’d like), and when they run out, your suit will automatically revert to the default armor and healing mode I mentioned earlier. Now, as you may have noticed, we’ve see all of these things – the healing, enhanced strength and speed and even cloaking – before, just perhaps not in the same place. Even so, it doesn’t much stop the game from feeling so horribly generic despite the amount of freedom it offers gamers. In the end, the lack of innovation – no matter how much innovation it, in turn, enables us – makes Crysis seem like a game that won’t be remembered beyond its own time, unlike Goldeneye or even Halo.
Posted: 2008-04-08 17:31:06 PST