It’s not until you’re about 20 minutes into Crysis that its full breathtaking visual beauty is unleashed. It happens just after you’ve taken out a group of Korean soldiers on patrol in a ravine thick with undergrowth. In the early dawn light you loot the corpses for ammo and reload.
Following your CO’s lead, you head uphill, out of the jungle. Then, just as you emerge onto a cliff top overlooking an enemy encampment at the edge of a harbour, the sun rises…
At this point, I guarantee your jaw will drop (assuming you’ve got a PC powerful enough to run the thing). First you just have to take all the details in: The sunlight glimmers on the ocean as the waves lap against the shore. The palm leaves above cast realistic soft shadows on the ground. The trees sway lazily in the breeze – if you’ve seen the demo, you’ll probably whip out your rifle and start creating some lumberjack mayhem here. The vegetation all reacts just as you’d expect it would when you unload 40 rounds of hot lead in 10 seconds flat…
I could go on. There’s all sorts of other DirectX10 shenanigans at work here too: depth of field; HDR lighting; motion blur… You name it. The whole effect is frankly stunning.
So it looks great, but how does it play?
Crysis is a game of two parts: the first part (which takes up roughly two thirds of your playing time) is pretty great. It goes like this: you’re part of an elite commando unit carrying out a top secret black ops mission on an island in the Pacific Ocean… Blah blah – the usual shallow FPS plot guff ensues, but suffice to say it involves plenty of angry Koreans, one hot scientist babe and a mountain-full of multi-tentacled alien-robot hybrid things.
It also involves – and this is important – a super-suit with four different powers. Look, don’t ask: you’re a super commando, alright? The best thing is that you’re in your suit right from the word go.
I’d better say a little about the suit, since it’s the unique selling point of Crysis.
Default mode is armour, which drains energy instead of health when you get shot. And you’ll be getting shot a lot in this game. Then there’s strength which, er, makes you dead strong and that. Oh, and it also allows you to jump very high. I never used this mode too much, although you can see it a lot in the promo videos where players are levelling trees and shacks with their fists. Speed is less than useless thanks to it’s massive energy drain.
That brings us to the final, most useful mode. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be using cloak most of the time. As you might expect, this makes you almost invisible for limited periods of time. Perfect for sneaky, stealth-o-philes like me who were raised on sneak-em-ups like Thief and System Shock. Once you get adept with it, though, it almost makes the game too easy.
That’s it for part one. Tune in tomorrow for the second part of the review, where I talk about AI, gameplay choices and the disappointing final act.