When Crysis 2 came out on the console, I admit that I didn’t rush to pick it up. I’m the kind of person that hates jumping into a series in the middle and felt that I’d be missing something if I didn’t know the back-story. Thankfully, other members of the ZTGD team convinced me otherwise and I didn’t miss out on the game. However, one sentiment I heard (and expressed) multiple times was a desire to play the original Crysis on consoles. In an extremely fortunate turn of events, those of us that prefer a gamepad to a mouse and keyboard (and didn’t have liquid-cooled PCs when the game launched in 2008) can finally play Crytek’s masterpiece.
Crysis on consoles is strictly a single-player affair. There is no multiplayer. If that’s all you are looking for, pick up Crysis 2. Let’s get that out of the way first.
For the extremely reasonable price of $19.99, you get the Crysis campaign, remastered in CryEngine 3. You start the game making a parachute jump over an island in the Phillipines Sea, and outfitted with a Nanosuit, adaptive body armor with tools for infiltration and combat. During free-fall, things start going sideways as your character, Nomad, suffers a catastrophic failure, falling to the ground, saved only by his Nanosuit.
From there, Nomad must regroup with his team and rescue a group of scientists from a North Korean invasion force and uncover who, or what, is butchering Nomad’s Special Forces allies and enemies alike. At its core, Crysis doesn’t do anything terribly innovative. Rather, the things it does are done extremely well. The Nanosuit, which offers enhanced strength, speed, cloaking and armor has been seen before in whole or in part in other games. However, the Nanosuit’s functionality, working off a singular, recharging battery supply means that as you approach every encounter, you need to constantly be adapting your tactics and finding cover to buy yourself precious seconds to allow your power to replenish.
Crysis is a linear game that manages to feel like an open-world game. You are moving from point A to point B, choosing to take on secondary objectives, throughout the entire game. Instead of having a predetermined path, though, you can decide whether to sneak past troops or confront them head-on. Weapon attachments, such as scopes, flashlights, and underslung grenade launchers allow you to customize your armaments for every situation. There isn’t an overabundance of guns in the game, but there doesn’t need to be. The attachments allow you to use the same gun to fire a single, silenced shot using the sniper scope before quickly pulling off the suppressor (for better damage), changing to a reflex scope and switching to fully automatic fire. All of this is handled with an intuitive menu brought up by holding the back button. Each set of attachments is assigned a face button, and it doesn’t take long to learn to make adjustments quickly.
Suit powers are handled much like Crysis 2. RB activates stealth, LB activates armor, clicking the Left Thumbstick activates speed. Binoculars, which are used to tag enemies, so you can track them on the minimap, are activated with the D-pad, as are night vision goggles, grenades and weapon fire modes. The game makes good use controller real estate, taking a large host of options and fitting them nicely into the palm of your hands.
Crysis offers up four difficulty levels and Crytek has tailored them to offer more than tougher enemies. On Easy and Normal, machine guns mounted on armored vehicles are available to the driver and you have access to simple binoculars that don’t require manual tagging. On the lower difficulties and Hard, enemy speech is in English. Once you hit Delta difficulty, the most intense Crysis experience, you lose your crosshair, there are no grenade warnings and, unless you speak Korean, you won’t know what enemies are saying. This is a thoughtful approach to difficulty scaling that we don’t often see. I also appreciated that your character has access to all of his suit powers from the beginning. The Nanosuit is US Government issued, it’s been field-tested and it wouldn’t make sense to send a soldier into battle with armor that isn’t fully active. Crysis avoids a trite approach to communicating progress through new powers and instead focuses on smooth mission design and narrative to drive players forward.
On the lower difficulty levels, you can safely “run and gun” through most of the game. Stealth is useful, but not required. Once you bump the challenge up, though, you need to be much smarter about how you engage enemies. Your Nanosuit is powerful, but it won’t save you from a battalion of angry North Koreans all firing at you.
The game offers up a great deal of destructibility in the environment. Trees get knocked down, sheds get shot up and collapse and guard towers can crumble. (Protip: Throwing a grenade at the foot of a guard tower you are hiding in WILL kill everyone waiting for you. Then, it will collapse the tower and you will die, too.) It’s very impressive to see the pieces of seemingly uniform structures start to break apart in fairly realistic ways.
If Crysis is remembered for anything beyond its stellar visuals, it should be Crytek’s care and attention to detail. Plant life moves realistically. Bushes have branches and, as you move through them, individual branches get pushed out of the way. Another thing that impressed me, and it might sound silly, is that Nomad has legs. Look down and you will see your character’s legs. The animation while walking, running and moving while crouching is fantastic. Other effects, like spent shells ejecting from a rifle, frogs hopping by and the modeling of items caught in one of the game’s beautiful explosions all add to the immersion.
My one complaint with the game play comes from the vehicles. I felt that they were too loose, making segments where I was traversing longer distances a choice between taking a long time to get there and braving one of the floaty jeeps or trucks. The game also takes a sharp turn in Chapter 7, which changes the game play significantly. Chapter 7 is too reminiscent of Halo’s “am I going the right way?” moments and I was all too happy to have it behind me when I finished. With regard to the game’s pacing and chapter structure, it felt very organic, with objectives popping up in logical fashion and secondary objectives providing valuable intelligence for completing primary goals.
I did have one issue with completing an objective, though. At one point in the game, you can complete a secondary goal that culminates in using your binoculars to target a tank depot for an air strike. You need to do this from an overlook. I had destroyed the watchtower atop the overlook and the game would not let me target the depot until I was standing right where the watchtower had been. An inch to the left or right of the correct spot, and I couldn’t progress the objective.
I wish I could tell you that the game is visually perfect. Unfortunately, there are a number of glitches that popped up throughout my time with the game. Textures have the tendency to flicker and become distorted. More than once, I saw odd shadows dancing on flat surfaces that shouldn’t have been there. The physics can also be a little quirky. For instance, a dead body leaning against a moveable box isn’t always affected by gravity after the box is moved, and instead will be slumped as if the box were still there. Most of this does not impact the game experience significantly, but it happens often enough that it bears mentioning.
Crysis is an audio delight. From the thundering explosions, to report of sniper rifle shots from across an open area, you can’t do better than the effects in this game. I played most of it with a pair of surround sound headphones and was thrilled with the game’s design. The score by Inon Zur is fitting and creates a summer blockbuster feel at just the right moments.
Crytek and EA should be commended for bringing Crysis to consoles. $19.99 is the perfect price for this downloadable title and should be something every shooter fan picks up. Here’s hoping that other publishers see the advantage of releasing PC-only entries of multiplatform series on consoles, especially with Witcher 2 coming soon to XBox 360 and PS3.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.