Crysis - PC review

The build-up of Crysis has typified what most see as the horrible world of PC gaming. Every gloriously detailed screenshot has been fawned over as if it was the epitome of absolute beauty, with all other titles compared to these dazzling early screenshots, and ridiculed to the hilt as they’re "not quite as realistic".

All this despite the blatant knowledge that those screens were taken on the kind of PC setup that most of can only dream of as we stare at our meagre bank balances. In all honesty, DirectX 10 hasn’t been essential enough to force us to upgrade our graphics card. Well, until now anyway.

Crysis, obviously, is a stunning game. But unlike Far Cry that mocked your Half-Life 2 playing PC with its power guzzling performance, Crysis has taken a huge leaf out of Valve’s glorious book of gaming goodness.

If you want every option ramped up to "Very High" you’ll need a Vista PC, powered by the latest quad-core processor, and the most expensive DirectX 10 capable graphics card currently on the market. That’s the kind of unit that all those screenshots are taken with, so don’t go expecting the game to look just like all those videos we’ve all drooled over.

But, like the aforementioned Half-Life 2, that small step down to "High" with a decent resolution will work on today’s high-mid range PCs, with a sub-£100 DirectX 9 graphics card with relative ease. And though the difference between the two is a hefty level of graphical sheen, Crysis still shows that a decently coded engine can give a game a whole new lease of visual life. Drop down to "Medium" or "Low" however and things take a turn for the worst, with objects suddenly appearing visible almost only when you’ve managed to nudge them. Safe to say that if you don’t beat the recommended settings on the back of the box, best to give Crysis a wide berth.

Although most gamers are sticklers for repeating the old “graphics don’t make good games, gameplay does”, cliché, Crysis shows that a creative development team can craft a game that makes the stunning looks part of the gameplay. The astonishing depth that the lush jungle landscape that makes for the first half of the game creates is astounding, and certainly helps make Crysis all the more enjoyable with trees falling after a burst of fire, and leaves billowing around after an explosion.

Like Far Cry, Crytek’s still stunning title, the "levels" that make up Crysis certainly don’t restrict your movement with scripted events outside the first half hour. You’re regularly given objectives to complete, but the way in which you complete them is all down to your own specific desires. Well, as long as those desires involve merciless slaughtering.

One early scenario leaves you seeking one of your compatriots elsewhere on the initial island, but with a few obstacles in the way. Ahead lies a beach, populated by various enemies, and a heavy machine gun atop a speedy jeep. To your left lies the ocean, with a fire packing boat patrolling the waters. And to reach your objective, you need to somehow get past both in order to help your downed colleague.

Here’s where the abilities that you’re specially made nanosuit come into their own. The most often used skill you’ll use at this early stage is the ability to cloak yourself to become complete invisible to your enemy. Allowing you to pick off enemies at will, with their compatriots frantically searching out the source of the fire.

Then there are the enhanced strength and speed abilities, which certainly make for some of the most fun FPS action seen since the seminal Doom. A handy boost of strength can allow you to simply bash an enemy vehicle over and down a cliffside, with its occupants falling to an untimely death. A boost of speed makes that group of five enemies a breeze to slaughter, with your enhanced pace allowing you to despatch all of them before even the last to go realises quite what’s going on.

Of course you can’t simply rely on these abilities 24/7, with your suits ability levels dropping with use, and recharging over a period of un-used time. It means that you’re forced to use these powers sparingly, and preventing you from simply rushing through the game like a super powered non-human that can’t be stopped.

Verdict

Crysis might be famed for its looks, but it’s the addition of brains that helps rise this above a tuned up version of every other FPS before it.

The huge, sprawling "sandbox" levels, combined with your powers make for some incredibly exciting sections, and the dazzling amount of graphical sheen can’t help but force your jaw to drop to the floor every few minutes.

The best PC FPS? That award still stays with Half-Life 2. But Crysis pushes it closer than ever before.