(Pocket-lint) - Crysis was mind-blowing visual treat at its launch back in 2007, but its graphical prowess even then was accompanied by what was a really fun shooter - something that gets lost occasionally in this retelling.
Now it's back with a full remaster 13 years later, and while on PC it's melting GPUs again, its performance on consoles is similar in a less ideal way - good fun's here to be found, but it's visibly pushing against what the hardware can manage.
As we said, the real star of the show for Crysis was always its graphical fidelity. The game drops you onto a remote island and lets you fight your way through the middle of an alien conflict with the North Korean military.
On PC it looked eye-bleeding beautiful. But the original console ports of Crysis - for the PS3 and Xbox 360 - were frankly sub-par, muddying the colour palette and obviously making huge compromises on draw distance and texture quality.
Now Crytek's trying to right that wrong, to a degree - the Xbox One and PS4 versions of Crysis Remastered look a lot more like Crysis, simply put, making the update feel worthwhile on one side of things.
This remaster preserves the exact same story, too, with a motley crew of super soldiers dropped onto the island, led by the forceful Prophet (it's a code name, don't worry). You play Nomad, the almost ridiculously generic guy who sees it all happen.
Things start off normal, but alien interference doesn't take long to turn up and pretty soon you're battling in semi-frozen arenas as well as enormous expansive beaches with a fun range of weapons that get more futuristic as things unfold.
We'll get to the gameplay later, though - let's talk graphics. The lighting is luscious, the island's foliage is incredibly dense, the particle effects look great, and the whole environment pops off your TV delightfully.
Some things haven't changed from the original at all, including the perplexing decision to have the first 25 minutes of the game take place at night, delaying its visual “wow” moment for no reason at all.
However, it's also important to point out that the turned-up settings aren't exactly running smoothly at all. The fact is that Crysis Remastered's frame rate is a significant issue on the Xbox One copy we played for this review.
It's aiming for 30fps but doesn't feel like it can hit that bar at all reliably, and there are screen tearing issues more or less constantly, too. If you're playing on an Xbox One X you're able to choose between 4K 30fps and 1080p 60fps, but reports from other users are suggesting that neither mode hits its target frame rate reliably. In fact, the Xbox One X version is also seeing reports of frequent lighting bugs and textures loading badly.
On an Xbox One S the lack of smoothness was a constant issue in the game's firefights, making it more challenging to shoot accurately and move as desired. And that's a real shame.
We would have had less an issue with Crytek turning down the foliage or other settings slightly to get a better frame rate on console, even if it might have dulled the impact of Crysis's famed fidelity.
Then again, the feeling that you're fighting your machine to make it play Crysis is kind of at the core of the game's heritage, so maybe that was the goal all along.
A dash of freedom
When you're in full flow, Crysis can still be great fun to play. Your super Nanosuit lets you choose between hyper speed, tough armour, strength for chucking things around, and a clocking option for short-lived stealth.
It ends up being a set of shortcuts to different play styles, in effect, and a great bunch of tools for carnage. That said, you're still extremely vulnerable without armour mode on, even on normal difficulty, and the aforementioned frame rate issues make for some frustrating deaths (ones that feel straight out of a game design textbook that wouldn't still be in circulation 13 years later).
That's exacerbated by soldiers that are a little too uncannily good at spotting you uncloak from 50 metres away in dense forest cover - it's a reminder that this AI stemmed from the first Far Cry's telescopically-accurate enemies.
You'll run about using a variety of guns and vehicles to get around, though, and something that's very much still refreshing years later is how open most level areas are.
As a useful case in point, the game's first major area has you attacking an outpost on the other side of a bay. You could swim over, hijack a patrol boat or a Humvee to shorten the trip, or make your way by multiple routes on foot, and each will feel organically like your own direction.
That's a consistently rewarding feeling, outside of certain more linear levels, and it doesn't get old (although the complaint that the game clamps down on you more as it gets into the closing sections is still relevant).
This is a gameplay blend that's had some refinement since Crysis first emerged, and has been especially adopted by Ubisoft's open-world Far Cry games, but it's really fun to explore in a more linear context.
There's still life to be found in Crysis, judging by this remaster. It's a great game that can look better than ever on PC, and its freeform sandbox levels are still compelling now.
However, it's hard to recommend that people pick up the console ports - this just isn't a great way to play the game through given its jarring frame rate issues. If you've got a decent gaming PC, however, then Crysis could be a really fun test for it graphically.