The Crysis PC game is magnificently rendered, with breathtaking graphics, but this first-person shooter has some quirks that leave it just short of perfection. UPDATE: Read our Crysis 3 review.

Stop the presses: Everything you've heard about Crysis is true. It's a first-person shooter game that features a massive Lost-like island to explore, revealing it in naturally occurring areas that can take several minutes to sprint through and hours to fully experience.


Crysis simulates that island and its tropical ecology by employing visual technology so sophisticated that bullets fired through sun-streaked foliage cause leaves to shiver, while massive explosions thousands of metres away can produce clouds of dust that settle gradually over jungle canopies like smog.

Remarkably, everything in Crysis is interactive, from coffee cups and barrels to destructible shacks to the trunks of felled trees, which you can pick up and wield.

Your opponents, organised around the island in organic detachments, are not only tactically devious but work together with uncanny efficiency. And even without a gun, you're a lethal weapon, kitted out with special nanotechnology that lets you hit, run, and jump like a superhero. Developer Crytek promised something that would "move the shooter genre forward substantially," and with Crysis, it is firing on all cylinders.

Crysis battle

Crytek has also produced something of a flawed masterpiece. Your enemies are smart, but only to the extent that they play better hide-and-seek. Rules that apply to you are occasionally broken by the creators to ramp up a challenge, violating the game's internal logic and creating some of the most unnecessarily irritating moments in the story. And at the eleventh hour, the game's much-touted sense of openness gives way to a design that narrows as you advance, culminating in a final battle where someone barks orders at you like a drill sergeant reading a grocery list.

That is not to say Crysis isn't exceptional, and often extraordinary. But appreciating what it offers - an unconventional "emergent" adventure in an unspeakably beautiful setting - depends primarily on how you choose to engage it.

NEXT PAGE: paradise vast > >

The Crysis PC game is magnificently rendered, with breathtaking graphics, but this first-person shooter has some quirks that leave it just short of perfection.

Paradise vast

For instance, if you want a sophisticated story, or as lead designer Jack Mamais put it when I interviewed him in early 2006, "an experience equivalent to seeing an Oscar-nominated film", forget it. Crysis is long on bullets and short on plot.

You're a member of US Delta Force who is HALO-dropped onto an equatorial island to rescue a team of archaeologists who have been kidnapped by the North Korean military. Battling across the island, you eventually encounter a much-hyped plot twist, which is only ever vaguely explained. There - now you know as much about the story as I do having finished it.

Then again, in a game like Crysis the story isn't told to you so much as by you. In other shooters, invisible trip wires trigger events; only when you move past a threshold in Doom or Call of Duty or Gears of War do the bad guys pop out. That's rarely the case in Crysis, where the trip wire is you, picking your own time and trigger points, shaping approaches into outcomes instead of robotically reacting to predetermined surprises.


In one mission, for instance, you might crouch on a hilltop peering with binoculars at a small fishing village in a valley half a click below. Soldiers smoke and stub out cigarettes, wax their cars, march off patrol perimeters, perch in guard towers, salute superior officers - even unzip by the river to answer nature's call.

Your goal is to infiltrate the area and download intelligence from a laptop on the second floor of a heavily guarded building in the centre. Do you sneak building to building without killing anyone? Assault the entire village, including reinforcements potentially summoned by flares from outposts kilometres up the road? Set traps using claymores and explosive charges to lure first responders to their doom?

Creep behind patrols and drag soldiers away one by one? Attach C4 to jeeps and trucks, or ride them blazing into buildings housing enemy squads, leaping out at the last minute? Swim under and hijack dockside riverboats, and then strafe the village with their high-powered machine guns? All possible in this game, and just a handful of possible approaches.

Suiting up

Part of that flexibility depends on your arsenal, and Crysis outfits you with plenty of guns, plus a sophisticated "rail" system with which you can attach upgrades such as laser pointers, silencers, flashlights, grenade launchers, reflex or sniper scopes, and more.

Ballistics and weapon physics make mismatches possible, which encourages experimentation. Fire an AK-47 at a distance, and you might as well be honking a horn; pop a sniper scope on a jumpy submachine gun, and your view will jerk the length of the screen each time you fire.


Curiously, the most powerful weapon in the game isn't one you hold, but instead something you wear from the start: a nanosuit that can redirect energy to different parts of your body with a click, augmenting such attributes as strength, speed, and defense or temporarily rendering you invisible. The trick? Managing the drain and automatic recharge rates for each ability.

The suit is powerful enough, in fact, that you could play the bulk of Crysis conventional-weapons-free. Charge into melee shielded, grab enemies by the throat and fling them off cliffs, employ your cloaking ability to stalk and head-pop soldiers with your pistol, even grab at-hand objects and use them to bludgeon opponents. You haven't really played Crysis until you've gone on a clobbering spree with a saucepan.

NEXT PAGE: smart and smarter

The Crysis PC game is magnificently rendered, with breathtaking graphics, but this first-person shooter has some quirks that leave it just short of perfection.

Smart and smarter

Designers fret over freeform games because their ability to predict AI behaviour goes out the window. Not a problem (or less so) in Crysis.

Enemy soldiers function as well alone as they do in squads, responding to sound or motion and probing in groups instead of suicidally investigating solo. In firefights, teams deftly flank and assault, moving expertly between cover points and doggedly attempting to ring you with enfilade fire. The Korean People's Army (KPA) you're battling over most of the game is never less than crackerjack.

In contrast, the enemies you fight toward the end (which I won't spoil here) may look indelibly cool and at least initially put up a decent fight, but by the end of the game they're all flex and no finesse, turning winning into pattern recognition. It's a bummer that the eeriest bad guys are also the dumbest, but if you're familiar with Crytek's last game, Far Cry, you probably saw that one coming.

The only other problem is the KPA's seeming apathy to events unfolding in the broader scheme of things. There's a point midway through the game where events start to go wrong in... well, let's just say an "environmental" sense. The AI just ambles around like it's another sunny day in the South Pacific, which can be a little surreal when, comparatively speaking, you're picking your jaw up off the table.

Maximum multiplayer

Supporting up to 32 players on a map, Crysis ships with two basic multiplayer modes. "Instant Action" is in effect a kill-or-be-killed (deathmatch) setup and useful mostly for getting acquainted with different weapons and tactics (if that sounds obvious, it's not - the nanosuit changes everything).

"Power Struggle", by contrast, takes Battlefield-style theatre objectives (e.g., destroy the enemy's base) and weds them to a sophisticated resource-control tactic that has teams jockeying for control of alien energy at crash sites, which in turn feed prototype centers that yield advanced weapons and vehicles.

You start with just a pistol, but over time you can spend points accrued by scoring kills or holding key points to buy better weapons. It's all intensely team-driven, and perfect for players who enjoy large maps and sessions that can last for hours as map control seesaws. When the nukes come out (yes, nukes), Power Struggle may entail the giddiest iteration of "pile on" play yet seen in a PC game.

Flawed masterpiece

It's tempting to give Crysis a pass for all it gets right, but you learn more from what a game doesn't do well.

Take the game's extremely advanced 3D engine. Crysis looks like something that had to be time-warped back from a future where average PCs can actually run it. The bad news is, average PCs today can't. You can ignore the game's already steep "minimum requirements" and use its more realistic recommended list as your baseline, which for a lot of folks means that the cost to play this game probably just went up by hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

Occasionally you'll encounter sequences in the game where a helicopter flies in and chases you through the jungle or around a village. Trouble is, while land-based opponents are as hindered as you are by terrain and flora, enemy helicopters are inexplicably omniscient, leading to sequences where you'll be chased with preposterous accuracy around trees, rocks, and cliffs, whether you're cloaked or hidden stock-still. Having helicopters run search sweeps over broad areas would have been a better compromise than giving the pilots x-ray vision.


The most serious problem, though, is the way Crysis starts in kilometre-size jungle areas but ends on a claustrophobic aircraft carrier, complete with "Sorry, that's locked, you shall not pass!" doors and blocked-off passageways. After a depressingly conventional end sequence, you have to fight the obligatory super-size-me "boss" yoked to gimmicky patterns to which you must react or die. To be fair, the later levels work fine on their own - they just feel out of place in this game after so many hours of tactical spontaneity.

NEXT PAGE: Crysis in action: first look and images from October 2007

Crysis: first look - October 2007

CryTek, the creators of the mega-hit Far Cry, have produced another FPS (first-person shooter) called Crysis, which utilises both DirectX 10.0 and the new state of the art CryENGINE 2.

Possibly more than any other PC game, ever, we're excited about the release of Crytek's Crysis. If you never played the original Far Cry on PC, you really missed out. It's one of the best first-person shooters of all-time, and while it now has a huge franchise name, we're regularly shocked by how many gamers I know that have never played it. It almost seems a little cult-ish.

Crytek teamed up with EA, left Far Cry with Ubisoft, but hasn't completely ditched the "Cry". Crysis is the developer's next game, and it really is the PC game to die for. Every PC gamer is going to be impressed by Crysis is some way, be it the impressive "next-gen" PC tech, gorgeous jungles or the do-as-you-please style that's made possible by the game's inventive Nanosuit.

The Nanosuit is the gameplay centre of Crysis. It has four abilities you can use on the fly: armour, speed, strength and cloak. Each ability drains your energy (separate from health) differently depending on how you use it (for example, crouching and walking slow drains less cloak energy than running). It's each player's creative use of these Nanosuit abilities that dictates how much fun Crysis will be.

There's also an on-the-fly weapon customisation screen that lets you mod most guns while you play. The best part is that you're not really limited to what makes the best sense. If you want a sniper scope on an assault rifle, you can go ahead and snap one on, though the aiming reticle will bounce all over the place.

Playing Crysis

There's a new level called Assault. It's an outdoor setting, not as lush as some of the jungle areas that have been recently showcased, but not without a good amount of foliage. Heavily guarded by enemies on land, air and sea, keeping out of sight could only help accomplish our objectives, the primary of which had me blowing up a trio of anti-aircraft guns.

Setting up the scenario was a short cinematic that showed off some great facial textures and much better acting than anything in Far Cry. As we advanced with the rest of our AI (artificial intelligence) squad mates, an aircraft crashed near the road below, resulting in a massive explosion.

The three AA guns appeared as objectives on the radar. The first was up ahead at the end of the current road, but it was lined with sneaky AI. If you played Far Cry, you know what we're talking about. But the AI in Crysis is even smarter, working together to hunt you like a rodent. We started with a pistol.

Making our way down the road, we engaged a few enemies only to be taken out rather quick. The same thing happened again before a kind Crytek rep showed us how to use the Nanosuit. Ahhh, now we get it.

As mentioned earlier, the Nanosuit in Crysis is in essence a super suit that enhances your abilities, of which there are four: armour, speed, strength and cloak. At first, using the suit was a little overwhelming, but it became second nature the longer we played. Basically, there is a meter that drains as you use suit abilities. Each one uses up the meter at a different rate, although it drains relatively fast. For example, you can only use the speed sprint for a few seconds.

The key to the suit is quickly switching between abilities, for example, speeding up to an enemy, then quickly switching to strength to give him a devastating melee. In essence, you'll be using all four functions of the suit constantly during play, cloaking when you wanna ditch a group of baddies, using armour when you need some extra protection, etc.

At first we used strength more than anything, as it makes your firepower a little more potent. The best thing about Crysis, which really reminds us of Far Cry, is just how open the game is. You can honestly approach the game any way you like. There are literally dozens of ways you can approach each objective. And the Nanosuit just gives you so many more options. This is evident in a seemingly simple task like blowing up those AA guns.

After reaching the first gun, we realized we had no idea how to blow this thing up, and were even out of grenades. So we improvised. We found a flammable barrel nearby, picked it up and switched to Nanosuit strength, hurled it from afar, and then shot it as it hit the gun. Bingo.

Of course, that giant explosion didn't go unnoticed, and now we had a helicopter pursuing us. After some sprinting and cloaking, we found a motorboat and hauled ass to the next gun across the water (which is simply gorgeous, by the way. If you were hungry, there's enough fish to get you by down there).

At the next gun, we saw a few of those red barrels a ways away, but quickly found out that running with a barrel in hand while a helicopter rained bullets down on us wasn't the best idea. After a fiery death, we searched around for a better way. Further away, we found a C4 supply, planted the charge. Two down.

Taking out the third AA gun was harder than the first two combined because it was protected inside a well-guarded military base. After a few foiled attempts to crack our way inside, we found an underground pipe system that popped us up inside the base. But it wasn't ideal as the place was littered with soldiers and we were in serious trouble. We tried numerous ways to gun through or even cloak to the objective, but couldn't even get halfway there without dying in a hail of gunfire.

Finally, we got to the outside of the base and swam around to what was in essence a military stockpile of weapons and explosives. We took out the five or so enemies inside, found a pretty little rocket launcher and made our way up to the roof. From there we were surprised to discover that the third AA gun was staring me right in the face, a few hundred feet ahead. We equipped the rocket. Sweet success!

Those three tasks took us about an hour. Others finished faster, but that's the brilliance of Crysis. It's do-as-you-please, but not in that quasi way that just presents you with a bunch of different paths.

Crysis: Specs

  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 2.8 GHz or faster (XP) or 3.2 GHz or faster (Vista) processor (Intel Core 2 DUO @ 2.2GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ recommended)
  • 1GB RAM (XP) or 1.5GB RAM (Vista) (2GB recommended)
  • 256MB video card
  • 12GB hard drive space
  • DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS/640 or similar recommended
  • Windows XP or Windows Vista
  • 2.8 GHz or faster (XP) or 3.2 GHz or faster (Vista) processor (Intel Core 2 DUO @ 2.2GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ recommended)
  • 1GB RAM (XP) or 1.5GB RAM (Vista) (2GB recommended)
  • 256MB video card
  • 12GB hard drive space
  • DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS/640 or similar recommended


Everyone wants to experience the genre-defining game. Crysis isn't that title, but it is a marked improvement over the ideas its designers danced around but failed to realize years ago in Far Cry. Whether it's the best shooter in a year packed with benchmark raisers comes down to whether you take your story strong with lots of narrative hand-holding (that's another game, and it's called BioShock) or you prefer making it up as you go along in bullet-tattooed vehicles among toppled trees and methodically bulldozed villages.

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