Released in November 2007, Crysis is a fabulous, jaw dropping, action-packed pseudo military simulation and I say pseudo only because it does have some elements of sci-fi in it (e.g., aliens and special nanosuit powers). This game was my introduction into what an amazing gaming experience can be created by combining spectacular graphics with an open-world gamescape.
The visuals in Crysis are so real that you almost forget it's a video game. When you play Crysis, you feel like you are actually out there creeping through the bush hunting down a ruthless enemy. And as you are doing so, you are watching foliage move aside as you brush past it, seeing small trees get chopped down when you shoot them with your machine gun, seeing leaves gently fall from the canopy above and meanwhile at your feet you are able to discern each and every individual blade of grass, all of which is rendered to near perfection with photorealistic tones, colors and textures.
The level of immersion created by playing Crysis is absolutely astounding and this is not to mention the 'sandbox' nature of game. Many levels on Crysis are simply vast stretches of bush and underbrush. This is the first videogame I've played where getting lost in the environment didn't seem to matter.
It was kind of like virtual hike into the woods...
With a machine gun.
The story is typical first person shooter superhero stuff. You —a member of the US Delta Force— are dropped in with four others by parachute onto an island in the South China Sea to locate and 'evacuate' one Dr. Rosenthal and a team of archaeologists being held captive by the North Korean Army. Along with a collection of short range weapons, assault weapons and explosives, you are also equipped with a special nanosuit which can be used to activate certain special abilities for brief periods of time.
The nanosuit's special abilites are increased speed, increased strength, hardened armour and invisibilty called in the game itself, Maximum Speed, Maximum Strength, Maximum Armour and Cloak respectively. These nanosuit modes enable you to move faster, jump higher and use more powerful melee attacks and render yourself invisible for short periods of time.
As First Lieutenant Jake Dunn (code name Nomad), your mission of mercy leads you into a direct struggle with the North Korean Army and subsequently reveals that a strange artifact uncovered by the archaeologists is in fact the makings of an alien presence that has manifested itself on earth. Eventually you do battle with the aliens themselves and ultimately must save the planet from the alien threat...
The meat and potatoes of the gameplay in Crysis consists of navigating throughout the island's underbrush and villages and doing battle with North Korean Army (KPA) soldiers. You are tasked with completing a series of objectives which require you to come in contact with various KPA installations, camps and patrol units. Using your collection of assault weapons and your nanosuit powers —of which the invisibility 'Cloak' mode is the most useful— you take on the superior numbers of KPA forces using a series of tactical maneuvers which you essentially make up on the fly as you go along.
Now you could conceivably go at this game Rambo style but unless you're a fabulous shot with ultra quick reflexes, you're likely to run into a brick wall as soon as you encounter the first major KPA encampment on the beach. Rather than head-on machismo running-and-gunning, this game rewards successful recon, planning, strategy and timing.
The nanosuit powers are not just so much fluff. Using enhanced speed, strength, armor and using invisibility are an integral part to successfully completing your objectives. All these special powers are actually the perfect enhancement to the style of gameplay previously established in Far Cry.
In a nutshell, the nanosuit in Crysis allows the player to engage in some unusual tactical approaches and even perform some hilarious stunts. For example, you could use the Cloak mode (invisibility) to sneak up on an enemy soldier, stand right next to him, grab him by the throat and then quickly switch to Maximum Strength mode and do a one-punch kill using your fist. Or even more dastardly, use Maximum Strength to throw him high in the air and then shoot him down like a clay pigeon with your machine gun (Pull!)... okay that's sick but yeah you can do it... (*chuckle*)...
Another major appeal of Crysis —along with the special nanosuit powers— is the fabulous sandbox environment. Crysis provides you with vast open spaces to play around in thus offering countless approaches to achieving your objectives. I remember after completing one particular mission, I took a close look at the map and realized that I had actually gotten lost on the way to the objective and had taken a huge meandering detour through a lush river gorge. I was absolutely astounded that this kind of detailed landscape could be rendered in a videogame seemingly just for the hell of it.
This makes for replay value up the ying-yang. In fact, just in the process of writing this review, I found myself sucked into playing entire levels of Crysis when I was only initially loading the game to grab a couple of screenshots.
Like most, I thought the first six levels of Crysis were absolutely sensational while the last half of the game dealing with the aliens paled by comparison and seemed somewhat half-baked and totally out of sync with the style of gameplay set up by the first half of the game. In fact, the level inside the alien ship with no gravity (and a foggy objective) was downright annoying.
The VTOL carrier level was also a bit of a PITA since the VTOL handled like a butterfly in a windstorm but okay I'll forgive since the carrier was supposed to be damaged and not running at full capacity. However, all in all, the first half of the game was just so damn good that I was willing to plow through any litany of rushed, awkward and disjointed second-half game objectives just in order to see Crysis through to the end.