Crysis Reader Review

My favorite gaming moment of all time? Far Cry, 2005 (the year I got the PC that could run it). There�s a level where you have to cross a river/creek by a rubber boat whereas snipers, gun nests, fraggers and rocket launchers line both sides. The river is incredibly beautiful, reflecting back an afternoon sun into the turquoise waters. The first smart thing to do is to decimate the enemies on a nearby machine-gun equipped boat and capture it. Really, there�s nothing more to it � but there is. For the creek is riddled with rocks that are just beneath the surface, and most of them will, naturally, grind your speedboat to a halt while you become a living mannequin for hidden enemies amongst the groves and the trees.

Most of you will recognize this scene. Read the description again � how many games can you describe in such detail? How many games enjoy the benefit of being attempted differently by almost every player? Far Cry is riddled with scenes like this, and for this reason it will have a permanent residence on my hard drive and of course, in my heart, amongst the gouts and clots of blood and muscle and steaming tissue.

It doesn�t look bad today � in fact, better than most games out there. Therefore, to trump it, Crysis would have to be something stunning, beyond belief. Guess what � it is. Crysis just blows Far Cry � and every other game � out of the water graphically. But it did not look that way when I first ran it, and one of the main purposes of this review is to help anyone struggling to play this game at a decent framerate. Here�s my experience.

I have a Core 2 Duo 1.86 GHz, with an 8800 GTS 640 MB, and 2 GB of RAM. Uptil now, every game including Call of Duty 4 has run on it perfectly at settings maxed out, perhaps because of my LCD�s modest resolution ceiling of 1680x1050.

Crysis defaulted to Medium settings with no Anti-aliasing the first time I ran it. It was giving me 30 FPS. One thing anyone with ANY pc running this game should be prepared for, is to compromise on the framerate. Nudge the settings upwards � I found the game to be very playable even at 18 FPS.

The second thing to do is to download the latest NVidia driver. The third thing is to hit tweakguides.com and read their splendid guide to this game. I could hug the guy who writes on that site � he is providing such a brilliant service to PC gamers. There are around 10 pages of tweaks and settings, and ultimately you will end up with a system.cfg file sitting in the game�s root directory with your favored combination of commands. The end result of this is that DX-10 only �very high� settings can be enabled in XP too, and it is hard to tell them apart except some marginally better sunlight and HDR effects in Vista. There is genuine �Very High� at which your game will run at 5 FPS, and a cheap �Very High� where the game looks 95% of its best, and will give you anything between 15-25 FPS, depending on your setup.

All said and done, I was able to run the game at these settings at 18 FPS: Resolution: 1280x800 (isn�t natively supported � you will have to program it into System.cfg) Anti Aliasing: 4 X (don�t anti-alias your way into slideshow oblivion � the foliage remain somewhat jagged at all levels, indicating that Crytek have recovered some intergalactic GPU from the wreckage of that spaceship and expect us to have it handy when playing it) Graphical settings: All �Very High� except particle effects, physics, post-processing, volumetric effects and sound (which are all set to �High�). Please note that for Crysis to look at its photorealistic best, it is absolutely essential to set Shaders and HDR to �Very High� and textures to at least �high�. Long story short, I managed to play the game while it looked ALMOST like those screenshots and videos. Thanks, once again, to Tweakguides without whom this was simply not possible.

With that out of the way, let�s get back to the game. Like most games that have recently tantalized you with their beauty, Crysis opens in darkness. In an obvious play on GRAW, you drop down the belly of an airplane in a moonlit night, onto the game�s island. At this height and time of the day � er, night � the island is nothing but a collection of gray splotches softly kissed by shimmering water from all sides. Predictably, someone shoots down your parachute and equally predictably, you survive your 200 foot fall into the water. You crawl onto the beach and before you can look around, the HUD blips to life.

Ah, the HUD. Thankfully, the screen is not covered in icons like GRAW, but that�s the only good thing about it. On the right side there are three bars which indicate God knows what. On the left there is a compass, a �risk meter�, a mini-map and another bar indicating God knows what. The life system is that of Call of Duty � that is, stay out of fire long enough and you�re good to go. The map/compass is a complicated monstrosity. I think Infinity Ward and Crytek exchanged some notes on how to completely ruin what was a friendly and simple UI. COD4 sports a compass that is a straight line with the pointer moving along it, ensuring that you are NEVER quite aligned with where you are supposed to go. Crytek guys just take a dull map and fill it with arrows and splotches. The splotches � ok, triangles � are where you are supposed to go. It is not hard to navigate but is ungainly and non-intuitive.

Another thing I dislike is that the map shows every enemy soldier/alien and which direction he is moving in. This is an unnecessary aid � it takes away half the fun out of cowering in the jungle and looking every which way, trying to identify whether the foliage is being moved by wind or man. So you move out into the night, shoot down two enemies, find your squad leader (yes!), follow him briefly along the beach and into the jungle, where you cross a clearing, come up to a cliff, and set your eyes upon the most incredible sight ever seen in a game.

Crytek have timed the sunrise perfectly with your arrival on the cliff. You stare down at a village, set alongside the beach. The rising sun is reflecting gently into the water. The morning mist is slowly dissipating, but not before showering everything in gold dust. The mountains in the distance are still in shadow and contrast dramatically against the glittering sky. Really, even though I just wrote three lines describing it, there are no words to describe the scene. It is to be experienced. Just like the two bullets that will hit you while you are lost in your thoughts. Time to go prone (a position I presume most players will spend the most time in), and try to crawl either to the left or the right, descend upon the village, kill all the soldiers in a nearby jeep, grab the steering wheel and run like hell.

Mark my words � don�t fancy yourself and you will do fine. RUN LIKE HELL will become your most important strategy in Crysis. Normally it is stupid to run standing up, so most of the time you will be crawling in the grass, trying to turn on invisibility everytime a soldier comes near. Simply because at advanced difficulty settings (which is the ONLY way to play the game) you cannot kill all soldiers at a particular site. While not particularly intelligent, they will hide and crawl, making you waste your ammo and eventually hiding in some shed, where you will be treated to a double treat of a collapsing roof and a frag grenade.

My favorite moment came where I was having difficulty approaching an outpost alongside a bridge. See, I was approaching from a long incline and even if I crawled or turned on invisibility, eventually the soldiers would spot me and I was toast.

Then I hit upon an idea � I took out my revolver and placed a silencer on it. (KEEP YOUR REVOLVER AT ALL TIMES in Crysis � you will need it). Next I approached two military trucks parked back up the slope, which I had sneaked by previously. Going prone (again) at some distance in the jungle, I plucked a soldier neatly out of existence. The soldier dropped dead and his mates took notice, but couldn�t locate the source of fire due to the silencer. While they milled about, I shot another one. This time they knew the direction but still couldn�t see me. Still they started moving towards me. Four or five were easy picking for the machine gun. When they were all down, I approached the truck turning on invisibility and shot down the soldier guarding the machine gun turret atop the roof. The truck was mine.

I drove the truck down the slope. At first the guards didn�t identify me and held a breath before starting to shoot. That was all the time I needed. I rammed the truck into the hut, killing two on the spot, magically materialized outside the truck thanks to the F key, run behind the remains of the hut, and shot at the truck in the bonnet until it blew up, to remarkably desirable results.

I am sure that�s not the smartest approach, but the point is, it was what I figured out and it worked just as I envisioned.

You would have noticed that I have so far only mentioned invisibility among the nanosuit powers. Well they are all useful and you will need all from time to time. Truth be told, the whole idea kind of makes me uncomfortable. It is wonderfully balanced, never running the game for you and requiring effort and deliberation to keep at full charge at crucial points. Still everytime I do use the nanosuit, it feels like cheating.

As you would know by now, the snow levels are perhaps less fun than the initial levels and the end level is a bummer. I don�t like the squad based gameplay either � this is not Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six and if we want squads, Crytek is the last developer we would turn to.

Well, apart from that end level, Crysis is a seminal experience. In some ways like Half Life, it places you in a playground with incredible odds stacked against you, and provides you with an assortment of tools to solve the puzzle. It is incredible looking, very immersive and for me, the shooter of the year.

9 / 10

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