So. To start off with, we could tell you the one about how Crysis is being developed by Crytek, and how it also developed Far Cry, and about the Ubisoft / EA switch, but you probably know all that already. Or we could start with the storyline, which is basically about fighting aliens in jungles and isn't likely to excite anyone who's played more than two videogames very much. So instead, let's start with what you really need to know about Crysis: it looks superb.
Specifically, it looks great running on Windows Vista with DirectX 10. It looks swish with DirectX 9 too, as it happens, but there's a reason Crytek is showing us two videos for comparison - the difference is clear. From the way shadows move through the jungle and light falls through the branches to the smoke and fire curling around a giant alien mech that comes looming out of the darkness, it's obvious that we're looking at a whole new level of detail and realism.
"It's the next generation in Windows gaming - visual fidelity, density and immersion," says Crytek CEO and founder Cevat Yerli. But he's also keen to emphasise that it's not all about looks; the new technology, he argues, actually enhances gameplay and most definitely isn't just there for the sake of it.
"We are focusing all technology on either immersion or gameplay. If it doesn't serve the purpose, it won't go in," he explains. So yes, you'll find plenty of soft shadows, depth of field, motion blur and fancy lighting effects here - but all with good reason.
"For example, if [the technology] is about breakable objects, it's supposed to bring new gameplay. If it's about real time shadows, I need to be able to use that to read enemy presence. If it's about clouds, I want to fight inside the clouds, with an enemy in the skies. All technology is for the purpose of being a vehicle for the gameplay," Yerli explains.
Let's take the game's "bendable, destructible foliage", say. Not the most exciting of concepts on paper, but when you've seen a player fire off a round at a tree trunk so that it breaks off and comes crashing down on the head of an unfortunate enemy across the other side of the jungle - all without having to break cover - things start to make sense.
Then there's the other type of technology showcased by the game, as in the fictional kind. (NB: Those who've played more than two videogames may wish to skip the next few paragraphs.) Crysis is set in 2019, and begins with a giant asteroid crashing out of the sky to land on an island in the Pacific. The North Korean Government creates a perimiter around the crash site, but the Americans aren't too happy about this, so they send in a Delta Force squadron to do a bit of recon.
It's not long before they end up in conflict with the North Koreans, battling it out for ownership of the asteroid. Only, as it turns out, it isn't an asteroid at all - it's a giant alien spaceship, standing a massive two kilometres high. The ship generates a huge shield which flash freezes the island, and messes up the world's weather system. As the North Koreans and the Americans realise that the invasion of Earth has begun, they also realise that they now have rather more in common than they thought, and team up to take on the enemy.
Which means, as a Delta Force operative, you're no longer fighting boring old humans, but giant mechanical alien beings with highly sophisticated weapons and a thundering war cry that makes the T-rex in Jurassic Park sound like, well, a much bigger and scarier T-rex, to be honest.
But unlike dinosaurs, these beings - known as hunters - have more tricks than scary noises and big teeth up their sleeves [cunning - Ed]. For starters, they're equipped with special sensors which allow them not only to locate their enemies through sight and sound, but to quickly establish which enemy poses the greatest threat. When it comes to attacking, they have plenty of options - they can attempt to pin you down with their huge metal claws, or pick you up and chuck you over a nearby cliff, or even freeze your body before shattering it into hundreds of tiny and presumably very cold pieces.
So you'll probably be grateful for the fact that your character comes equipped with the very latest in military technology circa 2019 - namely a special combat suit, which Yerli describes as being in itself "a kind of a dynamic hero."
The suit has three different modes - strength, speed and armour. "Those modes allow you to make a tangible difference, a tactical difference, at any moment," Yerli explains.
"You can increase the speed to actually dodge bullets or enemies. You can increase your strength to pick up heavy weapons, to punch harder, to actually punch trees to break them if you want... If you increase your armour, you can become a walking tank." What this boils down to in tactical terms, Yerli says, is that "you can modify your play style given the challenge you are [facing]."
For example, if you want to create a barrier between you and an enemy, you can switch strength mode on, uproot a tree and place it down as a roadblock. If you're facing a particularly nasty bunch of opponents, or perhaps just a bunch of weaklings you can't be bothered to take too long over, you can opt for the armour mode. Alternatively, speed mode lets you run away to a safe place where you can have a nice sit down and play Animal Crossing until it's all over. Possibly.
So for the most part, you'll spend the game exploring the island, fighting off hunters and getting to grips with the various options your combat suit gives you. But then, just when you're getting comfortable, Crysis will pull the rug out from under you - or rather the jungle floor. That's because the last two hours of the game take place in zero gravity, which stirs things up more than somewhat.
Mixing it up
"Zero G gaming is pretty interesting because once you've almost mastered Crysis, we are bringing a new mix to the table," Yerli says.
"Zero G is about being free floating and actually having to watch not only in front of you and up and down, but in every [direction]. Now you're also looking down and under your feet; you're not safe any more, you're not walking."
You're not in the jungle any more, either, since the Zero G levels take place in the huge alien spaceship. Which means you'll have to work out brand new ways of defeating your enemies as you face off with them on their own turf - in between dealing with the effects of zero gravity, of course.
"For example, in Zero G, when you get shot you get propelled back... And when you shoot weapons in a spin, you actually spin as well," Yerli says.
"Many gameplay details feature in Zero G only, because they're only possible in Zero G."
It's not yet clear whether the Zero G element will also come into play in the multiplayer modes, of which there are four. These include, according to Yerli, "Three standard modes - Team Match, Death Match and Capture the Flag. But all standard modes are actually tactical, and [play differently to those in] other games, because of the innovation we have with the suit and the weapons system.
"We're actually introducing new gameplay mechanics which are not available in other shooters, so it makes it an inherently different experience."
But what of the fourth, non-standard mode? Well, Yerli says, it's called Power Struggle, and it's "About the Americans fighting the North Koreans, trying to capture artefacts and bring them back to buildings. When you do [this], it unlocks new weapon trees and skill trees."
Yerli explains that this creates a kind of economic system within the game, and unlocks new ways to play - but that's all he'll say for the moment, as Power Struggle is being kept under wraps for a while longer. However, he does confirm that all the modes will be for up to 32 players.
Let's push things forward
He also confirms that there are no plans to develop an Xbox 360 or PS3 version of Crysis, stating: "It's a matter of focus... It's not a matter of stupidity, and not a matter of economics, it's really just pushing PC gaming forward."
So how long does Yerli think it will be before the PC catches up with next-gen consoles? "Actually I think that Crysis will show that [the PC] has not only caught up, but surpassed [consoles] already.
"PC gaming, Windows gaming actually, offers a superior experience to any of the other gaming platforms. We don't want to constrain ourselves now with certain platform restrictions... It's a more dynamic platform, and we can actually accommodate our gameplay design and vision to the platform easier."
Yerli isn't too worried about the future of PC gaming once the next-gen consoles arrive, either. "I think the PC market overall in total may decline, but I think the hardcore gamer base which we are targeting - the absolute fanbase of high-end gaming - will actually increase."
If Crysis plays as good as it looks, he might just be right. But for now, we'll just have to wait and wonder what the multi-functional combat suit, that zero gravity gameplay, the new multiplayer mode and those fancy technological tricks will bring to the mix. In the meantime - did we mention that it looks wicked?