The complete Crysis Remastered Trilogy launched this week! Building on the existing launch of the original Crysis remaster, both sequels are now added to the mix, arriving on PlayStation, Xbox and Switch consoles - and of course, PC. But how have these remasters changed the game? To what extent can vintage 2011 and 2013 games scale up to today's hardware? And do they still have the graphical wow factor that defined them back in the day?
We'll talk about the PC versions first, as this is where both Crysis 2 and Crysis 3 have received the most love. In this case, I'd highly recommend watching the video embedded below, where Alex Battaglia experiences the maximum joy of having both Crysis and ray tracing once again combined into one glorious whole. But there is actually more to the games that just RT additions alone, certainly in the case of Crysis 2 Remastered.
If you'll recall, Crysis 2 initially launched as a DirectX9 game, before receiving a substantial DX11 upgrade - and it's that subsequent version running at max settings that is our baseline comparison point for PC when assessing the remaster, and let's just say that the changes are profound. The aesthetic is very different, thanks in no small part to a new colour grade - the 'teal and orange' Transformers-style filter is now a thing of the past. This is combined with actual remastering on core artwork, allowing textures to better stand up on today's higher resolution displays.
Technology-wise, lighting is radically improved. The DX11 game's combination of cubemaps for diffuse and specular lighting is replaced with SVOGI - a software-based real-time global illumination technology - working in combination with hardware-accelerated ray tracing for reflections. In terms of GI, SVOGI works miracles when looking at the older, artist-driven, more simplified lighting, with the video going into depth on what a big difference this makes.
Hardware RT works beautifully on water, glass and transparencies, where static cubemaps are replaced with real-time, dynamic reflections, even reflecting the player. Transparency is not the only place where ray tracing helps, as it applies to all scenes objects, greatly enhancing the appearance of metals, plastics, wood, and really anything as Crysis 2 uses RT for any material with some degree of reflectivity. Given the amount of modern materials in Crysis 2, the ray traced reflections work wonders on top of the diffuse lighting delivered via SVOGI - greatly enhancing the visuals across the entire game in a more dramatic fashion than the RT seen in the first Crysis Remastered.
Effects work is improved and the odd-looking 30fps view weapon animations are also running now at full frame-rate. When combining the new lighting, the refined materials, the higher resolution textures and the improved colour schemes, Crysis 2 is a game renewed. Consoles cannot tap into the RT features this time around, but all other aspects of the remastering work factor into the equation. PS4 Pro, PS5, Xbox One X and Xbox Series X operate with a 1080p to 2160p dynamic resolution scaler, while Series S lowers the range down to a 900p-1440p window. 60fps is a tight lock on all new systems, bar minor instabilities on Series S and checkpoint stutter on PlayStation, with Pro and One X locked to 30fps instead. Last-gen base systems? It's 1080p on PS4, 900p on Xbox One with nips and tucks on LOD and tessellation - but again, it's a good, consistent 30fps.
Crysis 3 is interesting in that its 2013 release date saw its CryEngine evolve, adopting many of the technologies that would eventually find their way into triple-A titles. Its forward-looking nature, combined with specific elements in its technical make-up essentially mean that upgrades are more limited compared to Crysis 2. In fact, minor tweaks aside, the console builds (all of which have the same features and trades as Crysis 2) come across more as PC ports than actual remasters. They will look great, however, and performance is similarly robust - but again, checkpoint stutter and more of a propensity to crash make the PS4/PS5 builds less solid than Xbox equivalents.
However, the PC version of Crysis 3 Remastered does receive a lot more love. What we don't get is much in the way of remastered art, mind you, while SVOGI is off the table. The most obvious improvement is ray traced reflections, again improving the realism of materials and specular lighting overall. Crysis 3 is filled with a lot of organic surfaces and environments, however, and here, ray tracing helps by eliminating a lot of cubemap glow and light leakage.
For water though, ray traced reflections take a back seat in the PC version of Crysis 3 Remastered, as Crytek has elected to implement full planar reflections for all of the game's flat water surfaces. This is heavy on performance, but eliminates the inaccuracies of cubemaps and screen-space reflections. Here, we imagine Crytek decided to use planar reflections instead of RT reflections exclusively on water, since their RT reflections tend to be more specific in what geometry actually gets fully reflected.
Other purely graphical upgrades are few and far between in Crysis 3 remastered - for example, the grass now has the more accurate vegetation from later CryEngine versions - a small but appreciated upgrade. Bigger upgrades in general come with the game in motion, with DLSS doing a much better anti-aliasing job than the older game. Water physics are no longer locked to 30fps, which always gave them a 'framey' look. On top of that, grass animation is also now running at full frame-rate. This is another 30fps effect in the original game that didn't look great. Optimisations have taken place, however, so while the new Crysis 3 is far more GPU-intensive than the old one, the CPU side of the equation seems lighter - even though the 30fps grass was so processor-intensive on the older iteration of the game.
And ultimately, at the end of a week of analysis work requiring three Digital Foundry team members, the news is good. While not quite as exalted as the original game, Crysis 2 and its sequel did push back boundaries in gaming technology and while graphically demanding at the highest level, the remasters ensure that these titles will continue to scale with the PC hardware of the future. And as for the consoles, what users get are very attractive games with solid performance that serve to showcase that while very different from the first game, there's still some solid single-player campaign action to enjoy here.
Regarding the future of the trilogy, we think that a 'final flourish' that Crytek might consider is releasing the sandbox editor for all of the PC remasters, just as it did back in the day for Crysis 1 and its sequel. What we have today is welcome, but making mods a more accessible would be the icing on the cake, opening the door to new Crysis content in the years to come.
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