A good port, not a great one
Cevat Yerli, CEO of Crytek, once gloated that running the PC slayer Crysis on consoles was impossible. This was before Crysis launched of course, and only added to the hype of what would become the most sought after graphical high-mark of all computer gaming. According to the developers, and many gamers, it was to be a new era of gaming; a game so beautiful that it would stun all who beheld it and lead the way into a bright future. Then Crysis sold less than 100,000 copies in its first two weeks due to piracy.
These crushing numbers and the fact that many simply couldn’t run the game on their PCs, lead the Frankfurt based developer to rethink its mouse and keyboard exclusivity and focus on consoles. Crysis 2 was a much more successful endeavor, with some much needed streamlining in the suit powers, but with less navigable level design and destructible environments when compared to its predecessor.
So it is sort of surprising that not only is Crysis now available for consoles, but as a digital download only. And while, for the most part, I enjoyed it as much as its successor, it’s pretty clear that this shooter has lost some shine in the journey to the Xbox 360.
Crysis manages to hit some of the highest highs and lowest lows of any game this generation. Bugs and imbalances plague every crevice of this release, with enemies that are either ultra perceptive (often spotting you while you’re laying prone in the bushes a quarter mile away) or ultra dumb. Audio sometimes cuts out or distorts at seemingly random times, and voice acting, as well as the entire plot (which barely qualifies as such), is awful. This isn’t the fault of the actors, but a script that is rotten with clichés and unlikeable allies that never make any emotional connection.
And then there are the graphics. Now, Crysis 2 was a good-looking game on the Xbox 360. Sure, it struggled to keep the action smooth at times, but the damaged beauty of alien besieged New York was stunning, and the graphics never hindered play. This can’t quite be said about Crysis on consoles, which suffers from not only bugs, but a short draw distance and jaggedness that literally makes long distance sniping and reconnaissance more arduous than it should be. Enemies look muddy and blurred through a scope, which his unfortunate. The trade off here is that the game is pretty open and gives you plenty of room to sneak, shoot, and snake around the dense jungle island. At mid-to-close range, the game looks much better and performs well enough, but if you've ever seen the PC version at Ultra quality, it doesn't even come close.
Still, making your way around the jungle, picking off enemies methodically with stealth camouflage, using armor enhancement to become a bullet spewing stonewall, or just blowing apart huts with C4 is incredibly fun. Crysis plays much slower than its successor because suit powers drain more energy. This makes considering each action and managing resources much more integral to successful navigation through the world. This pace can grow a little tiresome, and some poor check pointing lead to more replaying than I was hoping for. Expect to be forced to relive the last half hour or so any time a helicopter comes near. Even so, the first six hours or so are a great example of how to give players many options and freedom of execution.
Crysis endured much criticism for its alien-infested final act back in 2008, and this release isn’t exempt from it either. Once the semi-open design is abandoned for excruciatingly confusing corridor navigation, there really is no reason to continue playing the campaign. Coupled with visually obfuscated interior locales, the alien’s ability to disappear at will and take many shots creates a dull penultimate mission. End capped with a final boss that has a tendency to take your health down to naught rather quickly, Crysis wraps up displeasing and unsatisfying.
First person shooters owe much to Crysis, and $20 isn’t a lot to ask for a well-designed and lengthy experience. Still, the translation to consoles hurt the visual fidelity, and even with one dubious mission cut from the cloth, the final act is a job to push through. Familiarizing yourself with Crysis is something that you’ll likely feel glad to have done, but the real experience lies with a great PC gaming rig, not Games on Demand.