doctor_kaz's Crysis (Collector's Edition) (PC) review

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A technical masterpiece that made every other shooter obsolete

Years from now, Crysis will probably be remembered as a technical masterpiece with fantastic graphics. This reputation is well-earned, as Crysis sports an amazing engine that made every other shooter obsolete the day that it came out. The game compromises nothing when it comes to lighting, level sizes, physics, shaders, and polygon counts. Chances are, if you are reading this review, you have already heard about how great the nuts and bolts are. However, Crysis isn't just another pretty face that hides mediocre gameplay with beautiful graphics (*cough**cough* GearsofWar *cough). It is not a game that fills up huge spaces with copy-and-paste, repetitive design (*cough**cough* Halo *cough) The action is great too, so much that even without the eye-popping visuals and exploding vehicles, Crysis would still be a great game. If you have any interest in PC first person shooters and a good rig, then you owe it to yourself to check out this game. It is the finest first person shooter in years, and a few minor issues are all that keep it from being the best ever made.

Crysis is the second effort from Crytek, which has quickly established itself as one of the most talented studios in the business. Crytek's first game, Far Cry, was years ahead of its time, and in many ways was never surpassed until Crysis arrived. It is impossible to talk about this game without talking about Far Cry. The two are very similar in a lot of good ways. If you loved Far Cry, then you will love Crysis. It is more of a true successor to Far Cry than Far Cry 2 (currently in development by Ubisoft). Just like Far Cry, Crysis sports gigantic, open levels on a tropical island paradise, full of trees, lush vegetation, hills, and beautiful beaches. Like Far Cry, Crysis lets you survey enemy positions from afar and tag enemies with your binoculars. Like Far Cry, the game allows you to jump in a vehicle at almost every time to speed your travel from one area to another. And, just like Far Cry, Crysis gives you all sorts of freedom to accomplish your objectives in all sorts of different ways. You can do almost anything in this game in a way that suits your play style. You can approach enemy outposts slowly and pick off enemies with a silenced SMG one-by-one. Or, you can run in with guns blazing, blowing up trucks and buildings as you go. Crysis is one of those exceedingly rare gems that excels at run-and-gun shooting and stealth at the same.

Four years after it came out, Crysis is still one of the most technologically advanced games on the market. While other games like Bioshock and Gears of War trade level size, breadth, or physics for graphics, Crysis excels at everything. The looks of the characters in the game rival those of any Unreal 3 engine game. It has level sizes that exceed every other game in the genre, except for perhaps S.T.A.L.K.E.R. The level of realism and density in the game's vegetation is unheard of. The beauty of the water and the quality of the lighting are top-notch. Best of all, it has a physics engine that probably won't be surpassed for years to come. Huge portions of the environments are fully destructible. You can chop down trees with a mini-gun and you can collapse buildings with a vehicle or a powered-up punch. Enemy helicopters can destroy your cover with rockets and machine gun fire. If you want, you can recreate the scene from "Predator" where Jesse Ventura gets killed and the commandos mow down an acre of jungle. It is a stunning technical achievement years ahead of its time, rivaled only what Far Cry achieved four years ago. The best part about it is that it runs very well on a system that reasonably exceeds the recommended specs. I have a rig with a dual-core 2.4 GHz Pentium, 2 GB of RAM, and an 8800 GTX. I was able to play this game with the settings 85% maxed out without a hitch, until the final level (which for some reason, runs horribly). Don't listen to anyone that says that Crysis is a poorly optimized game. The performance that it delivers is excellent for the resources that it uses.

Crysis provides you with the standard FPS loadout – shotgun, SMG, pistol, grenades, etc. It does a great job with these weapons, thanks largely to its excellent audio. One of the critical functions of any shooter is to give you a satisfying feeling when you fire a gun. It should feel like the mouse is an extension of the gun in your hands. Explosions should feel like they are going off right next to you. The guns and the explosions sound great in Crisis. Each weapon has its own resounding crack or boom, and grenades practically pop your eardrums and they explode and shake the screen.

Crysis has a standard weapons loadout, but it also adds in another excellent tool – the nanosuit. The nanosuit can augment your speed or strength. Alternatively, it can absorb damage, or make you invisible for a short time while you get into a position to quietly pick off enemies. The nanosuit isn't revolutionary, as functions like it have appeared in other games. However, it is a wonderful addition to this game, because it is integrated so well into the other aspects of the game that give you the freedom to play the game in accordance with your style. All of the functions are useful, although you will probably find yourself using the cloak function the most. It might be a bit overpowered, since you can uncloak to shoot while you are still hidden, kill one enemy, and then regenerate and cloak again.

Adding to the fun is the game's dynamic AI. Crysis's AI can be glitchy, but 90% of the time, it's a vastly underappreciated asset to the game. The AI isn't always perfect, but it's somewhat human. Enemies do a great job of navigating the environments and finding cover behind whatever happens to be around them at the time. At the same time, the enemies aren't omniscient wizards that automatically know where you are hidden at all times. If you fire and then cloak, enemies will attack your last known position. If an enemy notices you up close when you are cloaked, he will become suspicious and fire wildly in your direction. They react smartly to grenades and they do a great job of slowly closing in on your position if they hear gunfire. You can use to this advantage to do things like stock up exploding barrels in a building, lure a few enemies in there, and then blow everything up to kill them all. The 10% of the time that the AI doesn't work right can stick out, however. Enemies mounted on machine guns will cluelessly look ahead and they won't react to their buddy being blown away right next to him. Occasionally, the AI will shut off and enemies will freeze while staring at a wall saying "where is he?" It is disappointing that these problems haven't been fixed yet with a patch. These times are rare though, and most of the time, the AI in Crysis is great.

Great PC games are often the product of emergent gameplay, and their ability to give you all sorts of fun ways to experiment with your abilities. When it comes to emergent gameplay, Crysis is one of the best shooters of the decade. The open levels, the nanosuit, the physics, and the AI all work in concert to make Crysis is an experimenter's playground. There are so many ways to complete every little goal that it is impossible to describe them all. You can take out a sniper by crashing a vehicle into his tower to collapse it. You can sneak up on enemies grab them, and choke them to death. Or, you can use them as human shields. You can even kill other enemies by turning on your strength augmentation and tossing your hapless human shield at them. You can kill enemies by luring them next to exploding vehicles and blowing them up. Chances are, you will find your own favorite ways of playing the game.

Crysis has twelve levels, most of which are huge and impressive. As the game progresses though, there are a few levels towards the end that are more linear and rather weak. One flaw that Crysis has in common with Far Cry is that it excels when you are fighting humans in outdoor areas, but it gets weaker when the new, nonhuman enemy is introduced. A linear zero-gravity level late in the game is rather average, and the game's final level is a big disappointment. I won't spoil it for you, but the game abandons almost everything that made it great and throws a tedious, old style linear romp at you that would have been at home six years ago. The frame rate also crashes like crazy on this last level, which is curious, since it is technically less impressive than the rest of the game.

A few other minor flaws hold back Crysis. The voice acting for the North Korean enemies is awful. Unless you are playing on the hardest difficulty level, enemies will speak in terribly accented English and yell out silly phrases like "die Yankeeee!" and "I kirr you Westuhn bastuhd!!!!" This isn't a huge flaw, but it helps to spoil a lot of the authenticity that the game has. The story also adds nothing to the game and it ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger, which is too bad, because the game genuinely tries to provide a good one, but fails.

If you have an above average gaming rig and any interest in first person shooters, then Crysis is a superb game and a no-brainer to recommend. Some minor issues do rear their ugly heads from time to time, and they might hinder your enjoyment from time-to-time, but not much. At one time, you needed a high end computer to max it out, but that's not the case anymore. It is all that it is cracked up to be – a game that backs up its cutting edge technology with fun, open-ended, and action-packed gameplay.

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