Quite apart from being the long-awaited sequel to Far Cry, Crysis is also the poster child for DirectX 10: it’s the first game to appear that’s been designed from scratch with DirectX 10, and it looks simply amazing. But before we start eulogising about the graphics, let’s talk plot.
You don’t play the cheesy Jack Carver this time, but instead assume the role of US Delta Force operator Jake Dunn, codenamed Nomad. Aliens have invaded Earth, and you’re equipped with a nano suit and various futuristic weapons to do battle with them – and the North Korean army.
Your nano suit has five functions, with the default being armour to help you survive firefights. Click the middle mouse button and a circular menu appears offering increased strength, armour, firepower, speed or cloaking. Strength allows you to jump to otherwise out-of-reach places and kill foes with your bare hands. Speed is handy for a quick exit when the going gets too rough, and cloak lets you stealthily reach your destination undetected.
The beauty is that every setting uses the suit’s energy reserves, forcing you to adapt your technique in each situation. It also means you can play the wide-open levels in different ways. If you want to storm in, guns blazing, you can, but you could also sneak around the perimeter using stealth. The open levels mean there’s no Half-Life 2-like corridor system that you’re forced to follow to reach your next checkpoint.
The AI is surprisingly good, too – enemies don’t all bunch up when they spot you, but will work as a team to surround you, with boat and air support. If you’re spotted cloaking, they’ll fire at your last position and then go into surveillance mode, chattering away to each other about when you were seen.
Just one example of the attention to detail is that, at the most difficult level, the Koreans actually speak in Korean. Plus, you can customise your weapons with silencers, flashlights, laser sights and more.
While Far Cry was almost entirely jungle- and interior-based, Crysis also throws you on snow-covered mountainsides and inside the alien craft with zero gravity. You can steal as many of the Koreans’ trucks as you like, but the real thrill comes from driving the tank and airship.
One criticism of Far Cry was its less-than-perfect multiplayer mode, but Crytek has addressed this with Crysis. There’s still deathmatch, but you also get a team-based mode called Power Struggle. Each team has to capture buildings to get weapons and vehicles, as well as develop nuclear weapons to blast their enemy’s base. You’ll achieve nothing if you don’t work as a team.
But enough of that – let’s talk visuals. Stunning isn’t the word: at very high- quality settings, textures look almost photo-realistic. The jungle environment is jaw-droppingly beautiful, as is the interior of the alien spaceship. Little touches are everywhere, from droplets streaking off your mask as you leave the water, to frost on your gun barrel in the snow. (If you don’t have Vista or a DirectX 10-capable graphics card, a less beautiful version will run using DirectX 9 on Windows XP.) Admittedly, character movement isn’t as fluid as teaser videos promised, but when combined with decent voice acting it’s still believable.
Crysis is a great shooter and quite simply the best-looking game around. There’s a catch, though: to play it on very high detail settings, you’ll need to be running Vista and have a PC that matches the specifications in our Ultimate PCs Labs. Even then, you’ll be lucky to see 30fps at resolutions like 1,280 x 720 (see www.pcpro.co.uk/links/160games for a full run-down of the recommended specs). Then again, it’s almost worth buying a new PC just to play this game at its photo-realistic best.