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“But can it run Crysis?” I’m sure everyone has heard that question by now. That’s because Crysis was such a powerhouse at the time of release, you needed the latest and greatest hardware to run it maxed out. And even that didn’t guarantee solid performance. Developed by Crytek and published by EA, Crysis was released for PC in November, 2007 and Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in October, 2011. The standalone expansion, Crysis Warhead was released for PC in September, 2008. For this review, I played both on PC. And after all these years, I’m finally able to run them completely maxed out while maintaining a solid frame rate. I never felt forced to lower any settings. I did play the GoG versions of both since they come with the 64-bit binaries.
Crysis is set in the year 2020. North Koreans take control of the Lingshan Islands where a team of American archaeologists, led by a Dr. Rosenthal, send out a distress call indicating they discovered something significant. Delta Force’s Raptor Team which consists of Nomad, Psycho, Aztec, Jester, and team leader Prophet are dispatched to the islands to evacuate the archaeologists and secure any valuable information. The team members are all outfitted with technologically advanced Nanosuits that help protect them during combat and grant them superhuman abilities. Nomad is the protagonist and makes his way around the island completing various objectives, eliminating KPA forces and aliens. That’s really the most exciting part of the story. Aliens. In Warhead, you play as Psycho who is a much more interesting character than Nomad. After a Marine vehicle convoy is destroyed, he is assigned a mission to pursue a North Korean container that is believed to contain a nuclear warhead. Psycho eventually discovers the container actually contains an alien war machine. He pursues it throughout the entire campaign fending off North Koreans and aliens. The storylines are okay at best. Warhead’s storyline easily has the most interesting characters and the voice performances in both are decent.
You get to play as Nomad in Crysis and Psycho in Warhead and both protagonists can walk, run, crouch, go prone, jump, lean left and right, perform melee attacks, grab things like objects and enemies, activate night vision, drive vehicles, pilot boats, and in the Crysis campaign, you’ll get to pilot a VTOL. When you take damage you’ll lose suit energy and health, both of which will regenerate. You can bring up a list of objectives and a map of the area during gameplay and you can use binoculars to scout areas before infiltrating. The Nanosuits the characters wear is what makes the gameplay a little more interesting than your average shooter. You can utilize suit abilities like strength, speed, armor, and cloak and each of them will drain suit energy in their own way. In strength mode, your melee attacks inflict more damage, you can jump higher than normal, your shots are more accurate, and you can throw grenades farther. With speed mode active, you can sprint faster than normal. When armor mode is activated, your suit will absorb damage. And when you activate cloak mode, you become invisible. As cool as these abilities are, most of them seem to drain suit energy way too quickly. I found myself using cloak and speed quite often but because they drain energy so rapidly, they feel somewhat underwhelming.
Both games include four difficulty modes with the “Delta” difficulty being the hardest. On Delta, the crosshairs are forced off and enemies speak Korean. The campaigns can be challenging if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings and you will get to use a decent variety of weapons. You’ll get your hands on assault rifles, a submachine gun, shotgun, precision rifle, a missile launcher, explosive charges, a minigun, gauss rifle, you can dual wield pistols, and late in the Crysis campaign, you’ll get to use an Alien MOAC which rapidly fires shards of ice and a TAC Gun which is a handheld nuclear weapon. Warhead adds some new weapons to the arsenal including an SMG that can dual wielded, anti-vehicle mines, claymore mines, a grenade launcher, and a Plasma Accumulator Cannon which fires bursts of plasma. In addition to these, you’ll get to throw different types of grenades like frag, smoke, and flash and in Warhead, you can throw EMP grenades which can disable Nanosuit abilities. Most of the weapons can be modified on-the-fly. You can add and remove sights and scopes, a flashlight, laser aiming module, silencer, and underside attachments like a grenade launcher and tactical attachment that adds sleeper bullets to your weapon. You’ll start the game with some of these but can acquire more in the environments or from picking up weapons with attachments equipped and you can apply most attachments to most of the weapons. For example; you can add a sniper scope to the shotgun if you want. You can also acquire incendiary ammo which is extremely effective against enemies.
Both campaigns have you battling Koreans and aliens. The Koreans will run around and shoot at you, throw grenades, you’ll have to deal with some snipers, and they can drive vehicles, pilot boats and helicopters, and utilize weapon emplacements. Their AI isn’t too bright and the typical soldiers can die quite easily but you always have to deal with numerous enemies at once and you can die very quickly if you’re not careful so staying behind cover is important. One of the cooler things about these games is that the environments are large, allowing you to approach encounters in multiple ways. You can try to quietly work your way through areas, utilizing your cloak ability and a silencer or go in all guns blazing which I find more enjoyable. As I mentioned before, the cloak ability will drain through your suit’s energy rapidly and once you’re spotted, most of the enemies in the area seem to know exactly where you are. If you cloak yourself, you can easily lose enemies but if you’re trying to escape, you won’t be able to get very far undetected because again, the rapid energy drain. Trying to infiltrate enemy areas quietly can be a tedious process. You need to activate cloak, advance forward a little bit, stay in cover while your energy regenerates, rinse and repeat until you reach your destination. I found approaching squads of enemies on a road or in the jungle cloaked to be much more enjoyable. Sneaking up on a group while cloaked and then blowing them all away can be very satisfying. Because you normally have to engage groups of enemies, I often found myself dying from attacks I didn’t see coming like from snipers or projectiles fired from enemy vehicles in the distance. You need to pay attention to your surroundings. Your suit’s armor mode is helpful but you’re still fragile and when I was low on health I found activating the cloak mode to be extremely useful, despite the rapid energy drain. Activating the cloak results in enemies immediately lose sight of you so you can easily get out of a dangerous situation like if you’re surrounded. Just don’t expect to get very far.
Now I love science fiction and aliens as much as the next guy but the aliens in Crysis are, quite frankly, not that interesting. When you first encounter them, it’s kind of cool and exciting but you’ll quickly realize they’re lacking in terms of variety and fighting them just isn’t as fun as fighting the Koreans. There’s two main types you need to deal with – Troopers and Scouts. They both fly around and self-destruct upon death. Troopers are the smallest of the two and can quickly move around areas and fire projectiles. Scouts are larger and usually stay high up in the air, they can fire projectiles and beams, and some carry and deploy Troopers. You will have to engage some Hunters which are kind of like bosses. They are massive aliens that can fire a singularity cannon and freeze you. Warhead adds Guardian Troopers and Orange Scouts to the enemy roster. Guardian Troopers can shield other Troopers and Orange Scouts use gravity bomb launchers to launch bombs that will follow you. Encounters with the aliens are just not that exciting and all boil down to shoot them until they die. You don’t have many options when it comes to how you want to take them down and they are the primary enemies you have to deal with during the second half of the Crysis campaign. Warhead tones them down quite a bit. You’ll engage a lot more Korean enemies in this campaign which allow you to utilize your suit abilities more effectively. When engaging aliens, I found myself using the suit abilities defensively instead of tactically. Instead of using cloak to try and sneak up on them, I used it to stop them from shooting me. Instead of using the speed ability to quickly advance on them, I used it more to get away from them.
The environments in both campaigns are mostly wide open. You’ll be traversing through a lot of jungle areas with a lot of foliage, beaches, villages, and enemy encampments. You’ll get to traverse through a mining complex and a zero gravity alien cave in the Crysis campaign and you’ll get to blow enemies away in a mine and on an airfield in the Warhead campaign. There are some neat set pieces like when you get to ride in the back of a vehicle and shoot down enemies and ride on a train and utilize the weapon emplacements to defend yourself. One mission in Crysis lets you pilot a VTOL. I’ve beaten this game once before and remember this sequence being a pain in the ass but I’m not sure why anymore because it’s really not that bad. One of the coolest things about these games is the environmental destruction. Explosions can destroy buildings and structures and trees will often break and come crashing down from explosions and/or enough gunfire. Your map includes objective waypoints so you should never get lost and many missions include primary and secondary objectives. You’ll have to rescue hostages, retrieve information, destroy things, and have to advance from one location to another. You can freely explore the large environments and doing so will normally lead you to different ways to approach situations and resources like weapons and ammo.
Crysis was known for it’s gorgeous visuals and was easily one of, if not the best, looking games of its time. It still looks pretty damn good. The textures are sharp and crisp, the lighting is excellent, the particle effects look fantastic, and the character models look good. The facial animations are noticeably stiff now, the ragdoll animations can look a bit wonky, and pop-in is frequent but overall, Crysis and Crysis Warhead are still phenomenal looking games. The games include a good amount of detail, too. Trees will fall from gunfire and explosions during combat, in cold environments you can see ice buildup on the scopes of your weapons, and you have full body awareness so you can see your legs and feet. The soundtrack includes some memorable tunes and the sound effects are pretty good. Explosions sound excellent and weapons fire sounds satisfying. Koreans will shout during combat and the aliens will make all kinds of odd noises. On the technical side, both games crashed on me several times. With all the settings maxed out, the frame rate was solid most of the time. It did dip here and there but not often.
I had fun with Crysis and Warhead but I can’t help but feel they could have been better. I think the suit abilities are a tad underwhelming and the aliens bring the second half of the Crysis campaign down in my opinion. I do think the Warhead campaign is more enjoyable simply because there’s more Koreans to fight. I love the setting, atmosphere, open maps, weapon customization, and the games are at their best when the aliens aren’t around. Despite some of the issues, these games are still fun to play. The gunplay feels great, the suit abilities can be a lot of fun when you know how to use them effectively, and they’re very action-packed experiences. Crysis Wars is the multiplayer component which I didn’t try and the games are open for modding and there’s plenty of mods out there. Honestly, I think mods can resolve most of my issues with these games. Needless to say, there’s a good amount of replay value here.
Ultimately, I would recommend Crysis and Crysis Warhead to fans of first-person shooters. In my opinion, the games never really reach their full potential but they’re still a blast to play. I feel Warhead has the more enjoyable battles and more interesting characters. Warhead doesn’t add a ton of new stuff but it does put a bigger emphasis on the elements that made the original campaign so enjoyable. If you enjoy the idea of running around tropical environments, shooting at bad guys with aliens thrown into the mix, give Crysis and Warhead a shot.