First Impressions: Your eyes will cry sweet, sweet candy.
You've got to hand it to the Yerli brothers. Back in 2000, Cevat, Faruk and Avni took their amazing tech demo X-Isle to E3 where, despite being complete unknowns who spoke little English, they somehow managed to show their project to Nvidia ? who in turn were so impressed, they used X-Isle to showcase their brand new GeForce video cards. The brothers were soon offered a publishing deal to turn their concept into a game and in 2004, Far Cry was released to glowing acclaim for its stunning graphics and incredibly fun open gameplay.
Despite the accolades, the Yerli brothers weren't satisfied with Far Cry. They actually rushed the product in order to hit the shelves before Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 ? huge heavyweights that could have easily crushed the brothers' hard work had they launched too late. But thanks to the comforts provided by a hit game and healthy royalties, their company CryTek is taking the time to perfect their dream game, powered by incredible new technology that blows away anything on the market.
First off, you should note that Crysis is not a sequel to Far Cry despite the fact it also takes place on an open, free-roaming tropical island; instead, it is a brand new IP unburdened by the expectations of previous work.
Crysis takes place in 2019 when a huge asteroid slams into the disputed Spratly Islands (which is a real group of 100 tiny islands that several nations lay claim to, despite the fact they're really little more than reef outcroppings ? with potentially rich petroleum deposits underneath, that is). The North Koreans seal off the entire island chain to lay claim to the asteroid and any riches it may have to offer. Hasn't anyone taught Kim Jong Il how to share? Anyway, the US is none too impressed and sends a covert Delta squad to infiltrate the island and check out what's going on.
You will play as Jake Dunn, leader of the Delta squad, as you duke it out with the North Koreans while looking for the asteroid. When you find it, however, you will discover the true meaning of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, because the asteroid is hiding a particularly nasty surprise: a ship full of hostile aliens bent on killing everything in sight. Hey, Kimmy, on second thought, you can keep that asteroid all by yourself.
The aliens apparently like their air conditioning turned up to 11 and so they flash freeze the island; in fact, freezing is not only their weapon of choice but a necessity for their survival. The US and North Korea wisely put aside their differences and work together to fight this new and more dangerous threat before the entire planet is plunged into a deadly ice age.
While the story may sound like your average sci-fi shooter, Crysis will definitely not look like anything you've seen before. Simply put, the powerful new CryENGINE 2 is a stunning piece of software engineering that gives CryTek the ability to meet their ambitious goal of ?video realism?. Some of its incredible technical capabilities include realistic ambient lighting and soft shadows cast by every object, all generated in real-time and dynamically adjusted depending on the lighting; in other words, if a cloud moves overhead, the lighting becomes dimmer and the shadows become softer, just like in real life.
The engine also supports depth of field that features realistic focus changes; realistic motion blur when you move the camera rapidly; volumetric clouds that are lit in real-time, cast dynamic shadows and permit soft fly-throughs; realistic damage and soft physics on all vegetation; and a ton of other technical mumbo jumbo that will create a tasty feast for your eyes. Character models are rendered in amazingly high detail, the realistic fire, smoke and particle effects will make you think you're watching a Hollywood movie, and the very cool visual warping effects of explosions are something to behold. The jungle environments are very thick and lush, and the realistic lighting, shadows and vegetation physics do an outstanding job of making you feel as if you're actually there; in fact, the only thing that's missing is the heat and humidity to complete the immersive illusion. But seeing is believing, so just check out the screenshots and videos to see just how mind-blowing this new engine is.
Not surprisingly, you'll need some pretty hefty hardware to enjoy the full potential of the engine. Crysis will not support anything below DirectX 9 with shader model 2.0 ? which in English means that if you have a relatively recent video card, you should be good to go. However, the best performance will be on Windows Vista with a DirectX 10 video card and a 64-bit processor, so start saving your spare change. (Incidentally, DirectX 10 is exclusive to Vista, so you won't get the full benefits of putting a DirectX 10-compatible video card in your Windows XP machine.) In other words, the game is being optimized for technology that is only just becoming available. But fear not, for the team is working hard to ensure that older machines capable of running Far Cry on high specs three years ago will be able to run Crysis on mid-specs.
Fortunately, the game won't just be about a pretty face. Gameplay is being given just as much attention as the technology powering it, and from what we've seen so far, this could be another huge hit for the young company.
Similar to Far Cry, you will enjoy huge open maps that will give you the freedom to do what you want; you can play stealthy, go on a gun-crazy rampage, help the North Koreans, help the aliens, sit back and watch them fight, or kill them all. You should know, however, that your decisions will have consequences; for example, if you let certain friendlies die, they will not be able to give you important information later on in the game (you'll still be able to finish the game, but it might be tougher than it could have been). Of course, killing a friendly can have special benefits like obtaining a powerful weapon much earlier than normal. Hmm?.
Enemies and allies will benefit from intelligent AI that enables them to use real military tactics and adjust these tactics in real-time as the situation changes. In other words, the AI will react realistically to their environment, so rustling foliage and footsteps will make enemies suspicious, gunshots will bring them running, bodies lying out in the open will put them on alert and a grenade at their feet will make them dive for cover. Friendlies can even turn on you if you tick them off enough, so you've been warned.
You will be armed with weapons and armor that can be customized in real-time, which allows you to move around when you're fiddling with your modifications; this could be very handy when an enemy sneaks up on you and you have to find cover fast. To customize a weapon, you hold it sideways to access various slots to add modifications, such as on top for scopes, underneath for a grenade launcher and at the business end for a silencer.
Your weapons will start as standard FPS fare but you will eventually be able to use cool experimental and even alien weaponry. You will even be able to customize your ammo for added damage, make them non-lethal or even shoot Sam Fisher-like noise makers to distract enemies. The coolest of them all, however, has got to be the remote activated ammo; shooting an enemy with these does minimal damage, but the rounds stay dormant in their bodies until you decide to detonate them at your leisure. This means you will be able to plug several enemies and then blow them all up simultaneously. Nice!
Your special powered nanosuit will let you divert energy to enhance specific attributes, like greater leg power to increase speed, more arm power to carry heavier weapons or even increase overall damage resistance and health regeneration. You can also use equipment like night and infrared vision, and vehicles like jeeps and helicopters. All of this equipment and customization options will give you incredible flexibility to adjust your tactics on the fly and approach situations however you choose.
The environments not only look nice and react with realistic physics, but will be fully destructible as well. This means those rustling ferns over there are hiding an enemy, and the tree beside him can be shot down to crush him. As well, the environmental properties will change realistically as the situation changes. For example, when the aliens freeze the jungle, the formerly soft foliage will become stiff and brittle, shattering when you touch them. As well, the frozen ground will crunch loudly if you walk too fast, making stealthy approaches much more challenging. Tornadoes, landslides and earthquakes will similarly cause realistic effects on the environment ? and we can't wait to see what's in store for us in the zero-gravity levels.
Even your character's perception of the environment will change. When you're not in danger, things will look normal but when you get into an intense firefight with adrenaline making you vividly aware of your environment, the game's colors will become more saturated to reflect your hyper combat status.
The alien designs are being kept tightly under wraps since the team is trying to create a genre-defining design that no on has seen before. The one alien weapon we have seen is the massive insect-like Hunter that destroys several American warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Ashcroft. The Hunter not only looks creepy, but has a chilling scream and huge tentacles that grab and throw huge objects. Oh, and it also happens to have a really big freeze beam that you definitely do not want to get in front of.
Not much has been said about multiplayer, but expect the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch and CTF modes with up to 32 players.