The basics: The year is 2019, and North Korea still hasn't gotten any nicer. So when a colossal asteroid crash lands on a nearby island chain, they're quick to seal off the area, and claim any discoveries for themselves. What they find is a massive alien spacecraft concealed within a rock cocoon, and when it cracks it unleashes an immense wave of cold that freezes much of the island, and alters weather conditions for the worse on a global scale. Now it's up to an elite team of Delta Force operatives to side with the Korean forces against this out of this world menace, and sent it back home in a bag.
Crysis is the semi-sequel to awe-inspiring Farcry. It has everything you've come to expect from a first person shooter, with a diverse weapon selection, a collection of vehicles on land, sea, and air to master, thirty two person multiplayer for intense online warfare, and a complete set of modding tools to create levels for both single and multiplayer. It also shows off real-time weapon and armor customization, a frighteningly unique alien race, a dynamic world where landslides and earthquakes can really ruin your day, and a branching storyline where the player's actions have a real effect on future events. However, what's most important is what Crysis has under the hood.
The new CryEngine2 supports thick volumetric cloud formations, illuminated in real-time and casting soft shadows on anything below. It also provides the most realistic lighting solution ever seen in a game, without devouring all of your PC's processor clicks. Of course, lighting is only as good as the shadow it makes, and in this engine all objects will cast pixel-accurate soft shadows, according to the natural diffusion of the primary light source. What it boils down to is most visually realistic game ever made.
The short sample of Crysis shown at so far proved the next generation of First Person Shooters wasn't tied only to the images. It showcased destructible vegetation, soft vegetation blending, high-dynamic range rendering, sub surface scattering, advanced physics models, and a heck of a lot of high powered gun play. Yet this was only a tiny taste of Crysis and CryEngine2 have to offer. Crytek will be serving up a full course next generation banquet coming at E3, and of course we'll be there to get our fill of the goodness until they kick us out of the place.
What do we think? Secretly, every videogame reviewer is waiting for the day when games become so photorealistic and indistinguishable from reality that people will just stay plugged into them twenty four hours a day. Then they'll be able to spend all their time playing games without having to waste time writing a single word about them.
I knew the day was coming. I just didn't expect it to happen so soon.
Farcry was a game known more for its revolutionary engine than anything else. While most FPS titles were showing off detailed interiors with spooky lighting, its lush tropical island setting was a welcome change, with everything from foliage that felt damp to an oppressive sun overhead that made the sand glimmer and the water gleam like a postcard from the Bahamas. I was never very good at the game since I kept getting shot in the head while I was trying to admire the scenery.
Though even Farcry came across as a little too "clean" to be mistaken for reality. The human eye doesn't perceive everything with crystal clarity. CryEngine2 has a depth of field solution that dynamically scales the focus for seamless transitions, even while you're rushing though the jungle in the midst of an alien onslaught. Another thing a bit too perfect is any object in motion. When Jet Li slams his fist into the gut of a thug, the blur of the movement helps for you to feel the impact, which is why a videogame version of the same always feels a bit floaty and unrealistic. In the quest for "Video Realism," Crytek has created a motion blur that lets you feel the speed of that bone-crunching strike. The advanced AI won't make it easy for you though, using real military tactics to keep your on your toes, while allies will help you to keep from losing your toes.
Admittedly, Crytek is making some very big promises with their next generation first person shooter, though if they manage to keep even a two thirds of their promises, Crysis will be the new benchmark for realism and immersion that the entire genre will be judged on, as Farcry was before it. I can't wait to chill with it at E3.