Let's just get it out of the way: Yes, Crysis is a very pretty game. In fact, it is the most visually stunning game to date by no slim margin. Unfortunately, it seems developer Crytek's tireless efforts to create a game of uncompromised beauty have overshadowed everything else, leaving many to write off Crysis as just a pretty face.
But the same toil and reckless ambition that led Crytek to push video cards to their melting points has carried over into nearly every aspect of Crysis. It seems that these Germans have something to prove. It isn't enough that they surprised the world with their rookie release Far Cry, a game that stood out from the crowd with wide open gameplay set on a gorgeous tropical island.
You become so used to switching modes to respond to your situation...
Of course to get that game released, they had to sign away their rights to Ubisoft, who can now churn out all the Far Cry-branded sequels they want. For their second game, Crytek not only had to start fresh, they needed to raise the bar and rise above the franchise they created. They set their goal to make a game that was not only the best looking and most detailed game world in history, but the most interactive and dynamic, too. No compromises. Forget the console crowd, and if your video card can't handle it, you'll just have to sit this one out.
As a "spiritual successor" of sorts, Crysis incorporates some of Far Cry's signature elements. The tropical jungle is still as distinctive a setting now as it was in 2004, thanks in no small part to the fact that it's simply a very difficult type of environment to pull off. The gameplay is once again of the open-ended "sandbox" sort with levels littered with vehicles and sprawling with multiple routes. And once again, there is a sci-fi twist that becomes more and more predominant as the game goes on.
But Crysis really builds on these strengths to create something new. Not only can you freely travel through the levels by multiple routes, but you can employ wildly different strategies, thanks to Crytek's ingenious sci-fi invention, the Nanosuit.
The Nanosuit is the latest military technology in 2019. It has a limited power capacity that can be diverted to give you fantastic abilities: super strength, cloaking, super speed, and armor. Unfortunately, it can only maintain one of these modes at a time. This forces players to make choices. They can use the cloak to slip by unnoticed. They can sprint through and make a speedy escape. Or they can just flip on the armor and take on all comers.
This is further complimented by the inclusion of customizable weaponry. You can modify your weapons on the fly with silencers, laser sights, scopes, crosshairs and many other attachments, all of which can prove useful in different situations. The interface for these features is very natural, and you become so used to switching suit modes to respond to your situation it can be jarring to play another game and realize you can no longer switch things up on the fly. It's really a perfect fit for the "sandbox" feel that Crytek has been nurturing.
But while this game has a lot of tactical depth, it never once forgets that it is an action game at its core. Don't let the depth fool you, this game is not Bioshock, nor is it Ghost Recon. The action comes hot and heavy, the explosions are massive, and the opposition is unrelenting. You'll have plenty of options available to you, but you better be able to think under pressure, as it can be hard to come up with a strategy while fending off a pair of tanks and two dozen North Koreans.
Much like its predecessor, Crysis mixes things up later in the game and this will, once again, likely be the biggest point of contention for gamers. At least Crysis wisely puts its sci-fi leanings on the table from the very beginning as you encounter alien technology in the first level.
Early parts of the game have you, a U.S. Special Forces agent, rescuing hostages from the North Koreans and gathering information behind enemy lines. But when the aliens are awakened later in the game, your role changes from infiltrator to defender, and the open-ended sandbox is replaced with a wild roller-coaster of pure action. It's completely Hollywood, tons of fun, and full of jaw-dropping moments, but it doesn't pack the kind of depth or replayability that the earlier stages do.
As an action game, Crysis could be the best first-person shooter ever, blending over-the-top gunning and dazzling pyrotechnics with enough freedom to make you feel like the cunning badass you always wanted to be. It's an immensely satisfying, richly detailed experience that raises the bar for all the other shooters hoping to crank the intensity up. It's everything a shooter should be.