LEIPZIG, Germany--We've seen a fair bit of Crysis recently, what with our visit to Crytek's offices in Frankfurt and everything. What we hadn't seen anything of until today, though, was the game's multiplayer component, which we dutifully waited in line for at the 2006 Games Convention, after a meeting in which Crytek showed us some of the recently implemented features.
In case you haven't been following our previous coverage of the game, Crysis (like Far Cry before it) is set on a beautiful tropical island where things aren't nearly as peaceful as they might first appear. In Far Cry mutants were the problem. In Crysis it's North Koreans...oh, and aliens who travel down to Earth on some kind of asteroid and flash-freeze a good portion of the game's tropical paradise in the process. The secret to success in Crysis, at least according to the senior game designer that we met with, is that you must "adapt to survive." This not only means that you should carefully plan your attacks on enemies rather than running in with guns blazing, but also refers to the fact that both your weapons and your high-tech nanosuit are customizable.
Tinkering with your nanosuit's energy-consumption settings, for example, will give you an opportunity to augment your speed, your strength, or your armor (which also determines your health-regeneration rate--there are no first-aid kits in the game) at the expense of other attributes for extended periods of time. Weapons in Crysis are even more customizable, since most of them boast interchangeable scopes, silencers, grenades, and ammo types, among other things. All of these customizations can be handled without interrupting the action in any significant way, and we were told that with practice you could even customize your weapon in the middle of a gunfight.
When changing a weapon's configuration on the move, you'll see the gun held up at an angle on the screen, and all of the components that can be swapped out will be highlighted so that you can click on them with your mouse cursor. The most exciting optional extra that we got to see during our single-player demo was the tactical ammo, which lodges itself under the skin of your target without alerting them until you choose to detonate it. You'll be able to fire off multiple rounds before pushing the button, so although shooting a guard out in the open and only letting him die when he's concealed from his colleagues might be useful, shooting the whole crowd and then watching them fall to the ground simultaneously promises to be downright entertaining.
The level that dominated our single-player demonstration was set in a jungle location that you'll explore when you're about a third of the way through the game. North Korean enemies were scattered all over the expansive locale, and in the distance, the sphere of freezing ice surrounding the alien asteroid (or vessel?) was clearly visible. The Crytek employee demonstrating the game had a god mode turned on and so, because he was invincible, he spent most of his time running and gunning like a madman (to show off how impressively destructive the whole environment is), rather than giving any thought to his visibility and audibility as you would if you were attempting to sneak up on enemies. Trees fell to the ground convincingly and vehicles on which every component sustained damage individually became fireballs shortly after their fuel tanks were hit.
As impressive as the destruction was, it looked very ordinary compared to what we got to see next: a simulation of what Crytek hopes Crysis will look like when played using DirectX 10. To try to describe just how impressive the simulation looked with mere words seems a futile gesture, but know that everything had realistic physics (this was especially noticeable in the leaves of palm trees when they were toppled), that the resulting smoke and dust particles in the air shifted with gusts of wind, and that the shafts of light coming down through the jungle canopy showed off these effects quite beautifully. It doesn't seem like much of a stretch to say that comparing the DX9 and DX10 (simulated) versions would be akin to comparing Xbox and Xbox 360 versions of the same game; the simulation really looked that good.
When our meeting with Crytek ended, we headed down to Electronic Arts' main booth, where a long line of people were waiting to get their hands on one of Crysis' team-based multiplayer modes for the first time. After almost an hour of standing in line, we finally made it to the front, and after just another 30 minutes or so (a server had to be restarted because the game's performance was causing some concern), we were invited to grab a mouse and keyboard and jump into a four-on-four multiplayer game.
Since German isn't our first language, we're not entirely sure what our team's objective was, but we can tell you that the map we played on appeared to be a large island designed for far more than eight players, and that while the North Korean players spawned inside a barracks, the US players started out aboard a moored submarine. We can also tell you that a vehicle factory in between the two spawn sites, which there were numerous different paths to, appeared to be the map's main choke point. Onscreen messages alerting us to the presence of any players entering the factory suggest that our goal might have been to secure it, but we hardly needed to know why we were on the island to have fun racking up headshots against the enemy. Those headshots were worth 10 prestige points each, incidentally, though right now we really have no clue what the significance of those is.
Despite the fact that we were among the first to play after the server restart, the game's performance varied quite wildly at times. When the frame rate was smooth, Crysis' visuals were a feast for the eyes, but when the game started stuttering or freezing up for two or three seconds at a time, we'd quite happily have sacrificed some graphical bells and whistles for a smoother gameplay experience. These issues aren't likely to hamper the finished game, of course, and having enjoyed a brief taste of what it offers right now, we can't wait to see what else Crytek has in store for us later this year.