Crysis is the textbook definition of a next-generation game. Picturesque beaches? Check. Ridiculously detailed jungles? Check. Utterly drinkable water effects? Check. Requires a computer from the future? Check. Crysis is either a game from the future that managed to travel back in time to warn us about nanosuits and North Koreans as interpreted though a cleverly disguised shooter, or it's just ahead of its time. Our best test computers, outfitted with high-end CPUs and GPUs, struggled to maintain frame rates at the game's highest-quality settings. Suffice it to say, you will need to upgrade your computer for Crysis.
We used Crysis' two built-in benchmarks as our primary frame rate tests. The GPU benchmark performs a flyby over the island, gliding over many of the game's watery locales. The CPU benchmark takes a more destructive approach and has the character hurling grenades and firing rockets at every single structure and vehicle in sight, taxing the CPU with the resulting carnage. All results are the average of three test runs.
Expect to relax some of the game settings you're accustomed to enabling in other games when playing Crysis. We went through each game setting and figured out which settings affect performance and graphics quality the most. Take a look at the comparison screenshots to determine which settings are worth keeping.
The minimum specs for Crysis call for a GeForce 6800. The game will run on a 6800, but it won't be pretty. We went ahead and tested more than 20 video cards to see how the game performed under three different operating systems, including Windows XP, Windows Vista 32-bit, and Windows Vista 64-bit.
Crysis likes multicore processors. It doesn't care how many there are, or even how fast they are, as long as you have at least two cores. However, if you're chugging along on a single-core processor, you might want to look into getting a new CPU.
We broke out the memory sticks and tested Crysis to see how the game performed with varying amounts of memory across Windows XP, Window Vista 32-bit, and Windows Vista 64-bit.
SystemsWe put together a few sample systems to show how the game performs using real-world computers put together with parts from past hardware generations. Our slowest machine, a 3.0GHz Pentium 4 paired with a GeForce 6800, barely managed to run the game at the lowest settings. Our single-core AMD Athlon 64 4000+ paired with a Radeon X1650 XT performed adequately at low resolution with medium-quality settings. The dual-core Athlon 64 FX-60 paired with the Radeon X1900 XT 256MB managed to run the game with high-quality settings at somewhat playable frame rates. Our Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz and GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB system could run the game at high quality, but we had to reduce the screen resolution to boost frame rates. Our best dual-core rig, the Intel Core 2 Duo 2.93GHz and GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB setup, managed to run the game decently at 1600x1200 with high-quality settings.
System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel Core 2 E6600, Intel 975XBX2, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, XFX GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB XXX Edition, beta Nvidia ForceWare 169.04.
Athlon 64 FX-60, Athlon 64 4000+, Asus A8R32 MVP Deluxe, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card:Radeon X1900 XT 256MB, Radeon X1650 XT 256MB, ATI Catalyst 7.10.
Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz, Asus P4C800, 1GB Corsair XMS Memory (512MB x 2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Card: GeForce 6800 128MB, beta Nvidia ForceWare 169.04.
Crysis has four basic preset quality settings: low, medium, high, and very high. The first three settings are available in Windows XP, but you'll need Windows Vista to access the very high quality setting. If you're willing to fiddle with a few files, it's not too difficult to get those settings working in Windows XP. But you probably wouldn't want to play the game with very high quality settings, as it's far too demanding for today's video cards, so it's not a huge lockout.
When it comes to individual settings, pay close attention to the shader, object, and shadow quality settings. The shader quality setting does wonders for Crysis' graphics, but every notch up slashes frame rate performance. You'll want to keep shaders as high as possible to have the game looking its best, but be prepared to lower it to keep frame rates playable. The object quality setting determines the quality and quantity of everything in the game--plant matter, bullet decals, corpses, and rocks. You can dial this setting back to reclaim some performance without a noticeable decrease in image quality, but don't reduce settings too far unless you want to transform the jungles into barren plains. Shadows take their usual toll on performance. Go ahead and set shadows to medium to achieve an acceptable balance between shadows and frame rates. Crysis doesn't really have "low quality shadows," as setting them to low simply disables them.
The Nvidia 169.04 drivers have a minor graphical downgrade that slightly increases performance in the 32-bit version of the game. We renamed the Crysis executables to disable the downgrade in our video card comparisons, but we did not rerun the settings tests with the file edits due to time constraints and the fact that we're not comparing different cards in these settings tests.
System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GTX, Nvidia ForceWare 169.04.
Image ComparisonMouse over each caption to change images.
Preset Quality Settings
Object Quality Settings
Shader Quality Settings
Image Comparison ContinuedMouse over each image caption to change images.
Shadow Quality Settings
Texture Quality Settings
Water Quality Settings
Crysis Video Cards
It's clear that Crytek had next-generation video cards in mind when it developed Crysis. Unless you pair up two of the very best video cards money can buy, nothing from this generation of video cards comes close to providing playable frame rates when running the game at a high resolution with maximum settings. Of the four overall quality settings, the top very-high-quality setting will challenge even the most powerful video cards of this generation. Fortunately, high quality still looks superb, and you don't need a King Kong of a video card to run Crysis at high quality, although you might have to compromise on resolution.
Our GeForce 8800 GTX barely managed to run the Crysis GPU benchmark with a playable level of performance at 1600x1200 with high quality settings. If you have a high-resolution LCD monitor, prepare to play at lower, nonnative resolutions or reduce the graphics quality settings down to medium or low. You'll likely need a dual-card setup to get the game running well at high resolution with good image quality. The only problem with dual-card systems is that many games either don't support multiple video cards or have mediocre support on release day. Our GeForce 8800 GTX SLI setup managed to put up impressive numbers, but our ATI CrossFire setups crashed the game. We expect multicard support to improve in the coming weeks.
We ran the SLI setup using the latest Nvidia drivers, version 169.09. For the rest of the Nvidia GPUs, we used the 169.04 drivers and changed the name of the Crysis executable to counteract the graphical downgrade that increased performance. Due to time constraints, we were not able to retest all of our single-card results using the new driver. Nvidia representatives assured us that single-card performance did not change significantly between the two driver versions.
We also tested Crysis on Windows XP, Windows Vista 32-bit, and Windows Vista 64-bit to see how performance varied across different operating systems. (Yes, Windows XP still wins.)
[Update, 11/15/07]: AMD has just released its ATI Radeon HD 3800 Series cards. You can find ATI Radeon HD 3870 and HD 3950 Crysis performance results in our new
System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, eVGA 680i SLI, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2. Graphics Cards: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, GeForce 8800 GT 512MB, GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB, XFX GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB XXX Edition, GeForce 8600 GTS 256MB, GeForce 8600 GT 256MB, GeForce 7900 GS 256MB, GeForce 7600 GT 256MB, GeForce 6800 128MB, GeForce 6600GT 128MB, Radeon HD 2900 XT 512MB, Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB, Radeon HD 2600 Pro 256MB, Radeon HD 2400 XT 256MB, Radeon X1950 XTX 512MB, Radeon X1900 XT 256MB, Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB, Radeon X1650 XT 256MB, Radeon X1300 XT 256MB. Graphics Drivers: beta Nvidia ForceWare 169.04, beta Nvidia Forceware 169.09, ATI Catalyst 7.10
We used the built-in Crysis CPU benchmark to see how the game performed across a broad range of CPUs. We also ran the game on the same CPU but set at different frequencies to see how much clock speeds affected performance. The Intel Core 2 CPUs ran Crysis with ease, and our dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2 processors also performed quite well--they did take a minor performance hit but still maintained playable frame rates. Our older single-core Athlon 64 4000+ lagged behind the other processors by a considerable amount. The CPU becomes less of a bottleneck when we bump up the graphical complexity. If you have a single-core processor you should definitely consider upgrading to a multicore. However, if you already have a dual-core CPU, you probably won't gain very much by moving up to a quad-core CPU.
System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel Core 2 QX6600 Intel Core 2 Duo E6600, Intel Core 2 Duo E6300, Intel 975XBX2, AMD Athlon 64 FX-60, AMD Athlon 64 4000+, ASUS A8R32-MVP Deluxe, 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows Vista 32-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GTX, beta Nvidia ForceWare 169.09.
The Crysis system requirements list recommends 1GB of RAM in Windows XP and 1.5GB of RAM in Windows Vista. These recommendations ring true for the most part. We didn't experience any adverse affects from running our systems with 1GB of RAM aside from slightly longer load times. Frame rates didn't increase when we moved up the ladder to two and then three gigabytes of RAM.
System Setup: Intel Core 2 X6800, Intel 975XBX2, 3GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2 + 512MBx2), 2GB Corsair XMS Memory (1GBx2), Corsair XMS Memory 1GB, 1GB Corsair XMS Memory (512MBx2), 160GB Seagate 7200.7 SATA Hard Disk Drive, Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows Vista 32-bit, Windows Vista 64-bit. Graphics Card: GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB, Nvidia ForceWare 169.04.