The first-person shooter genre could be in for a very big wake-up call when Crysis debuts. The sophomore effort from Germany's Crytek is one of the biggest games on the horizon, thanks to the impressive screen shots released thus far and the reputation the company has earned from the superb Far Cry. As we covered in our last preview, the designers at Crytek want to create a game with a story that's as flexible and advanced as the cutting-edge graphics engine that powers it. In other words, you'll be able to go through the game in different ways instead of experiencing a rigidly linear storyline like that found in so many other first-person shooter campaigns. However, another goal of the design team is to create a believable and dynamic environment to battle in. The graphics in Crysis aren't just there for eye candy, as the game's physics engine means that everything behaves like it should, even when the conditions change drastically. Please note: this preview story may contain minor spoilers of some of the story elements in Crysis.
In Crysis, you'll play as Jake Dunn, a member of a US Special Forces team that is sent to a remote Pacific island after a mysterious object lands on it. Unfortunately, the North Korean military secures the island first, so your mission will be to infiltrate and investigate what's going on. However, you'll quickly discover that events will spiral dangerously out of control, as the meteor is actually an extraterrestrial spacecraft full of aliens that don't want us to take them to our leader. Instead, they want to wipe us out.
When you first arrive on the island, you'll discover a tropical paradise not unlike that seen in Far Cry. Giant palms sway in the wind, the sun burns brightly in the sky, and the jungle can be used for concealment from the North Korean soldiers who patrol the island. The first chapter of the game will require you to participate in what could best be described as guerilla warfare. You'll recon the island, choosing to ambush or bypass North Korean forces. This part of the game should feel quite a bit like Far Cry, Crytek's first game. Far Cry also had you crawling around a jungle while ambushing (and being ambushed by) foes, and one of the cool features about that game was that you could choose how you navigated through the gigantic levels. You could blitz your way across and engage enemies in a running firefight, or you could take the long way around and remain invisible.
This all changes when the aliens finally announce their presence by flash freezing the island. The designers told us that they went through hundreds of designs for the single alien race, with the goal of creating something truly alien. While the aliens themselves remain a mystery for now, we do know that their goal is to turn Earth into a frozen world, and that's why they're messing with the global weather system. Their first step, however, is to freeze the island that you'll be fighting on.
In a lot of games, "frozen" usually means that the ground textures are painted white instead of brown to convey the sense of snow. Otherwise, not much else has changed in those games. That's not going to be the case in Crysis. Thanks to the game's impressive physics engine, the cold will have significant effects on the gameplay, as well as the tactics that you'll want to employ to survive.
For one, the lush jungle that you battled in during the first chapter in the game is now frozen. That changes the properties of the vegetation, and branches will no longer bend if you brush by them. Previously, you could detect an enemy by observing how the vegetation in the distance reacts to their passage, but now that won't be the case. Even worse, frozen objects have a tendency to shatter, so the environment is suddenly a lot more brittle--and harder to sneak around in because of the noisy shattering ice--than before.
You'll also discover that some of your weapons and equipment won't work as well as before, since mechanical items tend to have problems when dealing with brutally cold temperatures. This may require you to adapt your tactics to using what works. Thankfully, the aliens, being cold-lovers, have an aversion to fire, so it makes sense that you'll want to rely on incendiary weapons to take them on.
The aliens use cold as a weapon, as well. They may attempt to ice you with their freeze ray. You'll become frozen in place if you're hit by the ray, and you'll see the ice build up around your body. Thankfully, you have your state-of-the-art nano suit to help you break out of the ice. The nano suit can be configured to your tactical needs. If you need to move faster, you can dump power into the suit's speed to get a boost. If you need more strength to move a heavy object, lift a heavy weapon, or shatter ice, then direct the suit's power to augment your strength. This flexibility means that you can tackle different tactical situations in a number of ways. You could stick around and fight it out or try and flee to escape your pursuers.
Of course, your tactics will have to change again when you get to the final part of the game, which takes place in zero gravity. This happens after you battle your way to the aliens' vessel and discover that it has some exotic properties. Unfortunately, that's all Crytek was willing to tell us, as the rest of the final chapter is remaining a tightly kept secret for now. Still, it's clear that Crysis is a game that will keep you on your toes, as your tactics will need to adapt to all the different environments the game throws at you. Crysis is scheduled to ship this winter.