LOS ANGELES--Crysis could very well be the best-looking game at E3, on any system. The next first-person shooter from Germany's CryTek and publisher EA looks like it will define what next-generation visuals really means, thanks to its incredible graphics. And the good news for PC gamers is that Crysis is a Windows exclusive, which means that it's only for the PC.
Executive producer Rob Letts gave us a tour of two levels on display, both showing real gameplay. We got another chance to see the incredible battle against an alien Hunter, a huge, mechanical walking tank that's seen at the end of some of the Crysis trailers. Be careful--don't read further if you don't want spoilers to the plot.
According to Letts, the game has three acts. The first deals with a mysterious asteroid that crashes to Earth on a remote Pacific island. The impact didn't vaporize the island, so something strange is going on. Unfortunately, the North Koreans get there first and seal off the island, and you're a member of a US Special Forces team that parachutes onto the island to investigate. The first act is characterized by tense jungle warfare against the North Koreans.
The second act occurs after the asteroid opens up, revealing itself to be an alien vessel. The vessel somehow flash freezes the surrounding jungle, turning it into a frozen paradise, and changing the nature of the game, the environments, and the opponents. It is during this act that you are returned to the aircraft carrier that is your home base, and it is here where the aliens attack with the Hunter.
The third act sounds like it'll be kept a surprise for now, but the first two acts both look and sound incredible, from what we saw. Crysis will support both DirectX 9 and DirectX 10, which means that you can run it on a Windows XP PC, as well as an upcoming Windows Vista PC. You'll get the absolute best graphics with a Vista machine, but DirectX 9 still will look good. The version of the game we saw was using a DirectX 9 machine "simulating" DirectX10 by brute force, and it looked amazing. The battle against the Hunter is incredibly realized, and the lighting and particle effects are unmatched in any game that we've seen. There's also a very cool object-based motion blur effect that Letts told has only previously been seen in CGI animated movies, but now it's in a game.
We also got to see a jungle level, where you must battle North Koreans to get close to the asteroid. The jungle graphics are jaw-dropping, and features such as destructible and interactive foliage bring the game to life to an incredible degree. Bullets affect individual leaves, or the jet wash from the transport aircraft sends waves through the jungle foliage. You can cut down trees with bullets, and Letts said that the designers were directly inspired by that famous scene in the movie Predator, in which one of the commandos grabs a chaingun and mows down an acre of jungle. True to that, we saw a similar effect in Crysis, as the character manned a heavy machine gun and started chopping down trees with hot streams of lead.
Just as impressive as the graphics, though, is the dynamic gameplay that the designers are gunning for. Crysis just won't be another pretty, mindless shooter. Far Cry showed that CryTek could make excellent gameplay, and Crysis looks to elevate that higher. You will have a true option to go with stealth or action to get through a level. It's possible to sneak around or battle your way through. Meanwhile, you'll constantly be making tactical decisions thanks to your character's special nano suit. The idea is that you can divert the suit's power to different systems to give you more strength or more speed. If you're battling the Hunter, you may want to drop the heavy Hurricane chaingun and dump power into speed, and that way you'll move a lot faster, letting you dodge the Hunter's freeze ray. If you're caught in the ray, you can divert power to strength to let you break out of the ice faster. You'll pretty much be able to tailor the game to your playing style, which sounds cool.
Crysis looks incredible, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking game at E3. The game is scheduled to ship this winter, and that may be 2006 or 2007. It just depends on when CryTek can finish the game to its high standards.