Crysis is a game that, at this point, needs little introduction. Crytek's upcoming PC first-person shooter has been one of the most hotly anticipated games of the last couple of years, and given the pedigree of the developer's previous shooter, Far Cry, that anticipation is quite deserved. At E3 2007, Crytek is on hand at Electronic Arts' booth at Barker Hangar to show Crysis in playable form. This is the first time that a complete level has been playable to the press, so we were eager to get our grubby little hands on it.
We'll forgo detailed plot exposition at this point, since most people have undoubtedly picked up quite a bit of that in our previous coverage of the game. For those unaware, the quick-and-dirty synopsis is that you're a super soldier in a high-tech soldier suit that's been plopped down on a tropical island that is reportedly the site of some manner of alien invasion. However, you're not alone. The North Korean army has rolled in as well, and you'll have to simultaneously fight them off, as well as deal with the alien threat.
The aforementioned aliens weren't shown in the demo we played, as the level on display is the very first one in the game. You've just touched down on the island and are essentially left to your own devices at the outset. The HUD presents you with a radar screen in the bottom-left corner, but initially it shows a lot of static, as the North Koreans have set up a jamming tower. You don't have to do it, but you can run in and destroy that tower as your first objective.
Before doing that, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with your suit and weapons. Your suit comes equipped with some nifty futuristic technologies. By clicking in the mouse wheel button, you'll bring up a display that lets you choose from five different options: strength, speed, cloak, shield, and weapon mods. Some of these are fairly self-explanatory. Speed gives you a speed boost, cloak gives you a Predator-esque cloaking shield, and strength increases the amount of damage you do in hand-to-hand combat, as well as increases the accuracy of your shooting. Strength in particular is rather amusing, as you can throw objects and enemies farther when you grab them. You can even toss a bleeding enemy into the ocean a good distance, and if a shark happens to be swimming around the world, it'll attack the prone enemy.
Weapon mods allow you to add multiple add-ons to your various guns. For instance, on the default assault rife, you could add in a variety of laser and sniper scopes. According to Crytek, with the exception of one weapon, you'll be able to add between three and five mods to each weapon you pick up.
Enough about that: on to the action. One of the things Crytek has talked up a great deal is how much freedom you have while playing Crysis. Though mission objectives are fairly linear, you can approach every area and objective a number of different ways. Over the course of our time with the demo, we got to see a number of different approaches, from running-and-gunning it, to playing through stealthily. It struck us that a more cautious approach tends to yield the least amount of player death, though that doesn't mean you'll be screwed if you want to play aggressively. This is a game that rewards those that scope out their surroundings.
And you'll need to, too, because if the opening level was any indication, you'll be dealing with loads of enemy soldiers. They're pretty smart, too. As we trekked through the beach, we encountered a wide variety of tactics from the enemies we encountered. Some came straight at us, guns blazing; some turned tail and ran when their cohorts were dead; and many chose to use any form of cover they could, ducking behind buildings, rocks, boxes, barrels, and anything else around. Of course, many of these cover points can be destroyed with liberal gunfire, so the landscape of what you and the enemies use as cover changes radically as fights go on. Save for a few minor hiccups, the enemy AI struck us as quite intelligent and formidable, even though we were admittedly playing on a lower difficulty level.
Much of our time with the demo involved encounters with pockets of enemies, and figuring out how to best deal with them. If you get into a minor skirmish with a couple of enemies, and don't immediately deal with all of them, one may get away and signal for reinforcements. How those reinforcements come will totally vary depending on the situation. An enemy might send up a flare, and infantry and jeeps with mounted guns might come. An enemy might just start flailing his arms out toward the ocean, and gunboats could arrive on the scene. Firefights in a semi-open space like the beach vary wildly from fights in tight, enclosed spaces inside buildings.
Throughout the game, you'll have the opportunity to try out vehicles as well. You'll be able to drive jeeps, trucks, and even the aforementioned gunboats around the environments. If you prefer just crashing onto the scene and wreaking havoc, these are definitely a good way to go. You can run down enemies, or fire at them using mounted weapons or your own rifles. Just make sure nobody shoots your gas tank while you're driving around. That would be, in a word, unfortunate.
Oh, and by the way, the game looks pretty hot too. Far Cry was an extremely impressive looking game, but Crysis looks like it's going to put it a good bit to shame. It's difficult to pick out any one, specific thing that stands out--everything is just so sharp and crisp-looking. Walking around the beach, just looking down at the sand is enough to impress. But then you've got rocks, and plants, and buildings, and vehicles, and everything else to look at too. It's all beautiful-looking scenery that rarely fails to impress. Even enemies look fantastic, both as they duck and weave around the environments as you fire on them, and especially when you smoke them. Of course, all this beauty does tax on PC performance. Good chunks of the game ran quite smoothly for us, though some of the more intense firefights and sections involving explosions and smoke effects hammered the frame rate during our demo period. Hopefully Crytek will be able to tighten that up some before the game ships late this year.
The good news is that everything else about our time with the game felt extremely solid. Combat was energetic and satisfying, the game is a joy to look at, and the multitude of possible ways to attack each level sounds like it'll give the single-player campaign some legs. Of course there's also multiplayer features to consider, though sadly, none of that was on display today. Hopefully we'll be able to take a look at that stuff as well as much more of Crysis before its release date. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more on Crysis in the coming weeks.