GDC 06: Blown Away by Crysis

Crytek, the developer of Far Cry, is impressing the GDC crowd with an incredible tech demo of its upcoming first-person shooter.


SAN JOSE, Calif.--Two years after bursting on the scene with the acclaimed first-person shooter Far Cry, German developer Crytek is out dropping jaws once again with the first glimpse of Crysis, the company's second game. There's a technical trailer of Crysis being shown at the Game Developers Conference that is simply blowing everyone away with its visions of incredibly lush and realistic jungle combat. And this first glimpse is doubly impressive considering that Crytek seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth after signing a publishing deal with EA in 2004. Needless to say, we needed to learn more, so we were able to sit down with Cevat Yerli, the president and CEO of Crytek, to get the first details on Crysis.

The trailer shows just a few graphical effects, such as volumetric clouds and soft shadowing, but you can't help but admire the beautiful terrain on display. The first shot shows a lush jungle island from the air. Next, the camera drops you down into that jungle to show off motion blur and other effects. But then there's about 10 seconds of gameplay footage showing off incredibly lifelike jungle warfare. The music builds, and then the screen goes black to display the game title. However, the outro of the trailer shows a huge, black, spiderlike thing roaring into the camera.

Yerli told us that Crysis is a science fiction story on an epic scale, and he explained that they really wanted to do an "end of mankind" sort of story and not the typical alien-invasion story. Although the jungle setting seen in the trailer reminds us of Far Cry, Yerli said that Crysis has absolutely no ties to Far Cry and that it has an original story with strong characters. In fact, Yerli said that they felt that Far Cry had a weak story, and that's one of the things they're out to fix with Crysis.

Yerli also noted that Crysis is indeed stuffed with all the latest high-end graphical features, such as soft shadowing, depth of field (which blurs objects that are in the distance), high dynamic range lighting, per-pixel shading, and more. However, he said that the end goal isn't to stuff all these technologies in the game but rather to create something that's so immersive you won't even notice the technologies because you're so wrapped up in the experience. He also said that they asked the development team to push the envelope with lots of new ideas, and this created a lot of skepticism at first. "At the beginning when we started this, the team said, 'You're crazy,'" Yerli said. Still, they stuck to their guns, despite all the pressure to deliver results. Then he said, "After months of R&D work, suddenly it works."

Crysis will introduce concepts such as bendable and destructible foliage, which doesn't sound like much, but when you see it in action it can change the way you play the game. Yerli said that in the past, plants in games were used only as cover, and they were always static and unchanging. But in Crysis, if an enemy is hiding in tall grasses, you'll see the vegetation bend and sway, which means that you can now read the terrain to try to detect enemies. In the trailer, we saw heavy gunfire cut down a tree, and the trunk fell over realistically, which illustrates some of the realistic physics in the game. Yerli said that they've seen trees fall over and crush enemies standing in the wrong spot.

Yet Crysis promises to be far more than Far Cry with a better graphics engine. Yerli explained that the company learned many lessons about gameplay with Far Cry. As an example, he cited the introduction of mutants into Far Cry's story about halfway through the game. Up until that point, Far Cry was an intelligent shooter that let you approach the game however you wanted to. You could skulk around in the jungle, sneaking past guys. Or you could take down an armed camp using your own tactics. Once the mutants were introduced, however, Yerli said that the gameplay switched to being "reactive," just like pretty much every other shooter on the market. In other words, a bad guy suddenly appears, and you have to shoot him quickly. Obviously, the nonlinear approach was better, and so the company learned its lesson.

Crytek has also spent a lot of time rethinking multiplayer. Crysis will indeed have multiplayer gameplay, with modes such as tactical deathmatch, tactical team deathmatch, and tactical capture the flag. Yerli also hinted at an innovative new mode called power struggle, which will feature an economic system as well as a skill-based tree. Of course, Yerli said it's too early to go into details, but this mode sounds promising. Just as important, the company has rewritten the network system to be much faster and more efficient, and this should address a lot of issues that players had with Far Cry's multiplayer.

It's too early to talk about system requirements, but Yerli said that you'll probably want a pretty powerful PC to enjoy the game. While they haven't identified a target CPU, you will need a graphics card with support for shader model 2.0. With that said, he noted that Far Cry was pretty scalable on a wide variety of systems once it shipped, so we can expect the same with Crysis. The game will ship with support for both DirectX 9 and DirectX 10, the upcoming version of DirectX that will be included with Windows Vista. And while the game will certainly run well with DirectX 9, he noted that you'll probably see better performance with DirectX 10 and Windows Vista, thanks to the performance improvements Microsoft has made. When asked if Crysis would also appear on a next-generation console such as the Xbox 360, Yerli said that they were only working on a PC version.

Crysis is easily one of the best-looking games at GDC, and we're already pumped for the game. Visually, it makes Far Cry, as well as almost everything else, look incredibly dated, which is quite an accomplishment. The GDC trailer indicated that we'll be able to play Crysis at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in two months, and we're looking forward to it. Until then, we'll keep you up to date on further developments. Yerli said that we can expect the game to ship this winter.

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