The atmosphere, visual effects and story telling: these key features are so strong, that you fill forget the rest.
Cryostasis takes you to the journey inside a nuclear, Lenin class, ice breaker that got smashed into an iceberg and it's whole crew eventually died. You find this lost ship cruising with your dog pack around, in the middle of the frozen arctic wasteland, and eventually decide to check the ship out, and find out what happened. This is where i really can't tell more, because the whole beauty of the game is it's fantastic story line, that you will have find out for yourself.
So now that you know, that you will be "living" inside the ice breaker, you will feel the full fury and brilliance of the arctic atmosphere. Like so many action shooters try to center the gameplay formula about surviving foes and accomplishing some known objectives, this game, differently, focuses the gameplay around surviving the COLD, and searching for the unknown. Of course you will encounter foes and get to perform defined tasks, but that is secondary. If nothing else, this game is the closest action-adventure first person shooter to be compared to a survival horror game, because of the gameplay and atmosphere. Untraditional is the health bar in this game, as it depletes your health whenever you are affected by the cold, and you will be affected by the cold almost all of the time! This is like a nightmare place to be, where the very first thing you will want to do is find a warm place to restore your health and stamina - and that will be your keys to survival. Typically your health will deplete to the lowest level, but you will be still alive. This way, for the most part of the game, you will always be weak and extremely exposed to any hazard physical threat from enemies. Of course that will make you tense and nervous, because any stupid mistake or a hit from a foe - and you are dead! So imagine the relief when you will find a warm place to restore your health and stamina - as soon as you will pump-up, you will want to use your temporary feats to perform tasks and achieve quick results, being it killing a bunch of foes or fixing something - things, those would be impossible in your most miserable frozen state. So yes, the foes in this game are... Zombies. Eventually that is the only logical thing, as all the dead crew of the ship will arise from the frozen ashes of their doom and make you whole with them. Encounters with zombies are graduating in the way that they deliver the atmospheric impact, but those encounters are definitely not orientated into aspects of combat beauty. Another important aspect of the surrounding atmosphere is the ship itself: you will constantly have to solve puzzles, those for for the most part will be related to ship mechanics. Many of those puzzles you will have to solve through the dead bodies found around: one of the gameplay elements of this game is "to get inside" the minds of the dead bodies and experience their past, which eventually led to a problem that you are facing now. Solving those "mind puzzles" in the past will fix the present... This game is quite psychedelic, and eventually it will drag you from reality to another time/dimension, where the final acts will take place.
However, for the main part Cryostasis will feel like a real game, and all of the objects and surroundings will feel real: there won't be any fantasy type structures or weapons, everything like in real life and even more rudimentary than you would think, since you are in a Soviet ship, that has been frozen since 1968 and the whole adventure in it will feel like a forever going 1968..
The atmosphere would be nothing without graphics and sounds. This game is like a benchmark for nvidia Physx, because it has the most intense particle flow and effects, made up to that time and it's visual purity of what can be defined as frozen structures, ice, wind, snow and water is something, for which the game will be remembered. The game, being so atmospheric and close to a survival horror game has great sound effects, and it wold be ridiculous if it had not them.
However, like a golden rule, with great features there also come shortcomings. Suffice to say that this game will leave everyone thinking why his high-end graphics card, that whoops some 30 FPS in Crysis, simply sucks at this game. It is true - the game is simply unbalanced in terms of performance/visuals. The thing is, although graphics are very nicely done in many things, the game is surely not in the level of Crysis, although close, but it lags so much worse, that you just have to turn off those beautiful features, which make the game so famous. That is the game's main problem. I was horoused by the fact that my GTX280 could not handle this game with shadows and Physx particles set to max. Also the general pace of the game is quite slow, and it takes a while to get things working, but this i can forgive due to the fact, that it is actually meant to be so, because the game takes place in Antarctica, and everything is frozen around. Actually it would be pretty stupid, if you could run around like a monkey in this game, so please pay attention to this fact, readers, and don't criticize the game for it's slow pace.
Not everyone likes fast paced tactical shooters like Crysis, and i am not even talking about fast paced "kill everything that moves" shooters like Quake games, but when it comes to slow and methodical gameplay, with a strategy of survival and intelligent story telling, this game falls in the category as one of the strongest.