It’s easy to forget that Crysis was a game. Somewhere between the sorrowful cries of “My computer overheated just trying to look at screenshots,” and the smug “Well, my computer ran Crysis perfectly at full detail,” (you know who you are, and I hate you) the fact that Crysis was more than a staggeringly beautiful tech demo – or, indeed, computer benchmarking tool – was often overlooked.
No more. The unbelievable has happened: Crysis is now on consoles, and if you listen carefully, you may detect the faint sound of oinking in the skies above.
This comes with some trade-offs. Crysonsole (as I’ll refrain from calling the game for the sake of good taste) isn’t quite the graphical powerhouse it is on PC, some of the functions have been necessarily rejigged to adapt the controls to a gamepad, and there a couple of missing elements. How much these changes will annoy you depends, I suspect, on whether you played it on PC.
However, the game itself appears to be mostly identical to its PC forebear. You still play expert gun-shooter Nomad, sent (with a team of equally expert gun-shooters) to an island excavation site which has been attacked by North Koreans. You shoot, smash, and stealth your way through a variety of jungle-based environments in an attempt to rescue the hostages and find out what was so important about this excavation. And then: aliens!
Vaguely interesting sci-fi fluff, basically, told with a reasonable amount of flair, but I don’t think anyone ever picked up Crysis on the strength of its dramatics. Graphics aside, the real star of the show was the freeform manner in which you could tackle each of the obstacles the game threw in your path.
Crysis was the spiritual successor to Far Cry, and that comes through loud and clear even now. While not open-world, most of the levels give you the freedom to approach your enemies however you liked. If you want to skirt around the edges of a canyon and avoid patrols, you can; if you’d rather steal a jeep and drive, whooping, into the middle of an enemy outpost, you can. Or you can mix the two and play Predator, lurking in the jungle and picking off foes, unseen, one by one.
This is aided by the on-the-fly customisation on offer. The player character has a “nanosuit”, which can switch, at will, between different modes emphasising different abilities. Speed massively increases running speed; Stealth turns the suit translucent; Armour makes you harder to kill; Strength gives you massive jumping power and the ability to throw people through destructible buildings. Only one can be enabled at a time and power drains quickly, so short periods of superhuman power are balanced out with short periods of vulnerable recharging. There’s weapon customisation, too; most guns can be kitted out with silencers, scopes, and other attachments of various kinds. You can very much tailor your kit the way you like it.
That’s how it works for the most part, anyway. Once the game enters into its closing third all of this goes completely out the window as aliens turn up and the game switches from an open-ish stealth-shooter into a linear, and slightly dull, FPS. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if it weren’t for the fact that it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as what came before, and – while not bad, for the most part – it’s certainly inadequate by comparison.
So, what’s new for the console version? Well, the only real “addition” is to the way the nanosuit functions. No longer do you switch between each mode manually; they’re now, by and large, context-sensitive. Armor and Stealth are bound to the LB and RB buttons, respectively, while the rest activate as you need them. If you run with no other mode active, you go into Speed. If you run while Armour’s up, then you just run. Likewise, to perform a Strength jump, you simply hold down the jump button a bit longer and – if you have the energy for it – you’ll leap a few metres higher than usual.
The system works well enough – the PC’s manual mode-switching took a bit of time to get used to and this is a lot less finicky. The downside is that the game loses some of its extra abilities: you can’t, for instance, run while conserving energy, nor can you switch to Strength to get an accuracy boost. Again, though, this is only going to cause issues if you’ve played the PC version already. It’s streamlined, for better or worse. (It was apparently also streamlined in Crysis 2, but I can’t say how similar that is – I didn’t play it. My computer overheated just trying to look at screenshots.)
That’s the only major tweak that I noted – barring the addition of 3D, which I’m afraid I can’t test – but there are a few removals. First – and probably most important – is the complete lack of multiplayer. None at all. It’s all gone. I can think of a variety of reasons as to why this might be, but that’s really neither here nor there: the point is that, if you shell out your £15, you’re paying for a single-player game. This doesn’t really bother me as Crysis’ multiplayer was never particularly spectacular anyway, but it’s something that deserves noting.
The other removal is, uh, Ascension. As in, the penultimate level of the game. This is of absolutely no loss whatsoever because that level was a frustrating coil of arse-drippings in which players smashed a VTOL aircraft into everything from canyons to tornadoes, repeatedly, while getting shot to hell.
My only real complaint with the removal of this level is that, sadly, the rest of the alien levels remain in the game. For the blissfully uninitiated, Crysis’ aliens are the most annoying extraterrestrials since Jar Jar Binks – except that trying to kill him might be entertaining. I’ll remain as vague as possible to avoid spoilers but I should add that the zero-gravity sections don’t control particularly well on a pad, and the fact that “use” is the same button as “reload” means that trying to grab aliens generally resulted in my reloading a gun and getting smacked in the face.
The technical fidelity of the port is generally high. It’s not quite as nice as the PC version – there’s some noticeable pop-in, and things can get very fuzzy over distance to the extent that rocks often appear to be half-invisible while trees appear to be fuzzy textures – but by and large it holds up well. It still looks nice, and the framerate remains solid right up until the final level, where the system struggles a little to keep up with the action.
I’ve been damning this with faint praise, haven’t I? Sorry. It’s distressingly easy to do, because most elements of the game really aren’t as good as they were on PC, but please – don’t let that put you off. Up until the last third this is still a wonderful, wonderful shooter, with excellent gunplay, graphics that still look bloody good now, and a pleasantly surprising amount of freedom in terms of how you want to approach each challenge. And then aliens bugger it all up, as they are wont to do.
Those who’ve never played Crysis before and who fancy an excellent shooter with a goodly amount of freedom shouldn’t hesitate to pick this up. This sort of action hasn’t really been done much since the game first launched, and it’s rarely been done better. If you already have Crysis and a PC that can run it, though, you can safely skip this: while a worthy port, it doesn’t quite match its originator.