Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Played This Game: Crysis

On the highest settings, even. It’s true.

What’s going on here?

This is a review of this game. Well, I guess review isn’t the proper term. It’s more of a “revisitation” of the entire game, where I go through the game piece by piece and say what I liked or didn’t like about it. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive scene-by-scene replaying of the entire game, but I will discuss the plot of the game as I understand it.

Just to be clear about the intent here, this is not a traditional review, where I evaluate the game as a whole and assign it some arbitrary score. It is also not a walkthrough, so don’t expect gameplay tips or a blow by blow set of instructions unless I specifically feel that they merit mentioning. Perhaps most importantly, it’s definitely not spoiler free, so if you care about the plot of the game in question, bookmark this page and come back later, when you’re finished with the game.

If all this is fine with you, read on.

[NOTE: Crysis is a M rated game, and some of the screenshots might be a little spooky. Fair warning.]


For most games, this isn’t something that I would mention, but for Crysis I feel like it’s kind of mandatory. I played the game with all graphical options set to “Very High”. My resolution was set at 1600x1024. I could have gone higher, but since I’m using a LCD monitor I wanted to go with something that wouldn’t stretch pixels to fill, and 1600x1024 was the highest resolution supported by the game menu that didn’t exceed my 1080p monitor in either dimension. Perhaps I could have gotten it to go to a native 1080p, but I’m not interested in mucking around at the command line or parsing through config files in order to get in a few extra pixels. So, I played with small black bars around the image on all sides.
Graphics: Fancy
I guess I could have used the "Change all settings to" thing to set it all to very high, but I didn't notice it until I was finished

Yes, I Played It With A Gamepad

It’s worth mentioning that I played the game with an Xbox 360 gamepad, which, for most people who play it on the PC, would not be the preferred control method. One of the big hot-button issues in gaming is keyboard/mouse vs. gamepads, with proponents of either side being very vocal about their opinions, because the other group is very clearly wrong. Of course.

Let me weigh in on the gamepad vs. keyboard/mouse debate. I like them both, and I think they’re both valid ways to play a game. That said, some game types typically work better with one or the other. Platformers, action games, and arcade games tend to play better on a gamepad, whereas RTS games and shooters usually work better with keyboard/mouse. While there are (surprisingly frequent) exceptions to this rule, this generally seems to be the case. Things being otherwise equal, though, I prefer a gamepad simply because it allows me to lean back in my chair and relax instead of being hunched over a keyboard.

Oh, and I always invert my control stick. My brain just isn’t wired for it otherwise.

Gamepad controls are NOT remappable, unfortunately

Starting the Game

I played the game on Easy mode, because I just wanted to enjoy it and I’m not that good at shooters. Good thing I did, too, since it really ramps up the difficulty later on. We’ll get to that later, though.

Crysis does something that I really appreciate when it comes time to pick the difficulty, something I wish more games did: it differentiates difficulty levels by more than just how many/how tough enemies are. Here’s a comparison of the different difficulty levels:
  • Easy: Attacking enemies are highlighted, you can aim and shoot the turret in vehicles while driving, Simple binoculars (enemies glow when highlighted in binoculars)
  • Normal: Same as easy except that energy/health regenerate slower, and there are more/stronger/better enemies
  • Hard: Normal binoculars (enemies do not glow when highlighted), turrets in vehicles cannot be controlled while driving, more/stronger/better enemies
  • Delta: no crosshair, “Normal” iron sights, no warning for grenades, normal binoculars, enemies speak Korean
If you’re like me and you skipped the entirety of that bulleted list, the biggest shift is from hard to Delta, where they rob you of your crosshair and grenade warning, and change the enemy language from English to Korean. I think it is absolutely awesome that they went and recorded a whole new set of lines just for the hardest difficulty, and that switch is pretty cool. What’s not cool is that the English lines they recorded for the bulk of the disposable grunt soldiers you’ll encounter seem to consist of about 50% curse words and about 50% “Cover me! Reloading!”

Part 1: Island Paradise

The game starts off with some expository and disposable cutscenes (seriously, the whole plot arc of the game was brilliantly summarized here) and leads into you on an airplane about to make a jump to an island in the Philippines. I will say, that as hackneyed as the story is, the delivery is top-notch. These voice actors convey very believable characters, and JUST LOOK AT THE COMPLEXION OF THEIR FACES.

"From now on you will clean your room before you go on covert ops, mister!"
Then you jump from the plane, in an interactive cutscene of skydiving down to the island. I really like how this game never jumps out of first-person mode (well, it actually does once, but that’s about ten seconds before credits roll), so it gives the strong feeling that you are Nomad. I contrast this with other first person games where the viewpoint will switch to third person for cutscenes, giving you the impression that, while you are playing as a specific character, you are not that character.
Green night-vision goggles - you'll almost never use them
After being hit by… something… you get separated from the rest of your squad and crash land in a small (and fortunately for you) unoccupied lagoon, and have to make your way through some obstacles that conveniently act as a tutorial for the basics of the game’s controls and mechanics. I appreciate how they make the tutorial section short for those of us who’ve played the game before or who just don’t have the patience for a 30 hour tutorial (I’m looking at you Final Fantasy XIII). In fact, if you’re quick about it, you can finish the entire first tutorial area in something like 15-20 seconds. Well, if you count the enemies at the end it can go a little longer.

Next we meet up with the first of your separated squad mates, Jester. There’s no time for chit-chat, because immediately after that you get a transmission from Aztec (another squad member) who is surrounded by North Koreans and is asking for backup. I actually really like this scene, because it actually manages to convey a reasonable degree of tension. As you sprint toward the newly placed blip on your radar, you hear Aztec getting more and more nervous, and eventually screaming in terror as he is killed by some sort of mysterious assailant that somehow managed to also wipe out the group of soldiers closing in on him. The screenshots here are the ones that I felt needed a disclaimer for this article.

Be vewy quiet. I'm hunting wabbits.
I hope this isn't... Chris' blood...
Looks to me like he's having a bad day.
Spooky, huh?

Like I said, this scene manages to convey believable tension, and gives you kind of a little bit of paranoia that there’s something out there that the Koreans can’t handle, and you might not be able to either. At this point, I’m feeling pretty good about the tone of the game.

So, after vaporizing Aztec (apparently that’s what happens to Nanosuit soldiers that get killed) you go on by yourself and have to do some radar unjamming because the Koreans have either figured out that you’re there, or just decided to set up radar jammers for no reason (the game wasn’t clear on this point). Then it’s time for another tutorial, and some beautiful scenery.

This is called a sunrise. If your sleep schedule is like mine, you probably have never seen one.
This tutorial is kind of clever, and it can do a good job of teaching one of the game’s more advanced mechanics, assuming you’re paying attention. One of Crysis’ quirks is that enemies do not show up on your radar until they have been “tagged” by your binoculars. To “tag” an enemy you just have to hold your binocular reticle over them for a second or so. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t make this terribly clear. What the game does here is put you on top of a ridge and tell you the key for your binoculars. There are several enemies on the coastline area down below that you can tag to add to your radar. If you look directly at one of them, they will flash briefly, and appear on your radar. If you’re not paying close attention you can miss this, so it’s not as clear as it could be.

For the next while, there’s not much that happens that is important. Sure, there’s some fun firefights, a lot of opportunities for great stealth, and absolutely gorgeous vistas, but it’s mostly just “shoot the baddies and move on”. Of note is a command post on a northern peninsula that you’re supposed to infiltrate and extract some intel from. It’s on an elevated position, so the only reasonable way in is from the front, forcing you to either fight about a dozen KPA soldiers, or master the stealth mode of the suit well enough to make it up a fairly good size hill with limited cover. I died a lot when I first tried this area, but I felt that the situation was fun enough that I was motivated to try and make my way through.

They'll never hear me comin'!
So you eventually make your way up into the mountains, and you get a message from Prophet (he’s your squad leader) telling you there’s something funky going on here, and as you meet up with him you see that, indeed, something is afoot. Turns out someone had a problem parking their boat.

Since when do the North Koreans have a freeze ray?
My thoughts at this point were that this is seriously messed up, and there’s some supernatural something-or-other going on here on this island. Turns out I was right. The cutscene continues with a brief glimpse of something that looks like a flying squid smashing the boat and grabbing Jester. It manages to be scary; in the same way that Alien is scary, not letting you get a good look at the Xenomorph throughout most of the movie. This game is about aliens too, and at this point I think they’ve portrayed the aliens in a way that makes them seem terrifying, super-powerful, and nigh unstoppable.

Hey, did anyone see where Jester went?
So, from this point there’s another pretty good length section of shooting dudes and sneaking past groups of dudes, ending with you sneaking into a small village that’s been taken over by KPA in order to rescue a hostage. Sneaking into the village is kind of tough, since the cover nearest to the entrance is just a little further than you can walk with your cloak activated, so you have to figure out some other way to do it. I ended up making it work by sneaking up to one of the turrets just outside the entrance, uncloaking to wax the guard manning it, and letting my suit recharge enough that I could jump over the village wall. Just so you know, the village is surrounded by a minefield on most of the sides, and mines are an insta-kill if you walk into them. Stick to the road.

What an annoying character. Good thing you only meet her once.
Once you get to the schoolhouse where the hostage is being interrogated, Psycho (another of your squad mates) materializes right behind you and helps you breach the door and rescue her. It bugged me when he mysteriously appeared just for this part, since he didn’t help me at all in getting to this point. Anyway, it’s time for the first “boss” of the game! Fun!

The “boss” is a KPA tank (maybe two, the first time I did this there was only one, but the second time there were two), which apparently got called in while you were unconcernedly chatting with the hostage in the schoolhouse. Because it’s a tank, it can only reasonably be hurt by explosive weapons, and I don’t think grenades count, since mine weren’t doing much, as far as I could tell. That means you’ll need a missile launcher or some explosive charges. At this point you only have access to the former, but only if you know where to look for it. If you didn’t know that there’s one in the town hall of the village, you might be confused and find this part really difficult.

Once you procure a missile launcher, the tank(s) go down pretty quickly, and you can run off toward the next flashing green circle on your radar.

You meet up with Prophet, and he almost immediately gets snatched away by the alien flying squid thing. If you weren’t freaked out by this thing yet, you should be now. Again, the slow reveal of this thing makes it seem like it’s some sort of super-weapon.

Prophet disapproves of motion blur.
After a mad dash in an attempt to rescue Prophet from Certain Doom™, you realize the futility of your efforts and stop running. You get a new CO (Major Strickland, and he sounds kind of wimpy by comparison), who tells you to leave, but you’re super-sure you can still complete your mission because you’re a super-soldier. Strickland gives you the ok to keep going, and gives you some more glowing circles on your radar to head toward.

The next big mission is probably my favorite situation the game puts you in. You have to infiltrate a KPA camp on top of a ridge, but it’s heavily guarded and has a helicopter circling above it. You have a few options for getting inside, and it’s up to you how you want to go about it.

I spent five minutes getting this to draw correctly. Hope it's worth it.
Here is an annotated map of the mission area. The three ways into the camp that I found are highlighted by the different colored lines. I like this mission because there are multiple viable routes to get in and accomplish the objective. I’m going to go over the options I found here.
  • RED LINE: This is the quickest way into the camp, and also the most dangerous. From where the player (orange arrow) is, you run across a bridge suspended over a chasm, through a pair of machine gun turrets, and evade two snipers, a helicopter, and a dozen or so troops. Only recommended if you’re pretty good at this, or are looking for the shortest way to get frustrated and give up.
  • BLUE LINE: If you jump down the chasm, you’ll end up in a river which will lead to a road that switches back and forth, eventually ending up at the rear entrance to the camp, which is much less heavily guarded, and has much more cover.
  • GREEN LINE: This route branches off of the blue course near the end, and instead of going directly into the back of the camp, you’ll come around the side and be able to sneak through some large holes in the defense and take the objective much more easily. You have to be paying attention, though, or you’ll miss the small dirt path.
This free-form approach to missions exemplifies everything I think is great about the first part of Crysis. You can do it how you want, and if you’re good enough, you can do it in an amazing show of skill. Just make sure that camera is rolling, because the internet is super-interested in seeing all your exploits. Maybe.

I think this is a good time to point out just how badly the vehicles drive in Crysis. Maybe it’s better with the keyboard, but when using a gamepad the vehicles are the most erratic of any I’ve ever seen in a game. Just driving straight is a challenge, and heaven help you if you need to make a turn. Pretty much every time I have driven a vehicle in this game I’ve ended up in a situation like this, where I just can’t get out.

As much as they suck to drive, vehicles can actually give you a tactical advantage. Note: This doesn't apply when you are high centered on another car.
Once you manage to get to your next objective, you are rewarded with a proper cutscene, with the science-type Pokémon telling the military-type Pokémon that the alien-looking things they are digging up are probably still dangerous, and the military-type Pokémon just ignores the science-type and goes on to do the digging anyway, and the science-type Pokémon gets KO’d, proving his point. Sounds like pretty much every movie ever.

In the end, he evolved into an ice-type Pokemon.
At this point I’m going mission-by-mission, but I feel like this next one also warrants a mention. They ask you to “Get to the choppa” and extract so you can join some more of your buddies, but before the VTOL you’re riding in can land you have to clear the landing zone from hostiles. For me, as someone who has zero interest in the multiplayer, this mission is about as close as I’ll get to playing the game with other people. They put you in a graveyard and have you duel with a group of KPA Special Forces who have Nanosuits like you. Maybe they have all the special abilities, like you, but all I can tell is that they can cloak and take a bunch more hits than regular soldiers to take down. It’s actually kind of neat.

Surprise! I can cloak and sneak up behind you too!
Once you manage to subdue your inferior competition (Nomad even makes a crack about how the Korean’s suits look like “cheap knockoffs”), you’ll head over and join the army, which is making a full-scale assault against the Korean occupation of the island. This mission is pretty good; unfortunately it’s the last one before I feel like the game starts to fall apart. You’ll take out a few KPA anti-aircraft batteries, and then call in an air strike on a KPA cruiser in the harbor. It has a lot of the characteristics of some of the previous missions, in particular a very freeform vector of approach.

There aren't many things in this game more satisfying than taking out helicopters.
After all this fun it’s time to meet up with the convoy of tanks and assault the dig site where there’s aliens and bad guys. It’s not quite as fun as it sounds.

Part 2: The Valley of Frustration

You’d think this chapter would be great, seeing as you start out inside a massive tank. Admittedly, the tank is pretty cool, but the vehicle handling mechanics in this game make it extremely frustrating to drive. Assuming you can make it far enough with the tank to take out the bulk of the enemy’s armor, the first segment of this part isn’t so bad. If you’re unlucky enough to have your tank destroyed while trying to reorient yourself so you can shoot the baddies, then you’ll have to hope you can scrounge enough missiles from dead RPG enemies to clear the area. It’s not hard to get the ammo, but when you’re outside of the tank a single shell from a tank or an RPG trooper will KO you, so you have to be super cautious.

Tanks: More fun when someone else is driving.
Assuming you make it through the first gauntlet with your tank intact, you’ll be pleased to hear that there is another one right afterward, and if you lost your tank during the first one, sorry, you don’t get another. This one is much more open, and has anti-aircraft objectives, but they’re pretty easy to get to, assuming you can get past the tanks guarding some of the plains areas. Several objectives later, you make it to the mine area. The previous area with all the tanks was annoying, but this one is actually kind of bad.

Bad? Yeah, bad. In my opinion, the strong point of Crysis is not when it pits you against a large group of enemies at the same time. It’s when it gives you a situation and tasks you with tactically solving a puzzle of bullets and baddies. How can I get past this point? Can I take these guys out one-by-one without them noticing? Is it possible to lure these guys away and hit the objective without even uncloaking? This area doesn’t do anything of the sort.

It is a straight up assault on a well-defended position, without any real alternative.

They send you first at a large camp full of KPA soldiers, alone since you passed a point where your friends in tanks can’t get past because the ground is all torn up. You can sneak in past the perimeter, but good luck doing a lot of sneaking beyond that point, since cover is sparse (unless you count the inside of buildings) and the enemies will almost certainly be alerted to your position at this point. Oh, and there’s also a tank patrolling the yard. I hope you have some explosives left.
Get used to seeing this a lot.
You can fight off all the guards in this camp if you want to, or you can just dash through to the next area. I did the latter, since there’s not really any reward for doing the former. Once you get through there, though, you’re in for something even more unpleasant. You have to capture a whole building complex just around the corner from the camp, and it’s crawling with enemies. How many? Well, on easy, with the fewest number of baddies, I ran into at least a dozen guards, three Nanosuit soldiers, two helicopters, and a tank. That’s a lot for you to deal with at the same time.

If you don't hate helicopters by this point, I just don't know what to tell you.
Assuming you don’t ragequit during this sequence, you’ll next get to infiltrate the mine where the last of the research team you’re supposed to be extracting is being held. My advice: just run past the enemies. There’s way too many of them, and you’ll die a lot if you try to take them out. Several more Nanosuit enemies, a veritable horde of regular enemy dudes, and a tank or two await you if you’re the daring type. The only reason I didn’t give this suggestion for the mining buildings is because you didn’t have the choice. This is one of my biggest problems with the latter half of Crysis: you lose your ability to approach situations in any way you choose, including non-violent methods (I like that choice because it’s often a reasonable challenge).

Once you get to the proper area of the mine, you get cutscene-facepunched by some Nanosuit guys, and dragged off to see the KPA General. I don’t like getting owned in cutscenes. I think it’s kind of lame (especially when you have an invisibility mode on your super-suit), but I guess that’s the way they wanted it to play out. Despite this, I like the way they did the next cutscene. They have you standing between a pair of Nanosuit guys, who are holding you up as you recover from being punched in the face by one of them. You get to look around and watch the KPA General spout off his diabolical plan to use the alien ship-thing as a source of energy (???) while the scientist says stuff about how “it’s too dangerous” and all that clichéd stuff. Since General Fake-Accent is the one in charge, they do things his way, and before long he’s woken it up and made it angry.

It's ALIVE~!
Time for boss fight number two! Once the General bombs the ship, lightning arcs everywhere, killing everyone except (conveniently) you, him, and the scientist you’re supposed to rescue. He’s got a handheld minigun (!) and you’ve got nothing. Despite this obvious disadvantage, I actually haven’t seen him get off a shot. I just switched to Strength Mode, jumped up on the platform next to him, and punched him to death before he could do anything about it. Surprisingly easy, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

You and your friend take the elevator and try to leave, but the entrance gets blocked, so a VTOL magically manages to slip through a crack in the side of the mountain and slide a rope down for you and the scientist to escape. However, because that wouldn’t be a very interesting ending for the game, they make up excuses about the mountain falling apart so only one person can escape. The mountain stops shaking itself to bits once the VTOL is out, and you decide the only way out is through… the alien ship. I dunno about you, but going inside the alien ship that was shooting lightning a minute ago doesn’t seem like the brightest of ideas, but I guess that’s why I’m not US Nanosuit Special Forces. And now for the game’s worst chapter.

Part 3: The Worst Chapter

This is the worst chapter of the game.
You enter the alien ship-thing, and the first thing I though was “This looks like the inside of an enormous colon, with lots of crystalized tumors on the walls.” And indeed, it does resemble that for much of the ship. I suppose they were going for an “organic” look, but it just looks improbable for something that is artificial in nature. There are some chambers in the ship that look maybe like the inside of a spaceship, but they’re really big and impractical.

Wait... this is supposed to be a spaceship?
Oh, and for the entire time you’re in the alien ship (minus a minute or two when you first enter it) you’re in zero gravity mode. This means you float in any direction you want, unimpeded. Sounds cool, right? Well, it is. Sort of.

The zero gravity causes some problems. Since you’re in the alien ship, you don’t get intel on your surroundings so your radar is just going nuts. This means that you don’t get concrete directions to your objective, and you have to wander around until you can find it. With a three-dimensional space to explore instead of a two-directional map, you can get lost easily. Fortunately the way forward is usually implied pretty heavily, through lighting or room design.

You can tell this is the way you're supposed to go because it's glowing.
Another problem is the enemies. They float around the ship like you do, except much faster, since it’s their native habitat (or something like that). These squid-monster-alien-things can one-shot you if you’re not in armor mode and they manage to land a solid hit on you, and dodging and chasing are difficult because they’re so much faster than you. I’ve found that the most reliable way to deal with them is to gradually sneak up on them with the cloak activated, and then grab them and punch them to death while in strength mode.

Speaking of suit modes, speed mode becomes almost worthless while in the ship. If you use the sprint, you’ll move a bit faster, but as far as using it tactically to get an advantage over enemies, it’s pathetically broken. You can’t catch up with enemies, and they’re far more maneuverable than you, so there’s no reason to use that particular suit mode, especially when it drains your energy so fast.

There is one good part of the level where you go through a super-cool fast transport tunnel, and it looks like you’re going into hyperspace. It’s just too bad that this is the only part of this chapter that I enjoyed.

Approaching the sound barrier!
This level just seems to drag on and on and on. The final room you get to requires you to kill a set number of the aliens before it will open the last door to escape, and it’s not too much fun, as it consisted of me shooting them and running out of ammo, or taking forever and stealthily killing them one-by-one with my fists. Fortunately, once this level is over, things pick up a bit again.

Part 4: Baby It’s Cold Outside


Escape! From the planet of boring...
We’re out! I’m sure glad that’s over. As we escape from the boring, tedious interior of the alien ship, a VTOL comes to pick us up and take us home. We’re saved! Not so fast, says the game. You might need to put those plans on ice. And then it freezes the entire next level.

How nefarious of the game, to both use a line that Mr. Freeze would approve of and trap us in another level fighting off aliens. These aliens, however, are tougher than the last ones.
The aliens you’ll be fighting for the rest of the game are in some sort of biomechanical armor that makes them super tough. Their weapons are also all ice based, so they’ll shoot shards of ice at you, or exploding ice cannons. That’s not the big problem I have with them, though.

Look back a few sections and review my comments about the mysterious monster that attacked various members of your team. The way the monster was portrayed at that point made it seem incredibly powerful, terrifying, and a force to be reckoned with. It was something mythical, frightening, and awe-inspiring. Turns out, it was just one of the regular enemies from this chapter.

Pictured: Disappointment
That’s right. It was just a regular dude. What a let-down. I felt like they were building for some final confrontation against this monstrous enemy (it’s about the size of a large truck) in a fight to the death at the end of the game. If they had played their cards right, I think that it could have been a great payoff to finally confront and defeat the beast that had been toying with you for the whole game. Instead they effectively made you feel like you were being ripped off, because a regular enemy totally overwhelmed a group of heavily muscled, elite military agents, armed to the teeth with state-of-the-art technology.

Anyway, turns out that Prophet managed to survive, through means unspecified (deus ex machina, much?) and he is bringing the good fight to the baddies with a weapon he apparently ripped off of one of their dead carcasses. I have a problem with alien weapons in shooters in a lot of cases, and this one is a prime offender. Why is it that alien weapons (or futuristic weapons in general) always have to be some sort of energy weapon? Is it because everyone always thinks that aliens have “advanced” beyond physical projectile weapons, and now use “superior” energy based weapons? Also, why is it that energy-based alien weapons so frequently have infinite ammo? I can’t imagine that the aliens have power sources that advanced, obviating the need for recharging or additional energy packs.

"Hey, I'm glad that you're ok and all, but would you mind shooting this thing attacking me?"
Apparently as part of his miraculous and inexplicable survival, Prophet’s Nanosuit was damaged, and he now needs you to escort him from one burning pile of wreckage to the next so he doesn’t freeze to death. This actually was a decent escort mission, and I didn’t hate it as much as I usually hate escort missions. The reasons for this probably are a) Prophet actually helps by shooting at bad guys, and b) as long as you keep his “heat meter” above zero, you don’t have to worry about failing.

I have a minor complaint about the fires, from a story perspective. According to your character, it’s “200 below zero” in the frozen area, and the fires burning seem to be doing pretty well. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d think it’d be unlikely that something would be able to burn as well as these are with just a ruptured gas tank from a Humvee.

How can it be burning? It's so cold!
Prophet can only keep your attention for a little while, though, because once you get out of the frozen area, it’s time to see how many bullets you can shoot at aliens. Turns out the answer is “a lot”, and that’s exactly how many you’ll have to shoot since you won’t be allowed to progress in the story until you’ve waxed X critters.

Nothing notable happens here, except that Major Strickland gets killed, and Nomad seems far more distressed about that than anything else that has happened (or will happen, for that matter) in the entire game. He calls out his name and you can hear the tears being held back. Or something like that. I’m not exactly sure why you’re supposed to care that this guy who randomly picked up the comm signal after your CO was taken out, but whatever.

Son, this'll be the last time you see my ugly mug.
As the last part of this chapter, I want to touch on the abysmal mission where you fly the VTOL. This is apparently not available on the console versions of the game, but honestly, I don’t think you’re missing out.

While in transit to the fleet of ships approaching the island, your pilot gets killed by enemy fire, but somehow your transport manages to not crash, so the rest of the soldiers unanimously vote you as the most qualified to fly the plane and shove you into the cockpit. Remember how I said the vehicles in this game don’t control very well? Well, take that, and add a Z-axis.

The plane is unresponsive and difficult to fly, and it operates sort of like a helicopter might. The movement and aiming is similar to when you’re out of the VTOL, so the left analog stick controls movement on the X and Y-axis, and the right analog stick controls where you are pointing. In order to ascend or descend you have to press up or down on the d-pad. This means that you can’t move forward or sideways and ascend at the same time. It’s particularly annoying because you will constantly lose height, so you need to periodically ascend or you’ll crash.

With that somewhat difficult control scheme in mind, you’ll have to go and dogfight with a bunch of those aliens that have been dogging you for the past chapter or two, and they are much more agile than you, leading to frequent deaths. If that weren’t enough, there are dusty looking tornado things at intervals in the level that you have to fly past quickly or you will crash. Oh, and sometimes the thrusters decide not to work, so you’ll have throttle on full and you’ll be creeping along at an incredibly slow pace, leading to even more crashing.

As a final blow, this level would consistently crash the game to my desktop upon completion, and it didn’t even give me an error message. At first I thought this was a clever way the developers had thought of to end the game, since from all appearances it exited cleanly, but I thought it was odd that they didn’t wrap up a large portion of the plot points, and credits never rolled. The only way I was able to consistently get this level to progress to the next was to bring up the console and enter the command to load the next map. Fortunately there’s nothing story-wise between the end of this map and the beginning of the next one.

If you end up seeing this at any point when playing the game, something probably went horribly wrong.


Part 5: Endgame

Or, in other words, this is the part where the game ends.

You’ll spend the rest of the game on an aircraft carrier, away from the island. I have several gripes about this, but chief among them is that, although the graphics look great for an aircraft carrier, there’s really only so much you can do to make an aircraft carrier look good. After all, a bland grey wall with a high polygon count and amazing textures is still a bland grey wall. Since incredible graphics are a large part of this game, it’s disappointing to see the game ending in an area that doesn’t showcase them.

"Hey, I caught one! Can I keep it?"
After a quick debriefing (if you can call it that, they basically just say “Good Job”), the US General lays out his plan: nuke the island to wipe out all the aliens. The scientist you rescued from the mine is convinced that that is a bad idea which will cause problems, but General Grumpypants isn’t having it. He orders the nuclear strike on the island, and, just like the science-type Pokémon said, it only makes the aliens stronger.

So, from this point on you’ll be fighting aliens flying in from the island. I’m not going to cover the details, but you have to fight off a bunch of these critters, and then fix the ship some, and fight off some more. It’s easy to get lost inside the ship, since most of the corridors look pretty much the same, and after a certain point aliens start infesting the inside of the ship, making it necessary to pay close attention or you’ll find yourself skewered after turning a corner.

Yes, there are three of them in my scope.
Finally it’s final boss time. You’ll actually fight two of them in a row. First, the big crawly one that killed Major Strickland (pour one out for him?), and then the “real” final boss. The big crawly one isn’t actually very hard, once the fight begins proper. It has a sort of shield that repels all your attacks until a scripted story moment when the scientist transmits a signal through your Nanosuit that neutralizes the shield, and at that point all you need to do is shoot it a few times and it’ll go down without too much trouble. It is worth mentioning that it does hit very hard, and if it manages to clip you with one of its attacks you’re probably dead. Fortunately for you, there’s a burnt husk from a crashed VTOL that you can hide in and pop out during safe times to basically fight the boss with impunity.

I think this guy looks far cooler than that *actual* final boss.
After you send him to dwell with his ancestors, you’ll be given a brief pause to reload, grab some of the various weapons scattered about (I recommend the Gauss rifle and a missile launcher, don’t bother with the minigun), and think briefly about strategy. Then the real boss will rise from the ocean to give you a hard time.

You'll want to find a piece of rubble to hide behind so you don't have to fight this guy over and over and over...
My opinion is that this particular boss looks pretty dumb. It’s sort of like a giant warship, but it’s also sort of like a torso of a human, because those arm things extend a little bit and can move back and forth like arms. Regardless of how he looks, he has one of the best primal alien roars I’ve ever heard. It’s worth turning up the volume for this one.

His armaments are four main cannons on his front (thankfully destroyable) two super-cannons (one on each arm) that can explode through walls and kill you instantly if they hit, and an ice beam from his center, plus some more goodies on his underbelly. He also has a bunch of underlings that he will periodically send out to give you a hard time.

Getting hit by the freeze ray, in my opinion, is worse than death in this game. If the ice beam tags you at any point, your vision immediately frosts over and you fall on your side, unable to move. There might be a way to escape from being frozen, but I haven’t found it yet. Once frozen, you either have to wait for something to kill you so you can respawn, or load your last save manually. I had one time where I got frozen in a position where nothing could hit me while I was frozen, so manual reloading was my only option.

Frozen solid. No escape. Have to reload game to get out.
This guy got frozen during the fight with the first boss at the end of the game. Notice the action pose...
...and how it's missing here. He reverted to the default position for newly spawned characters once I died and reloaded.
To defeat the boss, you have to knock out his cannons, and then shoot tactical nukes from a special story weapon at him. It’s kind of slow going, and after pretty much each step he summons a bunch of the larger-size flying alien-squid-machines to harass you. It’s pretty much mandatory that you take these out before trying to attack the boss again, since they will eventually overwhelm you if you don’t. After taking out both arms, he’ll hover above you and give you a massive weak point on his underbelly that you are directed to exploit. If you can manage to take out all the critters he throws at you and disable his extra turrets, all it takes is one shot at his center and you’re basically done with the game.

Here’s the ending, if you care to watch it. It starts at 0:50, after a bunch of opening stuff.

Another gripe about the story: why did Nomad insist that they should immediately go and attack the island, when there’s an incoming fleet that they can get extra firepower from? Maybe he thinks they can’t help very much, or that it’s urgent that they take out the aliens now, but I don’t think it’s quite as pressing as he does, especially when you factor in additional troops and firepower.


Wrap Up

Here are some final thoughts about Crysis.
  • The story was clichéd as they come, but it was pretty enjoyable anyway
  • Using the Nanosuit, and getting good at switching modes swiftly based on situations is incredibly fun
  • KPA soldiers are significantly more fun to fight against than the aliens
  • Vehicles in this game suck. Period.
  • Most of the guns feel good to use, and are unique enough that they feel different from each other
  • The minigun is really hard to use effectively, so unless you’re point-blank killing dudes, don’t bother
  • The last boss is really frustrating, even when you have his pattern and weak points memorized
  • This game is actually a really hard game, so even on easy it’s a challenge (or maybe I just really suck at shooters)
  • Just look at those graphics!
Despite all my whining about individual portions of this game, as a whole it’s pretty fun. To put this together I ran FRAPS in the background, taking a screenshot every ten seconds. I ended up with just under 3,000 screenshots, which works out to me taking approximately 8.5 hours to work my way through the game. I’m going to close with my favorite screenshot from the game.
Turtle rendering technology is decades ahead of the competition.

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