Saturday, February 11, 2012

Turns out it actually *can* run Crysis

If you’ve spent much time on the internet, you’ve probably encountered some variation of the “Can it run Crysis?” joke. The joke goes something like this:
“Check out this new computer I got! It’s the fastest ever!”
“Yeah, well can it run Crysis?”
(implied answer: “No.”)
The basic idea behind the joke is that no computer exists that is powerful enough to run Crysis on its highest graphical settings. Indeed, at the time that it was released (November of 2007), only the most expensive of the high-end computers were able to run it, and then it was a struggle to get it to run on the highest settings. Lower end machines ran the game at slideshow speed.

That has changed somewhat today, with computer components getting significantly more powerful, but your computer’s ability to run Crysis is still a good benchmark as to whether your computer qualifies as a proper gaming machine or not. It’s a demanding piece of software, and decent framerates are at a premium once you start toggling all the graphical options and ramping up the anisotropic filtering levels.

So, with all this said about the graphical demands of the game, two questions really stand out to me:
  1. Is the game actually as good looking as you’d think with all these system requirements, and
  2. Is the game any good?
For the first question: HOLY CRAP YES. This game looks so good that it’s hard to believe that this game is over four years old at this point. Here’s some screenshot candy for your eyes.

I assume this is supposed to be Korea's leader?
If you play stealthily prepare to see a lot of this. Good thing the leaves look so great.
That moon looks pretty realistic. JUST LOOK AT THE FOG.
Manages to look great even when you're being owned by a helicopter.
2007 Chicken of the year
The Turtle Rendering Engine is incredible. 5 stars
I know it doesn't look like much here, but that shadow on the ground was so incredible I had to take a screenshot.
The water in this game looks amazing. Even from below! How many games do that?
This sure is a fancy looking plane. Too bad it's next to impossible to control.
As good as it looks in stills, the game looks even better when you see it in motion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen water graphics that look as impressive as they do in Crysis, the motion blur adds a nice effect, and foliage actually looks realistic.

Now, is the game any good? Well, yes and no. I suppose if I divide the game into two parts, I could say that the first part is great, but the second part ranges from good to mediocre. Without spoiling anything, there is a point where the game kind of strays away from what makes it good, and the story kind of goes off the rails.

That’s not to say it stops being fun, it just changes the focus of how the game is played. For the first part of the game, it’s all about you. You are a special ops super soldier with a nano-augmented power suit that gives you incredible powers. You get dropped on an island and given objectives to complete, and in a Deus Ex sort of way you can accomplish them in any manner you see fit.

This freedom of choice makes the opening acts of the game a blast to play. Want to activate your super-speed and dash into the camp of enemies before they even see you coming? Go for it. How about switch on your armor abilities and move through the forest with your shotgun like a juggernaut? Not a problem. Are you the stealthy type? Just switch on your cloak mode and the enemies won’t have a clue that you’re even there until it’s too late.

This freedom of ways to approach situations, along with various paths to take and a massive, free-exploring environment for you to play around with make the first part of the game an incredible experience that I have trouble not recommending. It’s too bad the game doesn’t keep it up until the end.

I’m not going to discuss specifics that spoil the story here (although my opinion is that the story isn’t important and you could just as easily skip it), but the later parts of the game get much more… directed. You are focused down a specific path to take, given situations where there is really only one solution, and fight enemies that are frustrating and difficult. Most disappointingly, though, they hamstring you and make it so that, although you still have your super-suit powers, they don’t really matter.

They don’t matter, you ask? Yes, that’s the case. You can still switch to stealth mode, but enemies either can detect you easily, and you won’t be able to accomplish anything of value while cloaked. You are almost constantly under attack, so you’ll likely want to be in armor mode for the bulk of the time, but I found myself frequently switching to speed mode simply because it takes too long to walk from place to place, which would end up with me getting killed because enemies would come up and I’d forget to switch to armor mode.

The environments change from being beautiful island vistas to being primarily boring, indoor, twisty little passages (all alike?). This gets rid of one of this game’s big strengths, its graphics. Regardless of how many polygons you’re pushing, or how incredibly detailed your textures are, a grey corridor can only look so interesting.

They also change up the enemy types. Gone are the challenging yet fun enemies of the first half of the game, where you can take them out in whatever way you see fit. They have been replaced by enemies that move fast and hit hard, who cannot (reasonably) be hit by short range weapons and melee attacks. They also cannot really be caught unawares by your stealth mode, since they will see you the instant you uncloak and you can’t get close enough to them to do much before then. It’s kind of a messy disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think the game is worth playing, but primarily for that first part. If you don’t mind the later parts, that’s great, it’s just that they don’t show the brilliance that the earlier parts do.

And you were doing so well, too.

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