Crysis is probably the most hotly-anticipated first-person shooter of the year. Almost everyone seems to be going bonkers for it, including ourselves...so when it was announced that it would be shown off at i31 (which is less than 45 minutes drive away from our Ascot offices), we just had to go and play it.
To set the stage, the preview level that we got to play was exactly that - a single level, with no story. It was actually an alpha that was heavily patched to beta...having said that, though, it was certainly more playable and stable than what we're used to at this early stage in a game's life. If you'd have played what we did, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was right around the corner from going Gold. (With a bit more meat on its bones, one hopes... --Ed.)
With the huge anticipation surrounding Crysis and the massive expectations everyone is placing on the game, we unfortunately can't help but feel a little deflated after being hands-on for around 60 minutes. Join us as we share our brief experiences of the game from the i31 show floor...
Interacting with a Crysis
For those poor souls that have had their heads buried in the sand and haven't been following the game, Crysis is a sci-fi first-person shooter set in 2019 that is based on a similar sandbox gameplay style to Far Cry. You play as Jake Dunn, a United States Delta Force operator who wears a US Military prototype "Nano Muscle Suit." Your fancy new threads allow you to carry armour, increase speed, jump higher, cloak, reduce noise output and heal yourself in the midst of battle.
Since we've mentioned the nano suit, that's probably a good place to start, as it was one of the first things we came across during the preview level. There are four nano suit modes available - Armour, Speed, Stealth, and Strength. However, there isn’t a hugely noticeable difference between strength and armour, and stealth lasts all of five seconds.
The modes were selectable by holding down the middle mouse button - this brings up a switching menu where you then move your mouse either left or right until you get to your desired suit mode. Having played around with this for a while, we can't help but feel it'd be easier to control if it wasn't done this way - it'd be far easier to hold and select your desired nano suit mode using a side button if your mouse supports it. You could also assign these controls to your keyboard. To be fair, aside from the problems holding the middle mouse button down, we actually found switching between the nano suit modes was pretty intuitive, but as gamers it just doesn't feel "right."
In addition to the four suit modes, there is another option available in the switching menu - that's for weapon customisation. We used a pistol and a sub machine gun in the level and there were various customisation options available for each weapon. You can attach a silencer, scope, laser or flashlight in a way that is both intuitive and in-game, which feels more realistic than going to an inventory page (like in Deus Ex). In a note of brilliance, there’s also finally an animation of your hand reaching for the floor when you pick up an enemy's gun, rather than having it magically jump up into your arms.
Unfortunately, the amazement started to dwindle once we started to actually play the level. As completely novel as it was at first, we found that we could run around the entire map simply killing people by hand, solely by flicking suit modes between speed and strength before the AI could catch up, then dropping behind a rock or tree and selecting armour in order to regain health. This brings us onto an important topic - there is no longer a need to go searching for medical kits (or really even be careful) as the suit regenerates your health instead.
Rinse, repeat and take on anything. After about half a dozen patrols and two villages later, it got more than a little repetitive - think of playing Counter-Strike with a speedhack that's controlled by using your knife. Yeah, it got about as boring as that could after about 15 minutes. Of course, we later tried it on "Ultra Hard" difficulty and, not surprisingly, that delivered a much more intensive experience - we found that it was roughly a two or three shot death on the hardest AI setting. (Also known as "they got pwned..." -- Ed.)