Los Angeles (CA) - The gaming press is a jaded lot, and E3 can be a treacherous place if you're a developer without a standout product. After a day and a half of hearing that every game I see is the best and the features are unique, all the praise starts to sound like white noise; an annoying hiss in the back of my mind. So it was with much skepticism that I approached Crytek's demo of Crysis. I heard it was amazing, but it's a shooter, and I've been hearing "amazing" for 10 hours now. The reality of it is that as soon as the game loaded I was blown away.
Crysis is the second notable title built by Crytek, following the blockbuster FarCry. Again, this game is a first-person shooter for the PC that takes place in the year 2019 and involves an alien invasion. The story certainly does not sound original, but the game did not cease to impress. The first stage that loaded was a jungle level showing the most realistic rendered foliage I've ever seen. Crysis is powered by Crytek's own CryEngine 2, and at least what I was able to, it appears to be unrivalled today. I've seen jungle levels in other games and nothing comes close to this. The trees, the ground, the leaves, and the mist were all rendered with impressive clarity.
As amazing as it looked, what really convinced me was the way the world reacted to the player. Individual leaves moved when hit by bullets, bushes shook as I brushed past, and everything reacted just as you'd expect in real life. The developer doing my tour told me that everything in the game has AI scripting, not just the enemies. That means when you shoot a tree, the tree has to figure out what to do in response to it. Remember that scene in Predator when Jesse the Body gets killed and Bill Duke empties the minigun into the tree line with the whole team in tow and the forest is devastated? You can do that in Crysis.
I found an emplaced machine gun and proceeded to deforest the jungle. Not only will the trees fall down when they take damage, but pieces of them will fall down when they take partial damage, and they don't all fall the same way. Lob a grenade into a pack of trees and watch some of them shatter, some lay away from the blast, and some shudder a bit before finally succumbing to the damage and falling. It is breathtaking to watch an environment react so believably to jungle combat. The environments are not the only part of the graphics that impress. There is a depth of field effect when you sight down your gun, there is a blur effect when you spin your view around quickly, and the animations on the soldiers were some of the best I have seen to date.
Deformable terrain is not a new feature, and when it has been used in the past, it has always been a bit of a gimmick. In Crysis, the terrain is as much a weapon as any of your guns. Falling trees will block roads, kill enemies, and provide much needed cover, but not always for you. The enemy AI will also use the terrain to their advantage, and will employ real world military tactics to find and kill you. The game's AI is scary intelligent, and really made me feel like I was up against trained soldiers with an agenda and not just a computer script that knows where I am.
The main character wears a suit that allows him to enhance certain abilities one at a time. If an ally is pinned under something heavy, you can bump up your strength and free him. Is there a hallway that you need to get through engulfed in flames? Bump up your speed and blow through without less burn. These abilities can also aid in combat. With increased strength you can batter your enemies into submission and save your ammo for later. Crysis will also feature vehicles, however, I was not able to drive or fly any in the demo. Needless to say, Crysis will not only be available in single-player, but also as a multi-player version.
The demo I played ran on DirectX 9, but the developers at Crytek promise that the game will look even better Vista and DirectX 10. We are finally approaching a level of photo-realism that will be indistinguishable from reality, and Crysis is leading the charge, at least for now.
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