As I said on Wednesday, the first next-gen-looking game I got to try out on my new computer is the first Crysis which after six years is still one of the main games with which to benchmark a computer. This launched me into pretty much a full-blown replay of the game, which is still one of my favorite of recent years.
First, if I had to sum up Crysis on PC, I’d call it a great game wrapped up in a terrible user experience. It’s striking looking at the vestiges of the 2005-2007 era of Windows Vista nagware rearing its head on my new Windows 7 system. Windows 7 is an operating system that knows when to shut up. Even Microsoft’s security software has learned it needs to keep you safe while staying out of your way. In this era, Steam has paved the way in terms of consumer convenience. Six and seven years ago though, companies like Microsoft and Valve were just beginning to feel out how to make the PC more convenient and more secure — a little bit more in line with consoles, and some of Microsoft’s first attempts were just ugly.
Having to input that SecuRom CD key, keep my disc in the computer every time I booted up the game, install GameSpy Comerade, watch unskippable company logos, and put up with graphical features artificially stuck behind a DirectX 10 wall which runs like crap even on today’s computers, led me to chuck my physical copy of Crysis and re-buy it on Steam during this holiday sale. Bought it for $5, downloaded it, and booted it up. That’s the difference in eras right there.
Graphically, I can finally say Crysis without mods is finally starting to show its age. Games like its sequels and next-gen fare like Killzone Shadow Fall or Battlefield 4 probably out-do the game that reigned as king of video game graphics for like four years. That said, the original 2007 Crysis still looks significantly better than the overwhelming majority of what’s come out in the last two years. With some texture and lighting mods I think it certainly stands up to the early next-gen games we’re seeing this fall.
And finally, I can run it at 60 frames per second… most of the time. Throughout the early game it mainly runs 60 with vertical sync on my system (i7-4670k at 3.4GHz, GTX 460 2GB) with dips into the low 50’s. It was only at the last level I played (before the game starts to suck) that it dipped into the 30s when firefights got really intense.
But even behind the looks, on which I feel people who haven’t played Crysis focus too much, I still think this is one of the best first person shooters of the past console generation (it did come out on consoles eventually). Playing this game just makes me sad that every other shooter designer, including Crytek itself later on, went towards the linear, simple, cinema-driven approach of Call of Duty. I miss games that gave me open places with multiple objectives to approach as I saw fit.
Being able to scout an enemy base and then infiltrate it from its rear road, a river running next to it, or a sewer under it, is more empowering to me than pressing Y to watch my character stab someone in the throat. Once again I totally sucked up the feeling that at any time I could choose to play this game like Halo or like Metal Gear Solid.
I made this opportunity to play Crysis on hard mode for the first time. I’d heard a lot about how this is one of those games that get’s much better on higher difficulties, and I can finally say it does change significantly. The only thing that’s really different is enemies are more aggressive and deal more damage (and a couple minor gameplay mechanics), but that alone forced me to play much more cautiously. Stealth became almost always the better option. Even when I did go in “guns blazing” I had to be smart about it, using the stealth cloak to flank enemies and use cover. If we wanna put this on a scale of the 80’s action movies Crysis simulates, normal mode is Commando, while hard mode is Predator (with you as the Predator). I imagine the highest difficulty – Delta, probably feels like First Blood Part I.
Crysis represents the most recent, most technologically advanced execution of the kind of gameplay we saw in GoldenEye and Thief. It sucks that so many people didn’t see past its graphics, and I feel like criminally few people played the game when it finally did reach consoles. Maybe a PS4 and Xbox One port of it along with the other Crysis games would give it some more needed exposure. Far Cry 2 was a good step in this direction on consoles but also didn’t get the exposure it needed. I heard Killzone Shadow Fall tried to be this kind of game but I also heard varying reports on its execution.
- If you snagged a free copy of Left 4 Dead 2 while it was free on Stema, please download the Hemls Deep map at Steam Workshop.