The Crysis Series: From Simulators To Games

Back in December I did that RTTP Crysis post after building a new computer. A little while after that I also benchmarked Crysis 2 and finally got myself a copy of Crysis 3. I think the trilogy collectively is one of the best illustrations of the differences between different kinds of first person action games. Crysis 3 in particular tries to reconcile the styles.

I think the easiest way to put it would be to say that the original Crysis (and its expansion Warhead) feels like a simulator whereas the two sequels strictly feel like games.

When I say “simulation” I don’t mean a realistic simulation of things, but rather simply a field of factors the player is thrown into and asked to play around with. The levels in Crysis are built not like obstacle courses but like functioning environments — guards patrol, lie down on beaches, respond to alarm flares in the distance, and bases are filled with trucks and buildings that play no particular role in the player’s objectives. The guys at Crytek simply thrust you into these environments and ask you to find your own way to complete objectives. In my previous post I compared it to GoldenEye and Thief which do the same thing, as do games like Deus Ex and Fallout 3.

Crysis 2 tries to give the player multiple paths and open environments, but they are very deliberately designed like arenas working under the strict rule set of a “game.” Enemies patrol very defined paths and have few, if any other behaviors. All buildings are either inert window dressing or have some immediate purpose in the player’s progress. Your “objectives” have become waypoints. In a recent post I drew differences between classic Thief, the new THIEF, and Dishonored, mentioning Crysis along the way, and that applies here too. New THIEF also simply creates some open levels under the strict rule set of a “game” rather than letting you loose in functioning environments like Thief: The Dark Project and Thief II.

That said, Crysis 2 is still in my opinion better than most high-profile shooters released in the last few years. It may have discarded the soul of its predecessor, but it at least gives you some options and lets you play a game rather than shepherding you down a corridor and through quick-time events. Crysis 2 may be a game as opposed to a simulator, but it’s a really good game if you ask me. Crysis 3 is significantly better.

I remember Crytek saying they wanted to bring Crysis 3 a little bit back to the feel of the original game, and I can tell they certainly tried. Crysis 3 feels the same as Crysis 2 generally — it’s a bunch of open-ended obstacle courses, but those obstacle courses are far larger, some of them approaching the size of the original Crysis’s levels. Crysis 3 even brings back the map screen and sometimes gives you two or three simultaneous objectives or even secondary objectives.

At times Crysis 3 will ask you to infiltrate a base within a massive area, and that base might have two or three entrances to find. Instead of a functioning environment however what you find there is a really large video game level made of up staircases, crates, and vents. That stuff is still fun in itself though. Crysis 3 still manages to be a really good first person shooter in its own right. It just isn’t the true return of the objective-based style of gameplay that you just don’t see in first person action games anymore.

What’s really scary is, I don’t know when we’ll see that kind of gameplay appear again. The closest true examples we have on modern consoles are probably the recent Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, and to a certain extent Dishonored and possibly Deus Ex Human Revolution. I think all of those games are scheduled to get sequels on PS4 and Xbox One excluding Dishonored (maybe). This is why those are some of my most anticipated games — because they might benefit the most from the new hardware in terms of real gameplay and not just graphics.


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One thought on “The Crysis Series: From Simulators To Games

  1. […] already did a whole blog post on how the original Crysis behaves in much the same way, and how its sequels feel much more like deliberately designed video […]

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