Thursday, 29 March 2012

Crysis [PS3]

Was all about ready to say that Crysis is great - not mind-blowing but frikkin pretty and solid enough to get through.

Then came the final battle...

You play the role of NOMAD, a US Special Forces soldier equipped with an elite "nano-suit".

So What's The Story Here?
Crysis follows the story of an elite special forces unit sent into Korea to rescue some captured scientists. You have reason to suspect that a Korean General is developing some sort of top-secret weapon or other dastardly research, so the US sends some soldiers in to investigate/rescue/murderise the situation until it goes away.

The enormous island you are sent to, complete with a whole army of Korean soldiers defending it, would be pretty impenetrable with a standard army unit - but you are no standard army unit. Each member of your squad is both highly-trained and kitted out with a Nano Suit, a set of armour that gives you the abilities of super-strength and invisibility.

Sneaking up on peeing guards is now a lot easier - 100% better results thanks to the invisibility power

Is It Any Good Then?
+++ Nano-Suited and Booted +++
The nano-suit is the real game-changer here - allowing you to change your tactics on-the-fly and go from sneaky seal to violent vole whenever you want.

The suit has an energy meter, so you only get a certain amount of time using each power before you have to turn them off and allow it to recharge. This means that, although your powers make you much tougher in battle, you aren't ever invincible (or perhaps I should say, permanently invisible).

There are a lot of different way of using your suit powers as well - aside from just cloaking and strength, you can mix and match so that you silently sneak all the way over to a guard before switching to "brute force" mode at the last second and smashing him to Kingdom Come.

When you aren't sneaking and armouring yourself, you can use the suit to jump several metres into the air (over pesky walls and other such obstacles) or use it to turbo-punch enemies into dust... then the ragdoll takes over and away they fly.

When combined with the suit powers, the choice of weapon outfits in Crysis offer a good deal of flexibility in play.

+++ Brainy Battles +++
The variety of suit options isn't just for show - you really need all of those options in order to make it off this island alive. 

The enemy AI is adaptive, creative and cunning - hole yourself up in cover and you'll soon find enemies flanking you - evade the enemies for a minute and they will start search patrols to flush you out.

There are many games which have pulled this off in recent years, but with Crysis's leaning towards freedom of play, the AI gets its chance to shine.

You'll still get the odd occasion where you'll find a guard staring right at you for ten seconds before he realises "Oh, that's the guy I'm meant to be shooting", but all-in-all the AI works well and fits the gameplay perfectly.

+++ Level Difficulty +++
And while the action is challenging - you never reach an impassable wall in terms of the difficulty level. Generally, you just need to stop and take a look around your environment to find an easier way to get through.

The game tries to offer incentives for sticking with the challenge though - plenty of secondary objectives are located within well-guarded compounds and offer shiny new trophies if you succeed in all of them.

Certain sections can be a bit annoying - especially those involving vehicles or night-vision - but this is handily catered-for by you being able to simply run away if it all gets too much. That might not sound like a point in the game's favour, but I'd much rather be able to skip past an annoying section than have it ruin my experience.

+++ Tropical Paradise +++
When Crysis was originally released on PC, it turned heads because of the graphical quality - and that remains true today. It really is a blisteringly gorgeous game - with environments, enemies and special effects all adding to a rich and detailed world that would be well-suited to a Summer holiday destination (if you like shooting Koreans, that is).

This version of Crysis is updated to the CryEngine 3, which was built for console title releases. I couldn't actually pick up on any areas where the graphical quality had improved, however it certainly makes the most of the PS3's graphical capabilities and delivers a stunning HD experience.

+++ Free-Roam Fun +++
The game's open-ended play is my favourite attribute - do you sneak through/blast your way through/run away/drive as fast as you can?

In reality you can do any one of these - and with the checkpoints system in place you can actually try a few of them out to see what works. If you find that something isn't working - such as a pesky building being right in the way - then you blow it up (handled beautifully by the physics engine btw). If you find that the enemies are shooting you before you get chance to mark them, go invisible. 

For every problem, there is a solution - and most involve elite ninja powers or lots of explosions..... which are all good.
The first half of the game stands out as the most fun free-roam shooting since Far Cry.....

--- Bizarre Alien Crap ---
Right from the start of the game, you are made aware that there is something else going on on the island. You find soldiers who have been mangled, you occasionally see large shadows sweep around the corner out of sight.

So what's the islands big secret? Aliens. Frikkin aliens.

Does every free-roam tropical shooter have to throw in some sci-fi crap to satisfy another audience base? Are soldiers - or other terrestrial foes - not enough to keep the action going through the fifteen-hour campaign? Apparently not.

When aliens are worked in from the beginning, they can sometimes make for an enjoyable baddie. When you have a fantastic action shooter that suddenly jumps from "U.S. Navy Seal" to "E.T. phone home", you feel a little missold. I didn't buy this to fight aliens! I don't want you to try and scare me with tentacled floaty creatures! I want action - and from about the halfway point there is less and less action you get involved in.
And then just like Far Cry, the second half is just ridiculous sci-fi scary monster shit.

--- 101 More Things To In Zero-G ---
Worse than the fact that you have to stop fighting soldiers and move onto aliens, you actually spend a whole level floating around an alien spaceship. Again, when you make this the sole-focus of the game then it can be quite fun (see the game Prey for a good example of this).

In Crysis though, you have trekked across lush jungles, blown up villages and swam in tropical seas.... before spending nearly an hour in metal tube floating aimlessly.

The objectives in the spaceship section are obscure - you basically just float around until you find the exit, then a cutscene plays, then you shoot some aliens, get lost and spend ages looking for the next exit.

This was one of the worst uses of zero-g gameplay I've ever encountered, and I'm having a hard time understanding why on Earth they thought it would be a good idea.

Another disappointing discovery was the complete lack of multiplayer. The PC version featured 32-player multiplayer action that added a great deal of play time to the game.

In the PS3 update, there is only the single player campaign. 

While I understand that getting multiplayer functionality into a game is a lot of effort, and hosting the servers will be costing money - it still feels like PS3 players are getting a raw deal here.

The single player campaign is certainly good - it's just not full price good.

--- Grand Finale ---
And then we get to the horror that was the final level. You are fighting the mother of all alien baddies to save the island and the day - when this happened:

1) One of my allies kept shouted at me -  
"Use the TAC gun! Lock on and use the TAC gun!"

I did not have a "TAC gun" and so this was getting quite annoying. When I ran around the whole level looking for one, fought for 20 minutes, then got myself blown up a few times AND STILL FOUND NO TAC GUN, it was then that I decided to consult an online walkthrough.

2) Online walkthrough - 
explained that there's a glitch in the game

Yeah, a f***ing big one. Not only was I not given the TAC gun - which it essential in order to beat the big bad boss - but worse than that, I found that the game had actually SKIPPED HALF OF THE LAST LEVEL. There a whole mini-section where you run around helping a few army guys while they inevitably got killed by aliens - but that did not happen when I first played through.

3) So I did the sensible thing and restarted the level. 

So I started the level again, wandered through bored listening to the same bland dialogue, and played the section that Crysis decided we should skip the first time around. 

It was crap. I watched some blokes die. Picked up a TAC gun (will probably come in handy) and went back out to face the final boss.

So there I was - climactic finish - then the woman starts screaming about a TAC gun and..... STILL NOTHING.

I waited. I cried. I threw some things at the TV. This was the grand finale that is frozen in time because the game has a glitch.

A glitch - as it turns out - that was present in the PC version, still present when updated for PS3, and never fixed in a patch in the 3 1/2 YEARS since release.

The final level lagged like nobody's business too. I think it's something about the enemy's "freeze" weapon - but framerate dropped to "photo slideshow" speeds every time you were fired upon (every 10 seconds) and usually during this time you were killed. 

For such an excellent game to be ruined by shoddy design in the final boss fight is just shameful. It certainly put a major downer on my spectacular victory, I can tell you.

If you're anything like me, you'll soon hate these things with a passion.

Crysis looks great, it plays great, it feels great. You really get the feeling that you are elite, near-invincible and awesomely-powerful - which I got a major kick out of.

Finding your own way around these gorgeous environments and choosing how exactly you want to take out the baddies is brilliant fun - and shows off their graphics engine well.

Sadly, the alien crap in the second half - and particularly the final level - left me feeling pretty frustrated at the change of pace and tone. It didn't add anything - and it almost prevented me from finishing the game.

If you can get a copy on PC - then go for it.
If you're considering getting this on the PS3, then bear in mind that it's single player only and offers nothing that you can't get on PC for a fiver now.

Feel free to post comments or contributions to improve the experience!
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