Leipzig GC 2007: Hands-on with Crysis

You might have read Fronz’s report of his play test of Crysis back in January. While he found the game to be trouser-troubling beautiful and solidly playable — despite bugs — he ultimately wasn’t blown away by the overall experience. I have to say, I kind of feel the same way myself at the moment…

When I say I wasn’t impressed by Crysis, don’t think for a minute that I thought it was a bad game. It wasn’t, and there’s every chance it’ll be loved by a great many people, myself maybe included, when it finally gets released. The thing is though, there’s a difference between enjoying a game and being impressed by it. Super Mario Galaxy impressed me at Leipzig. Quake Wars and Spore impressed me too. Crysis though, was merely good-looking fun.

I say good-looking. I actually mean fantastic-looking. Everything you’ve heard about the game’s textures and lighting effects is true, and at first it’s quite easy to get shot up while you boggle at the dappled sunlight and vegetation effects. Deciding to concentrate and head down to the little enemy encampment ahead of me for a bit of the old bullet hurling, I found combat to be pretty solid too. My prey were very sharp and detected me coming long before I expected them to.

Even though I made a point of avoiding the path and sticking to the foliage in order to sneak up on one of the furthest-out guards, he still felt something fishy going on and came right after me. I managed to drop him before he alerted the guys down at the main hut, but it was already clear that this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. From now on I was keeping low, staying as far from the open as possible, and moving very slowly, and after three or four attempts I finally managed to clean the place out without getting spotted early and wasted. My pride was slightly bruised, but on the other hand, as someone who walked through the last couple of hours of F.E.A.R. without many problems at all, it was nice to meet some FPS bad guys who could give me some major headaches.

The next section I played had me making my way down a road to break through an enemy guard post on either side of the track. Having learned my lesson, there was no way I was going anywhere near the road itself, and so decided to sneak my way around the side to get a good look at the layout of my target and make a plan. I decided to soften my quarry up with a couple of grenades before launching a surprise attack, and as I charged in on my startled targets the ensuing melee was certainly a lot of fun.

I nailed a couple pretty quickly, got a few hits in on a third guard and spun away to go after one or two more who were close by, assuming I’d have plenty of time to go back after him and finish him off. Not so. When I turned to resume my chase, the wounded guy had totally disappeared, vanishing into the undergrowth and forcing me to go in blind. Clever, and more than a bit tricksy.

So what’s so wrong with Crysis that I wasn’t enthusiastically powering up my laptop to tell you about it’s greatness the second I stopped playing? It’s difficult to put a finger on. It was enjoyable mixing up gunplay with an opportunistic use of objects on the fly, and it was certainly satisfying to hurl a barrel or a dumpster at an unsuspecting guard from cover before quickly switching back to a machine gun and plugging him as he stumbled back. I couldn’t shake the feeling though, that I was playing a mash-up of bits of various FPS that I’d seen before. Hadn’t I done a lot of this already previous games? Some of it with a gravity gun maybe? 

Of course, I’m not going to make a sweeping statement about Crysis’ quality at this stage. It’s undoubtedly a slickly-made game with a fair amount of fun to be had within, and I’m sure that the mechanics of the finished game are going to provide all kinds of things I didn’t see in my forty minutes or so with the build I played. It’s just that at the moment, with Bioshock already upon us and a whole host of other great-looking games due to hit over this year and next, I didn’t see anything in what I played to really hit my joy-buttons hard and get me truly excited. I want Crysis to be great. Right, now, from what I got to play, it seems “merely” good. Let’s wait for the demo and hope it changes my mind. 

David Houghton