The alien environment feels appropriately otherworldly, and it feels like you're under the sea.
The one criticism that can be leveled on the story is that it leaves you screaming for more. While there's an adrenaline-packed finale, you still don't want the game to end on the note that it does. The single-player campaign is around eight to 10 hours long, which is a healthy amount for a shooter. There's a lot of replay here, too, as you can experiment with a multitude of different approaches. Plus, it's fun to go back and try out the large, set-piece battles again and again, since they can unfold in different ways thanks to the dynamic nature of the combat and the artificial intelligence.
Speaking of which, the AI is generally excellent in a fight, as enemy soldiers use cover and concealment effectively. They also know how to lay down suppressing fire and are great at tossing grenades to flush you out of hiding. Getting in a firefight in the jungle with these guys is always fun, because they'll make you work for it at the default normal difficulty setting. (However, the AI can suffer from the same problem all shooters seem to have; mainly that bad guys sometimes don't know what's going on down the road from them.) When you take damage, find cover and your armor and health will regenerate. If you die, you reload to the last checkpoint or quick save. Meanwhile, Crysis includes a special hard mode called delta, which is a lot of fun, because rather than making the game tougher by cheating and giving the bad guys more powerful weapons, delta takes away some of the gameplay crutches that help you at lower difficulty levels. For instance, incoming grenades are no longer highlighted, so you've got to pay attention now, and your health regeneration is slower. And the best part about delta is that all enemy soldiers speak fully in Korean, so unless you understand Korean, you're going to have a much harder time trying to figure out what they're planning to do.
The single-player game is a considerable accomplishment by itself, but Crytek has also included a full-featured multiplayer mode called power struggle that combines the best of the Battlefield games and Counter-Strike. The goal in power struggle is that each 16-man team (for 32 players total) must destroy the opposing team's base, but to do so they have to construct alien weaponry at a central prototype facility. To power the prototype facility, though, both teams need to seize and hold power stations throughout the map. In addition, there are bunkers and factories that can be captured; capturing a bunker allows your team to spawn in forward positions, while capturing a factory allows you to purchase vehicles that can help your side. Whenever you help your team by killing the enemy or seizing an objective, you gain points that can be used to purchase more advanced weapons, vehicles, and gear. It's an excellent multiplayer mode, and it comes with five large maps to support it. Keep in mind that everyone has their suit powers as well, so in addition to all the running and gunning and vehicle driving, there's plenty of leaping and speed running and cloaking going on.
Power struggle is Battlefield meets Counter-Strike meets the powers of the nanosuit.
Then there's instant action, which is essentially deathmatch with nanosuit powers. This is a chaotic mode set in some stunning levels, including what feels like a fully modeled Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. You can run around the flight deck, a good chunk of the hanger deck, and many of the corridors. Weapons are strewn about everywhere in instant action, so it's just a crazy melee of shotguns, snipers, rocket launchers, or nanosuit-enhanced fists. However, a team deathmatch mode is missing, which seems odd. Team deathmatch would have been a welcome addition, since it would have instilled some kind of teamwork into an otherwise free-for-all frenzy. Finally, Crysis multiplayer features built-in voice support, which means that all you need is a microphone to talk to your fellow players and teammates in power struggle.
Graphically, Crysis looks photorealistic at times--it's that amazing. Crytek has managed to achieve a visual fidelity that blows away anything seen to date, and there are countless moments when you'll just stop and gape at what you're seeing. Sometimes it's just the ordinary, like the setting sun casting all sorts of shadows and rays through the jungle canopy. Other times, it's something epic, like watching a huge alien war machine stomping toward you. The impressive aspect of the graphics is just how it manages to render huge, open, dynamic, interactive levels. Everything looks amazing up close or far away. Interacting with your squadmates lets you gaze upon the mechanical sinews of their nanosuit, or the incredible facial animation that brings them to life. They're capable of the subtlest of facial gestures to help convey emotion. Then you can sit on a ridge and peer down using binoculars to a village a kilometer away, scouting the location of the patrolling guards and machine gun posts. The sheer fact that many of the trees and buildings are destructible just adds a level of realism that's staggering.
You'll need a fairly high-end system to make the game look its best. In that regard, Crysis really does embody everything that's both exciting and daunting about PC gaming. A dual-core CPU and the latest generation of video card can run the game at maximum detail settings capably, though you have to lower the resolution a bit to do so. It's doubtful that a system has been built yet that can run the game at ultra-high resolutions with all the graphical sliders maxed out. Dial down the detail settings to high, which is the next-lower setting, and Crysis still blows contemporary games out of the water. Results are a bit mixed at medium and low settings, though. At the lowest detail settings, objects pop in and out with a fair degree of consistency. It's annoying at best and frustrating at worst, as it can impact gameplay. Crysis does support both DirectX 9 and DirectX 10, though the latter requires you run the game using Windows Vista. The visuals in DX9 are impressive, but they really come to life in DX10, provided you have the hardware.
This is a backwoods redneck's worst nightmare: North Koreans, aliens, and a tornado.
The game also sounds fantastic, from the primordial "moans" that the island periodically releases, the soft crunch of dirt and branches under your feet, and all the background sounds that you'd expect in the middle of the jungle. Turn on your suit's cloak, and everything sounds muffled. The music, by composer Inon Zur, feels inspired by the scores from epic Hollywood action movies, while the voice acting is also excellent, helping to deliver some distinct characters and even a little humor.
If you put it all together, Crysis is just remarkable. This is a game that pushes the envelope in terms of both technology and gameplay and does so with aplomb. Crysis raises the expectations for every shooter to follow when it comes to graphics, interactivity, environments, immersiveness, AI, and gameplay. Quite simply, Crysis represents the first-person shooter at its finest, most evolved form.