|a game by||Crytek|
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Put Simply, Far Cry is one of the best first-person shooters ever to exist in the history of the world, and probably a few other worlds too. It's right up there next to Half-Life 2, jostling for the tallest bit of the podium, and for many it's the pinnacle triumph of mankind's ability to emulate shooting people, places and things on a desktop.
If you've never played Far Cry, put this magazine down, saunter into your nearest games shop, pick up a copy and hit yourself with it repeatedly, then play it If you have played Far Cry, then you know why the people who haven't played it must punish themselves in such a manner. It's a breathtaking game, both in its graphics and its ganieplay - the first time you emerge from a darkened cave in Far Cry and see the sheer scope and beauty of your surroundings is one of those special moments in gaming.
We was the magazine that championed the game, also grabbing the exclusive review and playable demo before rivals had even heard of it - and here we are again with the world exclusive on Crysis, the spiritual successor to Far Cry, from German developer Crytek. We're still in paradise, but while similarities with Far Cry are easily drawn, you'll soon discover why Crysis will be a huge departure from Jack Carver's Trigen-blasting escapades.
Crysis is set in the near-future, during a period of political (and extra-terrestrial) unease. The action will take place on a beautiful island archipelago, where sci-fi craziness will merge with natural beauty. In the same way that Half-Life 2 melded the Combine Citadel with drab Eastern Europe, Crysis is bringing aliens to the tropics.
The premise of the game is that an 'unidentified crashing into the Earth object' 'has, as UCITEOs generally do, crashed into the Earth and a large, ominous tower has appeared in the otherwise peaceful island paradise. The North Koreans are first on the scene, and it's not long before all hell breaks loose (not literally of course, although that has been known to happen before). Enveloping the tower is a massive dome of blue energy - the inside of which contains massively contrasting weather to the usual local constants of sun, sea and sand. The ethereal bubble's icy environments and freezing temperatures hint at the possible terraforming intentions of a malicious alien race, or perhaps just global warming arriving with style. Whatever, the North Koreans have claimed the ancestral right of 'first dibs' - and you have to fight through an array of Communist armaments before you can infiltrate the mysterious Snow Globe.
Cold As Ice
"The game actually becomes a frozen paradise," laughs Cevat Yerli, CEO of Crytek, "which was the codename of the project for a while. We just looked at Far Cry and thought 'hey let's turn this place into a frozen paradise'!" These icy surroundings are set to allow for some interesting features, in particular a weapon we haven't seen since Painkiller- the common or garden freeze-ray.
"Basically, you can freeze an alien unit" Yerli elaborates with glee, "and shatter it afterwards. Also, the shattering is all realtime, which means that after you've used the weapon, depending on where you shoot them with another gun, the ice will break and shatter realistically with correct physics for all the chunks of ice."
You'll have to excuse us for unashamedly promoting our enthusiasm, but the freeze-ray is possibly the best weapon ever known to mankind. Forget nuclear weapons and chemical rockets - freezing people and then shooting off their arms and legs is truly the way forward.
The globe means, of course, that the wonderment of CryEngine 2 will not be limited to simple jungles, beaches and mud huts. In the words of Stingray, "anything can happen in the next half-hour", with levels also promised aboard an aircraft carrier and in a yet-to-be-revealed top secret location.
Pretty And Clever
CryEngine 2 isn't just a pretty face - even if it does churn out stunning visuals like a butter chum churns out, erm, butter. It's also running an extremely powerful physics engine capable of handling the complex calculations required to demolish the huts and structures about the game. We're not just talking shooting planks of wood or pushing a barrel down a slope either -we're talking about explosions levelling trees, about ploughing through houses in trucks, tank and jeeps, and watching walls collapse and the debris fall and scatter.
Then there are the small details, such as the way leaves and foliage bend realistically as you brush past how the soft shadowing filters down from the treetops and even how the real-time lighting engine makes day pass realistically into night The billowing volumetric clouds, the wavering shadows of individual leaves on individual trees, the blinding sunlight If there was ever a shout out for you to upgrade, then it's this, although Crytek promises the game will run on this-gen machines.
Plus of course, where there are spacecraft and sparkling blue energy spheres, there are aliens. Crytek is particularly proud of its human AI routines in Far Cry, loving the way you were forced to outwit the enemy rather than simply out-shoot them. It wasn't however, as happy with the Trigens, which simply required you to out-react them and put a bullet in their face before they could leap at you. The Trigens, however, would hardly be capable of piloting a colossal spacecraft millions of light years, so fighting against these now invading forces is promised to be just as involving and intense as the human combat we've come to know and love.
"The new enemies will always have tactical information," Yerli informs us. "When you look carefully and watch them, you'll work out exactly what you have to do to gain an advantage. What we want is for the player to work out how to outsmart the aliens, because when you outsmart an enemy, you always feel more gratified." So expect aliens moving in packs, or in certain patterns - or maybe even hunting you down for the interloper you are.
Whether you're cowering behind trees from angry North Koreans or aliens, however, Far Cry's open-endedness and 'action bubble' mentality remains. When you're approaching a jungle outpost stealthily, searching for a sniper point, flanking or simply driving a truck straight through an enemy outhouse, the freedom given to the AI around you will be nothing short of remarkable.
"You can use stealth or distract them," Yerli elaborates, still ecstatic at the prospect of truly sentient aliens. "It's something that I feel is truly new for the genre, as aliens are usually reactive - they just move towards you and you kill them." On more than one occasion you'll have allies to help you out as well, and while you won't be directly ordering them about the shop, they'll watch your movements and act accordingly. "It's very cool," explains Yerli. "If you play stealthily, they actually mimic your style of gameplay and become stealthy too."
However, Crysis also makes the consequences larger, with story threats based solely around the characters in your unit "The message we want to give is that characters matter," adds Yerli. "So, if you do protect a certain person and they survive a mission, you'll get a choice of characters in later levels."
One of the major new features of Crysis, however, is the ability to modify your character's suit and weapons, distributing energy between different sub-systems, much in the way that old X-Wing/TIE Fighter games once worked. "By default you get an energy level of 100," Yerli tells us, "and you can divert that to different sub-systems - strength, speed and armour. So if you increase speed, for example, the other two systems will decrease. There are upgrades for more energy and there's also a temperature control. Plus, there's even a sound dampener for stealth."
And what about the weapons? "We have the usual array of weapons such as the shotgun and sniper rifle," answers Yerli, with the ghost of Far Cry past twinkling in his eye. "But then each of the weapon classes has modules for upgrades so you can, say, attach a sniper scope to a shotgun - which I wouldn't recommend! But basically, it's up to you what you do with your weaponry."
Go Go Gadget
Upgrading your abilities and weaponry won't be a complex manoeuvre either, with a streamlined interface allowing all sorts of customisation at the click of a button. Your suit's upgrades take some cues from the RPG genre in that your character's skills will improve as the game goes on "The suit looks unique and it adds a completely new functionality to the shooter," states Yerli, somewhat excitedly. "Because it's real-time, you can change it any time you want During combat you can just go behind a tree, top up your armour, then go back into battle. Then when you're done, you can increase your speed and run like hell to take cover again. Plus we will have hotkeys or presets for play modes - and that's something I think is totally new to the FPS genre. It's actually a very simple idea, but very powerful - it will make a real difference to how Crysis is played."
Vehicles, which include hovercrafts, jeeps, APCs and flyable helicopters this time around, wi(l be far more integral to the multiplayer as well. Crytek is paying much more attention to deathmatch this time than it did with Far Cry, with the suit playing a major role in maps that'll cater for 32 players with ease.
So there you have it Crytek really came out of the blue with Far Cry in 2004, shocking and impressing all and sundry with a fantastic game from an entirely unknown developer - and we've no reason to doubt that it can't do it again. Crysis has a fantastic next-gen engine, a huge environment, amazing AI and an innovative upgradeable suit and weapon system - this from a collaboration of talented people from 20 different nations with no less than five awards since releasing their debut title. Like they say, in every crisis there's an opportunity - and that's probably the case even when it's spelt with a 'y'.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Trigens
Far Cry's impressive AI was put to good use in the heat of battle with mercenary soldiers on a sun-drenched beach, but we can't help but feel, and we think you'll agree, that the Trigens were nothing more than lethal jacks-in-the-boxes, waiting on every corner to pounce out at you and rip your throat out. Terrifying as they were, they weren't as fun to fight with as the human opponents. Crytek agrees with us heartily, and that's why the aliens in Crysis are a bit more intellectual than the Trigens and the humans put together (although we're sure that's a hybrid that we've already killed in Far Cry). They won't be spitting wine into buckets and smoking fine cigars, but they will move in formation, flock together and attempt to outwit you.
The Joys Of Destruction
Crysis's interactive environment is explosive fun
Far Cry was one of the first PC games with ground-breaking physics technology - ragdoll bodies would float in water, barrels could be rolled downhill and vehicles would realistically hug the terrain. The new CryEngine allows all this and more, including the ability for characters to brush past leaves and fauna, and the realistic formation of ice. However, the most dramatic addition is the ability to completely destroy trees and, more dramatically, certain buildings. "The idea is that whatever looks breakable and interactive in the Crysis environment will be," says Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli. In practice, it means a shoddily-built shack can be blown up or a heavy vehicle, such as an APC or tank, can drive straight though it, with the building toppling and breaking apart, burying any unfortunates beneath chunks of rubble, wood and corrugated iron. Excited yet?