Having Already Rammed our faces into the ample, jungley bosom of Crysis and shaken our heads from side to side like a wet dog, we decided to rendezvous with Crytek once again to find out what they've been up to since our paths last crossed. Recent months have been spent getting multiplayer just right, claims Jack Mamais, producer of Crysis, not to mention endlessly replaying the singleplayer 'action bubbles' to refine the minute-to-minute gameplay.
"You can use the nanosuit and weapons modifications to change your play style as you face different tactical situations,'' he explains. "If the objective is to infiltrate and clear a village, you can use the cloaking system and the binoculars to carefully mark all of the enemies on your radar. Then you can use a silenced weapon or melee attacks to take out the guards silently. If you find yourself caught between two huts, you can use your suit's strength ability to quickly jump onto a roof to fire a couple of shots from above. Then you can punch a hole in the roof and drop inside to get behind cover again. If the enemy has all exits under fire, punch out a wall and use the speed ability to get to a new position. Or change to incendiary ammo, take off the silencer, dial up your suit's armour ability and face them off.''
One Tank Please
Moving seamlessly from punching walls to the new multiplayer mode 'Power Struggle', Mamais continues. "The buy system makes vehicles and advanced weapons really valuable for the individual player and his team," he claims. "It rewards teamplay and tactical decisions - you can earn prestige points by helping your buddies capture and defend factories or by sharing vehicles. Depending on your play style, you can have anything between a quick infantry skirmish and a vehicle battle lasting hours. It's also designed to offer objective-based gameplay which makes it feel almost like a single-player game with lots of very intense enemies."
As for Mamais' preferred method of play? "Lately, the first things I buy in multiplayer are a submachine gun with a silencer plus a sniper scope," he confides. "As for the nanosuit, I switch between speed for quick dashes to get close, and strength for a high jump and a melee attack from above - pure ownage."
Also rumoured is a sequence inspired by a scene from Jurassic Park: The Lost World, in which raptors stalk their prey through a field of long grass, effectively invisible save for the telltale movements of the grass around them. It doesn't take much imagination to picture this recreated in Crysis using the game's excellent foliage, with the obvious insertion of aliens rather than velociraptors.
Now all we need is a cocky hunter who gets his comeuppance in the form of vicious death at the tendrils of an alien, and we've got an instant classic on our hands.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Jake Dunn. Now there's a real hero's name: two syllables and a surname that's the past participle of a common verb. Give the man a gun and a liberal sprinkle of stubble and lie'll save the world in a flash. Or, perhaps, in 12 hours of post-For Cry FPS bliss. You see, when I met up with Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli, bombshells seemed to drop at the rate of one a minute - but in among the manifold jaw-drops (zero-g combat? WTF?), the fundamentals were laid out loud and proud: take the goodness of Far Cry. remove the broken bits and fill in the gaps with gaming Polyfilla extracted from the loins of the very gods.
So what was wrong with Far Cry? Crytek name and shame the quicksave system, the high difficulty levels, the iffy multiplayer code, the 'outgun rather than outsmart' Trigens and the dud storyline. Rather harsh self-criticism, and in the eyes of a correspondent who adored the Carver quicksave challenge, rather a worrying one. To me, the very essence of Far Cry was in its difficulty - in the way you'd lie upon a cliff, scan the valley below and plan your nigh-impossible assault. I loved the challenge. I even quite liked the Trigens. Are they taking away that indescribable Far Cry feeling? That sense of tactical power you got while standing on a green hill far away, beyond a Mercenary fort? Apparently not.
Far And Away
"In Far Cry, it was what we call 'outsmart gameplay', or as the Romans used to say, 'veni vidi vici'," explains Yerli. ''It was about seeing something and then working out the best way to conquer it. That was very much Far Cry's basic core gameplay and now we're improving and amplifying it with the hero, the weapon and the ammunition in Crysis. The more you observe, the better you can develop your skill and tactics because you get more from the situation. If you rush into it. you'll most likely fail - but if you're really careful about it, you can get a much richer gameplay experience and, by the huge amount of choice you have, you can play it again and again"
Talking to Crytek is always fun, you see - every time you get shown their game, ten or twelve nuggets of previously undisclosed shooter wonderment fall out of their beautiful volumetric mouths. "We believe that you can play Crysis three or four times and still have a unique experience. In Far Cry. you could play through about two times and you got some replay value there," continues Yerli. "In Far Cry. you could die and replay again and the scene would be almost unique, but in Crysis each scene is going to be inherently unique. Each mission is going to be kind-of unique depending on your choices, but each game experience is also going to be up to three to four times as unique, because of the anomalies and consequences, because of the tactical choices." And that's a whole lot of unique.
Example needed? Well, I'll give you two: one rooted deep in the gameplay and the other in the story. First off: your three ammunition types. The first brand does as you'd expect - pierces flesh, breaks bone and brings about bloody death. The second isn't far removed - incendiary ammo bursting into flames on contact and being rather more of a bloody and/or metallic chunk generator than an oh-so-subtle mode of jungle sniping. The third? Well, the third is where it gets interesting.
Snipe a sentry with Crysis's new brand of 'tactical' ammunition and you'll be able to track them on your map - much as the old Far Cry binocs were once wont to do. If you're feeling fanciful, you could even tag a parrot and watch him flap around the island. These motion-tracking bullets, however, also come with trigger-controlled explosive and chloroformic qualities.
Fire your tactical ammo at a passing Korean grunt and you'll see your prey swat the back of his head as if he's been zapped by a mosquito. Then, as your chosen victim saunters towards a group of his pals intent on discussing the latest episode of whatever they watch in North Korea (Happy Propaganda Sing Sing or something) - you'll be able to either ignite the air around the back of his head and watch ragdolls fly, or simply release knock-out gas and watch the group simultaneously collapse. Think that's all joy? Well, think of the fun and games you'll have if you nab a chopper pilot on the back of the neck before takeoff: in-air hi-jinks and choppers falling out of the sky are a dead cert.
Alternatively, of course, if you're not one for stealth, you could just fire the triggercharge onto the helicopter rotor and set off the explosive charge after take-off. Or you could use that same tactical ammo as a sound beacon to distract the pilot as he races towards his chopper, lure him into the jungle and then subtly shoot him in the back of the liead. It doesn't necessarily have to be spectacular - but each and every way but loose, it'll be fun.
Prepare To Die
The more storyline-ot imitated branch of in-game choice and variety, meanwhile, crops up when we come to the way that the story works - since Crysis isn't going to pussyfoot around the concept of in-game death. There won't be any Oblivion-style 'Tendrathiil is conveniently unconscious' messages, nor will there be a COD2 bulletproof Scotsman - when members of your squad snuff it then they're out for good. Keep them alive and the future remains open - along with added protection there may be plot revelations or different avenues to explore; let them die and your future will be subtly altered.
This tactic plays throughout the fabric of the game - the loss of a comrade may well play with the storytelling of your current playthrough, but you'll also be led into decision-required dilemmas - such as that in which you're forced to choose between saving either a squadmate or a journalist (rather a Batman Forever situation in which the latter is presumably both sexy and a wearer of spectacles).
In fact, the whole structure of the game embraces this vampiric thirst for continual change and variety. They say that everything changes but you (well, Take That did), but in Crysis you'll even be able to play with your magic combat suit and adjust it for speed, defence and strength settings. Even the look, texture and feel of the game's missions warp and bend as you play through. It takes a brave developer to piss around with a winning formula in-game (and I know you can't see me right now, but I'm waving a large placard with the word Xen' emblazoned on it - and Steve Hogarty is wearing giant Gladiators-style foam hands and pointing at it), but Crytek are dead-set on doing it once every three hours. Semi-spoilers follow - if you want to remain pure, then skip past.
Major Spoilers Start
You begin in familiar territory: jungle. You hide in the long grass, you shoot branches and watch them collapse onto patrolling enemies. Before long, the cheeky terraforming antics of the Aliens becomes apparent - tropical moves to subtropical moves to temperate moves to arctic. Everything turns into something like an mside-out Center Parcs dome with the warm bit on the outside and the cold bit in the middle, and with all the waterslides completely frozen up.
The gameplay starts to revolve around freezing, shattering and intense combat against the mechanised variations of the Alien threat. After this: a sortie on the alien ship involving helicopter combat through the volumetric cuniulo nimbi and zero-g floaty combat against the Aliens in their birthday suits rather than their former robotic forms. And all the while between missions, you'll be returning to hometurf -the USS Ashcroft - from which you'll be receiving briefings, before taking to the skies and throwing yourself out of the backs of planes and into mission-entry parachute drops into paradise.
However, even your home isn't sacrosanct - Crytek intend to build up the Ashcroft Aircraft Carrier as a basecamp and safe haven, before cruelly ripping it away from under your feet two-thirds of the way through the game. It's a clever trick (used to great effect in Freedom Fighters as well, which no-one apart from me ever seems to have played), but when you see it in action like I did (with the added bonus of Crytek's Yerli grinning like a loon in front of me), then wow. Just wow.
From the start of the level (powering up your suit to lift a girder from a dying commander) to the close (watching a terrifying spider mech clamber onto the side of ship and witnessing it casually pick up a plane and lob it at the command tower), it's a pyrotechnic tour-de-force.
On-screen, Jake Dunn has been frozen by the spider-bot's freeze ray, and a nearby mouse is jiggling furiously to break him free, but Yerli is explaining the intricacies of what Crytek know as the 'Hunter'.
"It has sensors, so it can hear, see and recognise the biggest threat. It will try to freeze you, shatter you, grab you and throw you around," he grins. "It tries to pin you with its legs - it's very, very intelligent for an Al." And so it is, but after a while not quite clever enough to avoid death by rocket launcher. "Later on, you'll meet maybe four, five or even six of these Hunters,'' grins Yerli. "But you'll be better equipped, you'll have skill-based moves against it. For example, you'll be able to jump on its head and take it down from up there. But from the off, you're not as good and you don't know how to do that."
Major Spoilers End
And so we approach the end of our brief sojourn in holiday hell - a guaranteed 12 hours of ingenuity that'll come at you from different angles every time you play it. With the happy boys at Crytek promising that every single minute is being filled with three to four times the intensity of Jack Carver's outing (and that's a scientific fact), we've got every reason to stoke the whirring cogs of the liype machine on this one. Jake Dunn: soldier, hero, bon-vivante and potential new prince of the singleplayer FPS. If, however, the final line of our' review says something like, "The boy Dunn good!", you have our express permissioulp hunt us down and kill us like dogs.
Tonight, hell freezes over!
Allow me to break the ice. My name's Mr Freeze-gun...
As well as being an opportunity for a games journalist to over-use Schwarzenegger quotes from Batman & Robin (You're not sending ME to the COOLER!), the ice guns of Crysis could well prove to be the greatest armaments since Duke Nukem 3D.
"One thing we have is an icicle gun, which is based on the alien technology," explains Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli. "Essentiallyjt takes water and humidity from the air, freezes it and shoots it out as ice particles, which means you're never short of ammunition. Another one is the freeze gun, which you can pick up off the aliens. It's really fun - you can freeze someone and then shatter them. You can give those aliens some real payback after they've used it against you." I can just see it now: "Ice to see you!"; "In this universe, there's only one absolute... Everything freezes!" etc etc. Repeat to fade...
Fully realised jungle environments, a physics system which allows you to break individual trees and completely demolish buildings, a suit which you can adapt and tailor depending on your situation, a legion of robotic alien foes ranging from massive spider-like Hunters with freeze guns and stomping-action to swarms of flying squid-like mechs that hunt in formation. These are just a handful of reasons we reckon Crysis will not only push the FPS envelope, but really humiliate it in front of its envelope friends. They're features we've already reported in our world-exclusive reveal back in March, but they haven't become any less impressive in the meantime.
But what of the game's lesser-known online contingent? We're aware of our worrying habit of looking at Far Cry's few less-than-great points before comparing the game to Crytek's prodigious new title, but after a recent chat regarding their - plans for the online aspect of Crysis, the multiplayer efforts of Crytek's previous opus just seem to pale in comparison. So again, we begin by posing the slightly unfair question to the German developers: where did Fur Cry multiplayer go wrong?
"Technically, we didn't really have the sort of staff that we needed to get Far Cry's multiplayer to a state that was going to be as successful as it could have been," says Chris Auty, lead level designer at Crytek. "But with Crysis multiplayer, we have a much bigger team for the multiplayer side of things."
"We spent more time on the singleplayer, which obviously showed," claims Jack Mamais, producer of Crysis, "but this time we've developed our Net code from the ground up. We're hoping to make Crysis multiplayer as good as the single-player, if not better."
Let S Get Together
That's a bold claim if Crysis' singleplayer ends up being even half as impressive as it sounds. How on earth do Crytek hope to make the multiplayer every bit as good as the single-player then? The statistics seem sound enough: 32 players, America versus North Korea, four game modes (Tactical Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Tactical CTF and a new mode called Power Struggle), six to eight maps at launch and clever enough Net code to allow for the online destruction of jungles... But do they honestly think they can make people want to click the second button in the main menu just as much as they'll undoubtedly want to click the first?
"When we were designing Crysis, one of our key focuses was on the ability of the player to modify his suit, his weapons and his gameplay experience," explains Mamais. "We set the multiplayer basically as an epilogue to the single-player. Instead of making it a pocket universe which has nothing to do with the rest of the game, we're trying to tic it into the events of the single-player game."
"Our multiplayer mimics the singleplayer in that objectives pop up that you'll be guided to," Mamais continues. "It'll be suggested to you to capture a vehicle factory, for instance. We want to have the same feeling in multiplayer as you get in single-player, that you're accomplishing things, goals arc being done and that you're succeeding, rather than just this endless loop which we're tired of."
So what are these game modes? (To be honest, I 'm just posing the question as a literary device, I already know the answer.) Deathmatch and CTF should be obvious enough - those are 'killing everybody' and 'running around with a flag' respectively - but the Power Struggle mode is what will make Crysis breach the canopy of online shooters. It's all about economics, you see.
"The economy model came about because we had the feeling that multiplayer gaming was kind of empty," states Mamais. "If you killed people you didn't get anything - there was no reward. Chris Auty was one of the early designers on Counter-Strike, and we always liked the Counter-Strike buying model. What we didn't like was that it ended - two rounds were over and you had your AWP or your twin pistols, there was no further to go. So we thought, why don't we just let it keep going? What if the player could buy weapons, modifications, suits, tanks, airplanes - what if those airplanes could have different weapons depending on your money? So we decided to attach points to everything the player does and let them spend those points how they want to."
That said, something like this could only be done in a game with massive, open environments, which is why there's only one foreseeable problem with letting the best players buy the best equipment - balance. It's not something Crytek aren't aware of. "We've added a balancing mechanic to the game," explains Auty, sensing my concern. "Depending on the rank of the person you just killed, it will have an affect on how many points you'll get. If you're a General and you kill a Private, you're going to get fewer points than you would get if you were a Private killing a General."
Mamais interjects with an example: "We're still working on it but let's say you get 500 points, you'd become a Corporal and you're then worth twice as much to the enemy. Conversely, a newbie is then worth half as much to you. Now you're encouraged to fight on your own level, because you'd be risking yourself and your team if you present yourself as a target to a lower enemy."
Best Made Plans
It's a plan that looks fine on glossy magazine paper, but it's something we'll have to see in action before we draw our conclusions as to whether or not such a balancing mechanic would actually work in practice. The idea of having to purchase everything is solid though, from special ammunition which can spray crazy purple knockout gas or track enemies, to the very suit that's modelled so gracefully on our front cover.
"You'll start off at the beginning of the game as a North Korean or American soldier with a very rudimentary form of exo-armour," explains Mamais. "This will give you a small armour boost. There are actually two versions of the suit; the prototype version that has some basic abilities like a little more armour and a little more strength, and the production model which we see in the single-player game - that's the full nano-suit. That's very expensive and gives you cloaking, speed and strength - basically it gives you everything, but it'll cost probably as much as a tank." Not knowing exactly how much a tank costs, all I can do is feign an — expression of mild shock. Presumably the suit will be one of the harder weapons to get your hands on, especially considering its powers in both single- and multiplayer. The suit's energy can be routed to either stealth, strength or speed at any time, offering Predator-like invisibility, Hulk-like strength or Billy Whizz-like speed respectively.
There are two more pillars in this Acropolis-style monument however, the first of which is the inclusion of strategic buildings. Dotted around each map are factories, bases and airfields which can be captured by standing in a specific room inside each one for a predetermined amount of time, very much like control points in Battlefield 2. The importance of these buildings comes in the fact that, by controlling them, they enable you to build certain things. Capture a heavy vehicle factoiy and you can build tanks, for instance. Capture an airbase and you can build attack helicopters and VTOL jets. If you control the map's assets, you control the flow of production, and ultimately you will win the game. There's a tinge of the realtime strategy game on this side of Crysis' palette, and it all comes back to economics.
The final aspect of multiplayer is easily the most exciting however, and one which you may have already guessed at - aliens. The remains of alien technology rather, seeing as the multiplayer setting serves the single-player's epilogue.
"The alien weapons come in three base forms," explains Mamais. "There's what we call a Molecular Accelerator, which is basically a gun which shoots ice flechettes with no ammo needed - it just charges off precipitation in the air; a Molecular Arrester which is a freeze gun which, if you hold it down long enough, can freeze things to the point that they shatter instantly; and a Singularity Cannon which is basically an alien tactical nuclear bomb.
"On each map there'll be one to five randomised alien crash sites," continues Mamais, warming to his subject (and perhaps inadvertently hinting at the game's ending). "Yon take a tool from your base called the stabiliser, bring it out to the field, recover the alien core from the crash site and take it back to whatever you want to upgrade. If you Qin bring that alien core Kick to a strategic building, say a heavy vehicle factory, you can produce tanks which have alien weapons. You can produce a tank that lias the freeze gun, for instance - a freeze tank. Or create a tank which cloaks."
Rounding off a multiplayer package which seems to be careering towards the sort of gameplay which allows fantastic player-defined set-pieces, Auty goes on to explain how Crytek are striving to keep everything just as destructible as it is in single-player. The age-old conundrum will finally be answered: if a tree falls in the jungle, and there are 32 players mindlessly slaughtering one another around it, can the server send out accurate physics information across a limited bandwidth without affecting the ping?
"Yes," smiles Auty knowingly. "One of the key destructible things in multiplayer will Im? the foliage, which really hasn't been seen before. You'll be able to blow down parts of the forest like in Predator. Obviously there'll be other destructible stuff; the vehicles will be destructible too." That's two Predator references now, which can't be. "Hie vehicles have component damage," adds Mamais. "For instance, a helicopter would have a fuel tank, weapon pod, front rotor, liack rotor and a cockpit. You can take a hit to the back rotor and the helicopter will lose control, but it won't blow up - in fact, it's pretty hard to blow a vehicle up unless you hit it in the fuel tank or it crashes. We want to have crashes that the pilot can walk away from, so you could hard-land a chopper, get up and walk away from it."
Best Served Chilled
Imagine what beautiful form the culmination of all these multiplayer features could take. You kill a few enemies, you earn a few points. You capture a tank factory, you upgrade it with an alien reactor. You buy a tank with a freeze gun on the top, you start spewing ice-cold jets of frozen death at a sky full of enemy aircraft.
Now imagine this: you're flying your newly bought helicopter above hostile territory when a stream of icy doom splits the sky in front of you, running along your rotor blades and leaving your chopper in a right cold mess. You begin to spiral towards the jungle, struggling to keep your vehicle steady. You smash through the trees, ploughing through a good 30 metres of arboreal foliage, and maybe one or two team-mates too, before coming to a stop, hopping out and sprinting into the undergrowth. In that situation, everybody has fun.
As Chris Auty puts it: "We want to give the player the situations that they want to have in the game, and play it like they want to play it." It just so happens that the way we want to play it involves mounting massive alien weapons on the sides of VTOL jets and tanks, completely levelling entire sections of jungle in the process. The way Crysis multiplayer is shaping up, that freedom may very well be served to us on an ice-cold platter.
Pick 'if mix tricks
Crysis is doing away with the standard design of allowing the player to choose from a list of classes, instead offering even more character customisation in every aspect of multiplayer. "We don't have classes in the usual sense of the word," explains lead level designer Chris Auty. "What we have are classes that players can customise with certain combinations of equipment packs. You can buy major and minor equipment packs and combine them in different ways to achieve the desired result"
"You could make yourself a sniper engineer if you wanted to, or a sniper medic," adds producer Jack Mamais, by way of example.
Anatomy of an alien
Crikey! This one's a beauty!
The single-player will host several different types of alien foes, the most common being the bog-standard flying Trooper. The Hunter is the big lad, coming in three flavours - Freeze Hunter, Mo-ac Hunter and Singularity Hunter, each commanding one of the three alien super-weapons. Hunters carry Troopers and Scouts into battle, and can't fly (unless being carried by the Scouts). And as for the aliens themselves?
"We're not going to give away the aliens' form right now," states producer Jack Mamais. "What I can say is that they don't look like you would expect them to. They come from a zero-G environment so they can't function well on our planet. That's why they wear what they call exo-suits. The Troopers are robotic units which the aliens deploy, but there's no alien inside the Trooper. There are aliens inside Scouts and Hunters though, and we have another, larger version which we haven't revealed yet, which has an alien in too."
Crysis May Appear to be the spiritual successor to Far Cry, but it's not Can you imagine Jack Carver running up to a mercenary, grabbing him by the throat squeezing it so his eyes bulge and then throwing him into a tree? Possibly not.
My first play of Crytek's latest started off in true Micronesian style - tagging enemies, sneaking around the vegetation surrounding a valley-bound Korean base and readying my easily silenced weapon. However, when everything went tits-up, a new sandbox element of unscripted chaos emerged. Charging my suit with speed, leaping over and onto roofs, thumping jeeps and watching them cartwheel onto nearby enemies... It was pure and joyous fun - ending only when I jumped down from a building onto a cowering Asian chap with my power-punch arm pulled back. His trigger finger was faster than my descent, and back to quickload I did go.
Lasting slightly longer this time, I survived until a helicopter showed up, intent on curtailing my new hobby of lobbing its dead allies into walls, corrugated iron and tree trunks. It was here that I discovered that Crysis may well be the first game to allow you to fight helicopter gunships with a washing basket or at least something that looks like one. It didn't do much damage (and neither did the boxes, tyres and other household items found then flung), but it filled in the time before the discovery of a rocket launcher. Honestly, as soon as you find out the day that Crysis is coming out book some time off work. It's going to be a total riot
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?