This week on Zero Punctuation, Crysis.
Once upon a time, there was a little engine that could - the CryEngine, to be precise. Developed by CryTech for the games Far Cry, Crysis, Cry-Santhemum, and Jesus Cry-st Superstar. The games powered by the engine are characterised by tropical islands, sprawling non-linear game worlds, shitty vehicle sections, and racism.
Far Cry was a game of many frustrations. While the scenery was expansive and pretty, you couldn't spend much time admiring it before finding your body attempting to occupy the same space as ten million billion bullets fired by enemies with telescopic x-ray vision who could see you hiding in a bush nine thousand yards away, possibly owing to your relentlessly ugly shirt. It was the kind of game where you have to bind quick-save and quick-load to the left and right mouse buttons before you can get anywhere.
Now we have Crysis, a pseudo-sequel to Far Cry in that we're back on a war-torn island, except now it's the future, and Far Cry 's protagonist has been replaced by his great great grand-completely unrelated person, who didn't inherit his predecessor's massive balls and as such replaces the Hawaiian shirt with a regenerative nanotech suit. On balance, it's pretty much just Far Cry again if it were put under the pussification ray.
Joining you are your squad, a quartet of similarly dressed Delta Force man-children, consisting of one commander, two redshirts, and Jason Statham. Your task is to infiltrate some island in the South Pacific and slaughter Koreans. There's probably more to it than that, but I found it hard to sympathise with the heroes when they're using expensive, top-of-the-range military hardware and are backed up by the entire armed forces of the United States, while most of the enemy have to make do with wartime machine guns and harsh language.
I know it's unusual for me to praise graphics when I'm normally down in the core working the gameplay and story gnomes to death, so understand how beautiful Crysis has to be for it to warrant a mention. Crysis is so pretty that, were it an inmate in a male prison, it would be the bitch of every motherfucker in that place before you could say Andy Dufresne. At the point where you go inside the alien space ship (sorry, I forgot to mention - there's an alien space ship), I literally smacked my gob at the visuals. Somewhere deep inside my brain, my little reviewer voice was gabbing off about the level design being unintuitive and confusing, but I hushed him because it just looked so damn nice it didn't bother me.
Of course, with amazing graphics comes the inhumane treatment of processors. Crysis is apparently designed for some kind of hypothetical future computer from space. I played this on a brand new gaming PC resembling the monolith from 2001, constructed from magical obsidian by the proud dwarves of Middle Earth, and it still chugged when things got busy. But I guess this is the sort of thing that PC gaming nerds get big, raging PC erections for. Crysis feels like a PC exclusive through and through, I suppose, since there are enough controls bound to the keyboard to rival Microsoft Flight Simulator.
In general, it's a fairly standard FPS. As in, you and the enemy point cursors at each other and hold buttons down until one of you dies. Although the ability to turn invisible and run around behind enemies giving them wedgies does add another dimension of entertainment value. But while each individual base usually has several infiltration routes, the progression as a whole is still fairly linear, which I don't feel makes the most of the engine. Something like the CryEngine would be well suited to a game based around exploration, like, say, Shadow of the Colossus; something where you can really show off the terrain. As it stands, it's just a somewhat above-average first person shooter.
Until you get into a vehicle, that is, and then it becomes an adventure into annoyance and failure. Every single one handles like a three-legged mule, and occupying one during a battle is like occupying a pile of gasoline and matches that explodes when an enemy so much as coughs at it. It's nearly always preferable to stay on foot, which thankfully is usually an option. But there is one section towards the end where you're forced to pilot a futuristic helicopter jobbie, and, well, imagine that you've just woken from a twenty-year coma, celebrated the occasion by drinking six bottles of Mad Dog 20/20, then were called upon to pilot a light aircraft bearing a cargo of hippopotami. That's what controlling this section is like. And they expect you to enter dogfights in this thing! That's like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube with your elbows.
Crysis is a game for sight-seers, and if you have invested in the sort of computer that can run it then you owe it to yourself to check it out, if only to justify that investment to yourself. Who knows, you might even have fun playing the actual game, too, especially if you have a vegetation fetish. So basically what I'm trying to strain out like an uncomfortable kidney stone is a recommendation. It's not perfect, but then who is? Besides Columbo.
Mysterious stranger: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
I have to say I do appreciate Crysis for having a British character who never dies, turns evil, or expresses a love of crumpets
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