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 he'll save the world in a flash. Or, perhaps, in 12 hours of post-Far 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 quick-save 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 quick-save challenge, rather a worrying one.
To me, the very essence of Far Cry was in its difficulty - in the way you'd lie on 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.