Previews

Crysis

Hands-on: We couldn't resist one final slip into the nano suit before the main event

The final key objective's been lit up like a Christmas tree on the tactical map.

The target: air defences at the harbour protecting a North Korean cruiser.

Destruction of the target will give the green light to US air strikes against the cruiser.

I've commandeered an enemy jeep after neutralising the machine gunner whose corpse still slumps over the weapon and I'm driving hell for leather down a dirt track toward the harbour. Water whips by in the right of my peripheral vision, jungle and rocks in the left.

Suddenly, above the roar of the engine, a klaxon blares. Shit. I've been spotted. An enemy machine gun covering the main entrance to the harbour opens up and bullets start slamming into the jeep's bodywork and splintering the windscreen.

I leap from the vehicle, initiate the Maximum Speed power of my nano suit and burst-sprint to the harbour wall while watching my suit's energy rapidly deplete. Switching to the nano suit's Maximum Strength power allows me to leap super-humanly high and I bound over the wall and into relative safety.

As soon as I hit the dirt on the other side, I wait for the suit's power to regenerate and then engage the nano suit's cloaking ability and turn Predator-style invisible. Now I can be a sneaky bastard.

Attaching silencer to my assault rifle, I change shot type to tactical. Two targets acquired. I hit one with the tactical shot, stunning him temporarily, and quickly switch shot type back to burst fire and take the second target down with rapid phut of suppressed rounds.

Advancing on the stunned enemy, I switch my nano suit to Maximum Strength. I grab him around the throat, kill him with a punch to the head and fling the corpse away without a second thought.

Trouble is, now I've switched to Maximum Strength I've de-cloaked. Arse. And it's an arse that suddenly finds half the North Korean army on it as the cry is raised and bullets start flying from all directions of the harbour.

A frantic firefight and game of cat and mouse ensues as I try and evade, outwit and neutralise the enemy that's by no means a walkover and cut a path to the air defences. My health takes massive hits. I die more than once. On numerous occasions I spend precious, anxious seconds waiting behind cover for my health to regenerate Halo-style.

It's essentially the money shot of the level, and it takes use of all of the nano suit's powers - including the protective Maximum Armour - all the guns and bullets I can scavenge and more than an ounce of luck to reach the main target, slap an explosive charge on it and blow it to kingdom come.

UN-SUITED, UN-BOOTED
The big bang marked the end of the crescendo of Assault, single-player level number four in Crysis. It wasn't the actual final moment of the map but, as I sat back, intense as the fight was, I felt as though I'd been pulled through the wringer while holding my breath for the last 10 to 15 minutes.

I've focussed on that particular section of Assault because, well a) obviously it was the pinnacle of the level but b) it hopefully highlights the way in which the nano suit can be used to approach missions and overcome hurdles in a variety of different ways. Crysis has been built around the concept of the nano suit, after all.

It's very much a sandbox approach Crytek has taken with the game in its design. We saw similar in Far Cry of course, but the developer's added extra grains of sand, if you will, to evolve what it entertained us with in its brilliant debut first-person shooter on both a gameplay and technical level. We all know how stunning the game looks on serious hardware.

However I do have one small quibble - the (admittedly brief) slow-down experienced in the harbour fight when things got particularly intense.

It was impossible to get a grasp of the single-player campaign storyline by just jumping into a single level too, so the jury's currently out on that one until the full game arrives.

But Crysis is undeniably clever, the weapons very, very solid, AI on the whole equally solid (although there were questionable moments), and the action intense enough to make me say "woah, shit!" on more than one occasion.

Secretly I was hoping to get a brief hands-on glimpse of the alien menace in what's surely now the final preview playtest before release on November 16, but it wasn't to happen. Bah.

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