What is that sound on the horizon? Is that the PC fanboys gnashing their teeth while ripping at their clothes and hair in a rage over this games existence? Why yes, it does actually sound like that. Crysis, the PC powerhouse that did its best to melt your computer, comes stomping onto the consoles almost entirely intact. The quality of this port is actually rather impressive leaving even this jaded reviewer rather impressed.
Crysis, when it was released in 2007, was essentially a game that was three years early. The quality of the graphics meant the computers your average gamer owned could barely handle this beast. Mixing lush vegetation with detailed environmental textures and ridiculously impressive lighting meant trying to run this game on the Ultra setting was a surefire way to watch a slideshow.
Even the idea behind Crysis is pretty exciting: you play an American super-soldier equipped with a top of the line nanosuit. With this piece of equipment you have a radar, scuba equipment and increased endurance against bullets. In addition you have access to four powerful abilities - strength enhances your melee attacks and allows you to make massive leaps through the air, speed enhances your movement and lets you outrun gunfire with ease, cloak allows you to sneak around undetected and armor mode lets you absorb massive amounts of damage.
With your character and his squad trapped behind enemy lines on a tropical island it's a fight for survival. Your soldier is almost always low on ammunition after every gunfight due to the limited ammo that can be carried at once leading to a feeling of desperation. Your best bet is to use the tropical vegetation to your benefit, hiding from enemy patrols and avoiding engagement by sneaking around bases with your cloak as opposed to trying to fight. It's tense but really rewards creativity.
All that said I've personally never cared for the game. It seemed like everybody was so caught up ogling the shiny graphics that they missed the fact that the story was weak, the gameplay was ridiculously simple and even a bit repetitive after a few hours. This leaves the game feeling a lot of style over substance. The enemy AI was also beyond stupid, doing things like taking cover on the wrong side and leaving themselves wide open to gunfire. When your main claim to fame is how pretty you are it's the video game equivalent of a beauty pageant pretty to look at but very shallow.
What saved the game was that the multiplayer raised the stakes quite a bit. Dealing with other nanosuit soldiers with abilities similar to yours in pitched battle was far more enthralling than the main game. But rather amazingly even though the console release has cut out multiplayer entirely I found playing this infinitely more enjoyable than the original PC release.
Part of my dislike for the initial release was that the system for switching between abilities wasn't exactly second nature which hampered your ability to be creative. Having to press a button and then move the mouse over the ability you wished to activate was just cumbersome and annoying. Thankfully the developers managed to fix this issue and with some further tweaks they managed to make this one of my most enjoyable FPS experiences in recent memory.
While this might sound like a small quibble it really isn't. The four abilities can be combined to rather impressive effect and it is utter simplicity to do this on the consoles. Super jumping over a building then speeding off like The Flash lets you escape bad situations with ease and picking up a barrel, using armor mode to get closer and then using super strength to take an enemy out with said barrel is an efficient way to clear a base. The rapid switching this requires is much easier when every ability is clearly mapped to a different button on the controller and within easy reach. The only limitation is your suit energy and your imagination.
As a concession to the limited power of a five year old console some sacrifices have been made. The draw distance is fairly limited with the background looking like a matte painting and enemies popping up when they reach the range of your vision. For the most part this is easy to ignore but it's quite noticeable when scouting with your binoculars. There are supposedly some other reductions made due to the Xbox 360's limited RAM but beyond the fog I haven't actually noticed much else that's changed.
Beyond the controls there are only two changes that impact the gameplay. First the amount of vegetation has been lessened in some areas. For the most part this occurs in areas where there is no combat but it does happen in some combat zones which is a minor nuisance at best. Simply taking things slowly will solve this problem in its entirety by using the available cover before moving forward. Most importantly they have removed the much loathed VTOL flying level, Ascension, shortening the game a bit but removing one of the main points of frustration for most players. Sure the lack of quick save might be aggravating throughout most of the game but I'll take that loss in exchange for seeing Ascension tossed into the burning pit it came from.
To be honest this port is pretty damn amazing. With a much refined control scheme and the omission of one of the most annoying missions in video game history Crysis stands proud on the consoles. At this point all the 2007 PC release has is mouse aiming and prettier graphics which is nice but unimpressive. It's just a shame that Crysis didn't receive a physical retail release as I'd love to have this proudly sitting amidst my collection.