2GB DDR-400 RAM
768MB RAM (1GB for Vista)
nVidia 6600/ATI X800GTO
nVidia 7800GTX or
Crysis is a lot of things to a lot of people. As early as two years ago, some of the gaming press that saw it called Crysis the first truly photorealistic 3D game. Eventually it has become one of the main motivating factors for people to buy a new video card and get Windows Vista and get those hot new DirectX 10 graphics. After all, the eye candy seemed to be the biggest draw for this first person shooter from the creators of Far Cry, which itself had some very impressive visuals when it was released in 2004. But with the release of Crysis comes a lot of questions - is this what DX10 gaming truly is? Is this where first person shooters are going? Where am I going to get the money to build a computer that can actually play this damn game?
If you've got the machine to play Crysis, then you're in for a real treat. The game takes place in 2020 and you're a member of the US Army Special Forces, equipped with a super-powerful nanosuit that gives you abilities like a superhero. Switch on the strength mode and you can throw or punch with amazing force or jump 15 feet into the air. Speed mode lets you sprint at blinding speed for short bursts. Cloaking allows you to sneak around undetected for a while, and Armor mode lets you use your suit as a regenerating armor shield (not unlike another supersoldier whose name begins with "Master" and ends in "Chief"). Your mission will be to head quietly into North Korea to rescue a team of researchers who have unearthed some kind of world-changing secret that the Koreans are in the process of hijacking for themselves.
With an excellent intro level seen in the public demo and tons of open gameplay with secondary objectives, you can choose many ways to tackle your objectives. Sure, the objectives themselves aren't exactly original - download data off of a computer, clear out a KPA outpost of enemy soldiers, hoof it to some location, destroy anti-air guns (didn't we see enough of this one in WW2 shooters?) and the like. But it's the way you can do all these that makes Crysis unique. Go stealth and sneak around people to finish some objectives or just silently take out your enemies. Go armor and play it like a classic FPS with tons of action and some fine AI from your opponents. Or try and just play like a superhero, jumping onto buildings to avoid enemy fire and throwing stuff at people. Or throw people at people, if you feel you must.
If you've played the Crysis demo or seen the trailers, then you probably know that the game goes a lot further into the sci-fi realm than many shooters like this bother to, but the nice part is that the game keeps things in perspective and doesn't quite dive into the wacky sci-fi traps that many games do when they try to reveal their big plot twist. And Crytek's partnership with EA for this game has allowed them the budget to get a lot of good voice acting for the game; overall, it's better than average, which I think is saying a lot since the average quality of voice acting in games has been slowly increasing over the last few years. Still, if you remember Far Cry and its annoying Trigens, you will groan when you see the new enemies to fight here, but if you stick with it I think you'll find they're much less annoying and more satisfying to fight. The downside is that the final boss is a bit of a gimmick fight (stop doing this, FPS developers!) and the ending is just shameless sequel bait.
If you just slog through this game in Armor mode without ever trying the other nanosuit functions, then you might find Crysis to be a bit dull. The enemy AI is about as good as it was in Far Cry - which is to say, it's better than in most shooters - but it doesn't really come into its own unless you've jacked up the difficulty or you use the different suit modes. And that's an interesting thing here; the difficulty levels in Crysis don't fiddle with the amount of damage you or your enemies take like most shooters. Instead, the game removes some of the conveniences of your suit and the world around you. On the highest difficulty, Delta, enemies will be speaking Korean rather than English and your suit doesn't regenerate its energy store (or your health) nearly as quickly. The suit also stops putting a red glow around enemies firing at you on Delta, which can be tough to deal with when you're in the middle of the jungle without enough energy to cloak and you're taking fire from all sides.
From a technical perspective, Crysis will at times look totally realistic, and at other times you'll still see the odd muddy texture sticking out or strange problems with the physics, but most of the time this is simply the best-looking game I've seen yet. It's nice that the poor KPA can't usually afford real buildings, as most of the shanties and shacks that these guys live in are totally destructible - along with most of the trees in the game. And when you get far enough into the game for explosions to start going off regularly, then you're in for a real treat, as these are some of the most incredible special effects seen yet. The smaller details, like insects and birds flying around, ground that's covered in little rocks and leaves in places, and tons of vegetation that moves with the wind or when people pass through it all add up to a very believable, interesting atmosphere. Much of this even still works in low detail, as long as you keep the Physics setting at Medium.
Yes, Crysis is easily the best looking game made to date, but it comes at a real price. Don't even think about playing this game at High or Very High detail unless you've got a blazing fast computer, and even the very top-end $4000 machines are going to struggle if you also turn the screen resolution and antialiasing way up. For lower-end machines, well, the game will still look good but at Low settings it's not really much better than Far Cry was a few years ago, so I'd say a good "recommended" system would be anything that plays the game in Medium detail with a frame rate and resolution you're happy with. Either way, I very strongly suggest that people download the 1.8gb demo to see how the game performs on their computer before buying.
Don't feel like you need the highest detail settings just to play, though. While the DX10-only "Very High" settings are disabled if you're running in Windows XP or in DirectX 9 mode, the game will still look incredible at "High" settings. If you have a dual-core CPU and 2GB or more of RAM and are just lacking a good video card, then I recommend the new $250ish nVidia 8800GT or ATI 3870 video cards for a budget oriented way to get high-res modes and great detail without buying a whole new computer. While there are a number of unique features in DX10 mode for those who jack up their settings, they really hurt the performance of even the most powerful video cards while only adding a small amount of detail. Plus, with a little tweaking (see the last page of this article), you can turn on a few of your favorite DX10 features by hand, even in DX9, without too much of a performance hit if your video card can otherwise handle it. That leads me to again question whether we really need DX10 yet; most DX10 features are supposed to do what DX9 does, but just with better performance, but in reality they still don't actually make a game run any faster - and Crysis is no exception.
Moving on - Crysis does include a multiplayer mode for up to 32 people to get together in either plain old free-for-all deathmatch or a team-based game called Power Struggle. Your objective is to blow up the opponent's base, but to do so you've got to control a research facility to put together a nuke. Capture and hold bunkers for forward spawn points, and capture the other stations to help speed up your weapons research. Killing enemies gives you money which allows you to buy better weapons and such, adding a slight Counter-Strike component, and the number of advanced vehicles you can buy or use also adds some Battlefield-style elements to the game. Throw in the fact that everyone's got a nanosuit and all of its abilities, and overall, the Crysis multiplayer mode is excellent with lots of tactical options. The game ships with few maps and there are of course the extreme system requirements, though, which generally are not good for the longevity of a multiplayer action game.
Included with the game is the CryEngine Sandbox 2, an editor for Crysis that lets you fiddle around at a fairly high level and then jump directly into the game, seamlessly, right inside the editor to play what you've just set up. This editing system was a big reason why Far Cry got a lot of community mod support, and even in the Crysis demo people had started to screw around with hilarity like what's seen in this video. Only a few days after the release of the full game, people are already finishing up new maps.
While Crysis has little to no technical problems like bugs or crashes, the brutal system requirements mean that computers not built for gaming have no chance, and that really kills a lot of the game's mass appeal. Still, this game looks fantastic and is plenty of fun to play, and a dedicated community will surely be be adding new mods and maps over the coming months and years. I won't tell you to rush out and buy a new computer just so you can play Crysis, but if you're a dedicated PC gamer then there are also plenty of recently-released games that will take advantage of whatever new hardware you can give them. And when you are ready to show off your shiny new gaming PC to your buddies, Crysis is the first thing you will want to start up.
Best looking game made to date
Nanosuit powers add depth
Solid multiplayer mode
Your computer will kill you for trying to run this
You have to finally retire that Radeon 9800
Same goes for the single-core CPU
Hope you have a couple grand for a new machine!