E3 08 Preview: Crysis Warhead
With Crysis Warhead, Crytek isn't trying to deliver a wholly new experience. As something like a stand-alone expansion pack with some nice engine enhancements, the game runs better than the original game, especially in the very intense fights that you didn't see in the early levels of Crysis.
Warhead is a direct continuation of the story in Crysis, but it actually starts before the first game ends. You'll play as Psycho, a suit-powered squadmate you shot a lot of stuff with in the first game. As you may remember, Prophet went off to deal with the menace that is terrorizing this North Korean island at the end of Crysis, so it seems likely that you'll catch up with him at some point. And with the military going in again, you'll get nice large battles with lots of KPA infantry and vehicles. I was traveling down a road trying to protect a jeep ahead of me with my APC's powerful cannon, and took down dozens of KPA soldiers and vehicles in the matter of only a few minutes. Even on Normal difficulty the game was still challenging me, as every bullet that hit my APC was whittling it down.
Eventually I got to an air transport but right when we were going to take off, something broke on it and I had to fend off a KPA assault from the top of a hill. They poured in from all directions and I definitely had to do a larger share of killing than most of the troopers there, but that's pretty normal in the Crysis world since with the power suit (and all of its powers will be back for Warhead, even if no extra powers are included), I can take multiple bullets in the chest and be just fine. Then I moved on to a harbor area and snuck around the back of the thing, stealing some key data from a computer after dispatching a few soldiers.
That's when the battle really began, and I got to play with a new grenade launcher weapon with a big revolving chamber for the grenade rounds, and it was easy and fun to use - the alt-fire also allows the player to dump out grenades and then detonate them remotely, just like the Demoman in Team Fortress 2. One trailer has also shown a new hovercraft vehicle, although it wasn't available in this demo. Overall, there's nothing really groundbreaking that I got to see, so if you didn't really like the suit powers or slightly open-ended design for attacking enemy bases and fighting incoming forces, then this one won't likely do much for you. This shouldn't be a surprise, though, as it's marketed and priced as an expansion pack - albeit one that doesn't require the original game - rather than as an entirely new experience.
Crytek insists that this time around you'll be able to play the game at 30 frames per second on a $600 PC, although that seems to be at medium detail and something like 1024x768 resolution. The PC that I demoed the game on wasn't particularly powerful, as it seems Crytek wanted to prove that their optimizations to the engine are real - it had a Core 2 Duo E6750 CPU, 2.5GB of RAM, and an Nvidia 9800GTX, and it was running 1280x720 resolution, at high detail, at around 20-25fps in DirectX 9 mode. For the record, a PC with those same components and some decent-quality parts to complete it will cost about $700 without a copy of Windows, so I was pretty impressed and I do believe their claim. It's not an easy one to believe, as time and time again quite a few developers have said that sequels would actually run faster than predecessors rarely does that actually happen, but it seems to be true here.
The only issue I have with all of this is that most $600 PCs bought from online stores and big retailers like HP and Dell take in profit what should probably be spent on the video card, but I was able to configure a Dell Inspiron for around $600 that should play the game at a decent speed if you turn the detail and resolution down some. Most $600 PCs bought at retailers really won't play this game well at all, though, so their claim is mostly directed to those who can and do regularly build their own computers. All this said, Crytek still hasn't released system requirements for Warhead and so none of this is really official, but it's reasonable to think that they'll be lower this time than they were for the original game.
Little was revealed about the story other than word that it starts before the original game actually ends, but I can say that if you liked Crysis and wouldn't mind more of the same, there's no reason you won't enjoy this one. And one nice thing is that it's a stand-alone expansion and the $29.99 price has already been set, so those who never got into the first game can still jump in here. There's new multiplayer action, too, in the form of an updated online mode that they're calling Crysis Wars with new maps and more gameplay modes. Unfortunately, Crytek wasn't ready to show that part of the game at E3.
If your PC just wasn't quite fast enough for the original game, then Warhead might be just enough for you to have some real fun, but the graphics haven't been toned down so there's only so much they can do. As long as you're not expecting any frame rate miracles, I think you'll find the intense action and fun suit powers of Crysis Warhead to make for a worthy purchase. The release date is set for Fall of this year and it'll be PC-only.