By Alec Meer on October 29th, 2007 at 1:35 pm.
While John’s spent his time in the Crysis demo struggling to shoot men in the face, I’ve spent mine exploring. Here I am, after all, on a beautiful tropical island and with a pocketful of superpowers – there must something to do other than murder people. It’s time to test the limits of this supposedly open environment.
An obvious sightseeing attraction would seem to be the local wildlife. Sure enough, I find a turtle tottering around the coast. It’s a fairly laid-back turtle, allowing me to sprint right up to it, briefly aim a gun at its head, think better of it and pick the beast up instead. Aw, cute. I’ve a pet turtle. Um. Now what? Shelley here isn’t terribly practical battle equipment, so I need to put it down, I guess. What’s the Drop button? A thorough scour of the options menu reveals the terrible truth. There is no Drop. There is only Throw. Oh. God. No. Shelley, what have I done to you?
I look away from the screen as I tap F, too disgusted by what I’m now forced to do to possibly want to see it. There’s a muted ‘thunk’. I look back. The turtle’s on its back a few feet away, not moving. Maybe it’s okay, just a little –aheh – shellshocked, and in need of being gently placed back on its feet. I pick it up and… oh man, not again. Not only have I killed poor Shelley, but now I’m going to have to play Frisbee with its corpse too. [Edit – the right mouse button, it’s been discovered, drops stuff. Which isn’t mentioned by the game anywhere, the button only being listed in the keybindings as alt-fire. So I still maintain Shelley’s tragic demise wasn’t solely my fault. Also, if you wade into water whilst holding the turtle, it immediately and mysteriously expires].
Right, that’s it. I’m a monster by accident, so I might as well make the best of my shattered moral code. Studiously ignoring the objective arrow on my map, I merilly powerjump along coastal cliffs in the opposite direction, feeling gloriously unrestricted – Promethetard Unbound. Soon enough, I find more wildlife – a half-dozen crabs cheerfully scuttling along the tideline. Grimly aware of the limits of my possible interactions with these contented crustaceans, I attempt to grab one. The bugger runs away, and disappears underneath a rock. So I turn on my invisibility mode and snatch at another. Apparently stealth mode doesn’t work on crabs. Hmm. I retreat to a safe distance, until all the crabs have returned from their respective hidey-holes and bunched together again. Gosh, they look happy.
They look less happy two seconds later, after the grenade I lob at ‘em sees the skies rain crab corpses. Crysis’ cutting-edge engine does its work here, the tiny bodies bobbing up and down in the shallow waters with eerie believability (though a few dismembered pincers wouldn’t have gone amiss). Now I can grab one. Whee! Splat. And another. Whee! Splat. There’s movement in my peripheral vision; two crabs survived the genocide and have foolishly returned to their stomping ground. That’s when a really good idea hits me. I take aim and fire. Dink! Oh, how terribly disappointing. Apparently I can’t kill a crab with another crab (earlier, I established that I can’t kill a man by throwing live chickens at his head either, though I’m since informed it is possible). Another grenade it is, then.
I’d diligently emptied most of the island of humanity before I set off on my Psychotic David Attenborough adventure, but a little further along the coast I find a few stragglers, conveniently standing next to a bright red explosive barrel. Boom. Buh-bye now. Still standing amidst the rubble and blood is a fine treasure. A speedboat awaits me on a small wooden platform. I’d seen a couple of patrol boats off in the distance, but I hadn’t entertained the notion of seizing one myself until now. Pleasingly, I’m offered ‘Press F to enter’ as I approach the boat, so I clamber in and rev it up. Nothing happens. Understandable really, what with it being on a drydock platform and not in the sea. I hunt for a way to get it to the water. There’s no button to lower the platform, no option to push, and a few wasted ammo clips fail to shatter the damnable wood it’s resting on. Looks like I’m stymied by another of Crytek’s bizarre interface choices. One thing’s left – my magic-o-suit’s super-strength mode. Kerpow! I deliver a devastating uppercut to the prow of the boat, sending it flipping end over end and, miraculously, it splash-lands in the water the right way up. Well, I’ve got my boat, but I’m pretty sure punching it into the ocean wasn’t proper maritime procedure.
I jump into the no longer land-locked speedboat, and head for the high seas. I’m dead in a matter of seconds, thanks to one of those aforementioned Korean patrol boats locking onto my weaponless transport. Okay, try again. I’m gonna need a bigger boat. But this time I want one of their boats, because they’ve got dirty great guns on the front.
With the demo’s limited selection of weapons – I could really do with something snipery to take the ships down from a distance – and the fact a motorised boat can move a lot faster than even a guy with superspeed, my determined piracy takes a while. Eventually, I fell the guy in the gunner’s seat, and the boat glides to a halt. I swim over to it, and notice there’s a second guy behind the wheel, still alive, but stood motionless, apparently unconcerned that the guy who just shot his mate is mere feet away. As I draw alongside the boat, he guns the motor and darts off. Then stops again. I catch up, he moves away. And again and again. This is really embarrassing – the guy’s just taking the mickey out of me, like a school bully cruelly holding a nerd’s textbook just higher than he can reach. At one point I get close enough to be sucked into the propeller and almost killed. Finally, I turn on superjump, and an epic leap thrusts me out of the water and onto the boat, whereupon I deliver a savage beating to its skipper.
I trawl the seas in my prize, eventually stumbling upon a second patrol boat. I don’t know how they realise I’m an enemy even while I’m way off in the distance. Perhaps it’s their heightened military senses. Perhaps they’re under a shoot first, ask questions later directive. Perhaps one of the guys originally in this boat slept with their wives. Or perhaps it’s the bloodied corpse of the gunner slumped in the front seat. Either way, I’m in trouble. Especially because, as it turns out, said corpse is right in my line of sight. I can’t see what I’m shooting at because there’s a dead Korean guy in the way. Turns out corpses are about the only thing in Crysis you can’t pick up and coldly hurl into the distance. This renders my boat pretty useless. To take down the other ship, I have to evacuate mine, flee to an island and repeat the awkward sniping-without-sniper-rifle rigmarole.
Then it’s back onto the boat, and off into the horizon, where a row of battleships await. My commander issues a warning that I’m going off-target by heading this way – apparently all that exploding crab stuff was relevant to the mission, then? – which I ignore. The binoculars reveal that the battleships aren’t just a flat bitmap stuck at the end of an infinite horizon, but actual 3D objects. Can I board them? I sally forth, just about reaching the point where I’m close enough for one of the ships to fill the width of my screen, which is when it fires a giant insta-death torpedo at me. Guess I’ve just hit Crysis’ invisible wall, then. But it’s a pretty clever invisible wall as they go, something more palpably insurmountable than an obstacle you can’t quite jump over, or an unseen force pushing me away. Good thinking, Crytek.
Well, I had a lot of fun, and certainly squeezed several hours’ entertainment out of a 45-minute demo, which bodes very well for having unique adventures in the full game. But I’m a little concerned at the trend demonstrated during my experiments – Crytek have made this incredible-looking world and filled it with life and incidental detail, but seem to have neglected the options to meaningfully interact with it. I shouldn’t have to hurl a turtle to its death because there isn’t a drop button. I shouldn’t have to beat up a boat to make it slide into the water. I shouldn’t have to fire blind because I’m not allowed to move a slumped corpse out of the way of my gun. Then again, this is a first-person shooter. Clearly, for all its decoration, the game’s only intent is for me to kill people. It seems a slight waste of a remarkable environment, but I’m dead excited about seeing what I can get up to in the full game. Anticipation: Super-high. If only because I want to experiment with how long I can survive whilst carrying a live chicken.