Crysis: Who’s The Star Of The Show?

By Jim Rossignol on May 7th, 2008 at 10:36 am.


I’ve just been reading Raven Software’s Manveer Heir over on GameSetWatch. He’s talking about how games that allow you to make choices are generally the more interesting experiences, with specific reference to how the early parts of Crysis are better than the final act. The suit powers, he argues, are a neat way of giving the player distinct choices. However…

This choice virtually went away with the new enemies. They could often see through my cloaking and it became almost useless. I played the rest of the game barely using my special abilities, which changed the way the game felt and played. Couple that in with the more linear levels, and it becomes evident that the end of the game offers far less choice than the beginning.

He’s dead right, the opening few hours of Crysis are incredible, but then Crytek seemed to lose sight of what they’d invented: the Nano Muscle Suit.

The Crytek designers had made the gaming equivalent of the Predator movie. The joy of Predator is only partly in Arnie’s homo-erotic superfriends, and the main event is in watching the actions of the Predator itself. It’s a great concept and, similarly, the combat suit in Crysis is the star of the game. It’s even the most potent iconography of the game: the cover art is a shot of the suit, and anything we recognise comes from references to that stylised body armour. It seems clear that the Nano Muscle Suit should always be centre-stage and, as Heir points out so eloquently, the last-third failure of Crysis comes down to not maintaing that focus.

In fact it surprised me while playing the game that Crytek didn’t make all that much of a fuss about the powers of the suit. Most other devs would have set up a bunch of contrived situations to teach you exactly what it was capable of: like Valve’s series of physics puzzles leading up to the tutorial game of gravity-gun catch with Dog in Half-Life 2. Beyond making sure you understood the super-jump strength thing, Crysis basically ignored its primary asset.

A superior ending to Crysis have been one in which we faced a series of challenges that demanded clever use of the suit: a strength puzzle, a stealth puzzle, and a speed puzzle, culminating with a great big fight to finish: but not the fight we had. Instead they introduced a new weapon for the end: some kind of atomic rocket launcher, which seemed like a colossal cop out at the time. I remember after the game had finished I spent some time fantasizing that Crytek had played Shadow Of The Colossus, and made that final boss into a walking, laser-blasting giant puzzle – one in which we had to use stealth to hide, superjump to get on the beast and cause him damage, and speed to escape his wrath.

Of course it’s all too easy to sit in my ivory tower and say all this, but the fact is that Crysis had a Best Game Ever status in its grasp: the toolkit is right there in the suit. I enjoyed Crysis enormously and it was one of my favourite games of last year: but only when it allowed scope for the Nano Muscle Suit to come into its own. If there was to be a sequel it’d be this invention, rather than the game engine, or the setting, or the fiction of thing in the mountain, that I’d like to see brought to the fore.

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41 Comments »

  1. subedii says:

    Everybody seems to really hate the ending of Crysis, but I really enjoyed it. I can see what they were trying to do with the change of pace and trying to ramp up the action a little. If the gameplay had stayed the same the whole way through, then personally I would have started to wear myself out on it.

    Well, that, and I thought the alien mothership was awesomely designed. I miss Descent terribly.

    Though I’ll agree with you on the end boss. It’s rare for an FPS to get an end game boss right. Crysis did not break this tradition and should have gone a different route altogether.

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    I didn’t hate it, but it could have been much better.

  3. jamie says:

    boring shooting crap all the way through, they can keep their damn misfit aliens for all i care

  4. Nny says:

    First bits of the game are amazing, until you start fighting aliens – just as with Far Cry.

    Once I stopped fighting human opponents and it got reduced to using all the big guns to shoot some metal alien squids from outer space the game became dull and I could hardly bother to finish it at all…

  5. Rook says:

    One of the problems with the suit was that there basically wasn’t enough power to use most of the other abilities other than cloak. The project reality mod does an excellent job of really making the suit a hell of a lot more useful.

  6. derFeef says:

    I also found the suit abilities rather useless and I played it with the armor mode turned on the whole time. I loved the idea of the strength mode but the situations where you could use it were very limited.

    @Rook – I have to check this one out – thanks for the tip.

  7. Butler` says:

    I thought it was just me that didn’t like Far Cry when it went all alien-y… and my fondness of realism over sci-fi.

  8. Jim Rossignol says:

    I used the cloak *constantly*. I especially enjoyed the denser jungle areas where you could simply vanish into the undergrowth during a fight.

  9. Alec Meer says:

    I found Crysis increasingly dull in everything past the demo content – primarily because I’d exhausted pretty much everything the game had to offer (shitty aliens and planes aside) in my three-hour exploration of that first level.

  10. Dude says:

    I think the problem is that people sticked with one approach (like Jim and the constant cloak!), I tried various approaches and man it is fun, jumping on roofs, jumping over walls, speeding into a patrols and take them close range… Sure you will die more but it is much more enjoyable.
    As for the last part of the game, a bit boring I have to say, the only interesting things being the huge bosses (with an obvious design flaw so that you can take them down “*sigh*)
    @ Rook: any link for this mod? My searchs always end up on BF2 mod.

  11. Ian says:

    I found the cloak mode by far the most used and so managing that became one of the tension-builders for me. I didn’t mind the aliens so much once you were out in the ice and snow but I found the section within the ship itself awfully tedious. The first few hours are the best by far, the ship was a big mistake I thought as it made you a mote of dust with a pea-shooter. After you got out of there it improved again, but it never really made the most of the suit.

    I think they could have made more of the strength and speed options, be it through puzzles or genuinely different ways of completing objectives. Rather than destroying a dish by shooting your way through and bombing it or RPGing it from a distance, how about an option to get on the cliff above it and use the strength to drop something on it? That’s not exactly high-brow level design but it’d be a start.

    Using the strength to throw ragdolls through walls is a lot of fun but it’s not actually a much different approach.

    I think speed was the criminally underutilised in the game.

    All that said though, I still liked it a lot and it’s the first game in a while that I actually had an urge to play through again after I’d finished.

  12. Mooey Poo says:

    There is one totally astonishing level in Crysis, where you have to take out the radar jammer on the ship. It’s probably the best level of any game I’ve ever played, and it’s just a great level to play around in. It’s smart because at that point you’ve got used to the suit, but the way the level’s designed means you really need to get the most from it.

    The crucial thing Crysis didn’t do was let us use the skills we’d learned at the start to fight the aliens. I don’t think I used my suit once during the alien battles. They were nicely epic, but never scary and all a bit too arcadey.

  13. subedii says:

    One suggestion for people who find they abuse cloak mode is to try a “no-cloak” run. Seriously, it’s a lot easier than you think, and all of a sudden the suit really starts to open up it’s possibilities to you.

    Although having said that, these days I personally edit the .cfg files to give myself longer and faster speed time. I’m glad they kept that simple to change.

  14. Flint says:

    I love love love Crysis, but it’s true that most of my love is towards the first half of the game. The thing is, I still quite like the latter half (although the spaceship gets annoying after the first 10 minutes of “woah cool” and the airplane bit is another example of how mandatory vehicles should be taken away from FPS games) – what it lost in nanosuit gimmickry it won in atmosphere. The alien invasion in Crysis actually felt like everything going to hell – the gigantic armies of alien things flying in the sky, the absolutely massive bosses (more game bosses should be large), the human forces fighting against aliens and getting absolutely wrecked in the process etc. It actually felt like an “oh shit what have we just done” occasion, instead of just facing some more enemies. It’s the way moments like these should be done in the games – sadly, they did it in a game that would have been much superior without such bits. In the end my favoured tacting of cloaking up, sniping and sneaking around silently was taken away.

    This makes me wonder: it’s pretty much known that Crytek is planning Crysis sequels. And most likely these sequels will have an emphasised role with the aliens. How are they going to make the nanosuit feel like an actually usable part of gameplay in that case?

  15. Philip says:

    It seems many games don’t have as focussed endings as they do beginnings. Half-Life, Crysis and Far Cry spring to mind. Is this because developers panic as they tend towards their goal, thinking their game isn’t challenging enough? Or is it simply pressure from publishers that make devs rush them game out?

    Is there any sense perhaps in working on a game from the end backwards? At least if you’re being rushed towards the end of the project you can cut out some of the earlier levels (which tend towards slower tutorial-style gameplay) and try and start the storyline from where you’ve managed develop to? Ok, that sounds stupid now I’ve written it down…

  16. subedii says:

    Main problem would be is that if your beginning levels are boring or confusing it’s going to dissuade a lot of people from playing any further.

  17. Valentin Galea says:

    I received the game as a gift but it sits on the shelf cause my PC can’t play it better then 20 FPS and it’s a waste to play it like that:(

    I will play it in 2-3 years when everyone will have forgotten about it, but at 200FPS truly enjoying it:D

  18. Paul Moloney says:

    I enjoyed Crysis a _lot_ more than I expected (I was not a big Far Cry fan); sure, I was a little disappointed when you did move on from killing human opponents to aliens, but certainly it didn’t bog down as much as Far Cry did at the same juncture, and I even got past the boss fight (and I _hate_ boss fights.) Roll on the expansion pack – though, now that we’ve already met the aliens, hopefully it doesn’t _just_ involve BEM-slaying.
    I even bought a second copy for a mate’s birthday; hopefully that will help their sales numbers slightly (although I don’t understand how their complaint that it hasn’t sold huge numbers immediately ties in with their reason for the high graphics requirements being that they want the game to have sales longevity)

  19. Mman says:

    While I didn’t find it quite as fun as the rest of the game I never got the Crysis end getting as much hate as stuff like the Far Cry Trigens or Xen. One thing I really liked about it is that suit powers DID still work; cloak was still one of my biggest tactics in that part of the game.

    Since the Crysis story was heading in the direction of all Aliens as it ended, it does raise the question of how they can be as fun as the Koreans in later installments, while I hope they try something more original, I don’t see it as much of a stretch for there to be some more humanoid aliens around.

    “boring shooting crap all the way through,”

    Some “shooter” when you can finish the majority of the game barely firing a single shot.

  20. derFeef says:

    Crysis is like Assassins Creed. Play one hour and you have seen everything, gameplay wise.

  21. subedii says:

    No, play one hour and you’ve seen all the game mechanics. There’s a difference.

    The gameplay comes from how you’re allowed to use those mechanics in the situations that you come up against as the game progresses.

    The reason Assassin’s Creed got boring is largely because (unfortunately) they kept repeating the same set-pieces over and over again. It’s a shame because you could really see the potential there.

  22. SwiftRanger says:

    So, does this mean that the new Wolfenstein will do this aspect right? It is supposed to offer open-ended levels as well, isn’t it? Would be a first for Raven…

  23. Ian says:

    @ derFeef: I don’t particularly agree but I do see your point.

    That was part of the “gamble” in letting you have the suit powers right away. I love the Metroid( Prime) games, for example, but when at the start of MP2 you lose all your gadgets and functionality at the start you can’t help but groan a little.

    I thought Crysis was going that way at the start but then they fix it and you’re away. The advantage of this is you don’t feel restricted and you can get creative right away. The only video I’ve ever put on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doz4DMBfjN0) was just to show a friend who hadn’t played it you could do amusing things very early in the game. On the other hand, sometimes you can be more creative when you’re told how to be, as much as that might not make sense. You find it easy to use the cloak early on in the game and you become used to it.

    Some people might have the game turn off the high-end physics if they auto-detect the best settings, but turn that on anyway and you’ll at least find good, fun ways to make the most of strength.

  24. El_MUERkO says:

    I saw it coming, anyone who played farcry saw it coming!

  25. Frosty840 says:

    For me, the lousy suit controls were the worst thing about using the suit. Seriously, we had the nasty, nasty menu which made the thing painfully awkward to use, when all that was actually needed was a context-sensitive “use suit power” button.
    Hold the suitButton down for stealth, suitButton + melee button for whatever that did (never did any close combat in the whole game as far as I remember), hold suitButton and jump to jump really high, and hold suitButton and shift to run really fast.

    That said, I still managed to use lots and lots of stealth, and a bit of speed, when the situation demanded it. Never really saw the need to get into close combat when a sniper scope made close combat as silly and risky and idea in the game as it is in life.

    And, yeah, games are boring when you have a many-gun arsenal but the only useful thing there is a cannon.

  26. Jim Rossignol says:

    @Frosty840: you could double tap crouch/forward/back to activate suit controls?

  27. po says:

    More suit power as the game progressed would have been nice. It kind of hinted right at the beginning that you would get your suit fixed up a bit more, then dissapointed.

    Would have been really nice to do stuff like stealth to get onto a rooftop, speed to run and jump onto a passing alien, then strength to rip it to pieces, followed by armour to take up the impact of hitting the ground, instead of just relying on guns like in every other FPS and it’s inbred predecessors.

  28. MeestaNob! says:

    Crysis is an excellent game with a below par end level.

    There’s a lot of tall poppy syndrome on this particular comments section.

  29. Ian says:

    Lousy suit controls? For me it was mapped to the mouse wheel (drag and move) and it was practically seamless. Much easier than having to have my pinky finger frantically search for yet another button while in the process of trying to beat somebody’s face in.

  30. dhex says:

    i map the v button to suit controls and never had a problem.

    part of the end were great – i actually liked the fucked up vtol section quite a bit as a setpiece and experience – but yeah, the last boss was rather pointless.

    and compared to sneaking about the jungle, running for your life, trying to loop around the flankers and take them out from behind, well…no contest. (korean-only .cfg edit is a must!)

    it does make me hope for a sequel, though, that perhaps takes into account the suit powers while fighting the admittedly awesome looking alien enemies.

    when folks come over and say “oh hey you do that pc thing what about crysis or whatever?” i load up the alien ship first just to show off my fancy graphics card. because? just because.

  31. Helder Pinto says:

    Unfortunatly, Crytek does’nt know how to make games well.
    But hell, they surely do know how to make engines!

  32. Kadayi says:

    It seems to be a common trend Helder.

  33. Flint says:

    Frosty840
    Hold the suitButton down for stealth, suitButton melee button for whatever that did (never did any close combat in the whole game as far as I remember), hold suitButton and jump to jump really high, and hold suitButton and shift to run really fast.

    Sounds like a masochistic and extremely awkward option, over the wonderfully working system it is now. I just mapped my suit menu button to be the right mouse button, switching modes came naturally and quickly.

  34. Alex says:

    I thought it was a mediocre shooter covered in doesn’t-it-look-great-sauce.

    I too found myself using the cloak ability most. I feel the game doesn’t entice its players enough to try and do other stuff. It’s supposed to be a playground, but it never feels that way.

    I like to compare Crysis to BioShock in this respect – BioShock entices you to try different plasmid/weapon combinations, invites you to go and have fun.

    In Crysis you’re dropped on a huge island – you can go anywhere! Great, but why would you? There’s no reason to go and explore the island. In fact, if you stumble upon an encampment of enemies that is part of the storyline and proceed to kill everything in sight, you’re punished for it (you ‘fail the mission’, if I remember correctly). And this is all before the maps you play on become funnellike in nature.

    Don’t even get me started on the awful story and grindingly bad dialogue..

  35. chenghiz says:

    It seems many games don’t have as focussed endings as they do beginnings. Half-Life, Crysis and Far Cry spring to mind. Is this because developers panic as they tend towards their goal, thinking their game isn’t challenging enough? Or is it simply pressure from publishers that make devs rush them game out?

    Books have much the same problem, really. I think writing a good ending is probably one of the most difficult things to do in fiction, be it in written form or in a game.

  36. dhex says:

    In fact, if you stumble upon an encampment of enemies that is part of the storyline and proceed to kill everything in sight, you’re punished for it (you ‘fail the mission’, if I remember correctly).

    where was this? i’m replaying* right now on delta and would like to see some of the stuff i missed the first two times through.

    * or rather, trying to. i suck at games in general.

  37. Jahkaivah says:

    @Alec Meer

    “I found Crysis increasingly dull in everything past the demo content – primarily because I’d exhausted pretty much everything the game had to offer (shitty aliens and planes aside) in my three-hour exploration of that first level.”

    Heck thats why I didn’t buy Crysis, everything worth playing was put in the demo, even the Nuke Gun.

  38. Kadayi says:

    I didn’t even finish the demo tbh. It did look lovely (as much as my rig could push it), but it just didn’t grip me, and when I realized I had a guy named ‘Psycho’ in my team I knew I was in the interactive version of a straight to video release.

  39. restricted3 says:

    All the more reason they should be happy with what they sold instead of crying PIRACY! and going to consoles like almost everybody else.

  40. Jiki says:

    Crysis as a game was failed potential. The main feeling I had playing it was boredom. The AI was so pathetic and all the challenge from far cry had been thrown out of the window.

  41. Ian says:

    @Alex re: “grindingly bad dialogue”

    I thought the dialogue got worse later. I thought the dynamic between the team members was alright and at least the dialogue for Psycho sounded like an approximation of how some Englishers might talk, rather than the usual attempt to fit as many British slang phrases into one sentence as possible like we normally get in games.

    “Bloody bollocks! That bloody git just bloody bollocksed up that shite! BOLLOCKS!”