I'm playing dilettante this weekend, dabbling with some of the bigger games of the moment which I haven't had a chance to play properly yet. Some of them are on Televisual Pleasure Boxes (Mario Galaxy and Assassin's Creed) but one's home is on the Personal Thinking Machines whose progress we like to chart at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. It's Crysis.
Which is a case where I'm last guy to the party but - hey - it's Saturday. We can all chill together.
This is how the first hour went.
Firstly, the first hour rapidly turned into more than the first hour, and I kind of lost track. Which is, of course, is a kind of big compliment for this kind of exercise.
Secondly, shit, yeah, very pretty. In fact, as Jim noted in his review, what impresses most is the sense of verisimilitude. It just, in its own way, looks a hell of a lot like real life. There are trees. They look like trees. There are shacks. They fall down like shacks would fall if they're hit by grenades. There are Korean men. They squirm, terrified, much as you'd imagine Korean Men would if they were picked up by a soldier wearing a strength-enhancing suit.
Thirdly, this kind of matters. As others have said, this is clearly Far Cry 2, in the best possible way. Far Cry, while it mostly recovered now, had a kind of backlash for a year or so after its release, which downplayed its merits a little. That last level left scars and those aliens were kind of tedious. Except... well, that overlooked how there were at least a couple of interesting bits with the aliens - the real problems came in the lengthy indoor levels. When you lost the ceilings, it became a little like Predator, which had never been accurately portrayed in a game.
Fourthly, this is a lot like Predator. In fact, the plot basically positions you as a group of Predators facing off against something even scarier than you are.
Fifthly, you worry about the difficulty level... and then shrug. I'm playing it on Normal. The Hard and Delta seem to offer a lot more difficulty, which opens up Crysis beautifully. As it is, the hyper-tough character (not in survivability, necessarily... just in his ability to change the situation in ways which opponents can't predict by going invisible, jumping a fence or running away really fucking fast) married to the incredibly large level, leaves a lot of room to both avoid and take out enemies. The biggest problem for me is ammo shortages, as you have to manually go and collect ammo from corpses.
Sixthly, the size of the levels. Now, in a world where people will rhapsodize over Halo's ability for encounters to play out in different ways - and justifiably, as Halo is neat in this deparatment - Crysis is on a completely different level. The world both looks and feels so natural that you simply start treating it as a place - jumping up cliffs to get a view of the area, working out enemies' positions, circling around guards so you can get an ambush. Right at the end of my hour, I'm working my way along the beach towards a village, and I'm aware that there's dozens of things I could or should be doing, depending on my inclination.
Seventhly, it's showy. As I approach the village, I'm crawling along until I find myself standing beside a sign. It's a mine-field sign. Under fire, I start laughing, and wonder what to do. In a moment's inspiration, I turn on my strength and leap straight up, over a fence, switch to armour for the landing, before switching to speed to get to cover. It's at seconds like this where the game reminds me of a combat heavy Deus Ex - or rather, a Deus Ex which admitted that being a cyber-enhanced agent would mean you could be the meanest motherfucker on the battlefield, and rolled with it.
Eighthly, I have destroyed many Chicken.
Will I play more? Hell, yeah. In a year of exemplary FPS, this is up with the best of them.