Crysis Remastered Trilogy: new and old versions compared
The Crysis Remastered Trilogy is out, complete with all the angry nanosuit men, angry alien squids, and solitary angry Cockney bloke of the originals – now with 8K support.
In truth this is mainly a launch of Crysis 2 Remastered and Crysis 3 Remastered, as although it includes the full remaster of the original Crysis as well, this launched by itself in 2020. Graham didn’t like it. Even so it’s back here alongside updated takes on the second and third games, both of which I’ll be focusing on here in interests of timeliness. For yes, it’s time for another screenshot comparison, wherein you can see just how Crysis 2 Remastered and Crysis 3 Remastered take advantage of modern hardware and rendering tricks to make these infamously graphics-minded games look even graphics-y.
Crysis 2 Remastered vs Crysis 2
To recreate the effects of light bouncing off different surfaces, the original Crysis 2 used a conventional cube mapping technique, later adding screen space reflections though a DirectX 11 patch. The remaster completely replaces this approach, using higher-quality specular lighting for static environments and (optionally, but clearly intended as the default) ray traced reflections. There’s also been a mass replacement of textures, upgrading everything from weapon models to the tiniest of set dressing objects.
Areas that are logically meant to be in shadow actually look much more in shadow – see the lip of the roof, or the left side of the air conditioner, which is weirdly bright on the original. The back of the CELL trooper’s model is more realistically shadowed too, and the AC box also showcases another, more stylistic update in the remaster: toning down the obnoxious bloom effects.
On the topic of style choices, you can clearly see how Saber Interactive - who handled the remastering effort for Crytek - ditched the original’s blue and orange filters. I don’t recall getting huffy with these back in 2011, but I do think the new grading is a big improvement: besides looking cleaner in general, the lack of a heavy filter (combined with the upgraded lighting and shadows) gives a much better sense of where the light sources really are in a scene.
The new reflection tech gets plenty of opportunities to shine. Both Crysis 2 Remastered and Crysis 3 Remastered up the reflectivity where appropriate, such as on polished metal or glossy painted walls, though thanks to ray tracing it’s glass and water that see the biggest improvements in Crysis 2 Remastered. No more inaccurate guesses as to what should be mirrored, and you can often even see your full character model running about. I was particularly impressed to see the outline of my nanosuited muscle man perform a door-opening animation in the reflection of the door itself.
Glass in particular looks better overall. In addition to the updated reflectivity it’s now more realistically transparent, without the inconsistent lighting that was sometimes evident in the original.
In this scene, the remastered version is missing some detail in the form of bric-a-brac like the discarded crate and fire extinguisher. Otherwise, though, it brings together a host of enhancement at once: better glass, prettier lighting, more neutral colour grading, and higher texture detail.
Crysis 2 Remastered also fixes the weapon handling animations so that they run at your native frame rate, and not at a locked 30fps – either an oversight or a mistake on the original’s part, and one that could make fighting with certain guns feel choppier than it should have. Honestly, the attention to detail in this particular chunk of the Remastered Trilogy is impressively acute. The only thing I feel is missing is a redo of the subtitles. They’re not Squid-Game-in-English inaccurate, though it always irked me how Gould – a regular voice in your ear for the first few hours – speaks like a mostly archetypical high-strung scientist, while his captions end half his sentences with a bro-ish address of “man.” And, on at least one occasion, “bra.” But whatever, not like I’ve stewed over this one detail for ten years OR ANYTHING.
Crysis 3 Remastered vs Crysis 3
Crysis 3 Remastered represents a more modest touch-up. That’s not too surprising given the original was a better-looking game than Crysis 2 – the environments and character models stand up perfectly well to 2021 standards, which is likely why they don’t appear to have been enhanced or replaced outright. This doesn’t end up with Crysis 3 Remastered looking worse than Crysis 2 Remastered, to be clear, though you do need to look closer for the upgrades.
DLSS is one of the biggest ones, as right from the moment you get a gun you can see it does a better job of smoothing out the pistol’s edges than the original’s maxed-out anti-aliasing. It’s not perfect either, as you can see some jaggies around the pointy-outy bits on top of the boat (I’m not versed in sailing terminology, apologies), but in motion DLSS generally looks sharper. Crysis Remastered and Crysis 2 Remastered support DLSS as well, but for whatever reason I found its improvements were most noticeable in number 3.
Another shared quality is the improved glass, which you can see here looks as it should, and not like a giant block of melting ice. Ray traced reflections return once again to more accurately mirror the surrounding environment, and other reflective surfaces like metal will more clearly reflect both static and dynamic light sources.
Oddly, on Very High settings Crysis 3 Remastered uses a technique called planar reflections for its flat water reflections: a departure from Crysis 2 Remastered and an apparent snub to ray tracing. It’s not a downgrade, however, as although planar reflections are GPU-intensive, in this instance they’re no less capable of rendering accurate reflections than ray tracing is in Crysis 2 Remastered. The original Crysis 3 used cube maps and screen space reflections, which as we’ve already seen in Crysis 2, can appear to reflect objects and scenery that aren’t actually there. Planar reflections therefore account for a substantial visual improvement in flooded areas, of which Crysis 3 Remastered has no shortage.
Lighting behaves much more naturally too, getting rid of instances where environments and even characters would have an exagerrated glow – or at least some unexplained lumination - in the absence of an appropriately bright light source. You can see this in the face of ol’ Psycho here, as well as on some of the grass below, which in the original appears partially lit-up despite being entirely in the shade.
Of course, none of this comes for free, and as with Alan Wake Remastered, the Crysis Remastered Trilogy raises the question of whether you should drop dosh on a set of games that are all still easily available. And playable on modern hardware too, even without the modern bells and whistles. Indeed, many PC players may not even be able to enjoy two of the most impactful additions – ray tracing and DLSS – as the former requires a very powerful graphics card to run effectively, and the latter is locked specifically to Nvidia GeForce RTX GPUs.
Its likely an even harder sell to those who already own the originals, too. As someone who played and enjoyed all three back in the day, I feel I’d only really want to revisit Crysis 2 for the sole sake of seeing those visual improvements; Crysis Remastered benefits from DLSS, and Crysis 3 Remastered is undoubtedly an upgrade, but it’s by far the easiest to pick out differences in the second in the series.
However, unlike Alan Wake’s recent redux, or in fact the standalone Crysis Remastered, the numbers are arguably in the Remastered Trilogy’s favour. To buy all three of the original Cryses (Crysises?) on Origin would run you a total of £61, whereas the Remastered Trilogy is £45. And even if you do already own Crysis Remastered from its standalone launch last year, that entitles you to get Crysis 2 Remastered and Crysis 3 Remastered at £17.49 each: all of 50p less than what the originals currently cost. That’s almost an entire Wispa Gold per instalment.
It’s still a very, very big ask for anyone who owned the originals beforehand, even if the actual remastering of Crysis 2 and 3 is wholly positive. But if this would be your first time in the nanosuit, and you have the hardware to at least handle ray tracing, then it makes logical, economical and technical sense to skip straight to the Remastered Trilogy. Sorry Graham.