I even feared the worst about the game’s alien incursions, but here above all else I was wrong. I expected a sub-par riff on Aliens vs Predator or Half-Life, but instead I found new perils and new environments that turned the world of Crysis upside down. I’m not 100 per cent sure that the later, alien-filled sections of Crysis are quite as much fun as the more conventional action movie chunk in the middle, but they are certainly more spectacular and ambitious. I’m even willing to look past the odd bit of duff AI – give a North Korean a super-suit and a mini-gun and he seems incapable of navigating the simplest obstacles – and the traditional sub-par vehicle sections (one of which is actually better enjoyed out of the tank than in it).
For now, I’ll restrict my comments about the multiplayer mode to a few observations – I’ve been so busy with the single player that I’ve only had time to scratch the surface. The basic, quick deathmatch mode is fun, but there doesn’t seem to be enough incentive given to use the super-suit and the environments I’ve seen don’t seem to be as different or as interesting as those in the single-player game. If you wanted something revolutionary, you may come away disappointed. The Power Struggle mode – which sits firmly in the Battlefield mass team-play vein – is more intriguing, but also more complex. At the moment, it feels less accessible than Team Fortress 2 or Call of Duty 4, while not as focused as Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.
Still, let’s end on the appropriate high note. Even the most understated gamer or technology journalist will use phrases like ‘cutting edge’ and ‘state of the art’ a lot when it comes to FPS games, but I can’t think of another FPS since Half-Life 2 that has so richly earned such a description. Is it too much to say that Crysis reinvents the genre? Probably. You could easily argue that Far Cry was the real revolution and that Crytek’s new game leans heavily on its last. What Crysis does do, however, is redefine a lot of the terms and frontiers of the FPS. When we talk in future of things like photo-realistic graphics or emergent gameplay or consistent physics simulation, this will be the game we’ll inevitably use as a benchmark. Still, is that really so important? No. What is, is that Crysis is a blast. Powerful, exhilarating and regularly astounding, it’s right up there with The Orange Box, Call of Duty 4 and Bioshock as one of the best FPS games in the genre’s very best year.
Upgrade your system and put your scepticism aside. Crysis is one of the great wonders of modern gaming, and also one of the most thrilling and engaging games in this great year.