Crysis, the spiritual successor to Far Cry, was released by Crytek in 2007 to “Crytical” acclaim, heh heh heh. A tactical Sci-Fi FPS with refreshingly open map design, eye-popping environmental detail and on-the-fly character customization gave players a bevy of options to approach objectives, and pushed the envelope on graphics, physics, and character animation. Crysis was THE game to benchmark the limits of your PC, and was also incredibly well optimized. It got a sequel in 2010, which would gain a “Maximum Edition” in 2012 that included new multiplayer maps, game modes and features. Finally, Crysis 3 rounded out the trilogy a year later, in 2013.
Crysis: Remastered Trilogy updates all three titles with higher graphical fidelity and minor quality-of-life improvements on PC. Most notably, Crytek has incorporated the latest version of its patented CryEngine into the PC build. This means incredible new lighting effects, 8k high-resolution textures and improved draw distances. I played each title on the “Very High” visual setting — “Low” being the lowest, and “Can it run Crysis?” being the highest — and was not disappointed.
Welcome to the jungle
Anyone who has played the original Crysis will remember that “epic gamer moment” early on in the first mission, where the player reaches the crest of a hill to look down on the first enemy encampment as the sun rises on the bay in the distance. The game is now more visually stunning than ever, thanks to ray tracing and improved global illumination effects, which give every object shade and luster even at great distances. There was a moment where I thought I was staring directly into a highly detailed skybox before realizing that, no, that’s not a painting, that’s an actual village on the horizon and I can go there.
All this, and the game ran smooth as butter on my admittedly modest gaming PC, with only minor slow-down during areas of “heavy traffic” — dense jungle, huge vistas, or towns with loads of physics objects lying around. I experienced some flickering of textures at great distances, and the ocean vanished for a split second at least once per level. The facial animations have not aged gracefully, and I was disappointed by the lack of an FOV slider.
On the plus side, you are now able to switch between the original suit functionality, and the system introduced in the sequels. Where you used to have to manually select the ability to run fast, grab large objects or jump to superhuman heights, the suit can now compensate for those actions automatically. Only armor mode and cloak need to be activated. This streamlining improves the pacing immensely, although running and jumping can be very awkward, as you cannot use the forward momentum of a sprint to push yourself into a forward leap. You have to stop first, THEN jump, while pressing forward.
Other than that, the gameplay mechanics remain relatively untouched. Unfortunately, this means that the enemy AI is still as dumb as a box of rocks. Their levels of awareness are all over the place. Yes, they can be quite deadly once they lock onto you. But, many times during combat encounters I found enemy soldiers just standing around (sometimes without weapons), facing walls, or sitting in cars, oblivious to my presence. There is a strange bug where dead bodies show up on the radar as living targets that I do not believe existed in the original. The last quarter of the game is still an endless slog of linear map design, terrible writing and tedious boss fights culminating in a lame, cliffhanger ending. I understand why Crytek left this design misstep untouched for posterity’s sake though, rather than pulling a George Lucas.
Let’s take this party downtown
Crysis 2, my personal favorite in the series, is like playing through a Michael Bay film (which is better than watching one, am I right?) A solid, grandiose shooter with huge production values, gorgeous urban environments and more satisfying firefights than you can shake a stick at. There was an official novelization by one of my favorite authors too, which nicely fleshes out the story, and the main menu theme was composed by Hans Zimmer himself!
Originally lambasted for exchanging the isolated jungle environment of the first game for New York city under alien invasion, Crysis 2 successfully depicted the “plague city” motif a decade before The Division. Unlike the first game, much of the story is delivered through radio news blurbs, overheard conversations, and collectibles. The maps are still large and impressive but more focused and linear in line with modern shooters, which works fine. Vehicle sections are rare to non-existent. There are stealth kills and there’s the ability to vault. Crysis 2 is not a bad sequel by any means, it’s just different, and even more fun now with the upgraded visuals. I did encounter some stuttering, particularly when loading a game or approaching a new area with heavy scripting. I also would have liked the inclusion of a “prone” stance and dual-wield pistols, along with the ability to use the zoom visor from the original without holstering my weapons.
The best of both worlds
Crysis 3 is arguably the least interesting entry in the series, but absolutely worth playing for the evolution and conclusion of the narrative. It also contains more of that wonderful combination of stealth and action Crysis is known for. It is also easily the most visually impressive of the three, combining the jungles of the first game with the ruined cityscape of the second, creating some truly awe-inspiring vistas. There is a mid-game level taking place in and around a series of ruined skyscrapers overgrown with forest and fauna, where the surrounding streets have been hollowed out, their sewers exposed and turned into flowing rivers. You really have to see it to believe it.
Sidekick Psycho returns, more sympathetic than ever, as does the nefarious CELL, the paramilitary organization from Crysis 2 that has since set its sight on global domination, using alien technology as their catalyst. The enemy AI is really on show here, particularly the combat chatter. Baddies are aware of their surroundings and the increasing futility of their situation as their numbers begin to dwindle. There is no limit on how to dispose of them either. Enter a combat arena, snipe someone with an arrow, cloak, slide-kick another, stab his friend in the spine, finish the rest off with machine gun fire, then close in on the last man standing as he shrieks, “Oh God, I’m about to die!”
Crysis purists will also be relieved to know that vehicle sequences in wide-open spaces have more or less returned, especially toward the gravity-defying finale, while maintaining the vertical level design introduced in the sequel. A hacking mini-game has been introduced, which is always a welcome touch in a story about super-soldiers who can make it in and out of any situation. I give Crysis 3 extra points for having a story that assumes the player has completed the previous games instead of pandering to newcomers (although there is plenty of collectible data, should one choose to look, that fills in the blanks). It continues the tradition of each new title feeling like a fresh adventure in an increasingly dystopian present-day universe.
Is it worth it?
Emphatically: yes! The Crysis series is one of a kind, and the remastered trilogy makes it even better on PC. As of yet, multiplayer appears to be missing from the remasters, but that will hopefully be remedied sometime.