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Was Crysis a masterpiece ahead of its time?

Every gamer worth his salt has tackled Crysis, even today many of us have dusted it off for a quick replay. When it was released in 2007 it was a total system killer, and only a handful of people at the time were able to even touch close to maximum settings at a decent resolution.

So intense are the feelings about the game that in the last three years it has been slated, analysed and hotly debated by anyone and everyone with a keyboard.

When it was released I remember feeling slightly disappointed, mainly because when German developer Crytek unleashed Far Cry I was literally blown away by how incredible the gameplay really was. I wanted to step into the shoes of Jack Carver and explore mysterious islands far away, not take control of some futuristic asshat in a posey nano suit which figured you were so dumb it told you when it changed settings, “Cloak engaged!” … yeah … bite me.

Did anyone else think the suit sucked? I did.

Unlike other high profile games at the time such as those being released by ID, Far Cry received little to no hype and I will never forget the first time I played it. After playing the claustrophic Doom games it was such an expansive breath of fresh air. Very few games have nailed an environment like Far Cry. When I think back, only a handful spring to mind. Half Life for the pioneering first person experience; Mafia for the stunning setting and realistic characterisations;  and maybe Max Payne for the surreal and slightly unsettling film noir grip on your senses. There have probably been a few I have forgotten and many I have liked, but those are the handful that always come to mind.

I was probably one of a handful of people who could really enjoy Crysis at release because I was testing a top of the range SLI system at the time – literally three grand of silicon. I didn't understand all the complaints about performance , these people bitching on the forums clearly had something wrong with their computers. This feeling of rather coy smugness was shortlived when I moved back to an ‘ordinary' enthusiast system with a single graphics card. “Christ, what's up with this?” I remember thinking and it was only after a system and driver reinstall that I began to understand the gravity of the situation.

The game was playable if you lowered the settings, but most enthusiast users don't want to have to do that, even those on mid range cards. They felt the £250 card they just bought should handle a new first person shooter, especially when they just bought the hardware a few weeks ago. Many had to revert to gamer or mainstream settings, and at the end of the day it really didn't shine until you hit enthusiast level options.

Crysis used Microsoft's new (at the time) DirectX 10 API for the graphics rendering and it was based around the CryEngine 2, a new version of the engine used in Far Cry. People who prefered XP to Vista at the time were equally pissed off as they felt they shouldn't have to move to a new (and maybe even slightly buggy) operating system, just to get the full graphical featureset. Of course it didn't take some people long before they found various ways around it, but the tide was set in motion. This hotly awaited game ended up one of the most loathed, just after it was released.

The developers recommended an Intel Core 2 Duo, or Core 2 Quad @ 2ghz or an Athlon AMD 64 2x 4200+ as well as 2GB of ram for Vista. Graphically they recommended a 8800GTS with 512MB of ram. I had a system similar to this, and the game did not perform well at all at the settings I wanted. Worse still if you used the minimum specification system of Pentium 4 at 2.8ghz with a 256MB direct X9 capable card it ran worse than a tired, one legged midget. As many people noted, the game also had a plethora of bugs.

Too many cups of coffee can do this to even the most hardened of soldier

The reviews hit and they were mostly positive, PCgamer in the US gave it 98% which tied it for all time greats with Half Life 2 and Gamespot gave it 9.5 out of 10 saying it was ‘easily one of the greatest shooters ever made'. Some sites like Gamepro gave it 4.75 out of 5 and said it was a ‘great step forward for PC gaming' while also mentioning that the hardware requirements were too steep.

Bit tech's conclusion in 2007 was “Graphically the game has the potential to be incredible and already verges on it even on the lower levels sometimes, but the simple fact is that most players will be unable to experience it for a year or two yet. At that point, Crysis may have even been surpassed. For multiplayer, Crysis is a solid enough entry, but it’s not very innovative and is pretty run-of-the-mill in terms of design. “

Crysis became the benchmark tool of the year – if your system couldn't run Crysis at 1920×1200 with enthusiast settings, then you better just give up and start again, hang your head in shame and go home. It was almost the holy grail for performance. “Yeah, nice system man, but can you play Crysis maxed out at 1920×1200?”. It didn't matter if that very system had just folded a bunch of units to help people across the globe, if it wasn't capable of running Crysis, it sucked ass.

Crysis for a couple of years continued to be used as a benchmark tool and over that period of time while performance got better with updated hardware, it still nailed most systems on the market.

The funny thing is, it is still used as a benchmarking tool, we use it on KitGuru. Many of the major sites, even if they don't use it regularly, throw it into a roundup from time to time to see how it stacks up with the hardware on test. A noticeable percentage of hardware today, still struggles with enthusiast settings, three years later.

Can you seriously think of any other engine released 3 years ago that you could say the same thing? Valve's Source engine can be literally powered by my watch today.

Was it really a masterpiece of design, too far ahead of its time? or was it just an average game glossed up in a superbitch of an engine? I don't know about you, but I still much prefer Far Cry.

KitGuru says: Maybe Crysis 2 will tickle my pickle again, who knows.

Discuss in our forum over here or just leave a quick comment below.

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