I’m almost surprised we don’t still talk about Crysis regularly when discussing first-person shooters. Not all games age gracefully but this is one of the few that you could argue has grown better with age, because technology eventually caught up to the insane graphical abilities folded into this thing. It may be more than ten years old but it looks better than plenty of games that have released in the last year, and has more open-ended gameplay to boot. But there is ultimately a reason Crysis doesn’t often come up in conversation despite its strengths, and it’s a pretty big one.
Crysis was ahead of its time in a lot of ways, such as blaming the Koreans for everything. Yes, the dastardly North Koreans found something on a Pacific island that could spell doom for the world, so the U.S. has deployed a small squad of soldiers to the area, armed with top-secret nanosuits. These fibrous contraptions can grant super speed or strength, armor or invisibility, making the wearer the perfect covert engine of war. The mission doesn’t go at all as planned, however, and you’ve got to scramble to find out what’s going on and how you can stop it before your foes make a very, very big mistake.
At its heart this is an open-world shooter, much in the vein of Far Cry before it. The maps for your missions are vast, fully-modeled tracts of island, giving you plenty of cliffs and jungle to forge through if you want routes around checkpoints or towns. Unlike Far Cry though, your nanosuit actually gives you powerful options for approaching your challenges. Armor gives you enough health to take serious hits while gunning down whole squads, speed lets you tear through the jungle or run right up on hapless troops, invisibility allows you to ghost past entire sections of the map, and strength makes you leap high enough to ignore fences and cliffs. Combined with a rapidly-recharging power reserve, you can vary up your tactics on a whim to gun down one outpost of foes and then sneak through an entire town undetected.
Crysis ends up feeling like a more complete experience because of these choices available to the player, on top of the excellent gunplay. Your weapons feel weighty and powerful, from silenced pistols all the way up to guided missile launchers. You’ll be challenged to take down tanks and helicopters and even tougher foes as you progress so don’t expect to stealth through the entire game, but traversing the vast maps definitely gives you plenty of leeway to do as you please. You’ll have vehicles to commandeer as well, ultimately giving the game a similar feel to the later Far Cry games but with a more structured, military edge.
And honestly that might be what holds this one back. Crysis is a military shooter at its core, despite the sci-fi elements and open maps. You’re always going to be following orders to clear checkpoints or raid field bases for intel or secure landing sites. The maps give you the latitude to navigate and plan as you please but only for the purposes of fulfilling your mission, not turning up secrets or completing side activities. For most people this is still probably enough and I’ve enjoyed my time with the game, but whenever I hit a rough fight that I have to try a few times I feel more ready to leave this one behind than I do with most shooters.
Regardless of that though, Crysis is something that needs to be seen to be appreciated. The technological achievements are undeniable, offering realistic characters that move and emote with striking clarity and island vistas that could have come from a postcard. The action is plenty capable of keeping up, and the options afforded by your nanosuit add a remarkable amount of depth to the gameplay. Whatever your feelings on military shooters you owe it to yourself to check this one out, just to see what can be accomplished with the right thinking towards the future. Crysis remains a polished gem even ten years out, perhaps a bit simple in structure but no less beautiful for it.