Review: Crysis Warhead
For anyone seeking more of the Crysis brand of open-ended military shooting, Crysis Warhead offers an interesting proposition. As much as I enjoyed the original game, the long stretches of hiking and occasionally frustrating battles made it hard to stick with at times. Warhead takes the core design in a slightly different direction, less focused on open maps and more focused on constant action. The result is something I found a lot more fun, if not as polished, than the game it’s ostensibly an expansion of, which is a rare feat in the realm of expansions.
Crysis Warhead follows the exploits of Nomad’s nanosuited squadmate Psycho as he fights through another side of the war. Falling between the assault on the harbor and the final confrontation in the original game, Warhead has you following a container loaded with a mysterious specimen that everyone is itching to get their hands on. You’ll butt heads with the North Korean forces under the fabulous General Lee as well as the alien forces (do they have heads?) spilling out of the island’s guts. The adventure will take you through valleys and mines and strongholds, as well as some ham-fisted backstory between Psycho and an old pilot acquaintance of his.
I appreciated the mounting tension and periodic reveals of the original Crysis, and in particular the focus on the mystery. Warhead tries to shoehorn in a bit too much drama, including one of those dumb scenes where the dude who just killed 800 people feels sick over offing one particular guy, and a cutscene battle between Psycho and his new nemesis that just comes off as awkward. It’s a good time to mention that the production values here are not up to par with those in the base game, with animations being rougher and cutscenes lacking that key cinematic quality. The game itself looks and runs as good as ever, but really the entire story side is pretty lacking.
Fortunately, the story isn’t at all the focus here. Crysis Warhead is built around action, near-constant battles against the forces between you and the container. Where Crysis let you sneak around hotspots or choose which objective to pursue, Warhead all but locks you into firefight after firefight. It feels much more linear but at the same time more structured for satisfying combat, like a Call of Duty game that’s not all manicured hallways. Your opponents are constantly changing too, pitting you against soldiers in one level and aliens the next, and then mixing the two for most of the back half of the game. Some of the impressive vistas are lost but you’ll be so busy running and gunning, you won’t have time to notice.
The weapons and enemies are all plenty familiar, though there are some neat additions in ammo types and smaller arms. The seven levels all lift pretty liberally from the base game as well (and I wish they had left the mine segment out) but there are some real stand-outs like a hovercraft chase across a frozen coast and a train defense mission. It’s not a long game, clocking in between three and four hours to pound through, but it feels like it crams almost all the action of the original into it. And ultimately that’s what I like so much about it, it takes the best parts of Crysis and cobbles them together into a new little kitbashed title. It’s very conspicuously an expansion, with all the production limitations that entails, but it’s one that comes from very good stock.