When it burst onto the scene in 2007, Crysis set a new standard for what PC gaming could achieve. Vast, complex and gorgeous, it heralded a new achievement in visual and gameplay presentation and stood as the benchmark for performance for years to come. Even to this day, most PCs struggle to run Crysis at its highest settings.
Admittedly, a lot of the stress that the game puts on modern PCs is simply down to the bets Crytek made with their game engine at the time. The expectation was of ever-increasing CPU clock speeds, and not the multi-core parallelisation that had to be embraced over the following years. So, when the news of a remake broke, myself and many others were excited to see if Crytek could reach back in time and revive their meme-generating classic to make Crysis run well on a wider selection of set-ups. The result is a bit of a mixed bag, unfortunately.
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Firstly, what is Crysis? For those who have never played it, Crysis is an open-ended FPS in which you take control of a cybernetically enhanced soldier tasked with fighting a hostile invading alien species. It’s a FPS game that fits right in alongside its contemporaries in 2007, offering players copious amounts of gunpowder and plenty of enemies to use it on. While the subsequent sequels would take on a more linear approach as the series spread to the consoles of the day, the PS3 and Xbox 360, Crysis’ missions feel open ended as it tasks you with traversing the island in any way you see fit.
The ability to tackle the missions how you want creates emergent dramatic moments which are completely based on your interaction with the world. During one mission, a helicopter stalked me above while I headed towards an enemy camp. Using the foliage to my advantage, I could quickly lose the helicopter above using the trees as cover and my stealth abilities when out in the open. This game of cat and mouse felt natural, immersing me in a way I didn’t expect a 13-year-old shooter could.
It’s this that really helps the game design feel fresh in 2020, especially when the likes of Call of Duty and other FPS titles this generation still follow a more linear structure. The freedom to approach mission objectives how you please is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Crysis, as it perfectly plays into the power fantasy of having a technologically advanced suit that empowers you with super strength, speed and invisibility.
Unfortunately, almost every other aspect of the gameplay feels outdated. At each enemy stronghold you will find countless enemies to gun down, but they offer up only minor challenge or variation. The sheer number of them often makes the gunplay feel like busywork, rather than providing an engaging or dynamic gun fight. There were also a few occasions inside buildings where the enemies just didn’t know how to react to me, staring dumbly in my direction, waiting for me to fire first.
Visually, Crytek spent a lot of time adding modern rendering techniques like ray-tracing, HDR support and temporary anti-aliasing along with high-resolution art assets suitable for 4K and 8K. This sounds great on paper, but in reality it’s very difficult to enjoy those additions as intended because Crysis still struggles to run across multiple threads on a CPU. It’s the same reason that most modern PCs struggle to run the original at high frame rates, and while there is more parallelisation across a CPUs cores, it’s not enough to make the most of a system.
Running on a Ryzen 5 3600 and a GeForce RTX 2060, I could only play Crysis on medium settings if I wanted to see a reasonably smooth framerate. This makes some of those additions redundant as the game only looks marginally better than the original Crysis at low to medium settings. Without the much needed CPU optimisation, even the new RTX 3000 series will likely struggle to run Crysis on its aptly named ‘Can It Run Crysis?’ graphics mode.
Personally, I would have liked Crytek to spend a little less time adding the likes of ray-tracing in and a lot more time properly optimising the title for modern PCs. Most PC owners run CPUs that are geared towards running multiple threads, and the next-gen consoles coming and AMD now able to push Intel on the CPU front, we’re now at the tipping point where gaming PCs are moving on from quad-core CPUs. I struggle to see a good bulk of the consumer base getting a solid experience from this remaster, which is a real shame.
Alongside the new graphical overhauls, there are a few quality of life changes which improve how gunplay works such as an improved weapon wheel. Weirdly, there seems to be an absence of manual saves, instead relying on checkpoints to mark player progress. This is a weird oversight that makes Crysis Remastered feel even more outdated than it should.
Crysis Remastered for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is just as intriguing a prospect as the revived game on PC, thanks to the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X having the ability to play with a limited form of software ray tracing enabled. Unfortunately, it’s no less flawed at this moment in time.
You’re given several graphics settings, with the Quality mode featuring a dynamic 1800p on PS4 Pro and a 30fps target, while performance unlocks the frame rate and has a dynamic 1080p instead. Lastly, there’s ray tracing which aims for 1080p30 and uses a software ray tracing set up that includes environmental objects within a certain area around you, and then traditional screen-space reflections from pretty much everything else.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Quality and ray tracing modes on PS4 run at 31fps instead of being capped at 30, giving the game an unsettled juddering and sluggish feel. It’s also fair to say that, throughout much of the game, there’s only very minor benefits to having ray tracing enabled, it takes particular environments and a greater degree of reflectivity for the effect to really pay off. It’s greatly overshadowed by the graphical glitches with shadowing and pop-in at the edges of the screen that distract and draw your eye. A patch to iron out current gen kinks and potential enhancements on next-gen should grant a more consistent experience.
– Stefan L
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