We liked Crysis. Despite its less-than-stellar AI, annoying alien baddies, and flawed final mission, we liked it. We liked the game for its wide-open jungle combat and the power and flexibility the nano-suit gave us to approach combat any way we wanted. Whether we wanted to skulk through the jungle, shooting enemies half a klick away with a silenced rifle, or get up close and personal by throwing our enemies through the nearest wall, the game accommodated pretty much any play style.
What was the secret sauce? It’s simple. While Crysis was essentially a linear game that pushed the player down a straight path from one battle to the next, this path was incredibly wide, giving the player a drastically different experience from one play-through to the next. While there were definitely choke points in the game, generally, you could choose when and where you wanted to fight the bad guys. Stalking the enemy and choosing the time and place of every fight was a blast—our major complaint was that there weren’t enough ambush-type weapons such as Claymore mines and detpacks.
Crysis: Warhead finally gives the player the tools to set up elaborate ambushes, but at the same time, the player’s path through the game seems significantly narrower. This limits your options as you play through the game and transforms something that was special into a run-of-the-mill shooter—albeit a very pretty one.
While we’re disappointed by the shrinking game world, we love the greatly improved performance of the stand-alone expansion pack. This is partially due to the inevitable march of progress on the hardware side; Crytek has made some serious optimizations to the default settings as well as the auto-configuration tool. The game automatically chose default settings that produced a good mix of performance and eye candy on all the systems we tested. Naturally, the highly configurable engine lets tweakers crank up the visual quality as high (or low) as they want.
Aside from these changes, the core of the single-player game is essentially the same as the original. The weapons are almost all the same, the nano-suit’s the same, and the bad guys are the same. In Warhead, you play one of your squadmates during the events of the first game. This let Crytek reuse most of the assets and even some of the events from the first game. However, while we appreciate any scriptwriter trying to add depth to our videogame characters, the voice-over flashbacks were more confusing than entertaining, and ultimately unnecessary.
Crytek has also polished and rebranded the multiplayer component of Crysis as Crysis Wars. The framework is an interesting blend of Enemy Territory–style gameplay with traditional team deathmatch. Unfortunately, whether it was the fault of the servers or the game’s large scale, every time we went online, we faced lag bad enough to render the game unplayable, even on servers that registered low pings.
While Crysis: Warhead is a step toward a more mass-market-friendly game, it’s a step back in innovation and fun. Warhead strips many of the amazing design elements that made Crysis fun despite its flaws, and we’re not willing to let them go. While Warhead brings back a lot of the fun of Crysis, especially on the higher difficulty settings, it’s closer to a straight run-and-gun shooter like Call of Duty than it is to the original.
Improved weapon choices and better performance.
Smaller game world; bad lag on multiplayer matches.