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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Crytek Studios -- Budapest / Crytek Studios
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Player: 1
Rated: M (Mature)
Release Date: September 16, 2008
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By:

Review is based on single-player campaign only...

Imagine someone cooks you a particular meal on two occasions. The first time it turns out great because the cook used the most top-quality ingredients around. The second time the cook uses the exact same ingredients but the result is far better because he learned how to better prepare it. That second dish is Crysis Warhead.

Crytek’s Crysis Warhead is basically the same game as last year’s Crysis with the same weapons, super powers, and enemies with only a few minor additions. So what makes Warhead – a $30 standalone expansion pack (you don’t need the original Crysis to play it), the astounding leap over the original that it is? Level design.

Crysis proper was a very fun shooter with great open-ended levels, extremely well-rounded gameplay, and graphics unequaled to this day. However, separating it from true greatness were some absolutely stupid design decisions Crytek made in the last third of the game. No really, what the hell were they thinking after Chapter 6?! With Warhead, Crytek has trimmed the fat, made some optimizations, and shown us what a difference good level design can make between a great game and an excellent game.

During the first and last parts of Warhead, the open-ended environments of Crysis proper make a welcome return and are as enjoyable as ever, but oddly enough most of the time in Warhead they give way to more linear segments which were the original game’s weakens. Here however, they shine, displaying great use of the engine in designing some pretty varied levels with impressive set pieces. New to Warhead for instance are vehicle sequences that play out surprisingly well. Another great moment was when I received the very last objective of the game: I looked at my surroundings, took in what had just happened, looked at my tactical map, and shouted “you want me to do what?!”

When the jungle gave way to the frozen wasteland halfway through Crysis proper, things quickly became bland. In Warhead however Crytek has made frozen environments that are both constantly refreshing and awe-inspiring, from a ship-filled bay in the throes of a storm to the innards of an aircraft carrier - all frozen in time Pompeii-style. These words really can’t do the game nearly as much justice as pictures will.

Now as for actually running Crysis Warhead – probably the one thing most people are worried about, you definitely do not need to drop $3000 on your computer in order to play this game. Like its predecessor, Crysis Warhead will require at least a gaming-quality PC to run, but despite actually looking slightly better than the original, Warhead is actually a little easier on your system.

First of all – a major thing, you don’t need to have Direct X 10 (and therefore Windows Vista) in order to play Warhead on Very High settings. It’s available in DX9, which really takes away all reason to play the game in DX10 which takes up more system resources anyway. The problem though is that selecting DX9 isn’t possible in-game. You have to force it, which not everyone will realize. On the Steam version this is done by typing “-DX9” in the launch options box under properties for the game. Depending on the system, Warhead as of this writing has also reportedly had some stability issues, but even the worst glitches do little to sour the game.

In DX9, High settings (which all these pictures were taken on) is probably the way to play the game. On High in 1440 x 900 resolution on a Quad Core PC with a year-old Nvidia 8800GT 512MB video card and 3 Gigs of RAM, Warhead ran mostly at around a comfortable 30 frames per second, often going into 40 and dropping noticeably on one particular stage. Things fell to 20fps with everything on Very High in 1280 x 800. Not at all smooth, but perfectly playable. The only big difference I noticed between High and Very High was in the lighting. Overall, compared to the original Crysis, Warhead sports more detailed textures and effects like rain and certain lighting that weren’t in the original game. There’s also often a lot more going on.

As for trimming the fat, some of the dumb stuff like escort missions and zero gravity that appeared in the later sections of Crysis are gone in Warhead. The fights with enemies sporting the same super-powered nanosuit as you are no longer ruined by simple-minded enemies with miniguns. Now they all resemble that first graveyard battle at the end of chapter 3 in Crysis proper – a dangerous, tactical fight that counts on truly getting the better of your enemies. The only thing I regret in Warhead’s level design is its much more all-out, action-oriented approach. Where the original Crysis was an action shooter that could also be played as if it were Metal Gear Solid 3, stealth is mostly ill-advised and often not even supported in Warhead’s environments.

Other little tweaks include how vehicles are automatically driven in 3rd person and ammo is now picked up automatically where before you had to spare a second to press the action key. Ammo is also now more abundant for the SCAR – the default weapon of the Crysis games which the original offered almost no extra ammo for. There aren’t really any new enemy types in Warhead (though they do have more AI patterns now) but there are a couple new weapons like the grenade launcher, EMP grenades, and the machine pistol. The main new vehicle in Warhead is the APC which is more armored than the Humvee and comes with either a mounted minigun or machine gun with explosive rounds.

Perhaps most surprisingly improved in Warhead has been the storyline and presentation. Warhead has players find out what the sidekick from the original Crysis - “Psycho,” was doing during the second half of that game. Crysis was one of those games you knew you weren’t getting into for the story. It was an excuse for you to blow stuff up - the narrative equivalent of an 80’s military action flick. That said, Warhead brings things up just a notch, about to the level of a 90’s military action movie. If Crysis is Commando or Predator, then Warhead is The Rock. Not only has the music been changed to a slightly more sophisticated orchestral soundtrack, but the dialogue and voice acting are also a little better with much more chatter going on. Despite this, towards the end of the game a conversation between Psycho and one of his buddies goes something like:

“You think they’re aliens?
“Who the f*** knows let’s just kill em’.”

And that’s still pretty much your reason for being there.

Bottom Line
Looking at Crysis and Crysis Warhead illuminates how equal in importance preparing is to ingredients. It’s taken the same tools that made Crysis one of the better shooters of last year and used them to make an optimized thrill ride that still looks prettier than anything else out there.


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