“Picture this, if I could make the change, I’d love to pull the wires from the wall. Did you?”
Truth be told, I’ve never owned a PC built specifically for gaming. Funds always go to that part of life that allows you to continue living, but close friends of mine throughout the years have had the opportunity. I’ll always remember seeing Crysis run on my friend’s £2,000 rig in 2008, at a time when I was still playing GoldenEye and Mission: Impossible on the N64. I’m grateful for Crytek allowing me the opportunity to see if I can make those same sparks fly 13 years later with Crysis Remastered.
Yes, the groundbreaking technical achievement of the late 2000s has been ushered into a new age for current-gen consoles in 2020. Crytek’s second baby that was meant to be a showcase of their brand-spankin’-new engine, the first one being Far Cry, but it was Crysis that saw unmatched memetic energy. This is something that Crytek still smugly know, as they talk the talk in terms of hashtags like “#CanItRunCrysis”, but that was 13 years ago. Do they still walk the walk?
The year is 2020, both at time of writing and in-game, just in case this year wasn’t already cursed enough, and you play as Nomad, a lieutenant for Raptor Team. Together with Prophet, Psycho, Jester, and Aztec, Raptor Team hot-drops onto an uncharted island that’s being occupied by the Korean military with unusual energy readings being intercepted. With the American forces doing what they do best by sticking their nose into other people’s business, both entities stumble across a presence neither could’ve predicted.
Before we delve into critique, it should be noted that the track record for CryEngine being used on console ports isn’t exactly healthy. We saw Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric on Wii U, along with the infamous console port of Lichdom: Battlemage, and Homefront: The Revolution. While this is the equivalent of 3 birds defecating on your Ford Focus before work, this has to be a case of developers not knowing what they’re dealing with. I say that with such confidence because the 360/PS3 ports of Crysis from 2011 are great!
Well, not great, but competent! They’re locked at 30 FPS, sure, and the foliage pop-in is about 10 meters in front of your face. However, the performance of the game was consistent! Intense action and smart AI dominate the scene, and all without making your console sound like a Boeing 747. Whether it’s a regular Xbox 360 or an Xbox One S via backwards compatibility, Crysis is a job well done on all accounts, so I have just one question, Crytek: What the hell happened with this actual remaster?
Crysis Remastered on this same Xbox One S doesn’t just run worse, it looks worse. Texture pop-in is common, frame rate drops happen anytime a single bullet is fired, the draw distance casts the land in an awkward fog, and that’s just the tip. It’s almost reprehensible a title known universally for ritualistic benchmarking looks like it’s running on a school computer with Windows Vista.
Insult to injury is added when these technical glitches and issues start to directly affect gameplay. The AI has suddenly become lobotomized, frozen to position and blindfire, fire graphics have become dodgy glitches, and moments of wonder and awe have been set back because of how much the game is struggling to keep up. For a quick bolstering of my point, let’s have a look at one certain scene from the mission “Onslaught”, with screenshots from both the Xbox 360 version, and the remaster.
First off, the Xbox 360 version, which sees the mountain and its surrounding valleys covered in darkness — a common mainstay when it came to the seventh generation of gaming — yet it adds atmosphere. While the original PC version of Crysis saw this mission area covered in an immense fog, this incidental generational setback adds more of a vibe than attempting to copy something superior.
Meanwhile, the same scene running on Xbox One S shows true colors. The foliage, the low-quality mountain, the vague intentions to keep that same fog, and the lack of clouds. It’s all watered down, a cheap knock-off of a scene that should be mind-boggling to the average gamer, and we’re not even accounting for the actual performance during this scene either.
When it comes to Crysis Remastered‘s named objective, it falls spectacularly flat, even when it’s not attempting to do something more stress-inducing, like raytracing. In fact, if you want to see what it’s currently like to attempt ray tracing on an Xbox One X, look no further than this showcase from GameTripper UK. It’s a crying shame that it’s such a letdown performance wise because the actual game mostly holds up for a 2020 audience.
If you’ve never played the original Crysis, it can essentially be described as a slightly less linear version of the original Far Cry meets Ghost in the Shell. You will be in set sections of the island with loading screens, but secondary objectives allow you to feel free in how you approach objectives. Stealth and straight-up brute force are equally encouraged, and playing on harder difficulties is rewarding on completion.
The first half of Crysis is exceptional, making up for a fairly lacking arsenal with some brilliant sound design and gunplay. Every contemporary weapon has weight and power behind it, each shot sounding like it could give God himself tinnitus. While stealth from a distance is frustratingly difficult, tagging everyone with binoculars and picking them off one by one is such a satisfying feeling. Whether it’s the precision rifle, the shotgun, or the minigun, it’s all wonderful.
The game only starts chugging in terms of decent pacing and mission structure when you can tell that Crytek are trying to blow your graphical mind. The aforementioned “Onslaught” mission has you controlling one of the worst tanks in video games, with this remaster affecting the controls heavily. Delayed input is the dish of the day, and that also counts for vehicles in general, so it’s a good thing our Nanosuit allows us to reach 60 MPH effortlessly.
The big reveal is an extraterrestrial structure covered beneath the mountain, and beyond the remaster failing to keep up with this turquoise wonderland, it is hell to play. The zero-G angle is ambitious, but attempting to aim in this weightless nightmare is an arse, and the repetitious nature of this crystalline landscape is confusing to navigate. It’s another graphical showcase, but as we’ve already stated, the remaster lacks the same punch the original did.
The story is also quite aimless. While mystery and a small amount of horror are sprinkled across the affair at first, the game can’t help but reveal it all almost immediately. It’s like in Halo 3 where a Cortana jumpscare would always be preset with your HUD glitching. It’s the same thing here, but the game can’t help but reveal the mystery almost immediately.
You could have maybe said that this was brand-new technology that the Korean military has adopted, or maybe the Koreans are already in a struggle we don’t know about, but no. Instead, the Koreans are vaguely planted as the bad guys until they aren’t. While this is expected for a contemporary war shooter, especially one released during the seventh generation of gaming, it’s quite clear that Crytek have no idea how to write the story appropriately. It’s that expected? With an experiment like Crysis, yes, but still.
After the big ol’ spaceship reveal, the game’s tired of attempting to copy Far Cry, and goes for Halo 2 instead, following a path of aggressive linearity and set pieces. Starting off with an environmental gimmick tied to an escort quest, the game’s final weapon reveal is a poor effort. It feels cheap in your hands, sounds like a playing card in a kids bicycle spokes, yet you’re forced to use it due to its infinite ammo capacity. The reason as to why we can use it is half-baked as well, as the nebulous Prophet continues being some omnipotent force who’s never proven to be so.
It’s also here where you’ll come to find just how annoying the side characters are in the game. Prophet whines in your ear about being cold, marines cry and scream constantly, the One Female Support Character From The Seventh Generation Who Knows About Everything is in danger because of course she is. It’s all agonizing to sit through, it’s a roller coaster ride filled with the headless kamikazes from Serious Sam.
Top it all off with an “epic” finale on a military ship, and you have a two-stage boss fight submerged in utter darkness and poor mechanics, along with an anticlimactic ending. Prophet continues being inexplicably awesome only because Crytek promises he’s a badass, when the only decent thing he’s ever done in his life is save Alcatraz in Crysis 2.
While it was a nice reminder of what 2007 had to offer us in terms of gaming, almost none of what Crysis is known for is shown off here. In terms of a remaster, Crysis Remastered is an absolutely piss-poor effort lacking any “woah!” moments beyond a lighting engine that screws up more often than not. Is the actual game still worth playing in this state? Hard call, but all signs point to “no”.
Crysis still has moments of wonder and awe, they’re just not present here. The gunplay is still fantastic, the actual challenge one can face in-game is still rewarding to overcome, and almost every other version can be recommended to find out. As it stands, however, it is all buried underneath a technical failure here, and even the Xbox 360 version is a better option than this… or you could get a PC, I suppose. What counted as high-end in 2007 should be cheap now.
Tell you what, though, if we’re gonna keep remastering games from 2007, get to The Darkness already! Jackie Estacado has been ignored long enough.
This Review of Crysis Remastered was based upon the Xbox One version of the game. A review code was provided for this purpose.
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