Engine Room: Crysis used to be a name synonymous with humbling even the beastiest of PCs. Nathan Lawrence explores how Crytek is seeking to do it all over again with Crysis 3.
“Does it run Crysis?” These four words are simultaneously a loaded abbreviation and a way of measuring the length of one’s e-peen via hardware prowess. When asked this question, the interrogator is actually querying, “Does it run Crysis [at 30fps+ on max settings]?”
If you - and, more importantly, your hardware - are up to task, an answer needn’t be verbal: a nod, a smile or an inviting open-palmed gesture for the interrogator to try it for themself. These or a simple ‘yes’ were all once acceptable responses. “Were all once”. Past tense.
Nowadays, newfangled rigs are forged and their steel tested on the likes of Battlefield 3. Crysis 2 came and went, and while some of the PC elite hoped that we could ask and answer the 2.0 variant of the same question - “Does it run Crysis 2?” - we were left wanting.
DirectX 11 was promised and delivered after the fact; for some it was too little, too late for a sequel whose campaign had already been clocked and its multiplayer replaced by the Call of Duty/Battlefield staples of the time. What was once a franchise that came with a badge of honour - an unmade award to place beside the likes of ‘Intel inside’, ‘Windows 7’ and other such desktop stickers - if one’s PC could earn the title ‘Crysis Killer’, became a series that had seemingly fallen victim to the all-too common multiplatform sickness.
Compared to the reign of Crysis in 2007, it was all too easy for a 2011 computer to best Crysis 2; but for Crysis 3, Crytek is determined to reclaim its ‘killer app’ crown. Crytek wants to kill your PC with the power of the latest entry into the Crysis series.
Crytek isn’t stupid. To believe that the German developer was unaware of the PC community’s reaction to Crysis 2 would be a mistake. In fact, during our recent interview with Cevat Yerli, co-founder of Crytek and director of Crysis 3, and Rasmus Højengaard, senior creative director of Crysis 3, both developers were all too eager to address the formation of Crysis 3 based on feedback from Crysis 2.
Here’s what Cevat had to say about Crytek’s out-the-gate approach to Crysis 3. “With Crysis 3, we looked at what people liked about Crysis 2 and what we could do to improve it. One of the big things we heard was, ‘More of an open sandbox like Crysis.’ However, Crysis 2, it wasn’t that we couldn’t make it bigger; it was the realistic limitations of the city itself. Building blocks, like towers and things, naturally you’re moved into confined spaces. So we moved upwards into vertical spaces, just like the buildings move upwards. In Crysis 3 we said, because now we can destroy them [buildings] in a way and a reason for the buildings to collapse and be destroyed and what not, we can make it open but also vertically open. So I think people are going to get a Crysis-esque sandbox, but still a different layer on top of it. The verticality of Crysis 2 merged with openness.”
For the record
Given the multiplatform release of Crysis 2 and the lengths Crytek went to in showcasing a game that still looks stunning on consoles, we were eager to know just how much the consoles dictated the New York City setting. After all, as is particularly evident in the larger maps of Battlefield 3 Armored Kill on PlayStation 3, massive areas and large draw distances are problematic on the ageing hardware specs of current-generation consoles.
We assumed that the confines of New York City were a multiplatform choice for Crysis 2. We assumed incorrectly. Cevat set the record straight. “It was a narrative and a geological decision. When you stand in Time Square, you can’t just make an open area because there are buildings everywhere. And the same is also true for everywhere [in New York City]. So in Crysis 3 we can have new options in the map design. More open areas in New York but, also, if there weren’t [more open areas], we can just destroy the buildings. We can just flatten everything.” To add further fuel to how wrong our assumption was, Crytek did release a well-scaled and well-received port of the original Crysis games for Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Network in late 2011.