Put simply, Far Cry is one of the best first-person shooters ever to exist in the history of the world, and probably a few other worlds too. It's right up there next to Half-Life 2, jostling for the tallest bit of the podium, and for many it's the pinnacle triumph of mankind's ability to emulate shooting people, places and things on a desktop. If you've never played Far Cry, saunter down to your nearest games shop, pick up a copy and hit yourself with it repeatedly, then play it.
If you have played Far Cry, then you know why the people who haven't played it must punish themselves in such a manner. It's a breathtaking game, both in its graphics and its gameplay - the first time you emerge from a darkened cave in Far Cry and see the sheer scope and beauty of your surroundings is one of those special moments in gaming.
And here we are again - more or less - with Crysis, the spiritual successor to Far Cry, from German developer Crytek. We're still in paradise, but while similarities with Far Cry are easily drawn, you'll soon discover why Crysis will be a huge departure from Jack Carver's Trigen-blasting escapades.
Crysis is set in the near-future, during a period of political (and extra-terrestrial) unease. The action will take place on a beautiful island archipelago, where sci-fi craziness will merge with natural beauty. In the same way that Half-Life 2 melded the Combine Citadel with drab Eastern Europe, Crysis is bringing aliens to the tropics.
The premise of the game is that an 'unidentified crashing into the Earth object' has, as UCITEOs generally do, crashed into the Earth and a large, ominous tower has appeared in the otherwise peaceful island paradise. The North Koreans are first on the scene, and it's not long before all hell breaks loose (not literally of course, although that has been known to happen before).
Enveloping the tower is a massive dome of blue energy - the inside of which contains massively contrasting weather to the usual local constants of sun, sea and sand. The ethereal bubble's icy environments and freezing temperatures hint at the possible terraforming intentions of a malicious alien race, or perhaps just global warming arriving with style. Whatever, the North Koreans have claimed the ancestral right of 'first dibs' - and you have to fight through an array of Communist armaments before you can infiltrate the mysterious Snow Globe.
COLD AS ICE
"The game actually becomes a frozen paradise," laughs Cevat Yerli, CEO of Crytek, "which was the codename of the project for a while. We just looked at Far Cry and thought 'hey let's turn this place into a frozen paradise'!" These icy surroundings are set to allow for some interesting features, in particular a weapon we haven't seen since Painkiller - the common or garden freeze-ray.
"Basically, you can freeze an alien unit," Yerli elaborates with glee, "and shatter it afterwards. Also, the shattering is all realtime, which means that after you've used the weapon, depending on where you shoot them with another gun, the ice will break and shatter realistically with correct physics for all the chunks of ice." You'll have to excuse us for unashamedly promoting our enthusiasm, but the freeze-ray is possibly the best weapon ever known to mankind. Forget nuclear weapons and chemical rockets - freezing people and then shooting off their arms and legs is truly the way forward.
The globe means, of course, that the wonderment of CryEngine 2 will not be limited to simple jungles, beaches and mud huts. In the words of Stingray, "anything can happen in the next half hour", with levels also promised aboard an aircraft carrier and in a yet-to-be-revealed top secret location.