Forget Far Cry 2. The real sequel to Crytek's tropical PC shooter was Crysis, a game so powerful it could only run on a nuclear-powered PC the size of a semi-detached. Until now.
For the past twelve months, Crytek have, through a series of tech demos, been floating the very real possibility of a Crysis sequel running on Xbox. CryEngine 3 videos seemed to point towards modifications - but not many. This was the lush jungle and the wide-open sandbox of the original PC game; the eye-searing world that had changed gaming visuals forever in 2004. This was, in fact, proof positive that, with the right amount of time, effort and technical expertise, Crysis could become a console game. And so it has. But not how you think.
While every one of their previous games has been set in the tropics - a gradual evolution culminating in the beautiful vistas of Crysis
Warhead - Crytek's next game is heading somewhere very, very different. Crysis 2 is swapping the real jungles of the South Pacific for the sprawling urban jungle of... New York. Yep, that's the same place we've been before in Prototype, Alone in the Dark, The Darkness, Ghostbusters, every bloody Spider-Man game, and parts of The Godfather 2; a city that has, if we're honest, become one of the most unoriginal settings in gaming. But for Crysis, and for Crytek in general, it's virgin territory. And to understand how radical a departure the move is for the series, we need to take a step back.
Set in the near future, Crysis centred around a bunch of high-tech super-soldiers, deployed to a Pacific island to rescue scientists from hostile North Korean troops. The first part of the game involved sneaking, running, punching, shooting and swimming around the huge, fictional Lingshan islands, battling human enemies and occasionally sharks. (Seriously, look at the great vids on YouTube).
The second part of the game involved, er, aliens. And after extra-terrestrials arrived and blasted the environment with a freeze ray, most people agreed that Crysis - in taking a super-powered leap over the shark - took a turn for the worse.
As Jake 'Nomad' Dunn, you were one of only a handful of soldiers blessed with a Nanosuit, a nifty piece of rubberware that offered you four different modes: Strength, Armor, Speed and Cloak. Strength let you jump higher and farther, hurling items with more force; Armor deflected a certain amount of damage; Speed gave you the ability to run and swim faster; while Cloak made you temporarily invisible. The beauty of the suit was that it let you decide how to approach situations based on your individual needs and abilities.
Standing on an overlook, gazing down at a group of soldiers, do you rush in there with Strength using one human meatbag as a shield, before punching the rest into oblivion - or do you take a more measured approach, utilising the protective power of Armor to pick them off one-by-one? Alternatively, you could sneak in and stealth-kill every last one of the douchebags. It was entirely your choice; and if you wanted to mix-and-match, well, the system actively encouraged that - switching between powers was incredibly simple.
The Nanosuit was half of what made Crysis so appealing, but the tropical setting was the other; it was both an indictment of what the PC was capable of and a timely reminder that videogame worlds could be colourful and beautiful, rather than drab and brown.
It was a setting unlike the majority of game environments, which seemed happy to settle for clichés such as... New York City. But the main benefit of the tropical setting was its inherent freedom; at least in the early sections, you had a broad, beautiful sandbox to play in.