“But can it run Crysis?”
By now we’ve all heard this question/joke. It’s been fourteen years since Crysis’s release. We have the powerhouses that are the PS5, Xbox Series machines and some wicked RTX capable graphics cards along with the slowly disappearing generation of Xbox One and PS4, so perhaps it’s time that that question can be answered.
And the answer is a resounding “YES!”
A stunning “YES!” at that too.
Sabre Interactive and Crytek have just about gone back to the drawing board to remaster the Crysis trilogy for modern hardware. And damn if it hasn’t paid off spectacularly.
The Crysis trilogy throws you into the shoes of a super-suit enhanced soldier whose job it is to save the world. In the original Crysis, you had to stealthily drop onto a Korean run island to extract a group of scientists before things go to hell. What starts of as a military shooter with SF overtones goes full-blown SF by the 3rd quarter of the game and you’re dealing with an ancient alien invasion.
Crysis 2 time jumps you into the shoes of another marine during the full-blown invasion in New York, changing the terrain from guerrilla jungle warfare to full urban combat.
Crysis 3 throws another time jump at you. Set sometime after the invasion, you make your way into the ruins of New York to take down the CELL Corporation only to find a lingering alien menace.
When Crysis came out, its original selling point was the then-ahead-of-it’s-time engine technology, CryEngine. As with many, I was blown away by the promise of what CryEngine was selling when watching the reveal and tech videos. Who wasn’t amazed at the foliage destruction shown off, like that scene in Predator where Duke unloads a minigun into the jungle?
My first experience with the game though came on playing it on a laptop at its lowest settings and still marvelling that the game was playable, albeit with sketchy frame rates. Crysis 2 and 3 on PS3 or Xbox 360 was how I experienced the sequels, along with the terrible frame rates that came along with them as well. To be fair, it was still a technical marvel that Crytek managed to bring them over to those consoles, to begin with. But sketchy frame rates can certainly put a damper on a game’s fun and therefore, its quality.
Which makes this trilogy remaster all the more welcome. Crytek and Saber Interactive have dived back into the game, most noticeably the art and the technology powering them, to get them running flawlessly on current-gen systems and PCs. And boy, how flawlessly do they run!
The game’s textures have been remastered with HD versions. So to have the game’s assets, which include models, also been remastered to look better than before. The lighting has been improved as well to make use of the current version of CryEngines new lighting tools and features, making for a more visually vibrant series of games. One of the biggest additions to the games are reflections via screen-space reflections and cube maps which go a long way to making the games pop that much more and give that sense of raytracing without actually having raytracing. Concerning this, though there are some interesting differences between Crysis and its sequels.
All the games now run at 1080p versus the PS3 and Xbox 360’s 720p versions and the standard Xbox One’s 900p. A huge change has been made to the sequels colour grading as well. Gone is the overall blue-ish hue that permeated the sequels on last-gen, bringing the games closer to Crytek’s artistic vision. And then, finally, there’s that frame rate which is mostly rock solid regardless of what’s happening onscreen in any of the games. While the games support dynamic resolution, I’ll be damned if I noticed any visual dips in resolution at any time during my playthrough. The only frame rate hitch I noticed came in Crysis Remastered when hitting a checkpoint and the game autosaved.
Now we get to one of the most interesting aspects between the games, specifically on Crysis Remastered. Crysis comes with Performance, Quality and Raytracing modes. That’s right, Raytracing on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro and Switch. Sorry base console holders of this generation, but PS4 and Xbox One don’t get Crytek’s software powered Raytracing mode. Utilising a Voxel-Based solution, which is beyond the scope of this review to get into, Crytek’s implementation allows Raytracing to be rendered by the games engine at runtime. It does have limitations, such as what items in the environment get rendered and has the frame rate locked at 30fps, but it is extremely impressive. Coupled with screen-space reflections and cube maps, reflections are limited to the environment and some enemies, with characters and most items showing no reflections. It’s’ a small price to pay for the huge visual difference it makes to the games overall atmosphere and it will be interesting to see how the technology advances.
Quality and Performance do as they suggest though, to be honest, the visual difference between the two modes seemed rather negligible to me outside of noticeable pop-in in Crysis Remastered. I spent most of my playtime in Crysis Remastered in either Quality or Raytracing mode, neither of which had any performance issues apart from that autosave hitch. If you have an HDRI capable display, you can enable that as well.
Crysis 2 and 3 have HDR support, but not Quality, Raytracing or Performance Modes. The games look gorgeous from the get-go and run perfectly as well. Regardless of what’s happening onscreen, whether it’s the Ceph attacking or the environment and particle effects that help sell the siege of New York, the games frame rate is as solid as a rock. There is no hitch either when the game’s autosave. Crysis 3’s opening mission, and much of the game, in fact, is a visual tour de force and still a fantastic showcase for the capabilities of CryEngine. Crytek is investigating the possibility of bringing Performance modes to Crysis 2 and 3.
The final question then, knowing that we know how the games perform, is how do they play? And I’m glad to say that the gameplay still stands up remarkably well. If anything, I’d say they play better now on current hardware and I found the games far more engaging without the technical issues from previous versions.
Crysis’s more open-ended level design promotes stealth over gung-ho combat. Despite having a nano suit, you can get wasted pretty easily. The sandbox feels to the levels makes it easier to avoid enemy patrols and sometimes miss things as well. One lovely visual aspect from Crysis Remastered that I do wish had made it across to the sequels is the energy fluctuations that run across the nano suit all the time, whose colour changes depending on which of the suites functions you’re using. A special shout out goes to all three games shotguns for their meaty and deadly feel which reminded me of much older FPS’s in which the shotgun was a wonderful go-to room clearer from any distance, versus the nerfing that most modern shooters have applied to them, turning them into close-quarters combat weapons.
Crysis 2 embraces urban combat and a more gung-ho shooter approach. Stealth is there still, but the game feels more geared towards run and gun tactics. It’s still an engaging shooter with some great moments.
Crysis 3 finds a balance between the two styles and allows you to choose your own play style. Outside of combat with the Ceph, who isn’t fooled by your cloaking tech, stealth works just as well as rushing a room. Combat can be fast or slow but is never anything less than solid and fun.
During my playthrough, I encountered only two issues. The first was an occasional bug during the second phase of the final boss fight in Crysis Remastered where, if I’d died and respawned, I would sometimes fall through the aircraft carriers deck into the cargo hold below and couldn’t get out and would have to reload. Finally, Crysis 3 has a weird movement bug where, if you’re standing still, you’ll slide backwards as though you have stick drift. Crytek is aware of this issue and is looking into it.
After fourteen years the Crysis series is in the best place it’s ever been. With gorgeous visuals, a silky smooth frame rate and gameplay that has aged incredibly well – if not feeling better than it has before – Crysis Remastered Trilogy is the best version of these classic shooters that you should be playing again.
Crysis Remastered Trilogy is available on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, PC and Xbox
This review is based on the Xbox Series X which you can purchase here- https://www.xbox.com/en-gb/games/store/crysis-remastered-trilogy/9mtw722jfz5z
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