Examining the FPS Dichotomy: How Crysis Succeeds Where Others Falter

Everyone has some specific conditions that must be met when they order something at a diner or cook something at home when it comes to certain dishes. People won’t eat French fries without ketchup while others won’t eat a salad without chicken in it. Whatever it may be that one single ingredient makes the meal worth eating, lest you be turned off by its otherwise mundane and dull nature. I know I for one cannot eat chilli without melting cheese in it; much like how I can no longer play a first person shooter without something to spice up the experience. Yes Halo 4 and Black Ops II were huge buzz worthy reveals at this year’s E3, but I for one could not have been more numb to the news for either title.

Before going any further it’s important to note that once upon a time I was one of the biggest Call of Duty devotees in the world. From the first Modern Warfare all the way through to Modern Warfare 3 I terrorized many online with my AK47 or my tactical knife, and did so alongside a loyal clan of friends and the compulsive addiction to be ranked high in every aspect. Well deaths excluded; and on that note I should mention I’ve lost many an xbox controller over this franchise. It was the online multiplayer that kept me interested this whole time, as it has with millions of others.

The transition from Black Ops to Modern Warfare 3 however forced a realization onto me; this is the fifth installment in five years where I’m merely playing the same game with some new clouds and camo.  I won’t deny that MW3 was an improvement in certain areas and that it was undoubtedly the best version yet; but that was primarily thanks to little tweaks to the unchanged recipe such as killstreaks overlapping in a single life and a more complex map design. Through it all however it’s for all intents and purposes the same single layer gameplay; run (or for most of you, camp), shoot, maybe take point A, maybe defend point B, or ignore both completely and just build your kill count.

A good portion of the online community is so entranced by the idea of needing to keep updated year after year they don’t realize their contradictory nature of complaining time and time about how the game is broken, their teammates suck, people are hacking or glitching, or that you couldn’t have been blown up because that grenade wasn’t even close to you and ultimately still playing out of a personal sense of protocol. Of course there is a fan base that continues to legitimately enjoy playing these games and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some people enjoy mashed potatoes without gravy.

This aura of redundancy even translates to single player. It’s great to see the story telling at work where applicable and each game had their share of worthy action sequences, but there are enough restrictions in place when mapping out point A and point B, the given path required to be taken, and a set amount of enemy soldiers you had to take out in between without much wiggle room. There are a limited amount of tactics at your disposal which is usually comprised of cover, shoot, try not to get killed. There is the occasional change in formula where you pilot gunships or ride in a tank, but it’s usually one mission out of about 15-20. It’s a lot of fun sure, if it hasn’t worn out after being done year after year.

Now the appeal for Crysis games goes deeper than just calling it a difference in genres and setting, because Halo shares the sci-fi aspect. Master Chief and crew realistically suffer from a more tedious formula than Call of Duty. Much like COD I was on board the Halo hype train from its original Xbox debut to Halo 3; hell I even played Halo Wars for about a month, mainly because it was different. After playing 3, my argument for not being excited about ODST or Reach like many of my fellow gamers involved my disappointment in how the series began blending together and not enough was being added, subtracted, or altered to set each chapter apart from one another, especially in multiplayer. It was essentially the same experience with the same guns at a different point in the story, which might be enough for enthusiasts who were able to remain involved in the story; but it’s hard to argue that Halo has not seen much upgrading over the years aside from graphically.

As far as Crysis is concerned, the Nanosuit and the capabilities it grants serves as the cheese to my chilli, the stealth aspect is the ketchup to French fries, and the multi-dimensional terrain is the chicken in the salad. The simple acts of being able to jump ridiculously high, survive a fall from dangerous heights, and cloak yourself from enemy eyes is more than typical gimmickry. Each talent opens up a new opportunity to specifically design areas that revolve around using these abilities. A greater environment scope opens up and more tactics become available which allow for any given scenario or firefight to occur differently than it might have in someone else’s game or in a past play through. Anyone who played Crysis 2 can attest to how large each single-player map was, so much so that any observer could easily mistake what they were seeing as an open-world setting. Granted not enough substance filled each accessible area to justify officially labeling it as such, but taking gameplay at your own pace and choosing to run in guns blazing or sneak up on an isolated foe while under cloak adds approaches to combat that other FPS titles simply don’t offer. In Crysis, the area between point A and point B can be like a tour of the city or an express B-line to the next encounter.

Crysis has never lacked intensity either as each populated area throws enemy after enemy of both human and alien origin at you in which you must make quick decisions under fire on how to proceed. Do you retreat and cloak for individual surprise attacks, do you take advantage of the game’s superior sense of verticality and jump up to the third floor of a building and remap your approach, or do you harden up that armor and try to take everyone around you down in a hurricane of physical evisceration. The surroundings in Crysis games are designed with these choices in mind, and you are encouraged to find your own way of dealing with any given encounter. Crysis 3 will allow gamers to take the role of the hunter, the gunslinger, or the shadow.  Even the game’s pre-alpha code displayed during E3 was phenomenal looking, not very far off from the graphical achievement Halo 4 proved to be. Now imagine how the finished product will look and how well the beauty and detail of the map design will further evolve the series’ terrain diversity.

It should go without saying that the competitive online multiplayer benefits greatly from these tactics and abilities. Crysis MP has never been quite as polished as Call of Duty; I’m willing to admit that. The complacency in ensuring longevity aside from the same tried and true core gameplay shown in the most recent iterations of the popular military shooter might become more apparent with Crysis 3’s impending arrival February of next year. Crytek has certainly realized that they have a solid and advanced standalone product, and they stand a much better chance at swiping a larger fan base now as opposed to during the Black Ops onslaught. The innovation is already a hallmark; the size of the FPS community willing to switch over and be charmed by the more tactical focused style that other shooters lack even in the playlists that are meant to promote teamwork will go a long way in bolstering Crysis 3’s appeal.

PC gamers have a bit of a head start on console loyalists as far as knowing everything Crytek’s flagship series has to offer, but those fortunate enough to have picked up Crysis 2 knows that any minor upgrade to that formula makes for a blockbuster shooting simulator. Anyone not familiar with the series or have been reluctant to put down their AK47s or energy swords to try something different, check out the amazing E3 trailer here.

Post written by Senior Staff Writer Matt J. Randisi. Questions for the author? Send an email to Mjrandisi@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SaveUsMatt.

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