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Sergeant Sykes demands that we go hands on with his portion of the Crysis storyline. We didn't want to find out what would happen if we declined...
Sergeant Sykes (a.k.a. 'Psycho') was a bit of a prickly customer in last year's Crysis. The outspoken cockney wide boy of Delta squad certainly wasn't afraid to say what he thought. Disappearing at the end of the original Crysis' fourth level, his re-appearance at the end of the game has opened up a nifty plot hole for Crytek. It's left space to lever in a parallel story arc featuring Psycho for this next installment in the series, Crysis Warhead, which will focus on the exploits of our British friend on the other side of Crysis' archipelago while Nomad was messing around in alien spaceships and whatnot.
Due for release only a year after the first game, you might reasonably expect Crysis Warhead to be an expansion pack, but it's actually going to be a standalone title with a handy expansion price tag. EA informs us that, in comparison to the first game's 11 levels, Warhead will house a thoroughly respectful seven levels (which is even more impressive when you consider that Crysis was quite a bit longer than most FPS titles). That certainly lifts the content of Warhead to more than just the average expansion pack, but is the gameplay going to offer more of the same or can we expect something more than just additional content?
Our Hands On took place with Warhead's 'Shore Leave' level, which EA tells us is the second level in the game. The basic progression of Shore Leave was a vehicle section in one of the new Armoured Scout Vehicle (ASV) transports. Sporting a hefty cannon and armoured like an armadillo, this piece of kit certainly wasn't to be messed with. It only took a few precisely aimed high-caliber bullets to dispense with enemy Hummer's, while mere infantry didn't stand a chance in the many opportunities to demolish the North Korean checkpoints littered along this section.
The action was hectic throughout this vehicle section, with jet fighters repeatedly peppering the route with airstrikes and gunships occasionally dropping into the action. This was made all the harder by the fact that the primary objective involved chaperoning an identical ASV through the carnage. Eventually the vehicular mayhem subsided as we reached some friendlies pinned down around a damaged Delta squad aircraft. The action soon picked up once again though, when North Korean soldiers began to swarm; firstly from the east, and then, in a pincer movement punctuated by troop carrying trucks, from the west.
Throughout the firefight it became apparent that the heart of Crysis' gameplay has remained untouched. The nanosuit is as faultlessly balanced as it was with the first game and the gunplay is much the same experience (our initial inventory included the standard issue pistol, shotgun, and rifle as last year's line-up). Rest assured, there will be a range of new weapons in Warhead (as we found out later), but EA informed us that many features of the first Crysis have remained intact for the sake of continuity. After all, the events of both games are supposed to be happening simultaneously along the Crysis timeline.
Before we could muse on this point for more than a few seconds, we were thrown right back into the action with another vehicle section complete with the same trimmings of the previous one. We'd hardly had the chance to catch our breath and take the nanosuit's invisibility cloak out of its box, before beginning to wonder whether Crytek had decided to go in a slightly different direction with Warhead. In our Q&A with EA's Associate Producer on Crysis Warhead, Ben O'Donnell, he certainly suggests that some of the weaponry on offer is a bit more "high impact" than the first game. Could this be extended into the gameplay style as well?
There were more than a few hairy, action driven sections in the original Crysis game - the tank level is a perfect example. Nevertheless, the first couple of levels were a bit more sedate, with plenty of Crytek's trademark set-pieces that allowed you more freedom to make the choice between pure stealth or more of a gung-ho approach. The fact that Crytek are bringing all-out action into Warhead's second level certainly seems like a more instantly gratifying change in direction, although the final section of Shore Leave reassured us that this wasn't entirely the case.
It was a textbook example of a Crytek set-piece, all teed up and ready for you give it a clout like Steven Gerrard or apply a feathery touch a la Ronaldhino (when did this become a FIFA first look - ed). As we walked over a slight hill towards the end of the level, the view presented a North Korean port littered with crates and portacabins that provided perfect cover. Naturally, there would be a few dozen soldiers requiring quick and painless deaths beforehand, so we set to work on planning our attack.
With an ample use of the nanosuits invisibility cloak and dash settings, we were able to get behind a few enemies and perform precise executions. However, what we found in one of the warehouses soon dissuaded us from this stealthy path; it was a hefty looking grenade launcher (a new weapon for the series). Enemy NPCs ran for cover as we quickly got used to the weapons distance finder on the HUD and sprayed all corners of the port with frags - what a mess. The demo level culminated in completing the standard I.T. related task at a nearby terminal before taking out a few more soldiers and jumping aboard a docked nuclear sub, as you do.
All in all it was the same Crysis fun that we experienced last year, and this overview can be extended to the visuals as well. The one exception was some rats we saw scurrying about on the floor towards the end of the level, which adds to the fauna from the original Crysis (e.g. birds and turtles). Other than that, the palm trees can again be felled or trimmed with gunfire and the realistic wind effects all make a return. It's the same lush tropical environments that we've come to expect from Crytek. We don't know whether this is true of the environments in the rest of the game, a sizeable portion of the first game was played out in sub-zero environments, but one thing is for certain: only Far Cry 2 can rival Crytek's continued graphical prowess at this point in time.
Although we didn't get a chance to see any of Crysis Warhead's multiplayer features, the original press release on the game does promise that "new multiplayer content" will ship with the title. It's still unclear exactly what form this multiplayer content will take, but a few extra modes that latch onto the first game's thoroughly capable multiplayer game would certainly be welcomed with open arms here at TVG.
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