Crysis blew up like a bomb 13 years ago. Crytek's explosive sandbox stands as one of the biggest and most remarkable steps forward for video game graphics that this wonderful industry has ever seen, and of course, at some point or another, we've all heard the well-worn phrase: "Will it run Crysis?", which alluded to the fact that the original was incredibly demanding.
Most of us will already be familiar with the story that has four well-armed special forces operatives tasked with exploring and neutralising a terrorist threat on an island in the South Pacific, which turns out to be an absolute nightmare when a bunch of aliens decide to drop in.
For me, 13 years ago, Crysis was one of the most impressive games I had played and not only because of the fantastic graphics; the freedom and the number of opportunities offered by the sandbox pulled me in deeper than I ever imagined it would. Being able to tailor your own style of play based on the different abilities offered in Nomad's Nanosuit made Crysis changeable and open in a way that action games in 2007 rarely were, at least, not outside of Liberty City and San Andreas.
The studio, which a couple of years earlier had debuted with Far Cry, sold that license to Ubisoft and then shook up the entire industry with what was without a doubt the world's best-looking game. What's more, the dev seemed to do just about everything right. The company founder and big boss Cevat Yerli talked during one of my visits to their head office in Frankfurt about how the team had deliberately created an experience that would come into its own and be able to run on "Ultra" with at least 60 frames per second, five (!) years after Crysis was first released.
13 years have passed, as I said, and now a fragmented, recently close-to-bankrupt Crytek has released the same game again. Remastered. Crysis is now running on Cryengine 5 and that comes with built-in support for "ray tracing" among other new features. I have looked quickly at the PC version but spent most of my time with Crysis Remastered on the PS4, played on a Pro, and it would be outright false to call this a remaster because it is not. This is a pretty simple and straight forward conversion; a port of the old game.
In the PC version, with everything turned up to the max, there are some, small, lighting effects that look a tiny little bit better than they do in the original, but the differences I experienced were extremely small and for PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, it looks like exactly the same game that was released in the fall of 2007. A lot has been said about how hardware-based Ray Tracing will contribute to reflections in Crysis Remastered that few modern games can compete with, something that I, unfortunately, don't agree with. Of course, it is possible to see how small, unimportant parts of the gaming world are reflected in certain surfaces, but these are such unbearably minimal differences compared to the original that I don't really understand why they even chose to call this a remaster.
As for the differences between the different console versions; Xbox One X can run Crysis Remastered at a slightly higher resolution (1800p vs 2160p) without a capped frame rate. With the Ray Tracing turned on, however, both versions crawl down to 1080p with a locked refresh rate of 30 frames-per-second. Not impressive, even if the "Ray Tracing on consoles" moniker sounded hugely impressive when the game was first announced.
Crysis is quite fun, though - even after all these years. In fact, it's still addictive in terms of how many different ways it is possible to attack your enemies. Only your imagination will hold you back here. As a result, that gameplay variation leads to some of the best moments in Crysis (something that both sequels lacked) and the game controls are somewhat approved in the console versions. Saber Interactive has had the good sense to implement the control scheme from Crysis 2 from PS3 and Xbox 360, which means that the nanosuit's various functions have been mapped to different buttons rather than that damned scroll-wheel from the PC original, which made me absolutely furious in 2007 when I had to try and chose the right Nano-function while being fired at.
Some things feel a bit outdated, of course, but overall I had fun pretty much all the time, especially during the latter parts of the game when the whole sun-drenched paradise island freezes and turns to ice. The enemies are just as hyper-smart and boast the very best aim in all of gaming, once again. It can be incredibly frustrating how enemy soldiers can easily hit Nomad at a distance of 200 meters even though I'm crawling through tall grass like an über-stealth-ninja. The weapons still lack a bit of punch and the narration in the cutscenes is, as always, really bad.
Crysis Remastered is more like a traditional conversion of a 13-year-old action game than a remastered product with clearly improved graphics and sound. However, this doesn't mean that Crysis doesn't entertain, because it certainly does. However, $30 for a 13-year-old game that has already been released on lots of platforms and formats and that has barely improved at all? That feels pretty bizarre, to be honest.