Videogame (2007). Crytek. Designed by Cevat Yerli, Sten Huebler, Christopher Auty, Bernd Diemer. Platforms: Win.
Crysis is, in essence, a game about enablement. The player adopts the role of a Near Future US Delta Force operative equipped with a suit of armour powered by Nanotechnology, or "nanosuit". As in Starsoldier (1977) (see Starforce: Alpha Centauri), the Powered Armour suit has a limited amount of energy which can be employed in various ways, in this case to resist damage, provide active camouflage, or boost the wearer's strength or speed. The gameplay is that of a First Person Shooter with a generally realistic tone; much effort has been spent on accurate simulation of the environment. Initially the player's character is ordered to rescue the members of an archaeological team which had been investigating a buried alien Spaceship discovered on an island off the coast of North Korea, and who are threatened by the North Korean army. Soon, however, the aliens become active, Xenoforming the island's lushly realized jungle into a frozen wasteland and deploying war machines to attack both sides (see Terraforming). While the game's storyline is essentially linear (see Interactive Narrative), its gameplay is often highly exploratory, allowing the player to accomplish their mission goals in many different ways. The characters are thin and the plot is largely derivative, but Crysis's main focus is on its action sequences, which can be impressively apocalyptic and (as in the zero gravity regions inside the alien ship) genuinely novel. Ultimately, the game is surprisingly effective at giving the player a sense of how it might feel to be a superhumanly powerful soldier taking part in a covert operation.
The first game's plot ends on a cliffhanger, with a nuclear attack on the alien vessel by the US Navy. Its immediate successor, Crysis: Warhead (2008 Crytek, Win), concentrates on expanding this narrative rather than extending it, with a storyline which is contemporaneous with that of the original game, focusing on another member of the Delta Force team. The later Crysis 2 (2011 Crytek, PS3, Win, XB360) designed by Sten Hübler, Martin Lancaster, Dennis Schwarz and with a story scripted by Richard Morgan in collaboration with Lancaster, is perhaps more interesting as a work of science fiction. The events of this instalment occur several years after those of its predecessors, in a New York transformed by a terrifying plague and an invasion of the aliens uncovered in Crysis into an urban jungle reminiscent of the first game's tropical wilderness. While Crysis 2 is another First Person Shooter, its gameplay is markedly more directed than that of the original game, though there is still some flexibility as to how particular objectives can be achieved. The player character, a US Marine sent into the devastated city to rescue an important scientist, soon finds himself alone and in possession of an upgraded nanosuit, one which is both more intelligent and easier to use than that seen in the first game. From this point on, the player is engaged in a long campaign against the aliens and their apparently subterranean warships, not to mention an army of private military contractors who (wrongly) believe the protagonist to be a carrier for the flesh-melting disease. In the end, the player can succeed in taking back Manhattan, but only by merging themselves with both the nanosuit and the stored personality of its previous owner, becoming a Posthuman synthesis of man and machine.
In the next (and possibly last) instalment, Crysis 3 (2013 Crytek, PS3, Win, XB360) designed by Dennis Schwarz, Tim Partlett, Sten Hübler, Martin Lancaster, the protagonist of the second game has been fully absorbed by his nanosuit, with his memories replaced by those of its previous wearer. This game is set twenty-four years after its predecessor, in a New York that has been transformed into a literal urban jungle by its confinement inside a vast dome; within the vault, remnants of the original architecture mingle with swampy wetlands and miniature forests. The gameplay is similar to that of Crysis 2, though with rather more scope for exploration, but the linear narrative is more personal, concentrating on a melodramatic story of betrayal and revenge. In a rather contrived echo of contemporary politics, the private military corporation of the previous game has used alien Technology to establish a monopoly on power generation (see Power Sources); its extortionate pricing has driven much of the population into ruinous debt. Meanwhile, the company has placed the game's protagonist – whose personality is that of one of the soldiers from the original Crysis – in Suspended Animation so that it can study the alien technology which is integrated into his nanosuit, and transported him to New York. The game begins with this character's revival by a group of rebels who oppose the corporation, and continues with a series of battles against human soldiers and the aliens, who eventually succeed in opening a Wormhole to their home planet. After an impressive sequence set in Earth orbit, all enemies can nevertheless be defeated. Crysis 3's focus on personal relationships suggests that the designers intended its narrative to have a greater emotional resonance than those of its predecessors. Arguably, however, the game's story lacks the subtlety required to make this strategy effective.
Related works: Crysis: Legion (2011), by Peter Watts, is a novelization of Crysis 2, while Crysis (2011) is a six-issue Comics series, written by Richard Morgan, which serves as a prequel to the same game. Crysis: Escalation (2013), by Gavin Smith, is a collection of linked stories set between the second and third entries in the series. Crysis 3: The Lost Island (2013 Crytek, PS3, Win, XB360) is an expansion pack for Crysis 3 which adds new locations intended for player versus player combat in temporary Online Worlds. [NT]
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