Man oh man, Leipzig this year has obviously gone with the East German formula of Athlete training in the Soviet era, and if you don't have a clue what I'm talking about, you're better off that way, I guess. It's on crack, basically. There is a lot going on.
I've just finished my tour of the EA booth, so many games, so little time to talk about them. In short, the booth's highlight for me is definitely the revolving bar, which, if you are into alcohol, is an awesome way to leave your bodily imprint on the shiny EA games display area.
Moving past my rather trivial observations about the showroom, I was able to sit down with the people from CryTek, behind closed doors, and get a good look at the DirectX 10 version of Crysis, running under Windows Vista.
Naturally, the most glaring impression about the game, or rather, the first impression as the demonstration "driver" started playing the game, was the choppy frame rate at certain points of the open-ended jungle beach level the demo started with. I pressed the issue of frame rate several times, asking whether this is related to the engine itself, or the DirectX 10 API, but my questions were fielded by the folks from the team, basically trying to shrug off what we were seeing in terms of the game's performance. When asked which system the game is running on, I got that we're talking about an Intel Core Duo rig with a single NVIDIA 8800 GTX inside. Surely, you'd expect such a system would be able to handle the game with ease, and to go back to what I said about the E3 presentation (about how the frame-rate finally felt smooth and consistent), it's obvious that this exclusive presentation of the DX 10 version running on Vista (and of course Vista itself) had a lot to do with it.
That said, I was still absolutely blown away by the game. Gameplay-wise, Crysis has improved leaps and bounds. The demo started off with your classic Far Cry-esque level that was shown so many times before, but what immediately stuck out is that the whole power suit idea has come together quite well. Essentially, several power-ups available to your character were demonstrated as they wonderfully and quite seamlessly blended into the action. An announcer voice would let you know when the Strength power-up is on, allowing your character to pick up enemy soldiers by the neck, crush them and toss them away like rag dolls (pardon the pun). Flicking on the Strength boost would make you toss grenades incredibly far.
What's even better is that the rest of the power-ups: the Speed boost, Stealth mode and Armor are all handled through a very intuitive radial interface. What this means is that the "driver" was able to almost effortlessly and very intuitively combine all of these perks, thus creating an honest-to-goodness feel of controlling a bionic warrior. Of course, it goes without saying that the robustness of the CryENGINE 2 code allows for amazing physics, animation and excellent AI, so the feeling of being in charge of this super soldier is very much integrated into the core gameplay.
Moving on, our hero was lead by his squad leader up a steep slope where his team has encountered a completely frozen ship; on a hillock, quite far away from the beach. And as the squad is bickering amongst themselves about how or why the ship ended like a popsicle where it did, and who is behind its ordeal, a giant tripod alien walker tears through the middle of the ship's hull, snatching one of the unfortunate guys where he stood. The action-packed moment looked absolutely stunning, it showed off the full power of the CryENGINE 2 code and I was sold, even though I will probably need to CRYogenically cool my poor PC to get this damn thing to run.
What's more, the dialogue between your teammates sounded convincing enough for a decent action movie; EA took the B movie flavor of Far Cry and took it to the next level. It made the Crysis narrative and cinematic action seem far more professional. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of voice acting and more importantly, the mimic, the gesticulation, and, just in general, the animation of the characters was so good, it almost seemed to me like I was watching a CGI movie, rather than an in-game, in-engine cut-scene.
One of the guys clapped as the presentation ended. I find that gesture rather ridiculous, considering we're here to cover games and not drool over them, but the clapping was certainly not unjustified given the quality of the action we witnessed.