Thursday, September 25, 2008

Crysis Warhead--Review

"An excellent expansion that improves on the original in every way"

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion for last year’s revolutionary first person shooter Crysis, but it’s more like a pseudosequel-and I mean that in a good way. The game improves upon every aspect of the original to leave a much more polished experience.

Gameplay: Multiplayer: Crysis Warhead’s multiplayer mode, now called Crysis Wars, brings back two multiplayer modes from the original game as well as a much-needed new mode. The first mode is Power Struggle. Power Struggle involves players being divided into teams and dropped into an enormous map filled with buildings and vehicles. Players must then capture buildings while earning “prestige,” currency you can use to buy new weapons, attachments, ammo, and vehicles. Prestige is earned by capturing buildings and killing enemies. Certain buildings produce vehicles, of which there is a huge selection of land, sea, and air vehicles; others produce weapons and allow you to use them as spawn points.

The main building is the Prototype Factory, which produces ice-based alien weapons and nuclear devices. The Prototype Factory slowly charges when it is captured, with a separate charge for each team. The process of charging can be sped up by capturing alien crash sites. At 50% the team who owns it can produce alien weapons. At 100%, however, nuclear tanks and weapons become available. Nuclear weapons are required to destroy your enemy’s otherwise impenetrable base.

Power Struggle hasn’t seen many changes since the original game. The most inherent flaw-some weapons and vehicles are too expensive for ordinary players to buy, causing better players to dominate an entire team-remains unchanged, though admittedly this is something that can’t really be changed without altering the entire game mode. However, one overall better feature in the online modes is the elimination of lag. While lag is obviously still a factor, its been trimmed down to a reasonable level by fixing the server system.

While the standard deathmatch mode remains, one huge difference is the addition of team deathmatch, an almost standard online shooter feature missing from the original game. Unfortunately, the team deathmatch brings to light an irritating weapon balance problem that isn’t as apparent in Power Struggle. Essentially, some weapons are so weak that they take an entire clip to kill an enemy, meaning if you stumble across a foe with a better weapon, you’re done for, no matter how early you caught them off guard. Suit functions remain virtually useless in the deathmatch modes, a disappointing factor.

Gameplay: Singleplayer: On a happier note, Warhead’s singleplayer is leaps and bounds beyond the original’s. You play as Psycho, one of the player’s allies from the first game, in a parallel story that takes place during the events of the first game on the other side of the island. The large island is much more sandbox oriented than before, letting you choose how you approach enemies and bases. All of the suit functions return: there’s Maximum Strength, which grants you superhuman physical abilities; Maximum Speed, which lets you run faster; and Cloaking, which turns you invisible. Maximum Armor is the default mode, and it restores suit energy, the essence that dictates how long you can use the other suit modes.

Warhead’s singleplayer pacing is much better. While the original game had long stretches of time where no action was occurring, Psycho’s mission takes the player into the heart of the North Korean-infested jungle island, and action is occurring almost constantly, making for a much more exciting and intense experience. The story is also much more interesting: it is told through third person cutscenes, rather than first person like the original, letting you get to know Psycho better than the first game’s protagonist Nomad. Other characters are Psycho’s old friend O’Neill, female commander Emerson, and the villainous North Korean colonel Lee. There are some emotional scenes in the story that make you care much more about Warhead’s plot than the original’s one-sided characters. The singleplayer itself isn’t very long-only 3-7 hours-but this is reasonable when you remember that despite its improvements, Warhead is still just an expansion and not a full game.

Graphics: There’s not much to say here. Warhead’s graphics do not disappoint, and the Crysis series continues to stand on top as the best looking games ever made. The graphics themselves have been slightly improved in some areas, and the game is better optimized to run on weaker computers in an attempt to shatter the graphical powerhouse stigma associated with Crysis. The physics are incredible as always-it’s quite satisfying to pick up an enemy soldier and hurl him through a wall, causing the entire structure to collapse on a nearby group of foes. One sequence in particular, which involves a hovercraft chase over a frozen ocean with waves frozen in place as natural halfpipes, is one of the most beautiful action sequences in a video game.

Music: Warhead’s music is somewhat different than the original’s, and in a good way. Guitar riffs accompany the more action-oriented soundtrack, making it much more appropriate than the original game’s more quiet and oriental pieces. The amazing score that plays during the abovementioned hovercraft chase only enhances the awe of that scene.

Replayability: Warhead’s singleplayer is very replayable, due to the open-ended gameplay that allows for a different approach each time. One time you may wish to sneak around a base, silencing enemies while invisible, Predator-style. Another time you might want to charge in with a vehicle and a machine gun like Rambo. It’s all up to you, and leaves different results each time.

TOTAL: Crysis Warhead improves on the original Crysis in so many ways that it seems like an understatement to simply call it an expansion. The singleplayer, graphics, and music are so much better that it could be considered a pseudosequel. The multiplayer, while still enjoyable, continues to be a load of missed potential.

Score: 9/10
Release date: September 18, 2008
Platform: PC
Originally written for GameFAQs

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