Crysis Warhead review

  • Lots of action
  • Visual quality even more luscious
  • Dramatically improved performance
  • Uninspired missions
  • Thin story
  • Doesn't exploit the nanosuit

Crysis was the pinnacle of the modern, hardcore first-person shooter: wide-open level design, intensely violent, unabashedly difficult, with no Half-Life 2–style puzzles or obstacles that a super-powered punch couldn’t solve, and a sliver of a story compared to Call of Duty 4. It brought our ability to interact with the environment in realistic ways to new levels, and the nanosuit was a masterstroke of game design that gave players the ability to perform super-human feats that transformed the nature of the gameplay depending on how you used them. It was a stunning achievement executed by devoted PC gamers, and it left us hanging when the game ended, wondering where Crytek would take the action from there.

The answer, apparently, is backward. Crytek seems bizarrely eager to de-emphasize the finest aspects of Crysis - the challenge and the open-ended nature of the gameplay in most missions - in favor of a more linear and simpler Call of Duty 4–style campaign. The result is an awkward hybrid that feels like a theme park ride based on the original - a sort of Crysis: Pirates of the North Korean. It’s a loud, explosive, action-packed seven-or-so hours that nonetheless manage to feel simple, uninspired, and even tedious by comparison.

While Nomad’s occupied on the other side of the island, you play as Sergeant Michael Sykes, affectionately known as “Psycho,” in a story that runs roughly parallel to the events of Crysis. By “story” I mean that JSOC Commander Emerson barks orders sending you hither and yon in pursuit of a North Korean officer, Colonel Lee, who’s tugging around a shipping crate full of something that doesn’t smell like kimchee.

The action and destruction ramp up swiftly, but in a strictly linear fashion that mimics the tightly scripted scenarios from CoD4. Like Dick Cheney’s canned hunting trips, cargo vehicles and gas stations are placed at intervals in order to show you a series of lovely explosions. Sure, you could get out of your tank and single-handedly strip a Korean bivouac of its soldiers during an escort mission - your charge will patiently wait for you - but you’re given zero incentive to explore, and it doesn’t make sense in the context of the mission, since you’re supposed to get your guy somewhere in a hurry.

In the game’s most disappointing sequence, Psycho pursues Colonel Lee and his mysterious cargo on a hovercraft across the frozen ocean, over listing ships and beneath the canopies of giant frozen waves. It’s a breathtaking sight, and you’ll want to pull over the hovercraft and drag the wife and kids out for a couple quick snaps. In fact, you can - Colonel Lee decides to take a nap if you’re not pursuing him. There are far too many showcase missions like these - all the way to a climactic mission near the end that’s literally on rails - that don’t take strategic advantage of the nanosuit, and often make it superfluous. Yikes.

The story is handled poorly. Missions often end abruptly, culminating in awkwardly staged cut-scenes that make characters look as if they’d forgotten their lines. Instead of, say, the thrilling ghillie-suit flashback sequence in COD4, Warhead shoves a wedge of backstory in through a handful of non-interactive audio-only sequences. It’s an inelegant gimmick suited to a lesser developer. There are tremendous improvements in Warhead, however, beyond the addition of a few weapons (including dual SMGs and a grenade that can temporarily disable an enemy’s nanosuit).

The creature AI is far more lethal compared to the kamikaze calamari of Crysis; now, they behave more like assassins, skittering through the brush, taking cover behind trees and rocks, and using coordinated attacks, including flanking and distraction (using what appears to be vocal signaling). In one sequence that takes places in a rocky gorge, I was repeatedly rubbed out until I figured out that while I was being attacked from the front, other creatures were advancing behind me upwards along the walls of the ravine, using small plateaus for cover and popping out to shoot me in the back.

Warhead also trounces the original in its spectacular climax, which tosses you into the center of what I’ll only say is an awe-striking, terrifying scenario, yet keeps your mission focused tightly and credibly on what one man - albeit, one man nicknamed Psycho - could achieve. It’s nothing like the laser-tag silliness of the Crysis finale. Multiplayer also gets a fine boost with the addition of Team Instant Action that supports up to 32 players, and includes maps that force you to use the nanosuit aggressively to navigate elevated forest dwellings, and one full of VTOLs, helicopters, and tanks beneath a railway trestle that’s rich with cover. As a gift to LAN gamers, Warhead’s multiplayer version can be installed and played on multiple PCs using a single copy.

To be fair, Crytek doesn’t consider Crysis Warhead to be a proper “sequel” to the original, and it may not have been meant to reach the lofty heights reached by its predecessor. It’s a visually dazzling series of showcases, set pieces, and astonishing images that consistently overshadow the gameplay. No FPS diehard should miss it, but I say that more for the Team Instant Action multiplayer than the enjoyable but forgettable single-player campaign.

DRM Alert!
Although we know that Crysis Warhead will use SecuROM copy protection and require online activation, there was no word at press time about the exact number of installations that will be permitted per copy (probably three or five), nor whether those installations will be revocable.

The $650 Challenge: a promise made good
Earlier this year, Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli made the astonishing claim that he expected Crysis Warhead to run at 30 to 35 frames per second at High settings on a PC that cost little more than $600. I tested Warhead on a system I built myself with parts that totaled less than $650 (including a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700 and GeForce 9800 GT). The result: On Gamer settings - the Warhead equivalent to High - I averaged a surprising 32 frames per second, except on the hovercraft level, which made the rig chug and dropped the framerate average down to about 26 fps, which is still impressive for the engine that had been legendary as a system buster.

PC Gamer scores games on a percentage scale, which is rounded to the closest whole number to determine the GamesRadar score.

PCG Final Verdict: 73% (good)

Sep 16, 2008

More Info

Release date: Sep 16 2008 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Crytek
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Strong Language, Violence
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending


  • kaiser_93 - October 9, 2008 4:03 p.m.

    £15 of and i think its a great game no matter what they say yes it is a bit linear and stuff but what you lose in general gameplay you get back in multiplayer as the new mode of play is a lot better as i couldnt stand power struggle. Stories with crysis are always crap always left unsolved and cut off a proper ending. however i think in the last three years the best game i played which has kept me entertained the most is battlefield 2 EVEN better than cod4.
  • aliengmr - September 26, 2008 8:07 p.m.

    had this been crysis 2 or had it not been priced at 30$ I would have had much harsher criticism of the more linear design and choppy story. however, these were far less noticeable when you take into account the much appreciated improvement of the AI and graphics. I hope that if a sequel does get released, they skip all the scripting and maintain open-ness of the original.
  • gkrebbs - September 20, 2008 6:21 a.m.

    I am like 6 + hours into the game and it is a totally buggy piece of doo doo if you ask me. (Ya, I know, you didn't). I just built my machine and spent a good 6 grand doing so and it played Crysis on very high without a gliche on a lower reslution although I did go back down and raise the resolution after a while but my point is that Warhead in comparison is crap. I had my mouse configred with one button to bring up the suit and gun alteration thing but with Warhead even though the game will tell me that I can use mouse button 5 (upper left button on my MS Sidewinder) won't work. Also I don't think Warhead is Vista Ultimate 64 bit ready but i could be mistaken but that might be some of the issues that i am having as well. I was really pumped waiting for this game but now, well, I can hardly wait until Far Cry 2 comes out. Hopefully that won't be a big disapointment like Warhead is. Warhead is yet another pc game coming out that just wasn't ready in the first place...
  • chilahkil - September 17, 2008 7:20 p.m.

    If the activation is the same SecuROM used by Bioshock, Mass Effect & Spore, then, yes, you do need to go online only the first time you play to activate the copy.
  • starbuckmw - September 17, 2008 6:23 p.m.

    Could someone clarify activation requirement. Is the online activation just if online play is to be done, or to even play single player? First game did not require internet (which I do not have at home since 40 kbps even for $10/month would result in too much mental agony and I can't get DSL or cable at home). The only reason I updated my home computer after 8 years (from windows me to vista...the horror.., but with quad core and a graphics card that can heat a room) was so I could play crysis, which I did. I have been looking forward to Warhead very much. It would be ironic, if I am unable to play Warhead because of new DRM requiring online activation, as if this is the case, there is no point in getting game. If that is the case, they real irony would be that Crytec griping about not selling enough games and worrying about pirates, and yet I who have never Pirated a game, would not be able to play new game!!
  • Lucretiel - September 17, 2008 5:11 p.m.

    There was a PC Gamer article that said they were really working on optimizing the graphics so it could play on a bit more realistic computer. I agree though... 256MB RAM? Intel P3 1.6GHz? even for a minimum, that's really low.
  • Elmhurst676 - October 5, 2008 2:44 a.m.

    7 outta 10? D'oh! It's better than that! Surely it is!
  • evilsanta23 - September 28, 2008 11:40 p.m.

    i loved this game. great game for a great price.the shooting is better, the ai is better, the driving is better, the graphics are better...nearly everything is better. i think this deserves 9/10 not 7 but thats just my opinion not gamesradars.
  • starbuckmw - September 18, 2008 9:40 p.m.

    @ St-Falco Thanks for your reply. It is as I feared: need online activation. Yes, I can get dial up. Perhaps $10/month is not a big deal. But when I'm paying big bucks at the office for internet in the Mbps range, I find it very hard to pay for 40 kbps at any price(yes that's the best I can get at home) for the sole purpose of online activation. If there was a toll free automated phone number option (ala the anoying windows vista OS activation), I'd go for that. I loved Crysis. I really wanted to play Warhead, but I'm not going to pay extra money because of DRM. I loose because I don't get the play the game. Crytec looses because that's one less copy sold to a non-pirate. It will be interesting to see if the sales numbers for Warhead support crytec's theory about ratio of paid games/pirated games and how they got hosed with Crysis. Another looser in this, is PC gaming. I have Bioshock, Assasins Creed and Mass Effect for xbox 360. While the xbox hardware is dated compared to my PC, I put CD in xbox, game plays...
  • St-Falco - September 18, 2008 10:04 a.m.

    @ starbuckmw You do need to be online to activate the game one time (AFAIK). If you can't get online, the game simply will not run. Can't you even get on dial-up? It takes a few seconds and the DRM doesn't bother you again - or at least the first 5 hours that I have been playing it.
  • Tochy - September 17, 2008 11:18 p.m.

  • smallberry - September 17, 2008 2:37 a.m.

    I think Crytek has actually managed to make this look better than the original. I hope its optimized better though. Also, those min. specs don't look quite right.
  • outraged2009 - February 9, 2009 11:40 p.m.

    Sorry to have to say this. But I had nothing but faults from crysis Warhead. I couldnt shoot the alien it was impossible. When I passed that problem I couldnt complete the end of the game as it simply wouldnt let me! The game is full of bugs and nasty issues. Short story and as said already unforfilling missions. Graphics are sweet and the game could be better. But I have five listed bugs in this game: from spiraling boxes that kill you and fences that have one hit kill! I paid full wack for this game and I am getting a refund. OS: WINDOWS VISTA - ULT 64BIT 4GB DDR2 mem.. VERY BAD GAME 4/10 sorry guys!

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