We need a new Crysis now more than ever. With the PS5 and Xbox Series X on the near horizon, the industry will soon be in desperate need of new titles that can showcase the true graphical potential of the next generation of consoles. Traditionally, in hardware cycles between 2004 and 2013, if you wanted to showcase the evolution of new hardware and engine technology, you would turn to Crytek.
And I say "desperate need", because it still hasn't been made all that clear how drastically these new systems will differ in the fidelity and resolution department than their most immediate predecessors, the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. That's what happens when platform holders spend 12 months talking about technology instead of showing off the titles that will utilise it.
Sure, the next-gen systems sound powerful on paper, and the platform holders certainly talk a good TeraFlops game, but we're yet to see evidence to support the claims. If anything, there's a very good chance that graphical improvements will be on the margins, with developers choosing to allocate resources into other parts of the packages to transform the ways that we play. Using the SSD to improve load times and the speed at which assets can stream into levels, introducing new haptic feedback to change the way we connect to virtual worlds, and investing in cutting edge audio to make experiences more immersive than ever before, to name just three examples.
Wondering what Crytek has been up to recently? Hunt: Showdown is the best game that you aren't playing right now.
That's why we need a new Crysis now more than ever before. To see the return of one of the industry's most infamous franchises being teased is like stepping into a time machine. When Crysis launched in 2007, the PS3 and Xbox 360 couldn't run it. That was a point of pride for Crytek. Hell, most of PCs in circulation couldn't run it as intended either. That was something of an open challenge from studio to players – Crytek dared us to try and most of us failed.
If you played games at the time, you likely had that one friend that worked religiously every summer to improve and upgrade their rig because Crytek goaded them into it. It had to be powerful enough that they could run Crysis at a stable frame-rate and resolution while mountains of red barrels were spawned in through the level editor, triggering them all at once just to watch the world burn without hitching. They never managed it (Nick, if you're out there, I hope you gave up on achieving this particular dream for the sake of your bank balance).
That's the type of chaos energy I want to see from the industry right now. While all signs are pointing to this being a Crysis remake tease (it isn't out of the realms of possibility that publisher EA would be eager to push through a remaster), I can only hope that it's a stepping stone to something more audacious – and, crucially, that Crytek is still involved with the IP. It's already been seven years since Crysis 3 landed, and while technology has come such a long way in that time, it would be great to see a game and group of ambitious developers show us just how far we've still got to go.
Crysis continually shifted the benchmark for fidelity, real-time rendering, physics-driven firefights, ferocious artificial intelligence, and so much more. The industry needs shooters like Crysis, just as it needed Halo and Half-Life in the years before it. Just as developers in the adventure genre needs games like The Last of Us and Uncharted, and engineers of action-RPGs need the likes of Dishonored and Deus Ex. Game design advances when it has something to strive towards, a benchmark to beat. Crysis was a shooter with a broad scale and scope, running on a state-of-the-art engine and supported by ingenious engineering. We need Crysis back. And after a few years of sitting in the shadows to recompose, restructure, and realign itself, we need Crytek back too.
Learning from Hunt: Showdown
I for one was always a little sad that Hunt: Showdown didn't receive the lavish attention it should or would have, had it been revealed and released while Crytek was at the height of its power. The supernatural shooter is undoubtedly the (quote, unquote) best game Crytek has ever made. It's a wild confluence of competing systems and mechanics that just works, a tense and terse survival game that punishes every indiscretion, rewarding bold plays and moments of calculating cruelty in equal measure. In drawing from the most popular elements of contemporary genre games, in severely limiting the information communicated to players to force them into relying on other senses such as sound and touch, and in finding the fine line between action and stealth, Hunt: Showdown demonstrates that Crytek has evolved just as much as technology has.
There have been two full iterations made to the revolutionary, proprietary CryEngine since Crysis 3 hit PC and consoles, with Hunt: Showdown running on CryEngine 5. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to see what this thing can really do. Crysis enables exuberance and I can only imagine what this studio would produce were it afforded the opportunity to try again. Were it given the chance to embrace the spirit that the series was founded upon, and to continue the creative flair it so clearly exercised during the development of Hunt: Showdown, to create something astounding. Crysis was always the clash of unbelievable technology against design ideas that didn't quite meet the mark, but, if Hunt: Showdown is anything to go by, Crytek could finally be in a position to shrink that gap.
In the last decade, the lines of delineation between console and PC architecture has become blurred, and that's great for all gamers. It means that console players have been able to enjoy games that have been traditionally exclusive to the PC platform and vice-versa. But I'd be lying if I told you that a little part of me didn't want to stand in front of PS5 and Xbox Series X representatives this time next year asking one all important question, "But can it run Crysis 4?", and the answer to be no.
With the PS5 vs Xbox Series X fight starting to heat up, we look into how the next-gen consoles compare and contrast.