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Review: Crysis: Warhead

Josh Tolentino | 9 Oct 2008 20:52
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It seems Crytek Budapest took note of the original's single-player flaws, and the campaign features many base infiltrations, which were easily the strongest parts of Crysis. Warhead is more linear in progression, trading scope and length (the end comes around the 6-7 hour mark) for intensity. The tradeoff works, and while you don't get the same "emergent" feeling of randomly stumbling over events, the game's many set pieces allow you a variety of ways to tear your foes a new one. You're never in danger of having to miss out on something or face a long trek through enemy-free territory, a common occurrence if you didn't choose just the right route through the jungle in Crysis.

For example, a train you're riding stops at the tracks, forcing you to activate a switch in a nearby camp to get it going. With O'Neill supporting you from a VTOL, you run up to the base, dashing by enemy fire in Speed Mode, then use Strength to jump over a nearby wall. Using the cloak, you drop a grenade in the middle of some pursuing soldiers, after which you sneak into the switch tower, grabbing a sniper rifle and dispatching the stragglers from on high. After the action subsides, a Speed Mode dash coupled with a Strength Mode jump gets you back onto the already-moving train. This sort of thing is what Crysis-style gameplay is all about, and really gets one believing the marketing slogan plastered on the back of the box, "Adapt. Engage. Survive." Warhead builds upon and refines the kind of superhuman soldier experience that simply wasn't present in FPS games before, which is what distinguishes the series from its peers.

Unfortunately, some of the old AI quirks and flaws in enemy design can limit your tactical freedom. To start, the typical KPA soldier is unnaturally tough. The fact that most foes can withstand half a magazine's worth of bullets discourages frontal assault or close combat. Sniping at a distance while cloaked floats to the top as the most expedient set of tactics, and renders the Strength and Speed modes much less useful outside of running to the next cover (so you can cloak) or jumping to a higher sniper spot (where you can cloak again). Just like in Crysis, a nano-suited warrior is much more The Predator than The Terminator. That's not necessarily a bad thing and it's all still a hell of a lot of fun, but the fact that you may have to go out of your way to exercise certain approaches can a little limiting.

A little more frustration arises as enemies magically gain near-omniscience whenever they get behind a turret or into a vehicle, suddenly able to see you (and shoot at you) from hundreds of meters away, as long as you're uncloaked and within line of sight. It makes many of the more inventive trap-setting strategies useless, such as using mines or remote explosives.

Thankfully, these disappointments are all minor, and don't persist into the game's multiplayer component, Crysis Wars. Treated as separate game, Crysis Wars supplements the franchise's signature "Power Struggle" mode with team deathmatch and capture-the-flag. It really takes a human mind to make the best use of the nano-suit, and this is where the most inventive strategies pop up.

Bottom Line: Crysis Warhead makes Crysis look like the expansion pack, and is a tighter, more refined experience, emphasizing the series strengths and cutting out the original's weaker points.

Verdict: If you've ever been curious about the series or enjoyed the game's previous outing, there's no reason not to take the plunge*. The expanded and rebalanced multiplayer and (presumed) performance optimizations seal the deal. It's cheaper, to boot.

--by Joshua Tolentino (unangbangkay)

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