Crysis Multiplayer Beta Impressions

With Crytek nearing its release of what is arguably the most graphically intensive video game yet developed, hardware manufacturers (as well as Windows owner Microsoft) are hoping Crysis will fuel interest in PC gaming and high-end gaming hardware. Over the last couple of years, the game's visually groundbreaking single-player mode has been showcased extensively, making the game one of the most exciting upcoming PC exclusives. Less publicized, however, has been Crysis' multiplayer mode--and, as I recently found during the multiplayer beta currently being operated, there's a lot more to it than one might have guessed.

Crytek's debut effort, Far Cry, didn't generate a long-lasting, robust multiplayer community, so with Crysis the company has gone back to the drawing board, crafting an ambitious Battlefield-esque mode called "Power Struggle" that encapsulates large-scale teamplay with land-sea-and-air dynamics and plenty of control points.

Essentially, each team vies for control of a factory, which allows production of a nuke-equipped tank capable of destroying the enemy team's headquarters. To make the battle more interesting, players can also gain control of defensive bunkers as well as optional factories producing helicopter-like aircraft, boats, and other such useful equipment. On top of all that, alien crash sites litter the map; they must be controlled in order to create advanced alien technology to aid in the battle against the opposing team.

As in Counter-Strike, players are not assigned to specific classes but are rather able to buy new equipment and weapons at the beginning of every round, with more kills and captures conferring more money with which to suit up in purchase zones. All of this is combined with Crysis' nanosuit featured in its single-player game. With the suit, players can apply one enhanced effect to themselves at any given time: great speed, enhanced strength, toughened armor, or a personal cloak. Particularly useful in multiplayer is the ability to augment weaponry with various types of zoom scopes and other attachments.

Cloaking seems like the most useful nanosuit ability to employ in multiplayer, since it provides obvious advantages when attempting to infiltrate and acquire an enemy-controlled structure, while speed is useful simply for traversing the large map included in the multiplayer beta, particularly early in the game.

As teams capture more bunkers, which contain forward spawn points, they are better able to push the enemy back from the crucial central factory and spread outward to grab the peripheral factories. Crysis' Power Struggle mode is very much dependent on teamwork, and requires each player to have a fairly good understanding of what is going on and where it is useful to be at any given time in order to be most effective. If playing against an uncoordinated team (or one not up to a sufficient player count), it can be fairly easy to capture territories with little resistance, since there are so many to capture.

In general, the game demands a lot of coordination to really work. It is not enormously difficult to sidestep most of the game's large scale dynamics and simply go straight for the nuke tank, which is possible for teams earning a lot of money through kills and less ambitious captures. Of course, if your opponents have been doing their jobs, they will have plenty of their own equipment to stop you in your tracks.

The bottom line is that, from my experience, Crysis' multiplayer is certainly enormously full-featured, but it requires a lot of effort and coordination put in for it to really give all those features back. Compared to a somewhat similar game like Enemy Territories: Quake Wars, with its dynamic per-player mission system, Crysis' multiplayer may simply be too complex for its own good.

Considering the game is already targeting a niche audience with its fairly steep system requirements (on my slightly out of date GeForce 7800GTX and Athlon 64 X2 4200+ with 1.5GB of RAM, the game recommended the lowest graphical settings across the board, with a resolution of 800x600; trying to boost that resulted in chugging framerates), it may have a tough road ahead of it, with such notable multiplayer offerings as Team Fortress 2, Quake Wars, Halo 3, and more jeopardizing gamers' free time.

Gamers with machines able to do the game justice and a love for large-scale team-based gameplay may find exactly what they want in Crysis' Power Struggle, which is undoubtedly extensive, but for most gamers, the showcase will continue to be Crysis' single-player game--which, it cannot be overstated, is truly incredible. Check back later this week for hands-on impressions.

Click play on our audio player below for an excerpt from ShackCast 11 discussing Crysis