As many of you donkeys may already know, I write things for Shacknews in an official capacity. I’ve recently been assigned the task of tackling the new Crysis Remastered Trilogy, a collection that aims to bring the Crysis games into the modern age. You can expect to see my final thoughts and opinions on the package next week on Shacknews, but in the meantime, I wanted to touch on how these games looked and performed when released and how it may have affected public perception (aside from the faults that were independent of the audiovisual presentation).
The first Crysis remains one of the most infamous disasters or successes in PC gaming,depending on who you ask. One of the only times in the past fifteen years that a studio went all-out attempting to push technological limits on the PC platform. The resulting game absolutely crushed the mainstream PC hardware of the day, though this had been the norm for new titles in PC gaming up through the late 1990s.
In 2007, consoles were king and Crysis happened to run up against Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. As history would tell us, Crysis struggled to recoup the massive amount of resources invested into its creation as developer Crytek battled with piracy and a large contingent of gamers that wrote the game off due to its lofty system requirements. Modern Warfare would go on to change the entire video game industry every bit as much as Super Mario Bros., Half-Life, and World of Warcraft had before it.
For better or worse, the lessons that Crytek took from the release of the original Crysis would ultimately shape the future of the franchise. Financially, Crytek felt that the games had to be designed for consoles in order to sell enough copies for everyone to keep their jobs. The first iteration of CryEngine was built only with the PC in mind and Crysis was so far beyond the limits of then-current console hardware that engine changes were in the cards. Not only that, but the meager console hardware power meant that the type of game design introduced in Crysis was simply not going to work.
Crysis 2 was a direct continuation of the events in the first game, but it felt like it was an entirely different world. Gone were the wide open island vistas and open-ended tactical options. City streets and a carefully-crafted jaunt through set pieces a la Half-Life or Call of Duty meant that existing fans could be alienated from desiring more of what they loved in the first game. On consoles, game performance was still unacceptably bad on both the PS3 and XBox 360. Console Call of Duty fans were not going to jump ship for Crysis 2. It suffered from an identity Crysis (get it), making it a miss for old fans and potential newcomers.
The PC version of Crysis 2 launched with its own controversy as it was revealed that the game might not be pushing the limits of PC hardware technology like the first game. Crytek had to scramble and later delivered a patch to add DirectX11 and various enhanced graphical features of the game. By the time this happened, the ship had passed. That being said, the finished PC version was a solid linear shooter with novel suit powers and outstanding visuals. It wasn’t a “real” Crysis 2, but no one could argue that it wasn’t stunning to look at.
Crysis 3 launched under similar circumstances. It had to ship on the old consoles first and foremost and their limitations played into level and game design. Unlike Crysis 2, Crytek ensured that the PC version of Crysis 3 was a technological stunner at launch. While the console versions were blurry expeditions into yellow-ish bloom, the PC build looked like it came from the next-generation. Again, public perception was mostly negative around the franchise and Crysis 3 could not shake that monkey off its back.
About a year later, the PS4 and Xbox One launched, ushering in new technology and the potential for amazing looking games. Despite this, the PC versions of the Crysis games were inarguably every bit the visual match for the biggest console games of that generation, with Crysis 3 still capable of turning heads as a 2021 release. Pretty impressive for a now 8-year old release.
I’ve included some YouTube video embeds from the wonderful channel Bang4BuckPCGamer showing the original PC games running on decent hardware to help jog memories or maybe open up some eyes that may have only seen these games on PS3 or Xbox 360. The Crysis Remastered Trilogy is going to bring these games to modern consoles that actually have the juice to run them to their highest potential. If Crytek and Saber Interactive hit all the right marks, this release has a chance to give these games a second chance at catching an audience.
While most of the news and hubbub around the trilogy remastered will focus on new effects and things like ray tracing and global illumination, I wanted to toss this awful essay out into the void to remind folks that the original releases of these games were so far ahead of their time (from a tech standpoint). While the remasters do improve things (the difference from PS3 to PS5 is bewildering), I felt strongly enough about this unimportant mess to remind folks that these games always looked this great, regardless of remaster efforts.
How successful Crytek and Saber will be with the trilogy release is yet to be seen, but if you check back in here at Shacknews next week, you might find out!