The most likely thing to strike you when the first cut scene goes into actual gameplay on Crysis is that it's very pretty. That's of course assuming your graphics card doesn't have a fit at the amount of stuff it has to render and summarily explode. If you're fortunate enough to have a machine able to render the game closer to its upper settings though, you will often be impressed by the game world. The flora and fauna, buildings, vehicles, allies and enemy combatants are all things of beauty... until they're rendered asunder by your murder and wanton mayhem.
Not only are they lovingly detailed but they are also far more interactive. Enemy combatants can be grabbed, tossed or killed silently, (some) trees can be mown down and (some) buildings can be smashed apart. It's rather rewarding to toss a grenade and have a house collapse or use a machine gun and bring down a line of palm trees. Naturally, Half Life 2 had the physics first and the pretty graphics first but Crysis has raised the bar on both. The environment isn't quite as destructible as it might be... but then, this game is already beyond the reach of most without rather new graphics cards... so, presumably the ability to mass murder was paramount over EVERYTHING being reducible to rubble.
Not that Crysis forces you to run around like Rambo, single handedly taking down the entire Korean People's Army or alien hordes by yourself. Stealth and avoidance are perfectly valid tactics here - mostly thanks to the nanotech suit you have. It's rather strange to start a game with essentially the full gamut of abilities but Crysis lets you use all the suit's functions almost from the word go.
The four modes it offers being:
Super speed - running and shooting faster.
Super strength - increased melee damage, jumping higher and tossing stuff further.
Super durability - considerably increasing your ability to take damage.
Cloak - rendering you invisible to enemies.
It also fills up your health over time and offers night vision... Naturally, all these abilities use energy when active. Cloak is easily the most useful, allowing you to take out one or two enemies and then hide and then rinse and repeat until all enemies are dispatched... or simply avoid enemies altogether. Strength is useful for getting onto rooftops and navigating to otherwise inaccessible areas - and punch enemies to dead... speed seems of limited use, given that it can be expended so quickly. Durability is pretty much the "vanilla" flavour here and makes you akin to some kind of... Master Chief.
The suit isn't the only interesting angle to the gameplay. Weapons are all customisable - to various degrees, with different modules you can stick on them. Different types of scopes, flash lights, laser pointers, grenade launchers... nothing that will make them a great deal more efficient but it's a nice touch... even though sticking a sniper scope on a shotgun may be about as useful as putting a rocket engine on a carrier pigeon.
So, you have your super suit and your sniper scoped shotgun and you're ready to murder Korean soldiers like it's going out of fashion... and this game let's you do it in style. Thankfully the KPA has hundreds of them just waiting to meet any number of ends at your hands. Initially, you're just skirmishing. Running around the pretty island, trying to find some wayward hostages... but of course, the course of true gaming seldom runs smooth and you'll soon find yourself in full on hostilities with the KPA, performing tactical missions and such. This is really where the game excels and easily pushes for a place in your FPS affections.
The maps are large and the paths of attack varied. You can creep through the jungle, all sneaky and sly - not killing anyone at all. Or just hop in a vehicle, drive along the roads, mow down the soldiers and smash buildings. Not that that approach is necessarily the best one... there can't be any doubt that your supersuit affords you many advantages over the hapless KPA troops but on Hard difficulty, you can't just wade in and expect to win against a dozen troops - or even a half dozen.
The AI isn't quite as impressive as that in F.E.A.R. though and it's not that uncommon to see it sometimes see it looking in the wrong way when you shoot someone or cloak, although - frequently they'll continue to fire at your last position or creep around on the alert. Fairly competent, certainly and given the large scales of the map, quite effective although it might have been nice to see troops running away but all in all, solid AI.
As implied - there are aliens... that's obvious pretty much from the start but they don't really debut until two thirds of the way through. It's at this point the game goes all Xen on us. What made the game fun was running around large maps, shooting other humans - as sociopathic as that might sound... but after a headache inducing float through an alien city (they clearly forgot to pay their gravity bills) the Koreans are gone and here come the aliens.
The aliens look copyright infringingly close to the "squiddies" from The Matrix. Except they're turquoise instead of red... oh and they fire flechettes instead of using lasers... but otherwise very similar. The aliens like it nice and cold, so the island is turned to ice for this segment of the game... as you might imagine, it's fairly standard - aliens are attacking, get the hell out of dodge. The excitement of the initial part of the game is more or less totally killed - you run from point A to point B. Most of the time, there is little point in doing anything other than running away - being big and metal, the robots take considerably more ammo to go down and their aim is pretty piss poor... so there isn't exactly a reason to hang around unless it's required as an objective.
The game ends with a bit of running around an aircraft carrier and then TWO boss fights... all of which feels totally at odds with the initial segments of the game. While that felt somewhat challenging, the aliens just felt like a tedious objective to slog through and quite at odds with the fun of the tropical island. It's not QUITE the jumping puzzles of Xen or the animal infested final level of Deus Ex but it really robs the game of any greatness.
That isn't to say the game isn't enjoyable - when it excels, it's excelling on several levels but then it feels as if the story of aliens became MORE important than the enjoyability of the game... shooting Matrix style robots is not fun and flying a VTOL that handles like a cow against them is a lesson in tedium. It really feels as if the guy in charge of the level design got up to entering the alien city and then went out on a break and by the time he got back, everyone else had rushed out the last bunch of levels.
It's not the first game that flags after initially impressive levels and it surely won't be the last but with Crysis, it feels as if it actually missed out on the opportunity to be a seminal single player campaign by resorting to the old "Oh, aliens!" shtick and really... boss battles aren't what games like Crysis should be about. Still, despite that the impressive visuals, physics and gameplay in the first segment of this game still shine through and it's easy to find yourself regaling people about your escapades. Anyone with a penchant for supersoldiers or FPSs should play it... just be ready for the little bit of alien heart break.