Crysis Warhead: A Reflection
January 28, 2015
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“There are some rules that I do follow.” —Psycho
It’s been two months since the Steam Adventure sale, and as per the title, this is a talk about Crysis Warhead. I’m still playing my way through Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ (I’m about halfway through one storyline), but Crysis Warhead is completed now. Set in conjunction with the events of Crysis, Crysis Warhead is seen through Sergeant Michael “Psycho” Sykes’ eyes. After the harbour airstrike in the original Crysis, Pyscho is assigned with tracking down a KPA container, which JSOC suspects is carrying a nuclear warhead (lending its name to the game’s title). In pursuit of the container, Psycho learns that rather than a nuclear warhead, the container houses an alien war machine. Fighting through Ceph and North Koreans alike, Psycho eventually reaches an airfield and secures the container. Despite being a shorter game than Crysis, Crysis Warhead makes a more substantial effort towards giving Psycho depth and humanity, improves the way combat sequences are handled and implements new weapons and vehicles for the player to utilise.
- Crysis Warhead dates back from September 2008, but the graphics nonetheless look amazing even relative to the graphics of some modern day titles, especially with respect to lighting and water effects. Modern games tend to have higher resolution textures, and it is here where the original Crysis begins to show its age. The age old query “will it run Crysis” no longer seems to apply: in the short space of a few years, GPUs have caught up.
- Playing as Psycho adds a great deal of character to Crysis Warhead: whereas Nomad was depicted as a soldier who simply followed orders to get the job done, Psycho is more hot-headed and tends to follow his emotions. One of the earlier missions Psycho undertakes to is to secure O’Neil, a crashed F-35 pilot, and bring him to safety, against his commander’s orders to secure a container the North Koreans hold.
- There’s no other word to describe the new Armoured Security Vehicles and their awesome weapons: the mini-gun version is great against infantry, but the anti-vehicle MG version excels in all roles: helicopters, jeeps and other ASVs are destroyed in seconds, and the explosive rounds can decimate infantry as quickly as the mini-gun in spite of a lower rate of fire. There are mounted versions of the anti-vehicle MG, and care must be taken not to get hit, since the rounds that work so well against the North Koreans will wreck even a Nanosuit fairly quickly.
- The DSG-1 makes a welcome return in the second mission, Shore Leave, and before the Gauss Rifle becomes available, is the weapon of choice for long range engagements. It’s got a higher magazine capacity but deals lower damage compared to the Gauss Rifle, but the wide, open spaces in this mission make it an asset to use. Once it is found, Psycho also gains access to the sniper scope, which turns the SCAR into a long-range wrecking machine if used properly.
- The submarine holds the container that Psycho’s superiors consider mission critical, but upon closing in on it, he discover that it is holding a Ceph scout, rather than a nuclear warhead as originally expected. While the mission adds a degree of urgency to things through dialogue, there’s not too much of a rush, and players can casually clear out the KPA forces before reaching the submarine. Psycho is captured by the KPA forces on the submarine, but before anything too crazy happens, the island is suddenly flash-frozen, corresponding to the point in time where Nomad exits the Ceph structure.
- There’s a thrilling hovercraft chase that brings to mind the cinematics and atmospherics from Die Another Day. One of the modifications Crysis Warhead makes is that the Gauss Rifle deals less damage against the aliens than they did before. Notice that I’ve got the EMP grenades equipped here: while the game notes they’re excellent against Nanosuit soldiers, they can also be used to freeze swarms of alien troopers.
- For one reason or another, this alien hunter lacks the shields that the hunter of Crysis had. For gameplay reasons, this makes sense, but as far as the story goes, this fight is chronologically before Helena Rosenthal discovers the Nanosuit can be used to disable the shields. I’ve got a grenade launcher here, and while it’s a fun weapon to use, it only makes appearances sparingly.
- The USS Maine is seen in the distance: unlike the USS Constitution, it was patrolling Lingshan island and thus, was caught in the blast. It’s never mentioned in the original Crysis but is assumed to be of the same class as the USS Constitution. Again, the visual elements are impressive: while attempting to find a way into the carrier, there’s a massive wave of water that was clearly frozen quickly.
- The tight spaces inside the carrier, coupled with the presence of Nanosuit soldiers, makes combat more high-paced. Care must be taken to ensure that one does not succumb to the power of their own EMP grenades. At several points during the mission, radio chatter from Prophet can be heard.
- The icing effects make the optics (even the RDS) quite difficult to use, so for a large portion of these missions, I stuck with the weapon’s iron sights for maximum visibility. Here, I’ll point out the colour differences in the HUDs: by default, Nomad’s HUD in Crysis is green and can be set to the same red colour that Pyscho’s HUD is. The only difference between the HUDs is that Psycho’s has the additional text “Sykes Mod” to differentiate it from Nomad’s HUD.
Coupled with better combat sequences, the new weapons and vehicles make Crysis Warhead stand out above Crysis. The inclusion of the AY69 dual-wieldable machine pistols gives the player increased reserve firepower at close range. Here was a weapon that could reliable down KPA soldiers and Seph troopers if one had ever run out ammunition for their primary and secondary weapons. The FGL-40 is another new man-portable grenade launcher that can destroy light vehicles quickly but has a short range. EMP grenades allow Ceph and Nanosuit soldiers to be suppressed, buying the player some breathing room. The other new weapon is the Plasma Accumulator Cannon, the PAX, which is used in the game’s climatic battle to destroy an alien armada. New vehicles include the Armoured Security Vehicle (ASV), which is resistant to small arms fire and equipped with either the AHMG-138 mini gun or the 20 mm auto-cannon; the former is exceptionally efficient at decimating foot mobiles, and as an anti-vehicle weapon, the latter will wreck anything it hits in a few shots. These weapons can be found as stationary emplacements, and in the sixth mission, there are a large number of these mounted on the train Pyscho is tailing: this turns the mission into quite literally, a rail-shooter, and the overwhelming power conferred by these weapons provided a vast amount of amusement. The new weapons made each battle entertaining, and despite being the same game as the original Crysis (from a gameplay and graphics perspective), Crysis Warhead does manage to stand out from its predecessor as a title that is worth playing.
- This fight against an onslaught of aliens took forever to finish, and I found myself making use of the AY69 to defeat the troopers at close range. I also was able to find another FGL-40 lying around, and used it to clear out clusters of alien troopers. The Gauss Rifle’s limitations were quite apparent here, as it took numerous shots to shoot down the scouts, and after several deaths, I finally succeeded in clearing this part.
- Curiously enough, there’s actually been very little need to make use of the rocket launcher against enemy vehicles in Crysis Warhead thus far in the game, since the anti-vehicle MG on the ASV do an excellent job already. Instead, since I’d been running with a fully-stocked rocket launcher the entire time, I decided to speed up the last bits of the mission and used it to destroy the scouts. There are orange scouts that can be shot down more easily, but have homing projectiles that explode on contact.
- Inside the mine, temperatures are apparently warm enough for the frost to melt off the weapons, making it a fine time to re-attach one’s preferred sights to their weapons. I typically roll with the holographic sight on the SCAR, and generally attach the laser sights to weapons that are hip-fired. Apparently, this mining complex and the mine tunnels is not the same mine as the one from Crysis: several geological features suggest that this mine is a few kilometers from the mine of the original Crysis.
- Back in November, the extremely cold weather meant that mice were getting into the house: I had been working on a paper and something moved in my peripheral vision. It turned out to be a mouse, and after an afternoon of trying to continue with the paper, I gave up and decided to catch the mouse myself. I laid out a plastic bag and some gloves, and as luck would have it, the mouse wandered into said plastic bag, allowing me to capture it. The Nanosuit would allow one to catch rats fairly quickly; it’s possible to pick up the rats scurrying about here.
- In the penultimate mission, From Hell’s Heart, the goal is to follow the container, and the heavy weapons emplacements on the train plainly broadcast to players that it’d be a good idea to make use of these weapons. Thus begins what is a relatively linear, but immensely enjoyable section of the game as Psycho makes use of these mounted weapons to devastate everything that moves: even helicopters don’t stand a chance.
- This is the container that is referred to in all of the missions: after some four hours of gameplay, the container is finally secure and ready to be pulled out by VTOL. My choice of weapons for this final part of the game are simple enough: the SCAR and Gauss Rifle are more than enough for long range combat, while the AY69 will excel in close quarters. On my first playthrough of Crysis Warhead, I held onto the same SCAR the entire way through. Unlike Crysis, Ammunition for it is plentiful, and even if it wasn’t, I use the SCAR in semi-automatic mode unless squaring off against the aliens.
- My memory’s a little rusty, but I definitely remember using an APC during Awakening of Crysis; apparently, they are only accessible in some cases, and will normally be occupied by KPA forces. Armed with an auto-cannon and a missile launcher, this vehicle is an immensely useful asset when taking on the other APCs on the airfield: the missiles will make short work of them, and the autocannon can devastate everything else. There is a single KPA soldier on the tower armed with a Gauss Rifle, and left unchecked, he can finish Psycho off in a single shot.
- The weather undergoes a dramatic transformation, setting the stage for the final boss fight. My first experience with this level brought to mind a YouTube playthrough of it that was posted during 2008: the uploader had a GeForce 8800 GT, and to give an idea of how far video cards have come, my GPU has around 4.8 times the overall performance compared to it. Once the weather shifts, it’s time to go back down to ground level and retrieve the PAX.
- The PAX is located in a crashed C-18 down the runway. Psycho will come under fire from the aliens, and although it is possible to use the AAA guns to destroy them, the aliens can also damage the AAAs fairly quickly, which results in instant death. A combination of quickly using the AAA’s missiles to destroy the alien scouts, and the Gauss rifle for the troopers will buy enough time and space for Psycho to reach the aircraft.
- The PAX (Plasma Accumulator Cannon) is the single most powerful weapon in the game and will destroy the Red Hunter in around eleven shots. It’s the preferred way of taking down the Red Hunter, and despite a slow recharge time, its unlimited ammunition and high damage make it hugely useful here. One must be careful not to discharge it in close range for obvious reasons, and after the Red Hunter is defeated, the closing cutscenes for the game play, ending this short but immensely entertaining installment in the Crysis franchise.
At the end of the day, the discount price on Crysis Warhead meant that picking it up was a no-brainer; I enjoyed a shorter shooter that felt more polished and focused than the original Crysis, and with Crysis Warhead now complete, the only Crysis title I haven’t played is the third one. If sources are to be believed, its campaign is just a little longer than that of Crysis Warhead’s. The inclusion of a compound bow and usable Ceph weapons are some of the reasons I’m considering Crysis 3, but the hardware requirements are quite steep, meaning that my current rig will probably be best suited to running the game on high settings rather than ultra. If I am to pick up Crysis 3, it’ll probably be a ways into the future once I resolve my current backlog of games: I’ve only to beat Tomb Raider: Underworld and Alan Wake: American Nightmare before I am finished with my old backlog. I’ll probably take a break from Battlefield 3 over the next few months to at least complete Tomb Raider: Underworld before moving onto Valkyria Chronicles, which is said to have upwards of 30 hours of campaign time and will likely be as entertaining as Deus Ex: Human Revolutions.