Joystiq impressions: Crysis

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Rob Letts, executive producer of Crysis, wandered over to a chicken that was milling about outside a military compound and scooped the plump bird up into his arms. He turned around, headed about 20 yards to the edge of the water, pointed his sights (and the chicken) up and out over the ocean, activated his nanosuit's strength ability and tossed the bird some 40 feet into the air. He drew his assault rifle and opened fire, landing a few scattered shots into the carcass before it disappeared into the water.

Letts followed his execution with a dip, swimming out past a loading dock, admiring a few crabs that scuttled about the ocean floor and a school of snaking fish off in the distance. Letts assured us that there were -- or would be -- sharks in deeper waters; the type that would be drawn to a slowly bleeding North Korean soldier launched from your arms into the depths.

Crysis is a joy for its subtleties, and for its complexities. We watched as Letts haphazardly caused enough commotion for an enemy combatant to fire a flare out over the tree tops. A minute later, reinforcements arrived by boat and by jeep. Some time later, over the ridge, troops who had spotted the flare earlier where still on alert. Letts spoke of a basic set of variables (the whos, whats, and wheres), which when applied to a dynamic environment, provide the player with ever-unpredictable "action bubbles." While there is a narrative structure to Crysis and a series of well-documented twists (two major environmental upheavals that change the nature of gameplay), Letts seemed most proud of the "sandbox" nature of Crytek's tactical shooter. 'Sandbox' might be a waning buzzword that's propelled too many lazily-developed borefests, but Crysis is clearly a title that will defend the legitimacy of such a fundamental design choice. If you've got the right rig for the job, peep Crysis when it drops (by the end of the year).

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This article was originally published on Joystiq.