What’s totally clear is that Crysis is about cock. You buy it to prove how powerful your gaming PC is, you overclock your graphics card to prove you can run it on maxed-out settings, and Crytek made the damn thing to prove their engine could crunch more polygons than anyone else’s.
Cock, cock, cock. It’s one humungus cock measuring competition.
What’s equally clear is that, as someone who reads the Guardian and drinks green tea and worries about the environment, I am impervious to such nonsense.
A game is a game, and what matters is the emotional journey the player is taken on, how much the experience moves them, and what they take away from their time spent playing. Aesthetics, as a measure of beauty, obviously ties into this, and producing beguiling visuals is an important factor in engendering such tonal resonance, but HDR lighting does not a good game make.
Building ever more faithful recreations of reality is a job for autistic model-makers, not artists. The future of our industry lies in dreams, not reality.
Nevertheless, I have a new PC, and want to put it through its paces. It’s also, I feel, my journalistic responsibility to wade into this murky spunk-pool of one-up-manship, and report on the sticky truths I find there.
So I boot up the game, and it transpires I am playing the role of a gruff cybernetically-enhanced marine of the future, being dropped behind enemy lines on a mission of some importance, for a distress signal has been intercepted that hints at a dark alien presence to have been awoken from beneath …
I sigh. On the shelf behind my monitor sits Nausea by Jean-Paul Satre. I could literally be reading Satre right now.
I land on a beach at night. I’m grasping an enormous, and-it-has-to-be-said, utterly phallic combat rifle, and wearing a suit that grants me special powers and makes the muscles in my arms look oh-so-bulging.
It becomes apparent my job is to shoot people and also sometimes blow people up. What complicates proceedings is that these people are simultaneously trying to shoot and blow me up as well. Talk about yer existential angst! To be fair, these chaps probably subscribe to Dr Johnson’s notion that he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man. And why not? Hell, it’s hard to feel dread about the nature of self when Korean soldiers are trying to set you on fire.
A while later I use the cloaking ability of my cyber-suit to creep up on two guards. I grab one by the throat and throw him against the other, and they both go skidding down a hill. This alerts more enemies to my position, so I switch to speed mode and close the distance between us in seconds. Face-to-face, I activate maximum strength mode, and punch the men half-way across the valley.
Very much about cock, that still felt pretty cool.
Later, I shoot my phallic rifle at a tree. The trunk splinters, and snaps, and the whole thing comes crashing down into the foliage, rays from the sun piercing its canopy as it falls. The ocean laps gently upon the sand, in which I can pick out individual grains, and birds fly overhead, distinct when I raise my laser scope to them, blurred and hazy on the edges of my vision. Plants sway in the breeze, yielding as I brush through them.
I’m not sure how that relates to cock.
Later, I’m racing down river in a patrol boat. A helicopter is chasing me, spitting bullets into the water all around. Just as my boat is about to explode I dive out and frantically engage my cloak, which gets me undetected to one of the forested shores before losing power. I cower in the dark as my suit recharges. The helicopter is circling and I can hear Korean voices all around.
Suddenly the torchlight from a soldier’s rifle comes bouncing over the ridge towards me, illuminating the forest in real-time. My suit isn’t fully charged yet, but I cloak up anyway. As long as I don’t move it should hold out.
The soldier passes feet from my position. I can see the expression on his face, the fabric of his jacket. My heart is thumping.
The soldier disappears from view as my suit power dies. The cloak splutters off and I turn — into the sights of the helicopter. I had forgotten about the helicopter!
The shriek of its mounted cannon tears through the night, and all around me smaller muzzle flashes take up the call. I am surrounded.
I dive away from the fire and noise, deeper into the undergrowth. I hit the dirt. My suit’s been chewed up, power is off, warnings flashing all over the display. Luckily it’s quite a piece of kit, and in the seconds it takes the soldiers to follow me it gets itself back online and recharges enough for another brief cloaking.
I take stock. Not enough rockets to destroy the helicopter. Two grenades. A few clips for my rifle.
Scanning with my binoculars I spot another boat moored on the opposite shore. But there are guards all over the dock, and more converging on my position, and the malevolent presence of that helicopter above. My suit has a few more seconds of cloak left …
I’m not playing a game by this point. I really am in the jungle, frantically forming plans, fighting for my life.
And it turns out, though Crysis is very much about the cock, that isn’t such a bad thing. After all, it’s not the size of the game engine or how fast it runs, but what you do with it that counts. Crysis’s fiction may be as hoary as it comes, but it sure provides one hell of a ride. Just don’t expect it to hold you and tell you it loves you after the excitement is over.