While Crysis' single-player mode is excellent in its own right, the game also sports two multiplayer modes. One is a rather straight-forward and rather forgettable deathmatch mode. The suit powers do add a little bit of depth to it, but otherwise it's basically the same fragfest we've been playing since the inception of the genre. The real star of the show is Power Struggle. Power Struggle is a deep, team-based multiplayer not unlike the Battlefield series. Considering that Power Struggle is part of the retail Crysis package, it's a surprisingly robust game that would hold its own just fine as a standalone multiplayer package.
The game is fairly simple in concept: two competing teams vie for control of assorted tactical objectives, with the ultimate goal of sending the enemy headquarters to the big polygon renderer in the sky with some pretty impressive low-yield nuclear firepower. Players begin with a rather simply array of weaponry that is upgraded as “prestige” is earned by completing various objectives. There are a few key objectives that must be captured and controlled for a strategic advantage. Capturing alien crash sites gives players access to energy sources that, when used at prototype laboratories (which must also be captured), allow players to access advanced weaponry needed to drop the hurt on the enemy headquarters. Various manufacturing sites give players access to an impressive assortment of vehicles, and bunkers can be captured to allow players to respawn closer to enemy objectives. Destroying the enemy headquarters is a multi-staged feat as well, since it's well protected by automatic turrets that will prevent vehicles with the necessary firepower from coming in range. Once the turrets are down though, it's just a matter of getting a nuclear-armed tank in range and watching the fireworks. I was actually a little disappointed that some of these vehicles and weapons didn't have a great presence in the single-player campaign, because some of them are tons of fun, especially the helicopter and the TAC gun.
One notable quibble though is that the Crysis multiplayer segregates gamers to different servers based on whether they are running the game in DirectX 9 or DirectX 10. The company line is that DirectX 10 allows for more advanced environmental interaction that enhances the gameplay. In DirectX 9 servers, the destructible environments and interactive plant life are noticeably less robust, and there is no day/night cycle. While this isn't a huge issue as the gameplay remains largely the same, I have to call shenanigans on what I view as a heavily corporate-sponsored decision. The fact is that all of these supposedly “DirectX 10 only” features are not only fully available in the single player game under DirectX 9, but it's already well known that a tweak of the game's configuration files allows virtually all of the ballyhooed DirectX 10 graphics features of Crysis to run in DirectX 9—in most cases with improved performance. With nVidia currently making a big push to sell their DirectX 10 video cards, I can't help but feel that Crytek's decision in this regard had less to do with a gamer-centric design decision, and more to do with the nVidia logo that graces the game's opening. I am not opposed to corporate sponsorship of games—Intel and nVidia's sponsorship of Crysis has helped the developers at Crytek take a protracted development cycle to fully realize their vision—but when gamers start getting shafted or artificially pressured into expensive upgrades, it's gone too far.
Despite the corporate pandering, however, Power Struggle is a very well-thought out multiplayer game that truly feels like a unique, fully fleshed-out game. While it doesn't cover any ground that hasn't been covered by Battlefield or Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, it avoids the tacked-on feeling that most multiplayer modes succumb to, and holds its own favorably to many games that are packaged as multiplayer-only. As with any online team-based game though, the experience can vary pretty significantly depending on the players. Power Struggle can be a little intimidating for new players, since many gamers were playing it during the open beta testing and the learning curve is a little steep. And while I am sure that there are some servers with plenty of teamwork and great communication, my experience was mixed in that regard. While I'm personally not a big multiplayer guy, I think devout mutliplayer gamers will find Power Struggle to be a surprisingly strong addition to Crysis' excellent single-player campaign.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the 1.0 version of the game.
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