Crysis: Destroyer of Motherboards and Obseletor of Video cards.
When I woke up and my video card was hiding under the desk, trembling and muttering something about Shader Model 4, I knew the Crysis demo had come out.

Of course, the automatic adjustment set everything on my computer to "low" and when I ignored that and tried "medium," the game vaguely resembled an NES in dire need of a new 72-pin connector.

When CryENGINE and I finally struck a compromise, I was impressed. It’s a good game, well conceived, and with, even on my out-of-date rig, expansive, highly interactive environments. See something? Pick it up. Run into a tree? It falls down. You push the leaves out of your way wandering through the jungle.

The sheer size of the arena required me to ditch my usual shooter strategy, based on dark, narrow hallways and the occasional snowy road. You always need to to be mindful of the gun boats patrolling the harbor: they’ve got good eyes and 50-caliber guns.

At the lower difficulty settings, you can listen to your enemies for clues about their movement, but when you crank it up to Delta, they start speaking Korean. It’s a subtle touch but a nice one. You also lose your cross hairs and your HUD stops picking up enemy grenades. Health depletes faster and recovers much slower. The AI becomes more aggressive.

And the AI is pretty good. If you get spotted, they’ll come after you and guys on the other side of the camp will be expecting you. I thought I’d have a moment’s repose on the mountainside but they climbed right up after me. They like to surround you.

Fortunately, you can always grab one by the throat to break free. Jump into Maximum Strength to throw him at his friends with deadly force.

Along with Maximum Strength, your suit has three other modes: Maximum Speed, Maximum Armor, and Cloak. Each depletes the suits energy, which, like your health, regenerates, according to different rules. Speed depletes while sprinting, Armor while taking damage, Strength while jumping, punching or throwing, and Cloak drains as long as you’re invisible. (Don’t expect cloak to save you, though, as the troops get scared and start firing towards where you were.)

It adds an interesting dimension of resource management. To sneak around with Cloak, you need to not get shot for a while, and you won’t be able to use Speed the instant it runs out.

There’s nothing fundamentally amazing in Crysis and it may well cause flaming brimstone to explode from your GPU, but it’s a positive step in the long evolution of shooters. And even at the lower end, it looks great and runs well.

I doubt it’s as "must-have" as Bioshock but I’m certainly looking forward to playing the rest of the game.