Developer: Crytek Budapest
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Crysis Warhead is like Crysis except it's only thirty bucks and your computer can actually run it. That's probably more than enough reason for PC shooter fans - a pretty neglected group these days - to pick it up. Still, some of you might be curious what exactly you're getting for your money so humor me while I go through this whole "review" routine.
One of the major selling points of Warhead is that it uses an optimized version of CryEngine 2, Crysis's engine, that allows it to run a wider range of systems. You're not going to be running the game on an Apple II GS or anything - the minimum requirements are more or less the same. However, computers that can run it (even barely) should see a jump in performance. I had a noticeably smoother play experience on my puny computer than I did with the original Crysis.
Like Half-Life: Blue Shift, Warhead is a standalone expansion pack with a single-player campaign that takes place at the same time as the original game. This time around, you control a different member of the nanosuit-wearing Delta Force team: Psycho, the Brit who disappeared for a good chunk of Crysis. He's got a little more personality than the original game's protagonist, Nomad, but that's really not saying much. Strangely enough, the most interesting character is Psycho's pilot friend O'Neill, who would've been a part of Psycho's unit instead of Nomad if not for screwing up in some sort of training exercise.
That's not the only odd aspect of the story. More baffling is the fact that the major villain of Warhead exists solely in the cut scenes - seriously, you don't fight him once in-game. Warhead just seems to lean too heavily on its cut scenes to carry the narrative load when all of the plot events could've been handled in-game. Don't get me wrong, it's an entertaining single-player campaign with a fair share of cool gameplat scenes but I would've liked to have seen the wider storyline integrated into the game a little bit better.
The single-player campaign is only about five or six hours long but feels shorter than other games of comparable length. This is partly because the campaign is one continuous mission and maintains quick pace throughout. The way some segments are set up, you can race through them quite easily. In one level, Psycho is on the back of a train containing an item he's trying to acquire. There's a bunch of troops and vehicles along the roads on either side of the road and you can easily jump off the train, kill some enemies and catch up to the train with a stolen jeep or your nanosuit's speed enhancement...but you don't have any reason to. You can just sit on your ass on the train for the majority of the level and there's just something really off about that.
Crysis is strongest in the free-ranging outdoor segments (i.e. "infilitrate this camp and blow up that building") that allow you to mix and match tactics and Warhead has a health amount of these. The indoor action still sucks but thankfully there's less of that here than there was in the original game. Being indoors in Crysis games just feels restricting - not claustrophic or scary, just boring. All I'm saying is, a game that's centered around letting a player jump ten feet in the air and run faster than a car really shouldn't have a mine level.
While you could burn through the single-player campaign in one day if you were so inclined, Warhead also comes with something that'll keep you occupied for far longer: Crysis Wars, the Crysis multiplayer. It comes with 21 maps in total, seven of which are brand new. There are three game modes: Instant Action (deathmatch), Power Struggle (teams fight to capture labs, factories, and such in order to purchase new equipment), and the new Team Instant Action (team deathmatch). Everyone's got a fancy nanosuit, which adds new strategic concerns to standard multiplayer shooting. Needless to say, it's a lot more fun to cloak and sneak up on a human opponent than an A.I. one. At least one of the maps I've played so far has a wide selection of tanks, aircraft, etc. for you to play around with, as well.
Crytek probably could've just sold the Warhead single-player campaign for $30 with no multiplayer and not gotten many complaints. To their credit, they didn't and the inclusion of Crysis Wars makes the game a decent bargain. Bear in mind, though, that's it's an expansion pack rather than a sequel - you're getting another serving of Crysis, not a sequel. The gameplay experience is top to bottom pretty much the same, save for a couple new weapons and vehicles. Not that that's a bad thing - Crysis is a pretty good formula to replicate. Those of you hoping for something really "new" will have to wait for Crysis 2, though.