Crysis Demo - Thoughts

I'm pretty certain that you release a demo of a game to demonstrate how great it is, not to put people off buying the full thing.

Crysis has been hyped to death, with some developers saying it will be the last big game of the decade, due to the huge amount of effort and resources that have to go into such projects these days. The single player demo was released a couple of days ago (and it weighs in at a fairly mammoth 1.8gig!).

I sat down this morning to install it, after having downloaded it the night before last. I also needed to install new drivers for my rig in order to play it. First annoyance was that the install was zipped (15 minutes to unzip), and then it had to self-uncompress (15 minutes), before it actually got round to installing (5 minutes). I've done OS installs faster than that... Once in, my first job, as always, is to do some key re-binding, and bump the graphics settings up a bit (I normally aim for native resolution of 1280x1024, and medium/high settings). Then I sat back and let the game run me through the opening CGI...

...but as soon as it hit non-pre-rendered sequences, I was diving back into the menu settings to turn everything back down. It ran like a pig on Kitkat;

  • 3800+ Dual Core Athlon
  • 2 Gig DDR RAM
  • 7900GT SLi

OK, this is not a new system, but its hardly decrepid! Given that yesterday I had a silky smooth run through Unreal Tournament 3, this 2-3 frames a second I was getting was a bit of a shock. I turned down the resolution to 1024x768, and settings to Medium/Low, then went back in...

...and everything vanished...all the textures, the lot! I wondered if this was because I had reset the textures without restarting, so gave the game the benefit of the doubt, and restarted, to no avail. Only after a fair bit of fiddling did I find out that if the Shader option was set to anything but high then these horrendous graphic issues would occur. Nice. I managed to get the game to run at 20-30 fps (so long as nothing too exciting was happening) and tried to move on with the story. Which was a little tricky as the sound gave out after going into one of the menus...

Now Crysis is supposed to be the ultimate eye candy game, and I have no doubt that if you have an epically powerful rig then it will indeed look like the mutts nuts. Most people, however, don't. My machine is probably above standard in that respect, and as I had to run it without anti-aliasing, low texture detail and out of native res for the monitor it all ended up looking a bit muddy. The framerate was never great, and this alone took out a lot of the have irritating moments of lag when turning. A game can look good on a low end system, and can be playable, so why developers persist in bringing out polygon-breaking epics without considering this I don't understand. One of the prime reasons Counter-Strike is one of the most popular games in existance is that it will run on anything. You can have as many ground-breaking innovations in gameplay if you want, but if performance is not there, then no-one will ever appreciate it.

OK, rant over. Without trashing the storyline too much you are guided through the jungle by a radio voice (which as I mentioned was lost after accessing the menu one too many times to try and sort out the video settings) and waypoints on your map. You have a primary (or plot driven) main waypoint, as as you move round the map can be given secondary missions in the vicinity. The video below is of me completing one of the secondary missions, to destroy a "GPS Blocking Device" (often referred to as trees, bridges, tunnels etc in the UK). Even with the low settings, you see some performance issues (when the jeep arrives there is a lot of screen lag as I turn around) and some issues with the chickens (yes, those big black bars waving everywhere are chickens...thats why I shot them...). I can see the openness of the game showing itself, there were lots of ways I could have cleared out the camp rather than sniping (for example, I could have swum out to the boat, cleared it, and then used it to assault the base), and this is the selling point of the game...freedom of choice.

The weapons themselves are much of a muchness (or the ones I saw within the demo were anyway). A variety of real-world-esque rifles, pistols and SMG's. The suit your character wears is supposed to boost you (the intro video shows some of its abilities such as speed-up, strength boost etc etc... fairly standard powerup abilities), however I never really got a chance to try these out within the confines of the demo.

Overall, I'm not sure I can recommend this. If you have a monster gaming rig then by all means try it out (I'd start downloading it now, and you may have it by the weekend), however if your rig is not absolutely at the top of the league then I think you're going to have to downgrade everything to the point where the gameplay itself is affected. the combination of graphic glitches and stuttering put me off even getting to the end of the demo...

Attacking an enemy camp. Sniped guards and boat crew, then came in to check location and destroy objective. Jumped by jeep.


I disagree that you need a monster rig to run it on. You need a Vista/DirectX 10 rig to run it on. A chap a work says it's beautiful and he runs on a Intel Core Duo thing (comparable to my 4400x2) with a single 8800 GTS (for about 250 quid) in 2GB of RAM. That's not really monster, is it? He runs it with medium options and hight frame rates. It's a game designed for DirectX 10 and DirectX 10 system. There are a lot of people with Vista now (about 10% of the people going to Icar use vista and you can see the trend is increasing rapidly) and it is the future. Time will tell if it's just you or the game in general but I think you should reserve the use of the word 'Monster' for those with 8800 GTX SLi (like another fellow at work, bastard). Affordable technology can run this game.

brainwipe's picture

And when you say DX10 vista rig you mean 8800 or 2900 something near top of the line released within the last 6 months.

I highly doubt the difference is in the directx number and vista. For one Vista is verifiably slower than XP for gaming and I've seen DX9 to DX10 comparisons of crysis it looks nigh on identical. Seriously if someone didn't tell you, you wouldn't know. The difference is probably more in the game engine itself and the level of complexity used (or poor optimisation for the cynical) than the directx rendering technique it is running.

It may well be still so demanding power wise that even the best DX9 hardware so 7900 series and the like may not be able to run it comfortably since the 8800 series is quite a step up in the power stakes.

That sort of power is becoming more affordable from what I've seen the 8800's have just dropped in price since the new 8800GT came out at around the 130 quid mark for something with very good performance. Still if it means upgrading just to play it on anything approaching a descent resolution then I think I'll be leaving this one.

Vista may be the future but it is a bleak future indeed, vista is a pig of an operating system. Microsoft would have been well advised to can it and go back to the drawing board rather than releasing it. They aren't going to do that but that's still the reality of the situation.

Evilmatt's picture

Matt raises the point I was trying to make. To be DX10 compliant you need a PC new in the last 6 months. A brand new, top of the range graphics card is monster in my in well above average. Look at the PC's we all have...what is the average there?

babychaos's picture

If you think a single £130 graphics card is monster, then I can hardly argue. Unfortunately, our average has slid well down now. That's just the nature of the technological beast.

brainwipe's picture

that £130 that most people will have to spend before they can really play the game, putting the cost of playing this at £170-180. The majority of PC's are still going to be on series 6 and 7 (or ATI equivalent), and from what I saw this game is simply not capable of being played of that...I have a high-end 7 series setup.

I've been unable to find a decent source to define a mid-range system (I would have used bit-tech, but they seem to have stopped reviewing game performance using different rigs), however I'm pretty certain most people don't have series 8 graphics cards.

babychaos's picture

I've got the demo in my hand now (on a DVD thanks to a fellow at work). I'll give it an install and compare and contrast. The more info we collect, the better our assesments will be.

brainwipe's picture

I've heard from a few people that there's a big difference (not necessarily visual) between the DX9 and DX10 paths in Crysis. Basically, everyone I know that's played it on a DX10 system (vista + geforce 8 series) says it rocks, and everyone else (which, admittedly is just Pete so far) is less impressed.

I think it's a but unfair to take a game that's been hyped as the first real DX10 game and criticise it for not running well on DX9 hardware. It's not like anyone's ever made any bones about you needing top end gear to run it. Yes, the game has a limited market, but I'd imagine Crytek don't care so much - they've surely already been paid by MS to make a game that might convince people to go for Vista.

Hell, at least you get some dogs-gonads graphics for your insane hardware requirements with this one - unlike some other games. *cough* Neverwinter Nights 2 *cough*.

Personally, I won't be bothering with Crysis until I have Vista (unless I hear some about serious improvements in the XP render path.) If Crysis is really shit hot, then it might drive me to upgrade, but more likely it'll have to wait until at least SP1. For the record, I'm reinstalling Windows tonight, and it's XP that's going back on.

AggroBoy's picture

While having it such that only people with bleeding edge rigs can run it is fair enough I suppose, but then why have DX9 in there if no one is going to be able to use it. Since from pete's tests the second fastest of the last generation of card running in SLI (so not even what a normal user would have in their machine they might have one 7900GT) can't run it acceptably no one running a DX9 card will be able to run it so why pretend they can.

I rather suspect crytek don't really care about crysis and are aiming to do a valve/ID and cop some of the lucrative engine market. Since currently their claim of the only DX10 engine on the market is the extent of their claim to fame I guess they have to push that.

Never Winter Nights 2 was ridiculous I don't know what the hell they did to that engine but it was really terribly optimised. Anecdotal evidence would suggest the new add on fixed a lot of the problems. But it was obsidian their games always have something wrong with them and sit in the category labelled unfinished/flawed masterpiece.

From what I've heard you want to wait for SP2 at least since SP1 is not even going to begin to scratch the surface of the problems with Vista.

Evilmatt's picture

Well, it's not just DX9 cards, it's anyone running XP; there are a lot of people with powerful machines, that are technically DX10 capable, but who're still running XP. I suspect that's what caught them out; when they were developing the game they must have expected everyone to have vista by launch, but then they discovered that wasn't the case and had to hack in DX9 support sharpish.

You're right though - I'm sure they're mainly interested in the "engine market." I was surprised yesterday to discover that Virtual Fighter 5 uses theirs.

AggroBoy's picture

Have you tried it on your rig on XP then? If it is bad on a properly powerful rig running XP then that is really is poor.

Virtua Fighter 5 runs on a crytek engine?! That's odd not what I would pick for the first choice

Evilmatt's picture

I haven't bothered/had time yet, but I could give it a shot over the weekend, perhaps. I'd agree that if I can't get it running well, then there's something seriously wrong. (apparently like my ability to type Virtua without subconsciously adding the "L" to the end.)

Well - it had a CryTek logo on the back of the box - it did seem weird, which is why it stuck in my mind...

AggroBoy's picture

I suppose beat em ups are more roaming these days so an engine that can handle expansive environments is more useful.

Still if you have to trek through a thick jungle to get to your opponent (if it's crytek there have to be jungles it's like slick wet biological machine hybrids and the doom3 engine) it may feel a bit like that game of far cry we played at last fish con where I saw one person in the entire game and they were on the horizon in a boat heading away from me the rest of the time was me wandering aimlessly trying to find someone to shoot.

Evilmatt's picture

Well, I've now tried the Crysis demo on my machine (and on Vista, too; I was reinstalling anyway, so I thought I'd see how it's come on in a year.)

So, what's it like? Well, I'm really really glad I went to the trouble of downloading it. Otherwise I might have actually spent money on the game. Took me half an hour (and a video driver reinstall) to get the thing running at all. The auto detect said I should run it in "very-high" when actually I only get useful frame-rates in "medium." Most importantly, it seems to randomly hang my machine while playing.

In all fairness, the game is very pretty, even on medium, and when I was able to play it I really enjoyed the gameplay, so I might pick it up a few months down the line when it's been thoroughly patched , but this demo should not have been released - it does nothing to sell the game at all.

AggroBoy's picture

medium! MEDIUM!!!!! Sweet zombie Jesus what resolution is that at?

I would think given your rig it would manage at least 1600*1200 (if not 1920*1080) with all the options at max and still have some leg room.

It sounds like it's just a horribly bad engine in terms of stability and performance. Even if it is pretty one out of three doesn't really cut it.

Evilmatt's picture

Nothing over the top; 1280x1024 4xAA. If I drop the res to 1024x768, I can turn _some_ of the other options up to "high", but I prefer the resolution in any game featuring sniper rifles.

So, in summary: 1280x1024 4xAA, everything on "medium," except models which I left on "very high," since you can't change that once you're in game. And that got me a pretty stable 30fps - I certainly wasn't getting the hitching Pete experienced, but then it wasn't hitting 400fps like FEAR, either.

One thing to bear in mind is that I'm not running the "Crysis drivers," since a) they're a beta and I'm not inclined to take risks with kernel-mode code, and b) when I _did_ try them the game hung my OS as soon as it went into 3D. Once Nvidia get the updated drivers working and released, I'm told there's an big improvement to Crysis, but frankly, it's not going to be the 2-3x faster the game needs to be to get to reasonable.

Looking at it, I can see why it's slow, though. The draw distance is bloody huge, and the environments are all hugely detailed. Even on medium it's probably the best looking fps I've played. So it's not like it's inefficiency that leads to the performance problems; I'm putting it down to overambition.

Overall, I'm left with the same feeling I got from Vanguard; they should have worked on it for another year before launch. In that time they might have ironed out the instability, and machines that can run it all might have become more commonplace.

AggroBoy's picture

It makes me wonder what they think people have that will run this. If medium at a paltry 1280*1024 is all that an sli 8800 machine can manage what are they expecting for the good stuff Quad SLI?

Maybe the minimum is something like dual 8800 ultras or some such which at 440 quid a pop are not exactly in most people price frame.

I've seen a load of in game shots that looked good labelled with things like single 8600gts at a reasonable resolution which I think was 1280 and that seems really odd if an sli machine with a superior graphics card only manages the same.

Maybe they are banking on technology catching up in six months time, I mean when is the next geforce due probably another six months at least they don't want to kill their margin now they've just done the cost down so it'll be a little while yet. Ati have a new card coming but unless it's something astounding I doubt we'll see anything top the 8800 and even if it does only by a few percent.

Evilmatt's picture

For fucks sake! I just found out that Crysis doesn't support SLI. At all. Neither the demo, nor the released game show any performance benefit from it, and it actually hurts frame rate on many rigs.

This might be why Pete and I have been having such a mare with it. Apparently there will be a patch "soon" that introduces support. Well, I'll be waiting until after that patch before I even think about buying...

AggroBoy's picture

That is just ridiculous. To release a game like that with no SLI support, when it is the sort of game for which SLI was expressly developed, is just madness.

What the hell are crytech playing at, they must be asleep at the wheel to let that one through.

It might harken back to the dx10 vista only thing where vista used not support sli (I think it does now maybe it's still the case) so they figured it wasn't worth putting in support for it.

Evilmatt's picture

My respect for this game continues to plummet. So, to summarise, they build a game aimed squarely at high-end gaming rigs, but fail to make it compatible with top end gaming rigs.

Pure, awesome geniusness...

This would go some way towards explaining not only the horrendous performance, but also the continued graphical glitches I got.

babychaos's picture

I have to say, I almost choked when I read that. I really can't believe how little press that little omission has got; I think Crytek are getting a lot of slack because everyone so badly wants to like Crysis.

And I have to say, despite the fact that it runs like a dog on my machine (because my machine is too well-speced, ffs) I still want to play it. When I got the demo going, I really enjoyed it, and it was easily the best looking game I've played. But let's just say I won't be rushing out to buy it on Friday.

AggroBoy's picture

And yes, when you factor this in, it's actually true that there isn't a computer in the world that has the graphics power to run this game on "Very High". The GTX is apparently good for "High" at 1600x1200 no AA at about 30fps. Obviously I don't get that performance, because I have two of them.

And yes, I am bitter. :)

AggroBoy's picture