With so many game developers now moving onto multi-platform development and less exclusivity to platforms, the full potential of each platform being witnessed becomes increasingly more rare, particularly on the PC. Although the PC is ever evolving and benchmarks are difficult to set, the wizards at Crytek have managed to pull yet another show stopping tour de force out of their magic hat, namely Crysis Warhead, a stand-alone expansion to one of 2007's best looking games, Crysis. The good news is that not only is Warhead a visual tour de force, but also a very competent shooter at a budget price point.
Warhead begins with you being put into the shoes of Psycho, after he had parted ways with the protagonist of the original Crysis, Nomad. Warhead follows the story of Psycho and reveals to you what he had been doing in the time you were busy with the events of the original game. Your mission is to pursue a weapon of some sort that the Koreans have taken for themselves, and stop them as the threat is potentially enormous. In your pursuit you'll encounter many foes from the original game, and some new ones. Though the story keeps things somewhat interesting and has the game flow smoothly, it's ultimately a little shallow, like that of the original Crysis. Character development is improved, but not much, and your character Psycho is a much more intriguing character than Nomad was.
But with that however, it's not the story that will keep you hooked onto Warhead, but its fast paced and over the top action, which even at its lowest points is nothing to be scoffed at. The nanosuit powers and weapon customisability is back, allowing you to take on your foes in any way you want, giving the game a sense of freedom. The level design complements this most of the time, like in the original, with many access points into villages and mission objectives. Not all levels are open ended like this however, with some being quite linear in progression, having almost on-rails gameplay. This is redeemed somewhat with the dazzling display of triggered events, intense fire fights and many new weapons, such as dual wielding Sub Machine Guns and the Grenade Launcher, which is sure to put a huge smile on many gamers faces.
Warhead has also managed to improve upon the multiplayer aspect of Crysis substantially as well, with the introduction of Crysis Wars, which comes on a seperate disc. Several new maps have been added with Crysis Wars and one new game mode called Team Instant Action, which was mysteriously missing from the original game. With much more content and a more consistent online experience available, Warhead's multiplayer experience is certainly nothing to scoff at, and is great to log into once you've completed the somewhat short Campaign mode.
On a visual note, Warhead continues what Crysis did before it, and sets a benchmark for visual splendour. Warhead looks stunning. Everything has been improved from the original game, with lighting now gleaming even more beautifully, and textures even higher in resolution. Physics are incredibly well done as well, with realistic reactions and a feeling of weight to everything in the world. Buildings will crumble to explosions accordingly and will always make you stare in awe at the beauty of it all. As always with PC gaming though, visuals come at the cost of computing power, and Warhead, though demanding, is surprisingly very well optimised and runs better than the original. With a Quad Core, 4GB of RAM and GeForce 8800 GTX, we experienced little to no lag at a resolution of 1680x1050 with settings split between high and very high (named 'Gamer' and 'Enthusiast' in the game, respectively), which was very impressive considering the performance reduction from the previous game when being set to the approximate same settings. But even at lower settings, Warhead is a technical wonder, and Crytek are to be commended for not only setting such a high benchmark in visuals, but making Warhead so well optimised and able to be run competently on lower end machines.
Audio wise, Warhead sounds great, especially with surround sound. Sound effects such as explosions are crisp and have just the right bass, giving off a satisfying sound to an explosive battle, and ambience such as birds chirping in the jungle help in immersing you into the game's world. The directional audio works a treat as well, with bullets zipping by your ears with crystal clarity. It all sounds solid and complements the game's visuals well, and with heart pumping music also booming in the background, Warhead delivers an intense experience, constantly having you on your feet.
Warhead, much like the original Crysis, delivers a very intense and fast paced gameplay experience that constantly changes throughout the battlefield, with the changes being dictated by you. Your nanosuit allows you to do almost anything, and Crytek were wise to stick with the formula that made the original so good. That being said, Warhead is shorter and a bit more linear than the original, though it's far more action oriented than Crysis. The short length of the game is redeemed by the now much more functional multiplayer component however, and it's all at a budget price too. For fans of the original, Warhead is a must, with more weapons, thrills and action that caught your eye in the first place. For the price, Crysis Warhead is a highly recommended purchase, even if just for its unmatched looks.