Beautiful, challenging, innovative, immersive, fun, and intricate - and also very similar to the original Crysis in almost every single way - Crysis Warhead is a rare classic for those who missed the original, but just more of the same for those who didn't. If anything, considering that this is in fact a standalone game, it's probably better than the original - if it weren't for the fact that the original already exists. Warhead has pretty much the best graphics ever seen in any game on any system, ever, and accompanies this with massive production values which are obvious from the extremely high quality of music, sound, voice acting, storyline, and the general intricacy of the game.
You play as Sergeant Sykes, the gung-ho bad mouthed cockney affectionately known as "Psycho". He was featured heavily in the original Crysis as an NPC, often disappearing ominously; a trait well reflected in his character - this is a man who will tear up the rule book to save a comrade. Unlike Nomad, the generic-mysterious protagonist from the original, Psycho has some deeply imbedded character traits which make him, overall, a more interesting person. Crysis Warhead fills in gaps from the original story as you now get to experience Psycho's mysterious wanderings in first-person cinema.
This is a somewhat paradoxical problem for the game. If you have played the original, then Crysis Warhead does almost nothing new; if you haven't played the original, then the "gaps" in the storyline aren't relevant to you anyway. Luckily the storyline is fine in its own right, and doesn't really require any prior knowledge; additionally, kudos to the developers for making this a standalone game because overall its value is definitely more to someone who hasn't played the original title.
Gameplay is a mix of gorgeously rendered open beach and cliff environments, and detailed cramped jungle crawls. Players make use of the functions via a Nano suit to gain the edge over large numbers of enemy forces. The suit functions include an increased strength mode, increased speed, extra defence, or a cloak; each one of these functions consumes energy which recharges when they are not in use. Enemies can be thus out-done ether by stealth hit-and-hide kills, by sneaking through without the use of force at all, or by slamming the suit in defence mode and going in head-first and blasting away with the arsenal of weapons available to you throughout the game.
The weapons include a standard range of assault rifles, SMGs and pistols; as well as some heavy machinery such as a rocket launcher and a grenade launcher. Also, vehicles can be fully utilised. These include turreted "soft top" jeeps, tanks, APCs, and large personnel trucks. At the push of a button Psycho can swap between the driver's seat and the gunner's seat, allowing players to utilise certain vehicles as a kind of mobile turret.
The game sends you on a number of missions and side-missions battling both the Korean forces, and the aliens encountered in the first game. Throughout this play the game employs a number of breach-and-find style penetration missions and action packed orchestrated set-pieces. Most situations have several carefully placed tactical options which allow the player to choose their desired solution from stealth, speed, brute-force, or a combination.
Enemy artificial intelligence is acceptably good, but it's nothing we haven't seen since the original Halo or Half-life; team tactics, flanking, and all that jazz. In the easier difficulties the enemies speak English which allows the player to listen for cues as to their movements and status.
The graphics are at the cutting edge of gaming technology; detailed smooth environments, and photo realistic character models which twist and move in an unparalleled, realistic fashion. The water effects are pristine and the jungle foliage is completely unrivalled in detail and general ambiance. In terms of processing power required, Warhead is more forgiving than its predecessor; with the range of graphical options being available spanning a much greater field of accessibility. However, to be brutally honest, the lower settings make Crysis look worse than any mainstream FPS produced in the last 3 years.
One of the major flaws of the game is that it is horribly short. A well seasoned FPS player can scream through the main storyline in around 5 hours, and although the various set-pieces in the game can be approached from a variety of different ways there really isn't too much replay value in the game other than ramping up the difficulty. The inclusion of Crysis Wars, a hastily knocked together multiplayer selection of deathmatch maps and team games may help to ease this constraint, but not by much. Most of all though, Crysis Warfare has really changed very little from the original game. The graphics are not noticeably different, the game plays almost identically, and there are only a handful of new in-game features.
In its favour Crysis Warhead has the best graphics engine money can currently buy, and at a budget price. It also has a compelling storyline, an interesting character, and is a real treat for those who never played the original. The high value production shines through - the voice acting is on par with a Hollywood movie, and the script is sufficiently well-written. Crysis Warhead is a possible buy for those who are veterans of the original, and a must buy for those who aren't.