But will it run Crysis Warhead?
For the last year, Electronic Arts' PC game Crysis has been the butt of innumerable jokes on Internet message boards. It's not because the first-person shooter is bad — on the contrary, reviews from 56 websites and magazines average a 91% rating, according to MetaCritic. No, Crysis was met with endless criticism because many people simply couldn't play it. Their computers weren't powerful enough.
You couldn't go a few clicks on most technology-related Web forums without seeing the ubiquitous phrase "But will it run Crysis?" The phenomenon started with a number of users asking, "Will my computer run Crysis?" and followed by a list of technical specs.
Then the innocent question hit meme-hood, being applied to every new computer or gadget in the news. The MacBook Air, a $100 laptop for third-world countries, the iPhone, an alarm clock -- "But will they run Crysis?"
When the game hit stores last November, its technology was well beyond most PC games on the market — and the capability of many computers in gamers' homes at the time. "Let's say it was kind of ambitious back in the day," said Bernd Diemer, the game's producer at developer Crytek. "We're the early adopters of a lot of new technology."
"Ambitious" is putting it lightly. Even today, only roughly a quarter of the desktop and notebook computers sold by Dell, the second-largest PC distributor, meet the game's minimum system requirements.
In most of Dell's default PC configurations, it's the graphics cards or processors that aren't up to Crysis standards — the game calls for a 256-megabyte graphics card and at least 2.8 gigahertz for Windows XP or 3.2 gigahertz for Vista. Because few consumers are looking for gaming-centric rigs, computer manufacturers don't usually design with hardware-intensive, science-fiction action games in mind.
But many computers are just an upgrade or two away from playing the coveted game. For its debut last year, some — including the game's own developers — "took it as an opportunity to upgrade," Diemer said. "That's the way I do my own upgrades at home. I look at a game I really want to play and buy what I need to play it."
Now, as EA prepares to release the stand-alone expansion Crysis Warhead next Tuesday, gamers are faced with the same dilemma and the same set of system requirements. "We tried to make Crysis future-proof," Diemer said. "What we did this time [with the expansion] was focus a lot more on the middle range. That was our target group."
For Warhead, Crytek staffers built a $650 computer they kept in the middle of their office. They would periodically use it to test the game to make sure it still worked well on more modest machines.
Diemer says the last 10 months should have been enough time for gamers to get their computers up to speed. But if your rig still isn't up to snuff, UltraPC sells a $700 Crysis Warhead PC, based on counsel from Crytek and graphics card manufacturer Nvidia.
And I think it's a pretty safe bet that it will, indeed, run Crysis.
-- Mark Milian
Crysis Warhead images from Electronic Arts