Rewatching the iconic Crysis 2 'Ultra Upgrade' graphics trailer today in 2024, a bombastic tech showcase that changed how we talk about PC gaming forever

Crysis 2 hero character in Nanosuit
(Image credit: Crytek)

Today, in 2024, you don't have to look far for a new PC game to be found advertised almost entirely on the graphical benefits it delivers to PC gamers alone. From Cyberpunk 2077, a game repeatedly marketed on PC almost solely on its graphical prowess, through to AAA ports of big-budget console games, such as the recently released Horizon: Forbidden West Complete Edition, it's now unsurprising to see these games framed out of the gate in terms of what visual upgrades they offer when compared to their lesser console counterparts.

But it wasn't always thus. Yes, sure, since the early days of mainstream PC gaming in the 1990s it was common accepted knowledge within the PC gaming community that, of course, a primary reason we played games on PC was that you got the best experience. Why would you play a slow, limited console version of Doom when you could experience the lightning-fast real thing, with all the graphical bells and whistles turned to maximum? Exactly, you wouldn't.

But what didn't happen, at least in my recollection, were PC games being overtly advertised on the granular graphical advantages they delivered, promotions that seemed to quietly but confidently whisper in your ear, 'we secretly know that this is why you're going to buy this game, PC gamer, not for the gameplay, not for the narrative, not for the creativity on show, but for pixel-pushing eye candy'. That, as I argue here though, changed forever in 2011 with the 'Crysis 2 DirectX 11 Ultra Upgrade' trailer. You can watch it below.

First off, as a PC gamer, watching that trailer today in 2024 still gets my mouth watering. It's over two and a half minutes of almost non-stop graphical goodness, with so many desirable graphics features (for the time especially, but still true even now for many) injected into your eyes that it remains truly remarkable. Here's a list of the graphical upgrades Crysis 2 is advertised with in this trailer:

Tessellation and Displacement Mapping, Parallax Occlusion Mapping, High Quality HDR Post Processing, Improved Tone Mapping, Real-Time Local Reflections, Custom Shape Based Bokeh DOF, Improved Water Rendering, Interactive Water, Realistic Shadows with Variable Penumbra, Contact Shadows, High Quality HDR Motion Blur, Particle Motion Blur and Shadows. And breathe. Wow, just wow!

Speaking in pixels

The cumulative effect of viewing all this pixel candy at the time was truly jaw-dropping, a sense that this was a PC game from the distant future, one that with all these exclusive graphical enhancements turned on (something that of course required a strong rig at the time) would transport PC gamers into a higher-fidelity virtual gaming world.

And, while Crysis 2 wouldn't end up going down in history as one of PC gaming's most iconic-ever games, despite it being scored well by Evan Lahti in PC Gamer's official Crysis 2 review, it absolutely did deliver on going down as one of the most visually stunning PC games ever. Even today it looks superb, and I'm writing this 13 years after the game launched. Crytek worked visual wonders with Crysis 2, as it had done in the original Crysis, which had remained the graphical testbench for PC gamers all the way up to Crysis 2's release.

Of greater importance to the industry, though, I argue that this trailer would go down in gaming history as a game-changer for how it influenced how PC games were promoted. For the first time ever (certainly, to my experience, and at such a high, AAA level) here we had a newly launched blockbuster game getting its own dedicated graphics trailer for public release. And, what's more, this graphics trailer didn't just say things like 'higher resolution' or 'faster frame rate', but completely openly bandied around technical graphics jargon for over two and half minutes that, even within the PC gaming community at the time, not very many PC gamers were familiar with, let alone comfortable in accurately describing. But while they may not understand what these things were or how they worked, this trailer showed them the benefits, and boy did they look like stuff you wanted.

PC gamers were now having their saliva glands targeted by phrases like 'Custom Shape Based Bokeh DOF' and 'Parallax Occlusion Mapping'. The language of mainstream PC gaming was suddenly widened, and it was being shown front and center, too, not restricted to technical manuals, online dev blog posts, or press briefings to specialist media. This graphically impressive FPS was being advertised in a different way, one that I feel would go on to influence how games that would come after it would be advertised on PC to PC gamers, too.

You only have to look at how Cyberpunk 2077, the technical testbed darling of the PC gaming world over the past few years, has advertised itself to PC gamers since its release, repeatedly, on its advanced graphical options and capabilities, educating gamers rapidly on the benefits of real-time ray tracing, DLSS, path tracing, DLAA, screen space reflections, subsurface scattering among other graphics options, to see the unbroken lineage. Shame that Cyberpunk 2077, at least until its game-changing 2.0 patch, wasn't that good an actual game. But that's beside the point.

Interestingly, Crysis as a series has, I think, been sidelined in importance in the modern day from the history of PC gaming, most likely remembered via good but not great review scores predominantly, while the fact it was a momentum-generating poster child for PC gaming development and hardware adoption for years largely forgotten. However, its impact on PC gaming, with a trilogy of technically jaw-dropping and boundary-pushing releases as well as, arguably even more importantly, an openness in talking about a key reason why we all play games on PC, that desire to attain the very highest audio-visual quality we can, cannot be understated and endures to this day.

Print Editor

Rob is editor of PC Gamer magazine and has been PC gaming since the early 1990s, an experience that has left him with a life-long passion for first person shooters, isometric RPGs and point and click adventures. Professionally Rob has written about games, gaming hardware and consumer technology for almost twenty years, and before joining the PC Gamer team was deputy editor of, where he oversaw the website's gaming and tech content as well its news and ecommerce teams. You can also find Rob's words in a series of other gaming magazines and books such as Future Publishing's own Retro Gamer magazine and numerous titles from Bitmap Books. In addition, he is the author of Super Red Green Blue, a semi-autobiographical novel about games and gaming culture. Recreationally, Rob loves motorbikes, skiing and snowboarding, as well as team sports such as football and cricket.