I’m probably in the minority, but I actually liked Crysis 2. It didn’t offer the sandbox freedom that the first game provided, but it was an entertaining battle through smaller, tighter and decidedly more linear levels. With Crysis 3, Crytek have sought to find a modicum of balance between the two philosophies – and they’ve largely succeeded.
The game’s main setting – a “Concrete Jungle,” post-apocalyptic New York overrun with lush foliage and fields of grass is testament to that – blending Crysis 2’s dull and dreary urban landscape with the tropical locale from the first game. Those hoping for a return to that jungle’s free-form shenanigans will be disappointed though, because it still largely plays out like Crysis 2, just with a little added depth and scope, and the occasional large open environment to remind you of the PC-melting glory days.
Crytek has never really been known for their storytelling abilities, but they’re really tried this time, presenting what’s probably the most cohesive and coherent narrative in the series. It’s still not in any way a particularly good story, but it’s told really well thanks to Prophet actually taking part in dialogue. It’s in the little things, like actually being able to see his feet, or his knees when he’s crouched – and the fact that you can see him gesticulate with his hands when he speaks to people that helps pull you in to the world and its hokey narrative, saddled with the encumbrances of games past. The incredible face and body motion capture and well performed voice-acting certainly helps.
It starts off with Crysis protagonist Prophet (despite blowing his own face off at the beginning of Crysis 2) being rescued from the stasis of captivity by former SAS operative Michael “Psycho” Sykes, hero from Crysis Warhead and member of a rebel group fighting against the evil CELL corporation. Cell has quarantined the destroyed city to harvest Ceph technology for their own diabolical means. Psycho, who’s had his own nanosuit forcibly removed has his own agenda; trying to track down who dunnit to ‘im, while Prophet himself, driven by visions he saw of a cataclysmic event is intent on finding the still dormant Alpha Ceph alien that lies somewhere in the heart of Manhattan. The interplay between Prophet and Psycho drives much of the narrative’s attempt at emotion.
On your way to doing just that, you’ll take out a number of nameless and faceless CELL operatives and later a barrage of Ceph through a series of interlinked, stitched together environments – but this is where the game really shines. You can choose how you want to approach battles, and the game adapts nicely to your play style. Go in guns blazing and the game is sure to throw more enemies your way. Stealth, this time around, is viable option thanks to the game’s new Predator bow, which unlike the myriad of other weapons, including a host of guns and alien weaponry, doesn’t remove Prophet’s cloaking. Not only is it viable, but stealth is probably the best way to play the game. Enhanced by the Nanosuit’s pervasive bad-assery, there’s a certain quantifiable feeling of empowerment in hunting down soldiers one by one; being the silent predator, collecting used arrows from their lifeless bodies and seeing the effects of paranoia take its toll on the increasingly jittery opposition.
The bow is a lot of fun to use, augmented by different arrow types that enable you to make things go boom with thermite arrows, stun robotics with electricity or shock anybody foolish enough to tread through water. It’s perhaps too effective, and though your quiver is limited in capacity numerous opportunities to restock means you can plough through the entirety of the campaign using little else. With the game’s less-than-stellar AI, the overpowered bow just makes things too easy, and I suggest ramping the difficulty up if you want anything resembling a challenge.
There’s a Nanosuit upgrade system of sorts, allowing you to spend upgrades to bolster certain abilities, like stealthy movement, energy usage and raw power, but it’s not something you’ll use too much. You’re allowed four upgrade slots from different disciplines but once you find upgrades that suit your style of play, there’s little reason to go and change them.
Where Crytek really excels is in pushing hardware to its limit, and Crysis 3 is certainly a benchmark in graphical fidelity. Though it’s obviously better on PC, even on consoles, it’s amazing what they’ve achieved. Crysis 3 is one of the very best looking games on the planet. Take your time through the campaign, admiring the sights and sounds and it’s hard not to be impressed. Environments are destructible, with trees collapsing from explosive fire, grass swaying in the wind and foliage flitting about as its riddled with incoming enemy fire. gorgeous water effects, painstakingly detailed character animations, near photo-realistic environments and global illumination show what CryEngine 3 has to offer.
Unfortunately, that visual fidelity, on consoles at least, is essentially nullified in the game’s multiplayer. Muddy textures in the multiplayer ruin the visual impact of the multiplayer, which has otherwise come in to its own. It’s not too much different from Crysis 2’s attempt to be a super-powered Call of Duty, but the progression system of unlockable perks, 50 attainable levels, armoury of guns and fun optional challenges make it a worthwhile distraction.
Though it offers the usual assortment of deathmatch and capture modes, the new signature Hunter mode is the most interesting and enjoyable. It pits two warriors in nanosuits against a squad of CELL soldiers armed with standard weapons. Cloaked Hunters are armed with the Predator Bow, with the task of wiping out said soldiers one by one from the darkness. The catch here being that dead operatives respawn as Hunters – and it becomes a game of survival with diminishing odds. The most surprising thing about Hunter mode is that it’s actually more fun to play as the soldier than the overpowered Hunter – with that pervasive fear that comes from never really knowing where your enemy is, or when they’re about to strike.
In trying to find a suitable middle-ground between the design philosophies of Crysis and Crysis 2, Crysis 3 falters somewhat in never matching the highlights of either of its predecessors. As its own beast, its a tightly-paced, eyeball-meltingly gorgeous shooter that remains fun for the entirety of its 7+ hour campaign. It’s a good game, but one lacking the narrative muscle or revolutionary gameplay to elevate it beyond.