Written By: Jamaal Ryan
Crysis 2 may have came out too early in 2011 to receive the full attention it deserved. It was a shooter riddled with a platter of choices having each treat bend to your play-style; one with a cosmetic as well as an interactive scope proving to be an altogether impressive feat. Crysis 2 ultimately brought the sandbox and corridor design into one unique package. Now, even if we were to take out awaited franchise releases (GTA V, Battlefield 4, what have you), and the more painfully awaited jump start of a new generation, Crysis 3 still won't be remembered by a significant measure by the end of 2013. Even with the franchise's unquestionable DNA, it’s a great game that falls just short of its predecessor’s achievement.
An outsider to his own beautiful planet.
Prophet is one of the first few Black leads in a major franchise, and Crytek's writers portray his presence tastefully. Crysis never draws attention to his ethnicity; instead they position him as a character with a dramatic motivation. This appropriate focus serves the alien threat of the Ceph trying to punch a clean hole through the Earth. It may have been easier to pull in a Black lead without sacrificing relatability as Crysis has preserved its space-marine quality with players either looking through the eyes of Prophet, or looking at the visor's cold red sheen cutting across the organic helmet of the Nanosuit.
Crysis 3 is a technical showcase of Cry Engine 3 if nothing else; one that makes an admirable attempt to stitch its components together in a cohesive story. But the narrative never really quite grips you. An impending threat of extraterrestrial forces, a neatly hidden yet predictable plot twist with no real purpose, and a foreign biological inner transformation are all loosely connected by the always unnecessary military and scientific blabbering. The only compelling piece here is the Australian accented Psycho, a once Nano donner stripped of his armor who is now forced to tough out his human vulnerability in the face of the Ceph plight.
--Hello there mate--
But it’s the sense of one-of-a-kind isolation that is effectively present. Psycho and other surviving humans inflict constant reminders of Prophet's abominable fusion with the Nanosuit. Your bizarre nature is even exemplified by Crysis 3’s following of the old Half Life directory of "You go on ahead while I do this", as you are the only one capable of doing said tasks. This alienation is personified by the piano centered soundtrack which strikes a chilling lone wolf sensibility.
But where Crysis consistently loses in its story, it always makes up for in its graphics; pretty, pretty graphics. Crysis 3's technical prowess isn't much better than Crysis 2. But that's like saying my girlfriend isn't much sexier than Beyonce' (don't judge my taste in women; I like 'em simple). What Crytek does push their engine to do is vitalize a different environment from the dilapidated yet familiar city. Manhattan is an unrecognizable erupted jungle, with heavy trees and striking towering fields of grass, torn down buildings giving way for the sun to showcase its full light-show, and rattling particle effects that'll send a chill down your spine. Its impeccable fidelity works wonders right down to skin spots and texture rendering on facial artistry. Once again, Cry Engine dictates what can be achieved on any platform, console or PC.
Do you choose your own path?
Crysis 3 tries to be a lot of things, but we get the most out of its obsession of the Predator Bow that adds a new layer to the game’s multi-dimensional system. However, it ends up being a consistent and un-evolving layer. The bow’s shtick is its immense power from a single draw at no expense of the suit's energy. Engaging cloaked while watching humans and Ceth crumble from the impact of an arrow never loses satisfaction. However the use of the bow never develops as all of its characteristics -- the different draw weight options and arrow types -- are all available from the beginning.
The situational use of its different capabilities aren’t introduced either. Higher powered shots pierce tougher exteriors but are slow to draw, Thermite tipped arrows are effective against heavily armored foes whereas Electro bolts conduct a lethal charge in water, both have limited capacities and are non-recoverable. Sure, this is ballistic tactics 101, but to gain proper knowledge, you’ll have to do your own in-game research.
The Predator Bow gives Crysis 3 an excuse in trying very hard to be a stealth game next to its alternate loud bullet works. But the systems never fully realize its imagination above allowing you to expand beyond positioning and re-positioning yourself with the bow string drawn.
--Now you see me--
--Now you don't--
This is also partly at fault by the fact that the game doesn't quite allow you to assassinate at your own pace, as impaled arrows will disappear over time. This is a single simple omission, yet it inflicts a heavier impact on the incentive to engage quietly. It forces you to embed Prophet into the thick of the patrolling Cell operatives and Ceph gunmen in order to recover discharged arrows quicker instead of holding a comfortable distance, picking off enemies one after the other.
There’s a drawback that exists in remaining silent and hidden as well. Though we know that topographical information has been in the crux of Crysis's gameplay -- allowing you to analyze the battlefield by marking the locations of enemies and equipment – you may still find yourself stumbling upon patrolling squads with little warning. Enemies spawn spontaneously, even within the same location you’re nestled in and likely the same area you may have scanned with your visor. This wouldn’t matter so much if I can hear them coming. Games that facilitate a stealth approach use sound as a critical means humanized echolocation. But the presence of enemy forces isn’t always communicated to you, making you approach with unnecessary caution; perhaps having an always active Tactical Visor.
--Oops, didn't see you there.—
The franchise has an infamous history in making unintentional funnies with its demonstrably broken AI, however Crysis 3 has shown a significant improvement this time around. Human soldiers aren't quite as mentally handicapped as they were in Crysis 2, but they're still impaired. Without reason, they might instantly discover your exact position if you follow too close behind them (even crouched), and every now and again, you may find them running laps for no reason. In other aspects, they’re so stupid they’re smart, as they’ll attack your last known position if you relocate after going dark. Four titles in, and this game of cat and mouse never gets old.
The same can be said for the Ceph, though the incentive to kill them off one by one is now no different from humans. In Crysis 2, the alien species were valuable targets because of their possession of Nanocatalysts. Now the accumulation of them – now called Nano Modules -- has been shifted to be strictly obtained as environmental collectables, which as expected, is a lot less fun. The system is also less intuitive with a slots-formatted catalog that allows you to have four active abilities on at once, and requires completed challenges to earn a full upgrade, both in which are never communicated properly to the player.
But ultimately, Crysis 3 seems to exist in two extremes: stealth led by the Predator Bow and conventional FPS assault. As said before, it obsesses itself with stealth, building the environment around you with the figurative "Use the bow" writing on the wall. Much of the level design skews heavily on eliminating your enemies silently, erecting crumbled buildings and shoulder tall structures that Prophet can stay safely hidden behind while he recharges his stealth energy. Going loud is effective, but there aren't many cases where you can position yourself to shoot at a decent range.
Assault stands firmly on the opposite end of the spectrum in a very rudimentary way. These levels invite a more direct approach by flattening the layout and opening it up, leaving much less room for cover, and more open space for direct confrontations. The verticality and dynamism of Crysis 2 is missing, which found a precise balance between covert and offensive tactics. The juggle lies in the separate characterized quantity (that'd being: here are a bunch of stealth levels with an occasional assault arena) in which individual stages are delivered, not necessarily the quality of the level design.
There are added layers of brilliance here. Hacking respectively allows you to convert traps and turrets in your favor and can even temporarily stun certain enemies. In addition, energy containers supercharge the suit with a temporary unlimited supply. This coupled with some of the one-time-use of the devastating Ceph arsenal allow for brief moments of pure rampage, clobbering humans and sometimes turning the alien resistance into a purple splattered mess. Crysis 3's final moments are the antithesis of the entire experience and culmination of its best moments, granting you with amplified options in a magnified Halo'esk environment. It is extremely empowering, allowing you to wield a full demonstration of the suit's abilities.
--All your weapon belong to us—
Surprisingly enough, Nanosuit on Nanosuit action better accomplishes what Crysis 3 set out to do: properly offer desolate playgrounds that facilitate assault and assassinating maneuvers. Maps take center stage here, fitting the play styles better than what was seen in Crysis 2 thanks to their sheer size. Multiplayer this time around has normalized some of its predecessor’s larger levels, and 3 does a better job accommodating the suit’s speed and agility. You’ll see teammates and opponents sprinting, leaping and ledge grabbing with freakish athleticism, and attacking along the axis of verticality and wide open space similar to what is seen in Halo 4’s War Games. Opportunities lie in the details as well, with plenty of hiding spots and tight corners to sneak around. It all supports a proper balance of flanking while cloaked and blasting enemies with maximum armor. Crysis 3 has built some of the best multiplayer maps seen in console shooters.
The game’s gaudy proxy of Call of Duty’s formula (particularly the Modern Warfare titles) still exists. Grinding the use of Nano Modules and weapons for unlockable options requires a lengthy time investment. Kill rewards are still cleverly implemented as well. Those not fond of C.O.D.’s barrage of Score/Killstreaks may be attracted to the cumulative reward’s more delicate presence in Crysis. The requirement of collecting dog tags of fallen foes to earn bonuses and the pre-selected load-out to each map ensures the unlikeness of abusing mid game rewards. In addition, Ceph weapons and heavy projectiles lay available, some maps feature a circling gunship free for anyone to take advantage of, and others will randomly drop a mech for a tide-turning advantage. There are enough little additions to make the moment to moment action more than play worthy.
--Let’s go hunt us some C.E.L.L.L.L.L.L.L.—
Every shooter must have their own signature match type; they’re even better if they highlight the idiosyncrasies of the game’s theme. That mode here is Hunter. It takes the infected game type of other shooters and makes it its own. Two take the role of the Nanosuit predators, equipped with Predator Bows and enabled with permanent cloak. Their job is simple, hunt down and convert the 10 other Cell human players to their side through kills. This is the best showcasing of the featured bow, as it’s even more rewarding killing an opponent who’s human rather than predictable AI. As the Cell, these matches are terrifying, watching your dwindling numbers with hardly any sight of the hunting players. More work is required here, as anything less than teamwork will end in complete conversion. Hunter is a very entertaining addition to Crysis 3 like Kill Confirmed was to Modern Warfare 3.
Crysis 3 is a weaker game than its predecessor if not a strong shooter thanks to its more either-or rather than an as-you-please design. It misses the mark with its overly aggressive pimpage of the Predator Bow. Crysis 3 inadvertently makes avuncular "It would be better if you do it this" gestures instead of being that fully autonomous facilitating parent, allowing you to gallivant freely as you please. This is a shame, because we’ve seen Crytek do much better. Thankfully, the multiplayer is significantly better this time around, polishing and expanding what Crysis 2 began. If the campaign were just as good as the last installment, Crysis 3 would be one of the best shooters this generation.
+ Visuals will make your eyes bleed
+ Predator Bow always elicits satisfying kills
+ Much improved and worthy multiplayer
- Noticeably less freedom in Campaign level design
- Lackluster introduction of the Predator Bow