I am stupidly, inexplicably smitten with Crysis 3. I can’t explain it. It’s…it’s fantastic. In fact, I should also mention that I never played Crysis, and couldn’t stand Crysis 2. I literally played Crysis 2 for all of 40 minutes, before I put the controller down and stuck my head into a sink of iced water. No lie.
Crysis 2′s HUD was so cluttered with minute details, that I literally couldn’t play for more than 15 minutes without getting eyestrain…and annoyed. You see, like eating delicious cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner, there is such a thing as “too much good stuff”, and Crysis 2 would give you each of its possible options in glaring, bright detail. Don’t make a “sandbox” FPS, then hold my hand throughout the level by illuminating every possible waypoint. If anything, you’ll just make me anxious and annoyed. AND THAT’S EXACTLY HOW THAT SHIT WENT DOWN!
So, you have to understand my abject bewilderment when I found myself really, really liking Crysis 3. I mean, just look at your character, “Prophet”. It felt like being dragged to a Uwe Boll film, only to realize someone switched out the reels at the last minute, and showed everyone Pulp Fiction instead. Like Pulp Fiction, Crysis 3 has a fantastic cast, excellent visuals, top-notch writing…and even genuine emotional moments. Those moments are doubly surprising to me, since I had zero emotional investment in Crysis, Crysis 2 or any of the characters. Plus, just look at how stupid your “hero” looks: it looks like a Comic-Con fanatic hot glued pool noodles to a wetsuit, slapped on a pair of butterfly Oakleys from the 90s and pulled on his aunt’s old silver bikini bottom. His voice is just as heavy handed as his looks–he sounds like the Allstate guy (AKA Dennis Haysbert) auditioning to be in the remake of “Dead Presidents”.
Thankfully, the rest of the characters, while oversimplified, make up for Prophet’s wooden, trite delivery. You have Psycho, the brash Brit with a heart of gold; Claire, the tough but tortured commander of the resistance; Karl, the creepy German nanosuit designer; and a whole cadre of overly verbose enemies and NPCs. In fact, as excellent a game as I think Crysis 3 is, I can’t help but think of Prophet’s dialogue to be that of a drunk uncle at a family gathering…or a male porn star: you don’t care what either have to say, and you can go through the entire experience confident that nothing they say is of any real merit, anyway.
In addition to the stellar voice cast, the “urban jungle” of NYC is likewise amazing. Now, you all have seen what the CryEngine is capable of, and if you haven’t, check out our review of Far Cry 3. Crysis 3 somehow manages to ratchet up the detail without sacrificing frame-rate (much). You’ll marvel (and cringe) at the Ceph attack in tall grass that are reminiscent of velociraptor attacks in Jurassic Park. You’ll gawk at the ivy-trellised vistas of crumbling skyscrapers, and flinch when you fall too deeply into dark water. The environmental details are striking: realistic water ripples and flame effects blend seamlessly with crumbling concrete floors, while weeds and hanging moss sway realistically with your movements.
But that’s not all. Lens flares, ambient movements and background action all make Crysis 3 feel like a world you’re interacting with…not a game you’re playing. The enemy AI is tight (relatively), and will react realistically to your attacks. They’re also the most “free” with their use of explosives: if you’re playing on anything other than “Easy”, you’ll often find yourself dodging between one and three (!?!) grenades if you keep firing from cover. It adds an extra dimension to combat, and makes stealth activities all the more challenging.
Thankfully, the HUD is minimal, but if you decide that you want to highlight every enemy, turret, weapon cache, intel drop or upgrade location, you can do so by surveying the area with your visor. Since I always tried to approach each skirmish from a stealth perspective, I’d usually highlight every enemy to better track their movement. From there, I’d scope out the immediate area, looking for areas where I could recharge my suit. See, to maximize your cloak effect, you have to move crouched–walking, running or jumping will quickly sap the suit’s energy, resulting in several “hide breaks” to recharge. If orchestrated correctly, you can take out enemies on the perimeter and work your way inward, to the level’s objective.
Of course, that’s how it works in theory. In reality, enemy soldiers will deviate from their paths and stumble across bodies, and if you don’t immediately kill the startled enemy, they’ll raise the alarm and start searching for you. Luckily, in addition to the visor, you have a wealth of choices available to you, including the new compound bow.
Yes, the bow, while seeming out of place, is one of the perfect additions to the Crysis arsenal. In addition to it’s silent delivery, you can also outfit it with customized heads. See a bunch of enemies slogging through the water? Why not switch to an electrical bolt to take out three of ‘em at once, through the marvel of electrical conduction. Want to go the Darryl route? No problem! You can stalk enemies and re-use the same bolt (standard only), provided that you mark where the bolt went. Plus, if you mess up and have a horde of enemies closing in on you, you can always turn on your cloak ability and try to pick ‘em off as they search for you!
What if you get into a situation that the compound bow can’t get you out of? Well, like Crysis and Crysis 2, there’s no shortage of guns scattered throughout each level, either in the form of an unattended weapons crate, or stolen from a fallen enemy. But unlike its predecessors, Crysis 3 has an all-new feature which can dramatically increase your chances of survival: the ability to modify your weapons on the fly!
Say, for example, you intended to take out each enemy in the level via silenced sniper rifle or bow, when suddenly, you miscalculate a shot and a swarm of baddies is heading in your direction. Ordinarily, you’d have to switch to your auxiliary weapon and hope for the best (or cloak and hide), right? By holding down the BACK button, you have the ability to respec your weapon with a couple minor button presses. Swap out a silencer for a kick reducer, scale down from a sniper scope to a laser dot and switch from single-shot to semi-auto, and presto! Instant close-quarters weapon. Plus, you can modify the ammo of certain weapons, to work better in your environment (IE electro-bolts). Granted, not all weapons are customizable, but almost all of the “standard” ones are.
Multiplayer is another place where Crysis 3 excels. With every action game, developers seemingly tack-on online content, in an effort to stretch out a shallow experience…and cash in on DLC months after release. Of course, this results in a wholly underwhelming experience, and you’ll sell/shelve the title and never look back. Sure, Crysis 3 has the tried-and-true Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch option, as well as Capture The Relay and Spears, a King of the Hill clone. It also brings new modes to the table, such as the data-download themed Assault, the “collect-everything-before-you-die” anxiety exercise called Extraction, and the most fun of all: Hunter.
Hunter pits two Nanosuit-clad teammates against a squad of Cell operatives, each with a balanced loadout. The “Hunters” get armor and cloak abilities, the compound bow and a pistol, whereas the Cell operatives get an array of weaponry, a motion tracker and a device that pings loudly when a Hunter is nearby. The warning “clang clang CLANG CLANGCLANGCLANG” will have you white-knuckling your controller, and leaping like a gazelle when you get popped. Upon respawn, killed Cell agents are moved to the “Hunter” team, where you get to stalk your former teammates. It reminds me of Manhunt, the massive hide-and-go-seek game that we played as kids.
In addition to the potpurri mode of randomized maps and objectives, there’s also the “Developer’s Choice” mode, which has you playing with a specific set of rules set forth by Crysis 3 developers…and bonuses and objectives that switch up every week.
Oh and it’s also worth mentioning: many of the gorgeous multiplayer maps (and they are gorgeous) feature AI gunships that circle the map. When one gets close, try to leap into its open bay: you’ll find two sets of turrets that can be ripped from their moorings!
All in all, Crysis 3 is a stunning achievement: it manages to marry stunning graphics with a well intentioned (albeit, hokey) attempt to re-write the sci-fi genre. The voicework (aside from Prophet) is top-notch, and really drives the emotional aspect of the story. Furthermore, the lush, crumbling vistas are replicated beautifully in multiplayer, bucking the “dumbed down visuals” curse that so many FPS titles have.
In short: this will likely go down as one of 2013′s most under-appreciated, slick titles. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Crysis mythos, fear not: it’s a solid FPS title with a wealth of unlockables to be earned in multiplayer. Do yourself a favor and check it out.