Having been a long-time Crysis fan, I was practically foaming at the mouth while watching the announcement trailer for the third installment to the franchise. The game not only looked visually stunning, but it also seemed as though Crytek had finally gotten into their groove as far as game mechanics went. I anxiously waited through the long months preceding the game’s release and made sure to acquire a copy as soon as possible. My anticipation was rewarded because after playing the game, I can state with absolute certainty that this is likely the best entry into the series.
The story of Crysis 3 is not very close to that of Crysis 2, but at this point I’ve come to expect that. Crytek, though they’ve tried to keep a coherent plot together, has largely failed in that endeavor. Despite this short-coming, each game has had a terrific stand-alone story. Crysis 3 is no exception. Once more you take on the role of Prophet, the last remaining Nanosuit soldier and the only one who can stop both the CELL Corporation’s plans and the resurgence of the alien Ceph. The single-player campaign is excellently paced and features many references to the previous games, especially the first. Though it’s short – I think I blew through it in nine hours – that’s not a bad thing. Rather, it shows that Crytek is willing to tell a story through the game without the need to incessantly pad out the gameplay through meaningless missions and enemy-filled areas.
Don’t take this to mean that Crytek neglected the gameplay though, as it remained fantastic. Many fans disliked the rigidity of Crysis 2’s environments and limited tactical options, and Crytek has listened and made missions that allow for numerous approaches, more room for vertical travel, and wide-open areas. These features keep you from getting stuck in what amounts to corridors full of enemies and adds to the replayability. Stealth and aggression are both viable tactics in the game, though it will require a mixture of the two to deal with both weakly-armored but numerous CELL forces and the vastly superior Ceph grunts. The Nanosuit’s capabilities have stayed largely the same from what they were in the second installment, with a few tweaks to the upgrading system that greatly improves upon its original iteration. Though only a handful of new weapons were introduced, they all are amazingly fun to play with. The Predator Bow in particular caught me by surprise. While I originally questioned the usefulness of a bow and arrow, its ability to be fired while cloaked, in addition to the explosive-tipped arrows, quelled any doubts I had. Crysis 3 also gives us the first opportunity to wield Ceph technology since the original Crysis, which is another callback that I greatly appreciate.
A hacking minigame has been added and gives the player incentives for holding up and taking their time when scanning an area. Turning off enemy mines with it is certainly worth using your scanner every once in a while, but there is nothing more satisfying than hacking a Ceph Pinger or Incinerator and watching it reduce its former comrades to shreds. Though in a few situations the minigame can be frustratingly difficult, especially when you’re trying to disable a turret while your cloak runs out, for the most part it’s employed well.
Missions themselves are also very entertaining. In particular is a piece where you find yourself alone in a field of tall grass being stalked by blade-armed Ceph soldiers while your motion-sensor is disabled. The sheer tension that Crytek is able to create through a scene like that speaks to their amazing ability to instill emotion in the player. This and other missions give Crysis 3 a campaign that doesn’t bog down and which keeps the player on their toes. The one beef I do have with it is the lack of any sort of boss battles scenes that the second game featured. Battling Pingers in Crysis 2 was an engaging and challenging experience, and their involvement in this game was noticeably lacking.
The visuals and graphics of the game are mind-blowing, as usual. Crytek has a history of making unconventional settings and this game is no exception. New York City, the setting of Crysis 3, has become a veritable jungle due to the CELL’s influence. The strange mix of plant life and human structures lends a unique aesthetic to the game that is mirrored nowhere else. This setup is done beautifully and lends itself to beautiful backdrops and uniquely interesting areas to explore. The small details really make the setting though, and I can’t count the number of times I got distracted from the mission to watch tiny frogs hop their way through the destroyed streets or to observe a field of tall grass swaying gently in the wind.
Vehicle sections return in Crysis 3, but unfortunately fall far short of their brilliance in the first game. We’re treated to a few segments of driving a CELL dune buggy around a battlefield and can man an ICV later in the game, but for the most part the controls are clunky and unresponsive, leading you to crash your ride more often than not. The sole flying segment is basically an on-rails shooting gallery, removing the player’s ability to control what they do and serving up targets to shoot at. Not only is this a far cry from the flight section in the original Crysis, each enemy gunship only sticks around for about two seconds before you’re punished for missing the shot. Without a doubt, it was the weakest section of the game – thankfully it was short.
Multiplayer was never one of the main reasons I bought Crysis for, but Crytek has finally gotten it right. Matchmaking and kit setup is fast and the game modes themselves are fresh experiences. Of especial note is the new Hunter mode, which pits a pair of Nanosuited soldiers against a larger group of ordinary CELL operatives. The tension of being stalked by invisible enemies greatly enhances the experience and there is no more nerve-wracking moment than hearing your whole team get picked off by invisible assassin. On the other hand, executing a well-timed kill on an unsuspecting CELL soldier, while playing as a hunter, is immensely rewarding and truly makes you feel powerful. Crysis 3’s multiplayer doesn’t come close to the popularity that Call of Duty or Halo has, but it certainly shows its merits.
Despite a few shortcomings, Crysis 3 remains an outstanding game and one of the best in an increasingly stagnant genre. Call of Duty had better be taking notes.
OVERALL RATING: A
Pros: Gorgeous visuals and audio, compelling, well-written story, excellent gameplay experience allowing for a myriad of tactics, interesting new weapons, vastly improved multiplayer experience.
Cons: Poor vehicle sections, few boss battles.