|Platform(s): PC, 360 & PS3||Release: 21/02/2013|
It’s been twenty four years since Alcatraz saved New York, a defining moment that left the rest of the world assuming the Ceph had been defeated. It should have been a time of great celebration for the hero, but the festivities were quickly squandered by the discovery of a much larger Ceph network that spanned the entire world. It’s not entirely clear who or what he is anymore, but with Alcatraz being wholly absorbed into the suit, Prophet’s personality resurfaced to continue the fight.
Joined with Psycho and a team of Nanosuit soldiers, the group travelled all around the world in search of the “Alpha Ceph”. It was slowly proving to be a futile endeavour, with many of the squad members choosing abandon the hunt. However, after many months of searching, He and Psycho finally tracked the Alpha Ceph to Russia and planned to imprison it. Everything was going according to schedule until the corrupt C.E.L.L corporation chose to betray Prophet, taking the soldiers back to be skinned for the alien technology in their suits, and forcing the protagonist into stasis.
In the present day, C.E.L.L are pursuing the global domination of land and technology. They have already abused what remained of the Ceph to create an unlimited source of free energy, and now hold a monopoly on the world’s power supply. This advantage has been used to drive many into debt, with those who can not pay being moved to “Volunteer Camps”. Of course, this led to the uprising of a resistance group, and a team led by Psycho set out to recover Prophet and bring him into the fight.
There is no denying that the urban setting of the previous game was a significant departure from the lush jungles of the Lingshan Islands, but with C.E.L.L having erected a giant Nano-dome over New York to house the mysterious power source known only as “System X”, the city has slowly been transformed into an urban rainforest teeming with overgrown trees, dense swamplands and raging rivers. This time round we are instead introduced to the seven distinct “Wonders” of the New York Liberty Dome, and an entirely new design approach that comfortably sits somewhere inbetween the first two games.
Crysis 3 doesn’t quite recapture the “open world” experience of the original game, but it does take a much needed step back in that direction. However, whilst this hybrid approach is a significant improvement moving forward for the series, you can still expect to make your way from checkpoint to checkpoint, shooting lots of different things and pressing buttons along the way. It’s fantastic that Crytek looked back to what made the original game so enjoyable, but there isn’t actually a lot that has been done to evolve the way we play the game.
That’s not to say there aren’t any improvements or features that have been refined for this latest adventure. The upgrade system for the Nano-suit has received an overhaul, and you can still customise all your weapons on the fly. Though It might still be questionable how much innovation Crysis 3 actually brings to the genre, but that doesn’t overly detract from the game being well designed in other areas. The levels are all well thought out, and the addition of the stealth bow is certainly a compelling idea that encourages new gameplay styles. However, this is where we hit rather large speed bump.
Crysis 3 is simply not a difficult game, and it just doesn’t feel all that smart either. The AI can be borderline incompetent at times, and it doesn’t feel like the enemy actually go out of their way to pursue you when you’ve been spotted. The addition of the bow will certainly empower the player, but it never provides you with the rush that players would come to expect from a stealth experience, and can almost feel like a guilty pleasure at times. Unfortunately, It’s just too easy to exploit the AI using stealth and it’s disappointing when you discover an entire level can quickly be cleared this way.
That’s not to say every aspect of the game is hurt by this individual mechanic as there are many ways the player can engage the experience. Crysis has always provided players with intuitive and refined gameplay mechanics, and this latest addition is no exception. The implementation of the Nanosuit has always been hugely empowering, and it’s fantastic being able to map out the battle ground, experient with weapons on the fly and in this latest experience, hack machine gun turrets, disable mine fields and raid storage boxes.
It’s also worth noting the positively encouraging return of vehicles in Crysis 3, how ever minor their actual implementation may impact on the grand scheme of the game. However, it does become a problem when the game tries to take control away from the player, when it clearly appears as if you should be the one playing. A perfect example of this is the first time Prophet jumps into the cockpit of a ship, the player can clearly see the HUD, but you never get to move the guns or fire a single shot. It’s okay to take the cinematic route, but it should never feel like control is being taken away.
It should be apparent by now that our reception of the game is a little mixed, and whilst that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there is still one crucial “Elephant in the room” that needs to be addressed. The campaign length of Crysis 3 is unusually short, and even If you were to assume players are not abusing stealth to exploit the AI, most players can still only expect around 6 hours of gameplay. This clearly serves as a crucial step down from the previous games, and whilst It’s certainly relevant that the game offers a reasonable level of replayability, there’s no denying that the experienced feels rushed.
This is where the multiplayer component becomes a necessity as it becomes terribly difficult to recommend the game otherwise. It’s true that this aspect might not be relevant to all players, which means the length of the campaign could be a deal breaker for some, but it is also worth noting that this refined multiplayer experience is not just tacked on. It’s not necessarily anything you haven’t seen before, but it’s fun, well designed and offers additional modes such as “Hunter” that makes perfect use of the stealth/bow combination. This mode puts two stealth hunters against a larger group of C.E.L.L operatives, and as each player falls, they join the hunters and continue to take out the opposing side until every player falls, or the time runs out.
It’s no secret that a lot of players attend the Crysis party in great part due to the graphics, and Crysis 3 is truly a sight to behold. It’s certainly arguable that this is the best looking game to be released to date, and whilst there is no technical possibility for it to look as good on its console counter-parts, you’re still going to see some of the best graphics available on those systems. Overall, it’s visually well designed, and the “Seven Wonders” of the Nano-dome do well to explore many different environments.
The sound design has also been handled quite well in the sequel, with some surprisingly inspired musical score making their way into the mix. However, if you are playing the Xbox 360 version of Crysis 3 it should be noted that some players may encounter some serious bugs with the sound. During our review, we consistently experienced drops in the sound and even a scenario where certain effects were missing altogether. It wasn’t necessarily a game breaker, but certainly warrants urgent attention.
This particular narrative is a little more difficult to approach as it attempts to tell a much more personal story than it’s predecessors, but at the same time feels as if it’s entire purpose is to rush the player straight to the conclusion. The previous game kept players at arms length with Alcatraz, by instead focusing on the grand scale of the war and not his personal relationships with other people. However, Crysis 3 just expects that the player will care about these characters, and then bases the entire core of the narrative around this assumption.
It was a commendable attempt from Crytek to add new layers of depth to the Crysis experience, but it doesn’t quite work out the way they had hoped. In fact, players could almost be inclined to feel a little guilty for not reciprocating the emotion that the game is clearly trying to portray. However, this does not mean the narrative is entirely a failure. It’s short, and can prove to be a little generic at times, but it will still provide players with an epic and reasonably satisfying conclusion.
Crysis 3 is a competent shooter that looks positively fantastic, but it’s clearly not putting itself out there to reinvent the wheel. Sure it plays well and features some fantastic level design, but you’re still going to be running between checkpoints, shooting things and searching for the the button, lever or switch that will allow you to progress and repeat. The introduction of the bow is compelling, but the AI can too easily be exploited through stealth, and the short and personalised story doesn’t quite connect with players in a way the developers would have hoped for.
Playing Crysis 3 is almost comparable to going on a date with a beautiful woman. It’s exciting, she looks absolutely stunning, and together you ultimately have a good time. However, all she can do is talk about how fantastic her cats are, and it feels as if she expects you to care more than you actually do. It’s possible that some people might be inclined to go out with her again, but it’s more than likely you’ll walk away just remembering how fantastic she looked. If this all sounds incredibly shallow, don’t worry, it’s meant to. The game is undeniably fun, but without it’s looks it’s just another shooter that’s been made successful again by adding a few new tricks.