Assess your environment and devise your plan of action. Do you go all guns blazing, or do you meticulously circumvent imminent danger and pick off your unsuspecting foes one at a time? This is what separates the Crysis franchise from other shooters within the genre. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride for the series, but in general it has been successful. Crysis 3 hopes to continue this trend, but is it worth getting ‘psyched’ up over?
The player assumes the role of Prophet in 2047, 24 years after the events of crisis 2. He returns to New York only to discover that the corrupt CELL Corporation have enveloped the city in Nanodomes, which were promised to protect New York residents from the dangers of the Ceph who are preparing to invade Earth. In reality, Cell has developed the structure to occupy lebensraum and Ceph technology for themselves in a quest for global domination. What’s left of New York is an overgrown relic void of civilization. Heavily inspired by the likes of I am Legend, New York is bleak, forlorn and dangerous.
The plot is rather generic and offers little by way of surprise or intrigue, but Crysis 3 attempts to tell a complex and philosophical tale about choice: a liberty that separates men from machines. With Prophet slowly becoming more assimilated with the Ceph technology embedded in his nanosuit, those around him question his position and humanity. However the opportunity to create a compelling narrative totally vanishes due to disappointingly superficial characterization. Much like Crysis 2, characters are shallow, one dimensional and forgettable with the exception of Michael ‘Psycho’ Sykes, though his alpha male bravado and liberal use of profanity offer little reason to care about him or the predicament he finds himself in, even when he is at his most ‘vulnerable’.
Psycho in particular is a missed opportunity, so much so that it would have been far more interesting to play as Psycho: an exposed individual amidst a world of alien technology, corruption and subsistence. Obviously this goes against staple Crysis convention of empowerment via the nanosuit, but looking at games such as The Last of Us reinforces personally that isolation and susceptibility in a hostile environment are far more interesting concepts than being a ‘bad-ass’ with the ability to dispose of all at your fingertips.
Accompanying the limited narrative is a severely truncated single player experience. At 5 hours it is by far the shortest campaign of any full Crysis game, with the expansion Crysis Warhead even giving Crysis 3 a run for its money in terms of longevity. It’s disappointing and borderline offensive to people who are going to pay full price for the game with little interest in multiplayer offerings. This opens up the debate of whether to separate and sell separately multiplayer and single player elements of games, but that dispute is for another day.
With such a short campaign, Crysis 3 surely has to deliver on the proverbial quality over quantity, and most respects it does. The gunplay is as tight as ever, with the introduction of alien weaponry adding a great deal of variety to the arsenal at your disposal. Environments are a symbiosis of the previous two games, providing a decent amount of strategy in mostly open areas that are equal parts vertical and horizontal. Some corridor shoot-out sections still surface from Crysis 2 and the environments in general are much smaller than the vast panoramic landscapes the original Crysis presented. It’s a ‘best of both worlds’ offering that will appease some but also still find others wanting more. In general however, Crysis 3 has been emancipated from the shackles of Crysis 2’s confines which, and for that it is a better gameplay experience.
Some of the best moments Crysis 3 offers are those when you lurk beneath the undergrowth picking off Cell forces one by one. You feel like a genuine predator hunting its prey, as the anxiety and panic among the Cell operatives increasing with every member falling victim to your nefarious ways. But Crysis 3 also brilliantly introduces the dynamic of being stalked by the Ceph. Surreptitious traversal of the environment constantly fluctuates from being the hunter to being hunted, opening up a great deal of strategy in terms of when to engage and when to avoid confrontation. If you are brave enough to explore the larger environments you can often find perks which augment the abilities provided to you via the nanosuit. It isn’t necessary to progress through the game but enhancing your capabilities means the world becomes an even more interesting playground to lose yourself in.
If there is a criticism in the gameplay, it is that Crysis 3 encourages stealth a bit too frequently. This isn’t an issue for someone who naturally plays games with stealth in mind, but it is worth mentioning that the first Crysis in particular was adept in providing a near perfect balance in both run-and-gun and stealth gameplay styles. Because of the focus on covertness, run-and-gun is less confident and ultimately less rewarding, but by no means is it poor. Play Crysis 3 as an all all-out assault on those who stand before you and you are still lavished with some of the most fine-tuned and satisfying first person shooting on the market.
Your appreciation for bow itself – now the focal point of combat – will depend on the difficulty you play the game at. At its default ‘normal’ setting, the bow is simply overpowered. Most people will become too reliant on the bow given that it has no impact on your power drainage during stealth mode and nearly every enemy can be killed with one shot. By increasing the difficulty a notch or two, the bow becomes a much more balanced weapon where only the minor enemies are most vulnerable and larger foes require stronger artillery. For those who play many games and in particular shooters, it is recommended to play through the game one notch above the default difficulty to find the best equilibrium between challenge and empowerment.
The multiplayer is, much like the rest of the game, a mixed bag. The new Hunter mode is by far the greatest addition, even if it is long overdue. The game begins with 2 cloaked hunters in nanosuits, armed with only a bow, hunting down a squadron of CELL troopers. As each player is disposed of, they respawn as hunters until it’s down to one solitary isolated CELL operative who must survive until the timer depletes. This creates some truly tense moments that is seldom in usually frag-tastic multiplayer encounters.
The more traditional modes such as Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and King of the Hill follow the conventional tropes of modern shooters. The past is constantly frantic and while the nanosuit mixes things up ever so slightly, you’re essentially playing the same generic multiplayer that so many other games offer. The upgrading and perk systems are unapologetically extracted from the Call of Duty Bible of multiplayer ‘success’ which is a touch disappointing, even if they are well-balanced. Thankfully though the dozen maps on offer good variety and rarely grow stale regardless of the mode being played.
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