Crysis 3 RRP: $89
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Crysis has never really been about the story. After three games in the series, it's become increasingly clear that the reason to play these games is for the computer-melting graphics and the feeling of being a walking tank. A big title like this usually requires some form of plot to tie together the increasingly outlandish situations you find yourself in. Not so in Crysis 3. The first two paragraphs of the Wikipedia plot summary, which bridges the 20-year gap between the second game and the third, is only briefly mentioned in passing. It's mildly confusing at first, but the plot moves at a breakneck pace anyway and you're soon whisked up in the action. The story just isn't centre stage and that's OK considering just how much fun it is to play.
You are Prophet, the nano-suit-wearing badass who was squad leader in the first game and now the owner of the last remaining nano-suit. Which is a shame really, because they're pretty handy. At the conclusion of Crysis 2, Alcatraz, the man minding Prophet's suit for him while he was dead, seemingly kills the alien species called the Ceph with a little bit of nano-deus ex machina. Now though, Prophet is back and his consciousness has absorbed Alcatraz's body and taken control of the suit again. (Yep, things get silly in Crysis world.) You wake up 20 years later just outside the imposing New York Liberty Dome.
Things have gone from bad to worse in Manhattan since the Ceph pretty much blew it all up. Cell, the faceless evil corporation responsible for imprisoning you, has built a huge dome over the city, both to keep people away from their mysterious hidden power source and keep the now totally overgrown city contained.
The developer, Crytek, has taken elements of jungle from Crysis 1 and the rubble-filled city from Crysis 2 and mashed them together in a dome. Frankly, it's gorgeous and features some of the best level design in recent memory.
Crysis 3 encourages you to be a fast-acting predator, and much of the gameplay is geared towards that. As ever, the nano-suit gives you the ability to cloak or harden into armour. You can approach most of the situations in the game whichever way you please, but the most satisfying is a clever combination of both. Your suit's energy levels only last so long and because of this you're much more suited to guerrilla tactics.
Dropping down from the ruins of an apartment building, snapping a soldier's neck then ripping up a mounted machine gun and going on a brief rampage before cloaking and running to the bushes is just one of the many gleefully anarchic ways to get to your goal. The best part of your new arsenal is the Predator Bow, a high-tension bow capable of pinning hapless soldiers to walls. The design of the bow makes it immensely satisfying to shoot and once mastered is easily the most fun weapon.
Where Crysis 3 really excels, apart from the fantastic graphics that we've come to expect by this point, is the design of the New York Liberty Dome. You spend the majority of the game traipsing through the undergrowth and the game constantly offers up surprising new situations and stunning vistas.
As the game is geared towards letting you approach the situation however you feel, the levels encourage you to explore before charging in. There's almost always another way to deal with the threat or even sneak around entirely. The levels are larger than the ones in Crysis 2, but not open world. Mostly the game directs you towards your goal naturally without putting up artificial walls and often opens up into large arenas for the more exciting scenes.
A level early in the game where you are tasked with blowing up a hydro-electric dam is brilliant fun. Surveying the whole level from the safety of a nearby skyscraper you can easily see the multiple paths offered to you and plan your approach. Assaulting the bottom of the dam then racing across the top is almost as thrilling as the final execution of your explosive plan and deserves a replay to try different tactics.
This is Crysis we're talking about, so obviously the graphics are amazing. Players on consoles will have nothing to complain about, the graphics are scintillating, but the PC is where it's really at. A beastly computer is needed to do it justice, but the game is far more optimised for mid-range computers than any previous Crysis. The amount of effort put into making the world as rich as possible is especially evident towards the game's conclusion as New York is abused by aliens once again and the world seems to be crumbling down around you in spectacular fashion.
Not everything about Crysis 3 is as well thought out as the levels though. The game is depressingly short. It's possible to finish the game in about six hours, which is surprisingly short for a game that expects you to pay full price for it. So just as things are ramping up and getting exciting, the game ends. Rather abruptly too. At least it seemingly gives some closure, considering how fast and loose Crytek play with their continuity, but the ending is as vaguely optimistic as you would expect. Much of the dialogue too is stilted and probably quite hard to deliver with a straight face. Which is probably why during the first half of the game Prophet can sound like somebody is forcing him to say his lines at gunpoint. Still if you're just in it for the gameplay, this will have little bearing on your experience.
Apart from the fun but short single-player, Crysis 3 features a surprisingly robust multiplayer mode. Crysis 2 introduced competitive death-matches to the series but the mode felt chaotic and unrefined. Too many super-powered people in a small room. Crytek has got its act together though and the multiplayer is fast-paced and exciting. Not to mention having some of the best multiplayer maps I've seen in a console game. They're perfectly suited to hit-and-run tactics and make fantastic use of the verticality the single player does so well.
There's a variety of modes, but good luck getting into a match that isn't death-match. Finding a game, at least on the Xbox version, can be a surprising hassle. I also had a lot of problems with my game freezing and requiring a restart, but this only seemed to be an issue in multiplayer. Regardless, playing with a group of other nano-men extends the longevity of the game and somewhat makes up for the stunted single-player.
Ultimately, Crysis 3 pushes your console (or computer) to the limit and gives you a glimpse at the level of graphic fidelity we can come to expect from the tail end of this console generation and the start of the next. Players looking for a satisfying story are definitely barking up the wrong tree, but if you can ignore that and concentrate on the gameplay alone you will undoubtedly enjoy the experience.
The beautifully designed levels and the feeling of power that comes with inhabiting a nano-suit will be worth the price for most and the multiplayer sweetens the deal somewhat. As Crytek look to the future and the upcoming console generation, gamers should wait with bated breath as their games just get better and better as time goes on.