Review: Crysis 3
Crytek returns for the final chapter in the Crysis trilogy, which aimed to look nothing like its predecessors but play a bit like both, catering for both fans. Has it succeeded?
- Worth The Time?Depends whether you're in it to punish your PC or for the multiplayer.
- Things LovedSome gameplay refinements over Crysis 2 are welcome, alien weaponry is a nice addition, optional side missions are back, the setting is great, the bow is really cool to use, the soundtrack is excellent, the multiplayer is a lot of fun and is definitely the star of the show here - it has at last made its own stand, multiplayer map design is good, the PC graphics are extraordinary.
- Things HatedThe story never feels as intense as it thinks it is and subplots drive it forward more than the grand focus, larger environments don't hide the glaringly linear and congested design in single player, the pacing needs some serious work, the bow is seriously overpowered turning most of the game into a joke, the final boss fight is lame, wonky AI, single player can get really dull later on, the main campaign is really short, frame rate drops on both PC and console versions, voice acting is hit and miss.
- RecommendationThe two best reasons to play Crysis 3 would be either to test your PC's power and be wowed by graphics, or to invest in the addictive and fun multiplayer. If neither of those interest you, I can't really recommend this game enthusiastically. It's also more for the Crysis 2 audience than the original fan base, so be wary of these factors when making a decision.
- Name: Crysis 3
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online (12 players)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Crytek Frankfurt, Crytek UK
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Price: R345 (PC), R515 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PC, PS3
I don’t hide the fact that the original Crysis is one of my favourite games. I’ve practically gone back to play it on an annual basis, and even today I still adore it. It’s no secret that I disliked the sequel for its questionable design, linearity, plain setting and standard shooting, among many other things, but I felt that its multiplayer did quite a lot right to redeem it. Step in Crysis 3 and we have Crytek trying to appeal to fans of both predecessors by delivering a game that resembles neither in art direction, but plays a little like both titles. In a perfect world, this sounds like the end result would be that everyone walks away happy, but unfortunately that’s not the case here. The game is far more like Crysis 2 than the original, and those who had a problem with that, such as myself, would be unimpressed and disappointed here given the scope of the setting. But as usual I’m getting ahead of myself here, and there’s a lot more to be discussed about this game. Let’s get into all of that business right now.
The story takes place in New York in 2047, over twenty years after the events of Crysis 2. Players will assume the role of Prophet, as his mind has totally taken over the Nanosuit Alcatraz wore. After being reunited with his former teammate Psycho, who rescues him from captivity, he discovers that New York has become an urban rainforest and there’s very little left to it. The city has been encased in a giant nanodome by the corrupt corporation CELL, who are the main enemy to Psycho and his band of resistance fighters. While Prophet’s new-found allies try to convince him that CELL must be stopped, he is dead set on finding and destroying the Alpha Ceph in order to prevent the end of the world. That’s the basic gist of the plot, as it’s pretty complex with many technicalities, a lot of which can be filled in if you go through the “previously on Crysis” story clip and pay attention to the dialogue. Or if you’re completely lost, which could easily be the case, Wikipedia may be eager to oblige.
I’ll rip the bandage off quickly about the narrative. Crysis 3’s story is never as interesting or as intense as the premise makes it seem. Most of the time, it’s a little absurd, and other times it’s just puzzling. You’d think that the state of New York and impending end of the world would create a highly intense narrative, but for most of it you just seem to be in some tangle with CELL with a few Ceph hanging around to remind you there are aliens. Curiously, subplots drive the story forward more than the actual grand focus. For instance, Psycho’s bitterness over losing his Nanosuit and anger at being a human once again form an important part of the story’s emotional drive, but you’ve never really cared about Psycho before, and he didn’t even feature in Crysis 2. It’s interesting as a conflict, but it’s puzzling that it occupies a lot of the narrative focus alongside his relationship with an unlikable resistance leader. The way it’s presented I got the impression that Psycho should have been the main character rather than robo-Prophet. Still, it’s handled well, and probably is the only genuinely interesting thing about the narrative since there is no main villain to channel your hate towards and not a single character in the game is intriguing or likable. Perhaps if there was an actual build up to this narrative, it might have worked, but history tells us that Crysis has never really been all that big on its story element.
It would be easiest to talk about the gameplay after drilling the following point home. If you were expecting a return to the original Crysis’ vast landscapes, open-ended environments and total freedom, you will leave unimpressed and disappointed, likewise if you were one of those who disliked the direction of Crysis 2. That’s because Crysis 3 shares far more with its direct predecessor, and is virtually an extension of that with very little taken from the original. If you preferred the sequel’s direction or loved the game, you will find more of that to like here, but when evaluating the series as a whole and the sheer strengths of the original, it’s very disappointing to see that the setting and design wasn’t used to its best capability here, especially given how awesome the setting actually is and the potential it had to be a return to the glory days without sacrificing the progressions made to Crysis 2.
However, that said, some gameplay refinements over Crysis 2 are indeed welcome. The poorly designed sprint mechanic has been completely fixed, the upgrade system has been improved and now works more logically with styles of play more easily recognised, and abilities like Air Stomp are now actually useful. I’d even go as far as to say that the ability gave me a sense of power I’ve been missing since the original game. To elaborate, you won’t need to collect gel from fallen Ceph to get upgrades, but will need to find upgrade packs and use them to acquire new abilities, the stronger of which require multiple packs. There are four power rows of which you can only equip one from each, but instead of the illogical system found in Crysis 2 where because of the limitations you couldn’t combo abilities that naturally would have worked together, here you can actually fine-tune a nice playstyle. For example, if you’re stealth focused, you can equip extended cloak time, faster stealth kills and quicker fading time, or if you prefer brute tactics you could increase your strength, access a power attack and channel points into the armour ability. It’s also a nice touch that there are multiple player challenges that enhance the powers you’ve acquired if completed, which can make you more deadly in combat.
The game plays identically to Crysis 2 for the most part, with you being made to eliminate CELL operatives and Ceph in sizable measures throughout the campaign. However, an early frustration is the congested linearity of the campaign. For the first hour you’ll be fighting it out in combat corridors with limited freedom, and be made to follow Psycho around like you’re on a permanent escort mission. Even when the setting is finally introduced, it takes further time before you’re really left to your own devices. And just as I was gearing up to get excited for some open ended gameplay, one of the most disappointing parts of the game jumped up to greet me. The setting is barely used to its potential. Sure, environments are noticeably larger than Crysis 2, but they don’t hide the glaringly linear and congested design in the campaign. For most of it, the lush urban jungle is used for visual appeal, and it’s hardly ever used to deviate from structure and create a tactical or even just a truly free playground. I do appreciate that rewarding optional side missions are back to encourage exploration though.
As you know, stealth is an essential part of Crysis, and while the armour mode is the same as you remember it, bar the upgrades you can acquire for it, sneaking around has been improved by the addition of the high-tech bow, given to you near the beginning of the game by Psycho. The bow is great fun to use, and I really enjoyed the fact that you can customize draw distance, which dictates the speed at which you can fire arrows and the damage they’ll deal, and ammunition, which includes standard, explosive, electric and shrapnel arrows. The bow is absolutely your go-to weapon for stealth, as it’s silent and incredibly effective. Too much so, actually. It’s shamelessly overpowered, which is unfortunate as it makes an easy game much easier. You’ll not only remain cloaked and suffer no loss of power each time you make a shot, but you’ll also find it hard to use any other weapon, especially silenced ones, as the bow just renders them laughably weak. You can retrieve standard arrows after use, and most enemies die with a single shot without even using the strongest draw distance.
Now, the bow is fun, and it makes you feel more like a predator than Crysis 2 ever did. Well, except for when two explosive arrows are enough to sink a helicopter, then it’s just hilarious. But one of my complaints here is that the bow presents a bit of a missed opportunity, and that’s unfortunately the fault of the game design. In Far Cry 3, by comparison, there was a slight tactical element to the bow with regards to how you customised it, and the way you could use fire arrows to start up huge fires, or explosive arrows to destroy vehicles or alarms, and there was just a tiny bit more to it than feeling bad ass, giving you more control over how you wanted to play. In Crysis 3, there’s a moment early on where they show you how you can use an electric arrow to shock multiple enemies standing in water, and it’s initially exciting until you realise that there’s nothing else like this, and opportunities for doing exactly this are few and far between. The offense though is in how much easier the bow makes the game, and how it reduces the incentive to use other weaponry or find your own way to play. I mean, when you can cloak, bow everyone in sight, fetch your arrows and move on, it’s hard to want an alternative.
One thing that detracted from the good time that the bow provides, and in fact the stealth as a whole, is the wonky enemy AI, which breaks immersion. I lost count of how many times I took down a CELL operative with a bow, only for his partner to come running straight toward the body blindly to also get shot down, and the process repeated. I also lost count of the amount of times enemies stood completely still, despite their fallen comrades, or made few efforts to really thwart me. I always prefer a stealth approach, but just for fun I donned armour mode and shotgunned my way through a full camp of enemies without reaching critical health. Many games have AI lapses, it’s acceptable, but it’s a downer when AI just feels like meat, especially when taking into consideration the challenge the original game could give you. It just puts a damper on what being a predator should feel like, especially when compared to games like Batman, where the enemy terror is tangible. Here you may just get a few repetitive screams of “he’s using a bow!” followed by a soldier staring blankly, as if his job is done.
There are some nice additions to the single player mode, such as the alien weaponry which you can acquire from fallen Ceph. These are use-and-throw-away weapons that change up your HUD to a more blue colour and give you some refreshing fire power. Another highlight are the feral-Stalker ceph, who hunt you down in tall grass and pounce at you. Your first encounter with these creatures is pretty great as you see a couple of soldiers ripped apart by one with ease before you have to venture into the grass and take it on, and it’s here that I felt the game could have gone so right if it just had some good design and pacing later on. Unfortunately, Crysis 3 has no idea what pacing is, and after this first and really cool encounter with a Stalker, a few scenes later I found myself literally fighting twenty, even mounting a turret to take them down. And here I was imagining a wide, open field with these Stalkers prowling dangerously all around you, hidden in the tall grass in a silent but atmospheric portion of the game, but there’s nothing like that to make good use of these enemies, and opportunities to deviate from the shoot-em-up or bow-em-up action rarely present themselves. This is the story of Crysis 3.
At least, it’s the story of the single-player, and it’s very disheartening that even though it’s just a measly five to six hours long, I began to find it dull and boring before its expiration. However, on the big bright side, the multiplayer is a lot of fun and is definitely the star of the show here, finally making its own stand. There is a good variety of game modes for starters, even if many are standard. You’ve got your typical Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Crysis-style Capture the Flag modes, as well as the maximum (hardcore) versions of some of them. Then you’ve got Assault, where one team of nanosuit operatives must download key data defended by normal soldiers and each player only has one life. There’s a mode where all players are standard soldiers and no nanosuits feature, and it’s for the more old school shooter fans. You can also mix it all up in Medley, to cycle through modes. Finally, there is the game’s stand-out multiplayer mode, which is the much-boasted, unique Hunter mode.
Hunter mode puts a group of players into the role of ordinary CELL operatives, with two players on the opposing team starting out as the Hunters. The latter are equipped with enhanced mobility, a permanent cloak and a deadly bow. The idea of the mode is simple. The CELL operatives need to survive the time limit, while the Hunters need to wipe them out before the time limit expires. Each time a CELL operative is killed, he respawns as a Hunter. Sure, this isn’t completely new, but the execution is fantastic, and Hunter is just a blast to play and really great fun. Surprisingly, in a pleasant way, it’s not like classic Monster multiplayer modes where being the Hunter is just so much more fun, as working as a team, stumbling around looking for a place to hide and fighting both the clock and an increasing army of Hunters is often thrilling, and presents some of the most entertaining gameplay found in Crysis 3. This mode is frantic and each round, of which there are five, lasts two minutes, making it intense.
As you may know from previous experience, the multiplayer is class based, with you being able to play as the standard set of Assault, Scout, Sniper and Heavy. But, Crysis 3 really has been revamped with more variety, more levels to gain, lots more unlockables and an enormous amount of personal challenges to complete. Perhaps the most curious part of it all is that, unlike the lacking single-player component, the multiplayer actually makes effective use of the game’s great setting, and the map design here is really good, catering for many styles of play whether you prefer macho-man or ninja. Despite the presence of powers and powerful weaponry and abilities, Crysis 3 manages to feel coherent, and chaotic enough to be really entertaining without being total, uncontrollable mayhem, which is what it could have easily become if done incorrectly. That’s admirable all on its own.
It was expected that Crysis 3 would look drop-dead gorgeous on PC, and it really does. In fact, it’s far superior to the console versions, and I can confirm that having played it on high settings on a rig that played Far Cry 3 on Ultra. The graphics really are extraordinary, with high quality textures, amazing effects, wonderful foliage and water and, best of all, a wide range of customisable graphics options. The art direction and attention to detail really is stunning, and this is definitely going to give PC gamers some bragging rights for a while. However, that’s not to say that the console versions are bad, because they actually do look really good. Just don’t look at them after playing on a PC that can reach very high settings, you’ll probably be scarred. Unfortunately, the extremely high visual quality isn’t perfect, and I did encounter a few notable performance issues. There were erratic frame rate drops on both the PC and console versions and a bit of stuttering at odd times, and if I so much as touched anti-aliasing on the PC version, I’d risk playing a slideshow. There are a few horror stories circling the internet and forums with regards to PC performance, so hopefully patches can fix them in due time.
Another highlight of Crysis 3 is the excellent soundtrack, which not only makes you want to stay on the main menu for a little while longer, but also makes some of the dull action scenes seem better than they are. I wish I could say the same for the voice acting though, as it’s often hit and miss, with only Psycho putting in a good shift. Although, that doesn’t save the hammy dialogue from littering the scene. Prophet especially continuously sounded perplexed to me, as if the voice actor, throughout the entire game, still couldn’t believe that he had gotten the part or something. It’s not terrible by any means, especially when compared to other atrocities out there, but it won’t win any awards either. It’s just about adequate and gets the job done, is what I’d say. Aside from that, the only other technical issues I can think of are some minor visual bugs, which admittedly were too few to really matter that much.
Crysis 3 attempted to fuse the best elements of its two predecessors to deliver a single player experience that appealed to both sets of fans, but the result is a weaker offering. One that is also far more for the Crysis 2 audience than fans of the original. However, the multiplayer does very well to make up for this, and it defintely is the best the series has done so far. As such, the two best reasons to play this game would be either to test your PC’s power and be wowed by the graphics, or to invest in the addictive and fun multiplayer. If neither of those interest you, then I can’t really recommend this with much enthusiasm. It’s a decent game overall that is enjoyable to play, but it’s nothing amazing.