Almost eclipsed by its own infamy, the original Crysis set many a benchmark, whether people liked it or not. The sequel’s move to urban combat also divided opinion, but surely now, with the best of both worlds, Crysis 3 will be the perfect shooter?
Crysis 3 has really, really good graphics. There, I said it. Happy now? Is that what you wanted to hear, you decadent capitalist? It’s the elephant in every room that Crytek enter, and setting the bar so high in 2007 ironically made them their own ivory hunters. “Can it run Crysis?” was even an in-joke achievement unlocked simply by playing a level on the console-based sequel. So yes, it continues the trend, and it looks amazing. But just how does the rest of it fare?
The game takes place in a now quarantined New York City, contained under a huge dome like the world’s biggest Eden Project. 24 years of abandonment have left it in dire need of some pruning, however, and this is clearly how Crytek are trying to tie their two previous titles together. There’s the overgrown sandbox segments of the first game for you to use your invisibility cloak in and the claustrophobic hallways of the second in which you should probably engage your maximum armour.
While a visually arresting concept, it somehow doesn’t urge you to make the most of it. Instead of the best parts of both games, it actually brings out the worst. During the corridor sections nothing much ever really happens, and when you do pop out the other side into another sandbox, they’re never really vast enough for you to get down to the business of precision-planned executions. There’s just some unnecessary, barren excess almost for the sake of it.
It’s a shame, because the big new feature in terms of weaponry – the Predator Bow – is hugely empowering to skulk about in the undergrowth with. It’s the only weapon that will not void your camouflage when fired either, and it would have been great if they’d given you more alternatives on where to use it rather than simply how. Its multiple options on how far you want to draw back the arrow, for example, again come across as simply being there because more is good.
The rest of the guns are largely unchanged, but thankfully you won’t always be wielding them alone. A few missions – though not nearly enough – see you again fighting alongside Psycho, who appears to be played here by Sean Pertwee after an industrial accident. He’s been skinned alive of his Nanosuit by CELL and harbours some very dark emotions about the whole experience. His swear-strewn struggle is easily the most interesting part of the otherwise clichéd pap that’s bombastically presented to you as a “story”.
It’s obviously an excuse to simply go from one exploding set piece to the next, but the game feels sorely lacking because of it. Fighting against the Ceph doesn’t bring about much of a change in pace, though their AI has been noticeably improved from the last game. They’ll leap out of windows to avoid your gunfire and run back up the stairs to come at you again, or slowly creep up on you in the long grass in scenes that I’m sure were more than inspired by Jurassic Park 2.
It’s not technically perfect, however, with the most notable problem being the sound. The effects themselves are perfectly serviceable, and the score swells in all the right places, but on multiple occasions sounds would slur or even grind to a halt completely like they were being piped through a melting gramophone. Getting trapped in the scenery was also an unwelcome aspect – and with no option to restart from checkpoints, the sweet relief of your own overcooked grenade is the best you can hope for.
Crysis 3′s biggest saving grace is, unexpectedly, one particular mode of its multiplayer. The usual host of team deathmatches and free-for-all deathmatches and his’n'hers deathmatches are all present, but it’s the Hunter mode that rules the day. Two randomly assigned players start as the perma-invisible one-hit killers, and every marine they strike down becomes one of them. If you happen to be the last man standing, with 11 pissed off cyber-ghosts coming after you, you’ll likely leave the lobby with post-traumatic stress disorder. The noise of the CELL motion tracker alone is enough to make you cry.
So, with that being the only real way that you’ll feel like the predator Crytek promised, Crysis 3 falls sadly short of its – admittedly huge – expectations. It’s not a bad game by any means, but when it gets to the stage that you just start sprinting to checkpoints because you can’t be bothered to shoot enemies, you know you’re not playing a brilliant shooter. The series started out life as bold and refreshing as games could be, but now it’s little more than the status quo.
Crysis 3, by EA and Crytek, is available now on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 (reviewed).