If you recall my preview impressions, "Crysis 3" is set to be another solid shooter in a growing franchise from Crytek and EA. While "Crysis 2" was their first swing onto consoles and had some pretty impressive visuals it didn't exactly bring the house down. With the next installment, Crytek has their sights set on bigger fights with aggressive AI coupled with a robust multiplayer but is it enough to draw you away from other shooters?
In a weird turn, the events of "Crysis 2" have been all but dismissed to the point of being totally irrelevant. Two decades after the invasion and destruction of New York, Prophet returns once again to fill out the powerful Nanosuit in order to thwart the nefarious CELL paramilitary corporation's plans and learn the truth of the alien Ceph's goal of planetary domination. Along for the ride is your former comrade, Psycho, who has had his Nanosuit "skinned" by CELL scientists and now fights with a small team of resistance fighters. Without going into spoiler territory, CELL has encased New York in a biodome, terraforming the once concrete and steel city into a for-real urban jungle. Incorporating awesome Ceph tech CELL has the world held hostage with a power monopoly. Meanwhile, everyone but Prophet thinks the mysterious Ceph have halted their invasion plans only to learn that the Earth is at the brink of total annihilation.
Gameplay consists mostly of stalking and shooting in open, arena style hubs linked together by short linear paths from check point to check point. Missions are your standard shooter fare- sneak or blast into an enemy compound and cause some chaos. Occasionally, you'll receive a secondary mission objective via radio chatter. These optional tasks won't necessarily alter the outcome of the story in any way but they're more often than rewarded with powerful weaponry, data pads, and suit modules.
Though the missions are more or less basic for shooters the real fun is on the approach. In an era of overly scripted events based in a currency of spectacle, it's certainly refreshing to be able to figure things out on your own. That's not to say "Crysis 3" is without big bangs and bombastic shoot-outs. Generally, the shooting is solid with each weapon having it's own unique feel. There's quite a bit of variety with your arsenal being filled with sniper rifles, shotguns, pistols, mounted turrets as well as sci-fi inspired SMGs and a host of alien guns. One of the great joys in this game is discovering your favorite toolset and systematically dismantling your foes. With the "Assess, Adapt, Attack" motto you'll soon have complete mastery of the Nanosuit becoming a perfect killing machine.
On the otherside, the AI can be a bit dim as they routinely seem to be disinterested even when you've picked off several of their friends. This is probably more noticable when dealing with the supposedly advanced Ceph's. Sure they can be a big threat but with an overly powerful bow and judicious use of stealth, you'll find them more of a nuisance. It's not the most difficult game out there, even on Supersoldier, the game's hardest mode, but you'll still feel like a badass when mopping up entire platoons of baddies.
At least the visuals are pretty. I mentioned in the preview that this one gorgeous game, even on the Xbox. It has stunning lighting effects and a world that is alive in motion. The small details are what really flesh out the environment. Water ripples with ever step, sun rays peer through branches, and shadows grow and recede into darkness. Even the way enemies move is beautiful, as they sprint for cover and buckle in pain and explode into pink mist. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better looking shooter on consoles. It's unfortunate that the frame takes a beating in some of the more hectic moments, especially in a few cutscenes where it got a bit choppy. It's not a deal breaker, but it sucks when the graphics take a hit because of rendering textures.
One other low point of the roughly 12 hour campaign comes with a few somewhat out of place vehicle sections. A couple of levels are briefly broken up with these short segments which are rather on the bland side considering how quickly they pass. They're not all that terrible but given how good the shooting in the game feels, they stick out like a last minute tack on to what is otherwise fast paced, intense action. One late-game on rails part was exceptionally aggravating and will have you wishing it was just a really cool cutscene.
Getting back to the good stuff is a surprisingly deep multiplayer. Admittedly, I never got into much of "Crysis 2's" multiplayer and quickly dismissed it after a couple of days. I feel here that Crytek learned some lessons from their previous game as well as improved on the idea of a highly mobile playstyle. Like, other post-"modern warfare" shooters, you have a selection of customizable perks and equipment to adapt to your play style. And much like the single player, levels are very large with many emphasizing verticality. It's hard to put in words but there's even a "Halo"-esque quality given that you feel very powerful in the suit. Strewn about the levels are various power weapons such Ceph cannons and removable turrets. Rounding out your arsenal are special abilities much like "Call of Duty's" killstreak rewards. The twist here is that simply eliminating an opponent is not enough, you must also nab their dropped dog tag to earn a point towards the ability. It makes a perfect push/pull mechanic that forces you to be mobile if you want access to some of the better goods. I recorded a short multiplayer session last night just to show you the pacing of a typical deathmatch. Just a couple of caveats- this is before the offical launch and I'm not exactly the lethal death machine compared to the other players.
Your standard gametypes are all here with a few different deathmatch variants, but the real standout is "Hunter" whereby two players are selected to don the Nanosuit and take out a group of CELL agents. It's exhilarating to systematically eliminate the soldiers as well as terrifying when up against a perfect and invisible death machine. It's the closest you'll get to become a true Predator.
As with many games, multiplayer modes take a slight graphical hit. It's not ugly by any means, but when compared to the campaign, it can be a bit crude. I did find the framerate seemed to be more stable and focused on keeping it as close to 60fps as possible, though I did have some audio syncing issues in deathcams. Just keep in mind that the game launches today, so some of these small quirks will probably be patched. Still, with a dozen maps "Crysis 3" multiplayer is deeper and irresistibly fun.
With a poweful graphics engine alongside pretty fun gameplay, EA and Crytek definitely have a good game here despite a rather short (roughly 12 hours across 7 missions) and lackluster story about humans fighting intergalactic aliens. The real fun is in its deep, engaging multiplayer that should keep you engrossed for months to come. In spite of more than a few troulesome issues, if you're a die-hard shooter fan you could do worse to pass on "Crysis 3."
"Crysis 3" is now available for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Review copy provided by EA and played on Xbox 360.