Crysis 3 PC Review: The New Bow
Crysis 3′s first level is a rain-drenched infiltration of the Liberty Dome, a giant structure erected over Manhattan by the evil CELL corporation. The sequence sets a spectacular standard that the game maintains throughout. It’s hard not to be amazed by the uncanny wetness of the downpour, the scale of the surroundings, the sweeping searchlights, and the various subtle ways that the game pushes graphics technology to its limit.
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), XBOX 360, Playstation 3
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: February 19, 2013
MSRP: $59.99 (PC $49.99)
As player character Prophet moves deeper into the city, Crytek’s level designers work overtime. The hyrdo-electric dam; the swamp that used to be Chinatown; Penn Station, oxidized to death — all are striking. Many shooters promise a “sandbox” approach, but Crysis 3 is one of the few that delivers, successfully fusing the best elements of Crysis 1 and Crysis 2 and turning the player loose in vast environments that reward a variety of different routes and tactics. Despite the size of these areas, the attention to detail is obsessive.
The level design is complemented by the gameplay. Wearing his signature sinewy nanosuit, Prophet can activate brief periods of invisibility or impenetrable armor, and Crysis 3 has perfected the moment-to-moment thrills these abilities provide. Players hug shadows and plumb tunnels, invisibly sniping thrum by thrum with a compound bow, then charge in, armor activated and high-tech firearms coughing death. Commandeering alien weapons offers boosted nanosuit abilities and irresistible power. Well-designed vehicular sections provide the faintest echoes of Half-Life 2.
Crytek have mastered the technical aspects of shooter design: staggering visuals, crisp animations, outlandish weapons, and the feeling of being superhuman as you sprint and leap and slide and cold-cock gibbering Ceph aliens with your nanotechnology-enhanced fists. The interface is so slick that even the turret-hacking minigame didn’t feel like a chore.
This prowess carries over into multiplayer, which is another exercise in maximized mastery. More game types, more unlockable perks, more toggleable mini-challenges, more ways to scrutinize your experience gain. This is the type of game that keeps track of how many weapon attachments you have equipped so that it can impose incremental weight-based penalties on how long it takes to switch from one gun to another. It shines in the clever “Hunter” mode, which pits teams of wary CELL soldiers against silent, deadly opponents armed with bows and swathed in stealth. Die a CELL, and you become a Hunter, until everyone goes down and the round starts over.
If only Crysis 3 had included more features like Hunter Mode, one of the few that feels distinctive and original. The problems start with the predictable narrative, a cliche-ridden thriller about evil scientists using alien technology to dominate the world energy market and accidentally-on-purpose unleashing a gargantuan, tentacled Alpha Ceph. It’s the worst kind of “I’m here to fix the cable,” only included to provide a perfunctory structure for the kind of violent, GPU-crushing pornography that is the game’s main selling point. Sean Chapman does a great, gravelly Cockney as Psycho, and the facial renders are predictably state-of-the-art, but every other element feels depressingly familiar: Psycho’s wisecracks, the faceless goons, the female voice in Prophet’s ear speaking military jargon, the sci-fi insanity that only an iron will and a steady mouse-hand can defeat. The plot, laden with heroic sacrifice and ham-handed romance, reaches for the same operatic registers as Crysis 3′s AAA peers and hits the same, flat note.