Crysis 3 Preview: Welcome to the Jungle
Crysis 1 was set in a jungle. Crysis 2 was set in a city. Crysis 3, in a neat bit of game design arithmetic, is set in a jungle city, It’s 2047, 20 years after the events of Crysis 2, and the sinister corporation Cell Industries has erected “nanodomes” over major metropolitan areas to isolate the Ceph threat. These structures function like “advanced greenhouses,” according to Crytek representative Rasmus Hojengaard, creating overnight rainforests that are supposed to cleanse the cities of pollution from within.
By setting Crysis 3 in a rainforest version of New York, Crytek are aiming for a new take on the post-apocalypse, one that goes beyond simply adding cracked masonry and foliage to an otherwise unchanged city. Hojengaard spoke of the “seven wonders of the urban rainforest” — a variety of swamps, grasslands, and canyons that are designed to be memorable, atmospheric, and closely tied to the gameplay. The studio’s trademark attention to detail is certainly apparent; tiny dragonflies and frogs make their way through the landscape, and the profusion of grasses and trees would delight even the most jaded gamer botanist.
Cell Industries claims to have contained the alien threat after the events of Crysis 2, but inside NYC’s “Liberty Dome,” the Ceph are anything but contained. Players will venture into the morass in control of “Prophet,” a recurring character whom Hojengaard described as “one of the most interesting characters in the franchise.” Prophet has seen many comrades die over the years, and now he’s taking matters into his own hands, redeeming their sacrifice through revenge and self-realization. The phrase “the hunted becomes the hunter” was repeated over and over again at EA’s San Francisco Crysis 3 showcase, and it’s clear that this mantra had an important part to play in the design process.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the design of Crysis 3′s signature weapon, a futuristic compound bow that can allows Prophet to fire conventional arrows without breaking stealth. Explosive and electric arrows will also be available, though they will alert enemies to the player’s position. Other new weapons include the Cell Industries Typhoon, a hyperbolic assault rifle that fires 500 rounds per second while making an uncanny humming sound. Prophet’s nanosuit will enable him to “manipulate and interact with electronic elements on the battlefield,” and he’ll be able to use alien weapons — like the Plasma Gun and Mortar — for the first time.
Crytek’s gameplay demo began 1/3 of the way into their new game. Prophet speaks by radio with “Psycho,” another returning character who has been imprisoned by Cell Industries. Prophet will have to break him out. The sequence started in a damp subway tunnel, showing off some beautiful water effects and an profusion of damp-looking flora. The developer at the controls entered stealth and crept up the escalator, emerging into a swampy environment designed, according to Hojengaard, to convey claustrophobia, darkness, and horror. Seeing Ceph troops in the vicinity, Prophet entered the first phase of Crytek’s distinctive, three-part game design paradigm: “Assess, adapt, attack.” This system gives time and space for players to identify threats, change their loadout and abilities to best suit the challenge, and then launch the attack. It’s a process that will be repeated throughout Crysis 3.
Prophet made quick work of a few stragglers in stealth mode, stabbing them from behind and headshotting them with arrows (at one point, the camera followed the arrow in flight, a cool if not particularly original touch). This tactic was invalidated, however, by the appearance of anti-cloaking drones, which necessitated a more conventional fight. After firing of a number of explosive arrows to devastating effect, the developer playing the demo grabbed an alien plasma weapon and laid down a field of blue fire, before switching to the Typhoon, whose impenetrable wall of bullets made running and gunning a breeze. The profusion of lead also wreaked havoc on the scenery, which was pleasantly destructible despite the care clearly lavished on the ferns and shrubbery.
Moving on, Prophet commandeered an alien mortar and used it to kill new alien enemies called “Scorchers,” which look like metal flowers that belch fire. According to Hojengaard, these creatures were difficult to render in the Crytek Engine due to their having four legs, though he didn’t elaborate on why that is. Such minutae were quickly forgotten in the chaos that ensued — Prophet hacked a nearby turret to distract the Ceph before making a cannonball run towards the building holding Psycho: a large red tower that apparently does triple duty helping to hold up the nanodome, lighting the city at night using floodlights, and raining bullets down on the Ceph. This fire support would clearly come in handy for Prophet, who was immediately surrounded as he approached the tower. Just an angry alien leapt directly at his face, the gameplay demo ended.
The star of the show was clearly CryENGINE 3, which provided stunning environments, filled with meticulous detail and plenty of cool particle and physics effects. Despite the inclusion of the bow, however, the gameplay was less enticing, not distinguishing itself from Crysis 2 (or indeed other FPS competitors) in any meaningful way. Hopefully, as more information about Crysis 3 is revealed, its unique pleasures will become more apparent.