Will you shed a tear for your lost humanity, or lose yourself in the bliss of an alien-tech enhanced kill frenzy?
The rebels really should pay more attention to their nano-suit clad ally; they may have a justifiable distrust of alien tech and anything that's been manhandled by the nefarious Cell corporation, but the game's protagonist is not only plagued by visions of the inevitable destruction of humanity at the tentacles of the impending Reaper... sorry, Ceph Invasion (you'll forgive the confusion a few cutscenes in), but he's also actually called Prophet. I mean, it could have just been a coincidence, but when his British pal Psycho has proved his namesake worthy on more than one occasion, and Nomad's lone-wolf nature lived up to his own moniker, It really shouldn't come as a surprise when Prophet's visions are proven to have displayed more than a slight smidgen of truth.
Crytek have always been quite blunt and unimaginative with this kind of thing. With the game franchise, engine, and developer all sharing the Cry part of their individual titles, and characters bearing call-signs that more than hinted at their personalities or roles, the story and characterisation was never something that people championed the series for or indeed expected. Crysis was all about the spectacle, and what a spectacle it was.
Crysis 1 was a hulking beast of a warrior that stood tall in the arena of current-gen gladiatorial combat; its hammer blows were mighty, but were rained down with all the finesse of Russel Crow dealing with constructive feedback. It was a beautiful tech-demo with a game tacked-on - a common opinion, and perhaps one that's a little unfair as despite its lack of imagination or true innovation the game had some adventurous open world scenarios, with free-form combat making up a good deal of the game, it was Far Cry on nano-fed steroids, and its sandbox was fun. You got out what you put in, it almost felt at times that you were limited by your imagination more than the game itself.
Crysis 2 chose to forgo the ability to let your imagination carry you and recreate that awesome scene from Predator with the mini-gun and splintering trees, and instead gave us a much more static and less interactive playpen with its NYC setting and linear paths with closed environments that were absolutely necessary trade-offs of the shift from bleeding-edge PC exclusive to multi-platform money spinner. Still, it had streamlined nano-suits and enjoyable combat, and while the visuals weren't as technically awe-inspiring as its predecessor's was at the time, it was very much at the forefront of its peers.
Crysis 3, from the start, is noticeable for two things: firstly, while it retains the instanced mission structure, barely disguised impassable walls, and tightly funnelled check-points of the previous title, many of the actual combat scenarios feel much more open. Not only does the game seem a visual mix of the previous instalments with its NYC area overgrown with foliage and wildlife, but it allows the space to take on encounters with the free-form approach of the original game, and it might even be atmospheric enough at times to let you forget you're being penned in and guided at all.
And secondly, it adds an amount of depth to the characterisation that has been somewhat missing from the previous instalments. Prophet has sacrificed a good deal of his humanity in order to gain the power required to take on the Ceph, and his voice has very clear melancholy and regret in its tone as he discusses these things and deals with the prejudice of his human allies. Conversely, Psycho has had his nano-suit stolen by Cell and his human frailty is not a skin he's comfortable in. His almost palpable jealousy of his comrade's abilities is a clear contrast to Prophet's desire to remember what it is to be human.
The trade-offs and banter (delivered via outstanding facial animation and voice acting) make for some effective character interaction, and while the actual story might veer toward the melodramatic, generic, and sometimes even downright derivative at times, the relationship between the two hardened soldiers keeps the narrative engaging. And even though the campaign may seem brief by modern standards, it's tightly paced and each mission has a unique look and feel, and coupled with the open nature of each section and optional and enjoyable secondary objectives, there's quite a lot of replayability on offer.
Crysis 3's nano-suit is an absolute joy to use, the control scheme and UI being effortlessly intuitive and streamlined. Armour and stealth modes are hot-keyed to single buttons, pressing a designated key will bring up your weapon's modification menu which you can access and edit in real-time smoothly and quickly without loosing pace: double tapping the weapon switch key will bring out your grenade for quick-fire, holding and releasing jump actives a huge leap, pressing duck as you sprint launches you into a power-slide... every action feels absolutely fluid, and once you've memorised the key placements the suit will feel very much like an extension of your natural reflexes. The fluidity of the suit's controls allows each individual encounter to be engaged with instinctively, and chaining segments where you activate every one of your abilities and use each of your weapons without skipping a beat will become common occurrences as you become more familiar with your suit's potential. For those who are uninitiated to the genre or series, the game offers an excellent tutorial to teach you the basics.
If Crysis 3 would proudly regale dinner guests with its control scheme's shining achievements, the enemy AI would be the unmentioned, underachieving sibling who dropped out of college. Enemies often do little but hide behind cover and pop-up every few seconds to take pot shots. It's not intelligently aggressive, there's no real need for advanced tactics besides your own smart use of cover, but its not absolutely broken and often the way the game presents its combat scenarios produces intense moments despite its lack.
Your visor can also be used to scout out new areas, tagging enemies (highlighting their state of alertness from passive, aroused, to engaged), hazards, and weapon/item/date caches. Doing so updates your HUD with real time positioning of each item, and while in other games this kind of wall-hack device can feel like a cheap tactic, it works as a natural part of Crysis 3's combat, with tactical approaches much more effective than mindless running and gunning
Stealth has been massively augmented with the addition of the Predator Bow. A single-shot kill weapon that can be fired while under cover of cloak without deactivating it, its spent arrows can not only be tagged with your visor and collected to be re-purposed, but you can enhance its potential with secondary firing modes including electrified arrows that can be fired into pools of water to take out grouped enemies, and delayed thermite tipped rounds that are hugely effective against armored targets. Its low ammo pool prevents you from becoming over-reliant on its strengths, with the need to scrounge back your arrows if you want to use it for prolonged periods balancing it effectively.
Multiplayer is much more than an after-thought, and feels just as fleshed out than the single-player campaign. Weapons and perks are unlocked in the familiar way via XP gain, kill/death streaks kick in once the required amount of bodies have been dropped, and powerful heavy weapons (offering massive boosts to attack, but slowing your movement considerably) lay scattered across the environment. Stealth and amour are now fed by individual power meters, and knowing how to most effectively switch between the two modes will often be the deciding factor in an engagement. The suit's intuitive control scheme is even more effective in a multiplayer environment, with player's reflexes allowed to reach their fullest potential. The levels are designed with vertical as much as horizontal transitioning in mind, and mastering traversal of the environment will play a big part in your overall effectiveness on the battlefield.
The real beauty of the MP is how it caters for all preferences. There are all the standard modes of play, as well as a few unique game-types, but you can also choose to ditch nano-suit entirely. However, the MP truly comes to life in modes that exploit the suits potential such as the new Hunter mode, with 2 players starting with nano-suits, Predator bows, and infinite cloak, and the rest playing human soldiers.
We played the PC version. The game run on high settings with an almost constant 60fps (dipping a little in larger fire-fights, or more expansive areas) on an i5 2500k and gtx 670. There are a good amount of video options, and the game scales very well on each of its four presets (from low to very high). The visuals are superb, gorgeous lighting effects pour down as individual blades of grass sway, and each area has a very distinctive look and atmosphere. From the Liberty Dome with its crumbling architecture overrun with jungles as nature retakes the ruined NYC, to the cavernous maws of sprawling subterranean networks interlaced with humming alien machinery and twisting walkways, It's both technically and artistically an achievement.
Overall, Crysis 3 is a tightly oiled machine of a game. While it may not have the most engaging plot - with the overall story-arc feeling a little empty and devoid of emotional impact despite its rousing score and expansive set-pieces - certain character interactions have a level of humanity and quality that should keep you invested until the end. The control scheme is an absolute master class, and the variety of weaponry and the open nature of each encounter means the campaign offers just as much replayability as the game's diverse MP content. Crysis 3 doesn't break any rules, but it certainly shows us how to play the game in style.