Once upon a time, PC gamers looked down their noses at puny console owners for owning machines that couldn’t keep up with god-like graphical capabilities of their hi-spec custom build gaming rigs. As if they needed proof, the release of the PC only first person shooter Crysis seemed to be all the evidence they needed to prove once and for all that personal computers could outdo their console cousins. However, when Crysis 2 was released in 2011 that all changed, turning one of PC’s greatest treasures into a gorgeous, story driven experience that everyone could enjoy. As EA and Crytek bring the saga to a close with Crysis 3, are the superior graphics sported by the series enough to keep gamers interested for one last outing?
Set twenty-four years after the events of the last game, the nanosuit powered super soldier Prophet is awakened from stasis only to discover that New York has been encased in a giant dome created by the corrupt CELL organisation. Within the dome lies a city in ruins, covered in the overgrown vegetation and rampant with wildlife. Recruited by a group of revolutionaries led by the vengeful ex-marine Psycho, Prophet becomes the ultimate weapon in putting a stop to CELL once and for all. However, haunted by visions of the virtually extinct alien race known as the Ceph, Prophet becomes convinced that there is more to CELL’s operation than meets the eye and prepares himself for one last confrontation against his extra-terrestrial nemesis.
Depending on familiarity with the series and what difficulty is chosen, the campaign takes approximately six hours to complete. Prophet’s determination to exterminate the Ceph race once and for all is the backbone of the story, but surprisingly it is Psycho’s quest for closure that steals the show. As much as the Crysis trilogy has placed a big emphasis on pushing graphics to the limits, it’s clear that in the case of Crysis 3, a lot of attention has been placed on fulfilling fan’s expectations to give a satisfying, if not rather short emotional finale to the series.
Not your run-of-the-mill shooter series, Crysis 3 continues to allow players to decide how they want to dispatch their enemies. Depending on the situation, Prophet has two very useful tools at his disposal. The first and probably more used of the two is the nanosuit’s cloaking device. Not only useful for avoiding CELL operatives, the camouflage also gives players the perfect method of investigating areas and drafting a plan of attack. For combat heavy situations, players can harden Prophet’s nanosuit for a limited time, allowing the super soldier to take more damage. Both require energy, marked on the HUD so when this is depleted players will return to their normal state a little more vulnerable, until they have time to recharge.
Prophet comes equipped with a number of different visor modes that can ascertain how many enemies are in the area, as well as following their heat signatures. Crytek seem to have amalgamated the sandbox style gameplay of the first game with a structured series of levels just like the second. Most levels are designed to look vast and expansive, giving players the freedom to plan their attack as they see fit, whether that be creeping through tall grass or running in guns ablaze to dispatch squads of CELL troops. The downside to this is that more than often mission objectives are a little obscure and get lost amidst these huge environments and during some of the latter levels, the constant respawning of enemies becomes a real slog when trying to reach your goal.
Given that Crysis 3 has an awful lot of weapons and features to switch between throughout the game, the controls handle surprisingly well. Flicking between stealth and hardened armour simply takes the push of one of the PlayStation 3 controller’s shoulder buttons, so even if Prophet is spotted while invisible, he can strengthen his suit to take a bit more damage than normal.
The biggest new addition to Prophet’s arsenal is the predator bow. Given to Prophet during the game’s early moments, the bow provides an extra method of performing stealth attacks and using it along with the nanosuit’s camouflage capabilities proves to be a deadly combination. However there are also a number of special arrows that aren’t quite as subtle. The electro-charged darts can take down a pack of CELL operatives working closely together whilst the explosive mortar arrows can take down the more spread out groups of enemies and even vehicles. Alongside games such as Fary Cry 3 and the latest Tomb Raider reboot, Crysis 3 makes a strong case for the revival of the trusty bow and arrow in video games.
The upgrade system has been revamped significantly since the last game too. Skill points are awarded for completing mission objectives and locating upgrade packs throughout the game. These can be used to unlock enhancements for Prophet’s nanosuit such as increased armour, longer bursts of stealth and fast health regeneration. Prophet can equip four upgrades at a time and the in-game menu allows players to group these together so that they can be changed on the fly depending on the situation. It’s becoming a common trend to incorporate role-playing elements into other genres and much like the recent Tomb Raider reboot, Crysis 3’s upgrade system that will often be neglected, as it’s not essential to completing the game.
Crysis 3 comes complete with the standard first person shooter multiplayer package akin to the likes of Call of Duty. Players can obtain experience by participating in the usual deathmatch and capture the flag style game modes, which can then be used to purchase upgrades and add more weapons to their profile. The most entertaining game mode available is the Hunter matches. Most of the players involved take on the role of CELL soldiers whose sole objective is to stay alive for the two minute game of cat-and-mouse against two bow wielding, permanently camouflaged nanosuit wearing operatives. Those who take on the role of hunter come equipped with all the perks the nanosuit has to offer such as enhanced jumping and armour. Should any CELL operatives be killed during the game, they will join the hunter’s team and become nanosuit super soldiers themselves. The short match times and ease to obtain experience points make this a rather unique addition to the otherwise tried and tested multiplayer format.
The game keeps up the high standard of presentation that fans have come to expect from the series. Even on the ageing PlayStation 3 console, Crysis 3 still stands out as one of the most gorgeous first person shooters on the market to date. The graphics stay consistently smooth throughout, with frame rate virtually never dipping, even during the multiplayer. The level designs contain some utterly amazing areas to explore. The vegetation that has consumed the city is incredibly detailed right down to the individual blades of grass. It takes the series back to its roots with Prophet having to use guerrilla warfare tactics in order to best his enemies. Character models are also incredibly well-constructed, particularly when it comes to conveying the emotional distress in Prophet’s partner-in-crime Psycho. Yet with the game still running on the same engine as Crysis 2, a little symbiotic voice in the back of your mind always tends to remind you that not much has changed since Prophet’s last adventure. A studio known for breaking boundaries and setting the benchmark appears to have sacrificed innovation in favour of bringing out a third game as soon as possible.
The appeal of the series has always been in its graphics and Crysis 3 still stands tall as one of the best looking console games of this generation. As many first person shooters shrivel up in the shadow of Call of Duty, Crysis 3’s tactical gameplay and the introduction of the predator bow help it stand apart from the usual suspects of the genre. However, seen as a series that pushed graphics and gameplay to the limits, the third installment’s lack of innovation is perhaps its only weakness.