Crysis 3 PC Review
Was anyone really dying for a third game in the Crysis series? Sure, the first game had some next-level visuals and FPS combat in wide, open environments, but the second game narrowed that down and took Crysis down the path of the more traditional, linear games set along narrow paths that we usually see. And now we've got a third game about two years after the previous one, and there's so little hype behind it that it's kind of sad. Clearly EA and Crytek wanted to push out another big-budget multiplatform sequel in this series, and the most praise I can muster up for this is merely to say that they succeeded. Crysis 3 is still a fine game, but a little bit more time between games in the series might have been the right choice. Of course, we're at the point now where everyone wants to squeeze one last blockbuster game in before the next console generation hits, so here we are.
We're back in the nanosuit of Lawrence Barnes AKA Prophet, who has been around since the first game. Well, it gets a little confusing. I can't really talk about this without spoiling the previous games in the series (so be warned!), but we played a character named Alcatraz in Crysis 2 that pretty much became Prophet by putting on the dying man's nanosuit. This suit, which has been a defining part of the Crysis games, it changes people - and the result is that Prophet's voice and personality were as much in the suit as in his own mind and body, so Alcatraz sort of morphed into him. Now, we're apparently the ex-Alcatraz acting as the new Prophet, but the important part is that there's a lot of shooting, nanosuit-ing, and fighting of both Cell, the ultra-evil corporation bent on world domination, and the Ceph, the aliens that have been a part of this franchise since the first game.
My favorite part of Crysis 3 has got to be the return of Psycho, the foul-mouthed Brit who was the star of Crysis Warhead several years back. Psycho has been separated from his nanosuit by Cell and is fighting in the resistance against them, but he brings a certain color that Prophet and other characters in the series have sorely lacked. He has a few moments in this game that show that Crytek wanted to crank up the emotional factor, but they stumble and misstep just often enough that it becomes obvious that Crytek still doesn't quite have the right tools to evoke the kinds of feelings they obviously intended to create. They're on the right track, but they're just not there yet.
The setting in Crysis 3 is certainly evocative, though: in the twenty years since Crysis 2, Cell has had all of New York City evacuated and has encased it in a series of domes, trapping inside a relative few people, the remains of the alien Ceph invasion, and the Cell security forces that are trying to keep the peace as they dole out free energy to the world by using alien tech. Of course, it's only free to Cell; they're charging a mint for it to the outside world, essentially enslaving people with indentured servitude and they're making a bid for a Washington takeover. That's all part of the plot, but it's not something that Prophet or his nanosuit explore or interact with in any meaningful way. Your time in this world is spent mostly looking down a gunsight or aiming the new, silent compound bow that doesn't break your suit's stealth mode when you fire - more on that later. But the point here is that while there's some interesting background story and a really cool setting where New York City is being retaken by vegetation, Crytek seems to have been too afraid to really do anything with all of this imagery or lore; not even the voice acting or ongoing plot as you play do much to develop things, and the player never feels connected or motivated. Where BioShock had the player discover the way the Rapture project turned into a disaster through action, discovery, and combat, the dystopia that Crysis 3 depicts is often static and unchanging throughout the course of the adventure.
With that said, the action does expand on the expected Crysis formula in at least a couple of interesting ways. What veterans will be familiar with is how the game stuffs considerable power into that nanosuit, allowing you to go out guns-blazing in Armor mode or pick people off quietly while staying cloaked. The modules you find allow you to customize plenty of aspects of how the suit works, giving you useful perks to choose from, and you can still customize weapons on-the-fly with new scopes, ammo types, and barrel options to match the kind of combat you're looking for. The bow is the biggest new thing, as you're always carrying it alongside your guns, and it allows you to silently take out an enemy without breaking your cloaking, which you can't do even with a suppressed firearm. This makes it a powerful tool that's usually limited only by the very scant amount of arrows you're allowed to carry at once, so use of your visor mode to spot enemies and find arrows so you can recover them is a handy thing after every big fight. Some of the level design will allow for an open-ended approach to getting to a goal, which you can do a little more often here than in Crysis 2, but even the large environments of the first Crysis often dwarf the spaces allowed here. It seems likely that Crysis 2 and 3 were made like this because of the need to fit these two games onto current-gen consoles, and Crytek tried to make up for it on PC with a ton of visual effects and increased detail, but I'd argue that the need for a multiplatform release still compromises one of the best parts of Crytek's original games, which was that wide-open approach to combat.
Ultimately, Crytek intended to bring a lot of excitement with its tried-and-true action formula, but this time they failed to connect the player to the story and the world they've so painstakingly created. And admittedly, I feel like that's something they've struggled with since the release of Far Cry nearly nine years ago, but it's really noticeable this time. Sure, the visuals on PC are wonderful - technically some of the best seen on any gaming PC yet, with fantastic texture quality and some great visual effects - but the developers' by-the-numbers combat and unwillingness to engage the player in any kind of ongoing story make for a game that is just... unexciting. It's not boring, nor is it bad - and it's really pretty, even if you have to drop down to medium or low settings just to play on a $250 video card - but for reasons entirely outside of the visuals or the combat, I found it a challenge to muster up the motivation to complete the moderately-sized eight hour campaign.
In multiplayer mode, Crysis 3 offers a little bit more of that design-by-the-numbers philosophy that Crytek drew from so heavily this time around. The main mode pits a bunch of nanosuit-wearing players against each other, either alone or in teams, giving them full use of the suit powers and offering a very formulaic rank-up system that has become so commonplace this generation. Hunter mode is a little different, as it puts two players in nanosuits that include cloaking, powerful melee attacks, and the all-important compound bow against a much larger team of players with more conventional weaponry and no special abilities. I don't feel like any of this goes outside of the bounds Crytek has already really set, and I don't expect the game to have a long life of online play either on PC or elsewhere.
The visual splendor Crysis 3 offers on a well-equipped PC can hardly be matched and while there's nothing outright wrong, boring, or really broken with this game, players will be unable to shake the apathetic feeling that keeps cropping up when playing it. Even with some more personal moments between the main two characters and the interesting look of the vegetation-covered ruins of an abandoned New York, not enough has been done to bring it all together. Maybe the reason why is that the same Crysis gunplay couldn't have possibly carried us through four full games, and maybe it's that Crytek's been narrowing down its level and objective design to something small and linear just to make console ports possible (and compromising our favorite part of their earlier games), but the end result, ambitious and pretty as it is, feels like a meal made entirely of empty calories. Looking back, Crysis 3 seems more and more to me like the result of a slightly cynical attempt to fill out a multinational corporation's portfolio of 2013 video games. It comes off less as a product made of art and design and gameplay and excitement, and more like an entry on a balance sheet, a simple fulfillment of a contract, or a footnote on an investor conference call. I know that both EA and Crytek can do better, and I hope that's their plan for their next project.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a downloadable final version of the game provided by the publisher.