Crytek’s latest addition to the Crysis series seems to have come around pretty quickly since we first saw footage of what the new CryEngine3 is capable of. But sure enough, the game that was for so long the benchmark that PC gamers strived to achieve has once again made it to the consoles, and it’s morphed again since last time round to give yet another different type of game.
The first thing you’ll spot is that Crysis 3 once again offers some incredibly beautiful visuals, every bit as eye-popping as you’d expect from a Crytek title. While the opening moments aren’t the most incredible you’ll see, the moment you see New York – battered, overgrown and capped with a huge biodome – you’ll find it hard pushed not to sit open-mouthed in wonder. With buildings in ruins, nature reclaiming most of the city and huge gun turrets designed to kill everything that so much as blinks, it’s a long way from the New York you’ll have seen before. It looks stunning. The long grass sways in the breeze, water runs through streets as if there was never a road there at all, it all comes together to become one of the finest looking console games we’ve seen so far. The sound works beautifully too, mixing plenty of chatter from characters and enemies around you with eery silences when you hear nothing but your own footsteps and the occasional distance burst of gunfire. In terms of being atmospheric, this is pretty impressive.
Gameplay is similar to previous Crysis games and those of you who have played ever of them will feel at home with the controls. The suit’s controls, offering you the standard Nanosuit shield and cloak features (for tougher shields or near-invisibility respectively), are mapped to the same buttons as before, and the ever-standard FPS aiming, firing, springing and melee attacks are where you’d want them to be. What makes Crysis 3 incredibly cool though is the new weapon on the block – the bow.
The issue with cloaking yourself has always been the same: shoot someone and the cloak drops, leaving you wide open to being spotted and shot at. There’s always the stealth kill option – creeping up behind someone and killing them silently and invisibly by hand – but you need to be up close. What you need is a weapon that is deadly, but doesn’t let your disguise drop. The bow does exactly this, giving you a pretty long range option that lets you stay cloaked and make a few kills before hiding away to let the suit recharge. It sounds like such a simple addition, but it makes a world of difference to how the game pans out, especially with the challenge of a very limited amount of arrows on offer (helped by the option to collect your used standard arrows from the bodies of your victims). Entering a new area in Crysis 2 meant one thing: scan the area, look for some key strategic options, check where the bad guys are and press on with your gun at the ready. Crysis 3 does things a little differently.
By being slightly more open in the possible approaches (although still not as open as the original Crysis) you’re not provided with potential routes any more; it’s now totally up to you to figure out how to get through. This time when you arrive at a new spot you still use your fancy visor to scan the area for bad guys, ammo drops and weapons but how you decide to progress is entirely up to you. Being able to hack into turrets and certain other enemies gives you an interesting option, getting much of your killing done without even having to raise your weapon. But the combination of cloaking and the bow has turned a gun-based shooter into a stealthy sneak-em-up, one that works extremely well. Take down the first enemy and others will spot them long before spotting you, causing panic that you can hear in their chatter. From that point it’s all about picking your route, taking down the bad guys silently one by one and keeping an eye out for any handy upgrades on offer. You’ve even got a range of ammo to use, and while we’re not talking Rage levels of customisation, being able to strap an explosive arrow into your bow is enormously enjoyable.
This in itself lets you pick your own way of playing – do you take a risk of low ammo levels and just use your bow, or take out a few quietly to thin the ranks then go in all guns blazing with your shield activated? Do you take advantage of a couple of enemies standing in the same puddle and send an electrical arrow into the water to kill them both together, or shoot one with an exploding arrow and take them out that way instead? Or do you just sod it and run head-first with your machine gun and cause as much damage as possible? Well the latter is certainly possible, but you’ll be missing out on a fantastic way of playing.
Suit upgrades are dotted around the city too, offering up ways to improve your Nanosuit with improved armour, quicker aiming and so on. There’s a lot to unlock, and with each upgrade being in one of four slots you can chop and change the combination of active upgrades whenever you like, even storing them as shortcuts to reactivate later. With a few upgrades under your belt this works brilliantly, letting you have a stealthy setup, a powerful combination and so on, all available to switch to whenever you like. This comes into play beautifully in the final stages of the game, when stealth is vitally important just moments before you’ll want the strongest defence on offer.
The campaign itself isn’t, in my opinion, a short as people have made out, but then I took my time and did things quietly. Admittedly it’s a bit lightweight and doesn’t match what we’ve come to expect from the Crysis series (and those who treat it as a “normal” FPS will race through it), but it’s still a very enjoyable campaign while it lasts and the story is pretty good throughout. It feels almost as if they were hoping people would REALLY take their time with the stealth options on offer though; either that or relying on the online modes to keep people occupied. In that respect they might get lucky, but it depends on what you’re after.
The online options are pretty decent and work well, letting you take part in the standard gameplay modes that you’d bet on being included – variants on deathmatch, capture and hold, all that stuff – but with the added coolness of what the Nanosuit offers. However the standout mode uses the game’s new weapon to create a brilliant new type of online game. The Hunter mode pitches two players (the hunters) against everyone else, suited up as CELL operatives. The hunters have the use of the bow and the suit’s cloaking ability to stalk the other players and pick them off silently. Get killed by a hunter and you become one yourself, until one side is eliminated totally. It’s a very nervous way to play, and the slower pace of everyone taking great care with keeping hidden and avoiding open spaces makes for a pretty unique experience. Whether or not the online mode will last remains to be seen – Crysis 2 became pretty quiet fairly quickly, and I doubt it’ll pull the Black Ops 2 crowd away from their kill streaks and gadgets – but give it some time and there’s some great gaming to be had here.
What we have is a very decent, but slightly underweight single player campaign backed up by an enjoyable online game that will be great fun for as long as people are willing to play it. The addition of more stealthy options has turned out to be a great move, and any fans of the series (or anyone who wants some serious gaming eye-candy) would do well to pick this up.
I’ll say this though: I can’t wait to see Homefront 2 running on this new CryEngine.
Reviewed on PS3