Crysis 3 – Game Analysis and Review
By Patrick Newman
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Director: Cevat Yerli
Writer: Steven Hall
Composers: Borislav Slavov, Peter Antovszki
Engine: CryEngine 3
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Genre: First-person shooter
Mode: Single-player, multiplayer
Crytek founder Cevat Yerli recently expounded his belief to Gamasutra that Crysis 3 is the best of the series thus far, “Technical and creatively, and storytelling – all aspects.” That may indeed be true of this slick first person shooter, but despite its obvious aesthetic strengths and gruesomely thrilling action, it simply doesn’t work as hard to develop a unique identity in the way Half Life 2 and Deus Ex (both of which Crysis 3 cribs heavily from) managed to do in their time. Even with such a re-heated premise and narrow formal ambition, credit where credit’s due should be given to the shooter for the across-the-board technical excellence that so successfully entrenches you in a post-apocalyptic NYC reclaimed by nature.
Though similar in form and content to Crysis 2, the gameplay now has better balance, tighter controls, and the introduction of a fun and formidable new weapon (the Predator bow). Crytek’s newfound sense of balance is illustrated in the way players can utilize their suits. Whereas in the first Crysis, the suit’s energy depleted startlingly quickly, and in Crysis 2 the suits had a nearly inexhaustible supply, Crysis 3 finds a way to make you feel appropriately superhuman while also forcing you struggle to meet the bar. The maintenance of your character’s advanced technology adds a tactical dimension to what is otherwise a fairly typical shooter.
That’s not to say the visuals of Crysis 3 are anything but extraordinary. Though the game has been primarily designed to be a PC showcase, the Xbox 360 version is simply gorgeous. Crytek’s deserted vision of New York, undoubtedly influenced by Will Smith’s elk-hunting adventures in I Am Legend, features photo-realistic lighting and vegetation (down to individual blades of grass). The fusion of an urban, shell-shocked landscape with an unruly jungle growing out of the rubble is one of the few qualities that helps set the game apart from the pack. This is truly inspired art direction, especially arriving in the wake of Crysis 2’s painfully dull collection of parking garages, sewers and subways to battle through.
Crysis 3’s villains – a diverse array of Ceph aliens – are also a winning addition after a collection of uniform, been-there-done-that humanoid monsters in the series’ last installment. Taking a page from Half-Life’s range of hyper-intelligent beasties, the Ceph have sophisticated AI that becomes fun to strategize against, especially the flame breathing Scorchers, who are impervious when attacked from the front and need to be tripped up by explosives. The CELL soldiers also bring to mind the classic Half-Life skirmishes against Marine troops, in that they cleverly employ teamwork while being constantly protective of themselves on the advance.
Though designed primarily as a single-player experience, Crytek UK’s eight multiplayer modes make for a welcome diversion from the “alien invasion meets evil, monolithic corporation” storyline re-hashed from countless past games. Like the single player campaign, Crysis 3’s multiplayer feels more like solid craftsmanship and a continuation of what worked before rather than a significant step forward. Still, the new “Hunter” mode of cloaked stealth killing via Predator bows is especially rewarding, since it uses Crysis’ unique gameplay mechanics as a central conceit. In general, I appreciated how these multiplayer modes reward being perceptive and strategic over lumbering mindlessly forward ad nauseam. Even when matches skirt the edge of becoming mindlessly repetitive – as they frequently tend to in the Call of Duty franchise – these issues are mitigated by the energy-dependent Nanosuit, as well as visuals and sound design on a level that invites careful surveys of the environment rather than indiscriminate firing.
The game’s story attempts to consider the implications of giving oneself over so wholly to the Nanosuit technology, having a character ask the Crysis 3 hero Prophet at one point – “Do you even have a face anymore?” Getting at the heart of what it means to be human in a heightened, fantasy context has long been fodder for great sci-fi (as seen in films like Blade Runner or Robocop). But, as with so many of today’s current crop of games, the thematic depth of its narrative only really exists to justify the ballet of action and lighting effects. It’s the last detail considered by Crytek, instead of the first. Until technically accomplished games like this learn to embrace the full storytelling potential of their medium, we’ll be left with surface-level entertainments that get the heart pumping, but leaves the imagination thoroughly un-stimulated.
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