By – Mike Bezek
I never believed in the hype for much of anything: cars, coffee makers, and especially games. Large gatherings and events always met with one eyebrow raised, I had always seen them all as early damage control. These carefully constructed scenarios are almost synonymous with a new title that has a decent amount of doubt surrounding it. After the past 15 years, it seems like the press and consumers alike have bought in with Crysis 3 as much as they did with Daikatana: not taking a closer look at the media blitz designed to push the day one purchase above all else. Once they have your money, the transaction has been closed and they can chalk another success on their boardroom whiteboard.
The Crysis series had a rather wonderful thing going for it when the first iteration was released in 2007. After countless years of watching Nvidia, AMD, and Unreal tech demos, Crytek made the bold decision to develop a game based on their own handcrafted engine that gave life to these shows of tessellation and anti-aliasing wonder. But what made the game front page news was that Crysis’s design was so far ahead of the curve that a large swath of the gaming community could not run in properly. Crysis 1 was made with full knowledge that it would present a challenge to gamers by shaming their inadequate system. The phrase, “But will it run Crysis?” became a catchphrase for benchmarkers, and with that, the PR boat had filled it sails and was shuttling the series along at a startling pace. The game taxed modern graphical components to extreme levels, but it was gorgeous and sometimes fun when you could get a frame rate higher than a residential speed limit.
Crysis was one of those games that represented the future, an enthralling look into the possibilities of tomorrow. With a solid grasp on graphical superiority, Crytek’s modus operandi from there on would assumingly have been to improve the gameplay while innovating new technologies. Six years, and a handful of nanosuit experiences later, I sit at my desk with one eyebrow raised. Raised at how so many easy decisions were dumped in favor of supposed streamlining. Raised at the brain dead AI. Raised at how something of this magnitude could have any problems whatsoever. Sequels are supposed to evolve and improve, stealing their structure while implementing new and interesting features to hold its own among modern innovations. Let me be clear, the Crysis series has always stood in my mind as a glorified tech demo with some decent gunplay thrown in for good measure. The gameplay ideas present has massive amounts of potential, but priority was placed on proving its graphical prowess made the “fun” diminutive.
Right from the get-go, Crysis 3 makes you fully aware of each advancement in technology it conquers by flexing its veiny, vascular graphical muscle at every chance. The facial expressions of the main characters are bar-none the most beautiful and jaw dropping experiences in the game. Incredibly intricate animations and models complement the rather impressive voice crew bringing these characters to life. An overwhelming feeling of, “The future is now.” presents itself wholeheartedly, reminiscent of blasting through Quake for the first time, or hoofing it through Azeroth in 2004. It’s like having Alyx discover you on that broken staircase all over again.
The environments are equally as impressive – the urban jungle of future New York is a thoughtful throwback to the flourishing forests of North Korea. Every effect in the book is utilized to full capacity here, and it is an incredible showpiece to how far we have come over the past decade. There are, however, an egregious number of scenes that scream, “Hey, look here! Look what we can do!” that do little to move the story forward. Showcasing new technology is not crime, but when it becomes the centerpiece for the structure of a game, its overuse brings diminishing returns.
Crysis 3 suffers from a malady I like to call Vanquish-syndrome as there are quite a few instances where jargon mucks your understanding of the story. In Level 5’s very Japanese super soldier simulation, half of the spoken dialogue between characters we like listening in on a Theoretical Physics Symposium. The sheer lack of contextual dialogue left the player hopelessly unaware of nearly everything going on around them as unprecedented model numbers and names were used ad nauseum. The same goes here in Crysis as important story elements fly by the player due to the usage of phrases that make little sense to someone new to the series. There were certain points of the game I was simply following my objective marker because I had given up on attempting to understand the whos and whys. While a handful of story information is stored in your inventory in the form of black boxes, it remains incredibly immersion breaking to pull the player out of the game to flesh out elements that should be presented within the play experience.
But that is not why we are here, is it? There is supposed to be a game here, but Crytek seems to have forgotten about that part.
If you had paid any attention to the massive amounts of PR gracing the front page of every major gaming site, you should be quite familiar with Prophet’s new composite bow called the Predator. In fact, if there was a screenshot present, that bendy contraption would undoubtedly be drawn back in preparation to strike. So much focus on an antiquated weapon in a futuristic game was incredibly odd, so I began to wonder if the bow was Ceph technology that you would interact with, seeing as Prophet is now merged with them. Maybe the bow is the main character, I thought, maybe the bow is calling the shots because it is an omniscient being controlling Prophet. How exciting, albeit improbable. But instead of the bow being a crucial story element, it unceremoniously enters early in the game as the easy-mode answer to killing bad guys. Instead of this weapon being an important focal point, it is strictly utilitarian in nature and nothing more.
In the original Crysis, firing your gun while cloaked would cancel the effect, making every shot a game of chance. Surveying your surroundings and analyzing the most advantageous assault point is what made the game so tense – a reminder that while the nanosuit was powerful, the person inside was still human. Botching your plan would result in either death, or escaping by the skin of your teeth while a small army attempted to hunt you down. Here, the bow allows you to stay in cloak mode, is completely silent when fired, and carries an impact like it has rocket boosters strapped on. It does not matter where you hit the target, a misplaced shot into their foot will carries the same ferocity as piercing their heart.
This raises the question in why the player would even bother to procure the assortment of guns found throughout the levels.. There is zero incentive to not choose the bow for nearly every combat situation. Guns are loud, unwieldy, and ultimately made tackling situations rather clunky. While there are plenty of cool new peashooters available to play around with, the benefit picking one up is negated when the bow silently flings explosive arrows capable of taking down a helicopter in two shots. Adding to the versatility is the electric and airburst arrows, which effectively make you unstoppable against baddies in the water or grouped together. Choosing to use any other weapon puts you at a detriment, meaning the player would intentionally be creating a challenge, rather than the game itself.
The focus on stealth above all other tactics makes for a very redundant combat system. There is very little reason to engage any enemy forces when it is far easier to just sneak past them. Games typically rewards a player that fights their way through a band of baddies, whether it be with a new item or additional ammo. Here, massive caches of weapons are left around like candy so that every single supply needed before tackling a situation is present. Supplementing this flaw is Visor mode, which allows you to tag nearly everything on the map from the instant you enter each scenario. I am sure that Crytek’s intention was for the player to adapt and devise a strategy before tackling the area, allowing them the always have the upper hand. Instead, it breeds predictability and monotony since soldiers, ammo drops and turret locations can be pinpointed through walls. Hacking is the only function that requires you to establish a line of sight to a target, otherwise, you are semi-omniscient. It becomes second nature to bring up the visor and simply tag everyone from the get go as the only way to add the element of surprise to the game is to intentionally forgo the function.
Deciding to engage your opponents is hit or miss at best. It seems that the requirements of becoming a Cell soldier in the Crysis world is that you do not have to retain problem solving skills, just the incredible ability to spot someone’s elbow poking out from behind a wall a mile away. Finding an appropriate hiding spot that is concealed from enemy sight in an open world environment is a test of patience as their ability to spot you upon decloaking is uncanny. Once discovered, everyone in that area is instantaneously aware of your exact location, and will shower the area with bullets. Having ten bloodthirsty soldiers bearing down on you instantaneously is evocative of the uncanny valley, yet still provides the needed, “Flight or flight” response.
But on the other side of the coin, we have situations where Cell soldiers will line up to be shot. There are some situations where you can lure the AI to constantly discover the same dead dead body, picking them off as they inspect the pile of corpses lying on the ground. I found myself in some situations where I was able to successfully shoot 5 soldiers coming to investigate 10 seconds apart from each other. This led me to ultimately become apathetic about actually entering combat, it was more efficient and satisfying to hack a turret or sneak past than to engage them. Situations like this reinforces the tactic of sneaking past most enemies, as engagement can become frustrating, and most importantly, not entirely engaging.
Adding insult to injury to the cognitively impaired soldiers is their almost laughable voice work. While the main characters of the game deliver great performances, your enemies talk like they are straight out of an action B-movie. Rampant overuse of derogatory language to the player makes Cell soldiers sound like petulant high schoolers, it was almost like they wrote down their favorite phrases heard over XBOX Live.
Crysis 3 is a game that is attempting to live in the shadow of its own legacy. When its mammoth progenitor landed on the scene in 2007, it was trekking in unfamiliar territory. It wasn’t designed for the average consumer as the entrance fee was quite steep to get the most out of the purchase. But back then, games that pushed the envelope were desirable as the market had only seen this once before in DOOM 3. In those days, the excitement and buzz surrounding graphical powerhouses is what sold videocards and processors to the delight of hardware manufacturers.
Nowadays, being on the bleeding edge of graphical prowess alone is less of a primary selling point. Gamers have broadened their expectations and desire deeper experiences that go beyond a pretty shell. In an era where people are embracing a back-to-basics approach to game design, going the extra mile to differentiate yourself makes a world of difference. Giving the player the reigns to an incredibly powerful vessel is not a burgeoning concept, and neglecting to supplement the tried and true formula leaves the game hollow from the inside out. I have been a personal fan of the Crysis series for years, hoping that they would make an innovative leap with this third entry. But instead, they focused on turning their game into a vapid supermodel rather than a beautiful valedictorian.
Is It Worth Your Money?
Crysis 3 is all bark and no bite. You will be wowed by the beautiful landscapes. You will be amazed at the realistic facial animations and expressions. But you will be let down by the forcibly dumbed down experience riddled with boring additions. Crysis is an exciting and innovative franchise that could seemingly go anywhere and do anything, but it feels like publisher pressures and developer shortsightedness brewed a nasty cocktail that looked to assimilate with the Call Of Duty audience for validation. What was once a series about how innovative the player could utilize his abilities to complete a task, now becomes a very straightforward journey through a thinly veiled hallway with distractions.
You can make something as visually engaging as you want, but when you take out its heart and soul, it doesn’t take a very discerning eye to see through the flourishes. Crysis 3 feels like a model home. It’s incredibly pleasing to the eye, a testament to the designer who tailored the abode to appeal to a wide variety of people. ”Look at this new-age architectural prowess here, and wonder at the shade of modern paint over there!” it insists. But once you sit inside and kick your feet up on the coffee table, you realize how unsubstantial and vacant these carefully placed pieces of furniture are, the lack of personality quickly makes the environment feel alien and hollow. Beauty does not always equate to quality, and Crysis 3 has been looking in the mirror for far too long. Pick it up at a short sale.
Crysis 3 Technical Summary:
- Time Played— 9 hours
- Widescreen Support—Yes
- Resolution Played—1920×1080
- FOV Slider- Yes
- 5.1 Audio Support- Yes
- Bugs/Crashes Encountered—A.I. bugs
- Control Scheme—Mouse + Keyboard
- System Specs—Core i3, RADEON 7770, 16GB RAM
- Game Acquisition Method—Review Copy
- Saved Game —“C:\Users\*username*\Saved Games\Crysis3 (Can be launched from Games section in Win7)