Sequels are supposed to be bigger, better and flashier than the origin game in a series. So when Crysis 2 ended up smaller, worse and less bombastic than the first, it made PC gamers activate their Maximum Rage ability across the ‘Net’s forums.
I was one of the many upset whingers demanding an explanation, but after recently meeting with one of the producers I could finally understand where it all went so wrong. Crysis 2 was Crytek’s first console game, and the company struggled with squeezing the delights of the PC masterpiece into a shoebox powered by calculator components. They trimmed back the level sizes and graphical detail so as not to cause the consoles to self combust, and even made the AI simpler so console kids wouldn’t get upset when they got smashed. There’s no excuse for the horrific matchmaking of the online game, but basically I can see how they managed to mishandle the sequel to such an iconic PC release.
Crysis 3 has one goal lined up through the sites of its hyper-tension, carbon fibre, bow – to recapture the glory of the first Crysis. I can’t say whether or not they’ve done that on the consoles, as I cleverly reviewed the PC version of the game, ensuring I saw the definitive version of Crytek’s latest and greatest. Sure, it came at the cost of a small blackout in my neighbourhood, caused when my gaming PC went critical during the opening scenes of this performance hog of a game, but it was worth it, because in most ways Crysis 3 surpasses the original. Unfortunately where it slightly goes wrong is that it’s a little too faithful to the original, forgetting some of the lessons learnt within the FPS genre since then.
Providing a satisfying conclusion to the storyline of the first two games, I’ve got to hand it to the storytelling in the third; for once it’s actually understandable. There are some decent twists and turns on the way, and for such a high-paced roller coaster ride it’s remarkably cohesive. As expected it doesn’t cover anything deeper than saving the earth from a rectum-shaped alien the size of a small moon, but if I wanted a spiritual experience I’d go play Journey. No, this game is all about blowing assorted shit up with an assorted range of weaponry through assorted environments, and in that regard it does a nifty job.
Actually, for the first half of the game you’ll probably choose to avoid the baddies, as the stealth is so rewarding, not to mention easier. You’ll play out each level exactly the same way. First, you’ll follow your AI mate for a minute, hearing him blather on about his alien-killing girlfriend. He’ll then conveniently nick off to see a man about a dog, leaving you alone to scout the open environment ahead. By open I mean Max Payne 3 kind of open, not Battlefield 3. Your cyberbollocks binoculars allow you to see through the environment, tagging baddies and seeing which alert state they’re in; chilling on a bowl, getting paranoid on meth, or going totally PCP crazy. Once you’ve tagged ‘em all, you’ll use your lengthy stealth ability to sneak through, occasionally snapping some unlucky sucker’s neck like a popsicle, and trying to hit all the side objectives and weapon caches without dying. I played on SuperSoldier, one level down from Impossible, and found stealth was pretty easy for the first half of the game.
About half way through though, Crysis 3 catches on to your sneaky cheaty self, and starts throwing baddies and situations at you that stop you from relying upon your invisi-crutch. It’s here that the action goes from level 11 to absolutely blistering nuts, with a non-stop cavalcade of explosions and blood and rockets and helicopter gunship levels and smashing kittens against walls. It’s breathtaking and unrelenting, and that’s what’s wrong with it. Crytek forgot about golden rule #8 of FPS design: “For every 10 minutes of killing, the most enlightening virtual experiences doth require three minutes of mood-developing exploration”. Instead Crytek chucks in a minute or two of down time before another half hour of steroidal rage.
Maybe it’s because they felt the first half of the game was so heavily focused on stealth that there was no need to include these moments of reflection in the second act, but boy I wish they had. I love me a good, Bay-splosion filled firefight, but when it drags on for several hours it becomes almost numbing in its one-toned theme of violence.
It’s a small flaw that doesn’t ruin the game in the slightest, but it does stop Crysis 3 from achieving the same giddy heights of a Half-Life 2 or Dishonored. It’s a shame, as when it comes to the visual presentation of the game, Crysis 3 is in a very exclusive club with just one other member, Battlefield 3. Screw the future generation of consoles, graphics of that level are already available here. Sure, it requires a WOPR-sized mainframe to run it on max detail, but my i7 3770 (oc’d to 4.5GHz) with dual GTX 670s ran it at close to 60fps for the majority of the campaign. And that was on max detail, which is an absolute sight to behold. Set in a version of New York City that is slowly being taken over by the jungle, the mixture of organic and man-made objects in the scenery shows that this engine can handle either style of graphics with ease. Close-ups on the faces of allies shows individual wrinkles and hair follicles, while firefights explode forth with a dizzying array of particle and smoke effects. It doesn’t beat Battlefield 3 in the visual steaks, as it focuses on different strengths, but I’d say it’s at least equal to Frostbite 2.0’s finest hour.
Most players will come to Crysis 3 for the 10-hour single-player game, especially considering the last game’s multiplayer was so crappy. Which makes the fact that Crysis 3’s multiplayer is really rather good such a nice surprise. Playing out kind of like Unreal Tournament, but with a mixture of machine guns and alien weapons, there’s a huge range of maps and customisation to keep you playing for ages. Best of all, it’s actually fun, and proves a refreshing change from the mil-sim shooters so heavily favoured by the genre. If there’s one complaint it’s that its savagely difficult for beginners, as veterans have access to some game-changing abilities, but stick with it and you’ll soon start to get payback on the vets.
Crysis 3 comes so close to greatness that it’s a tragedy that it didn’t make it. If the next game focuses a little more on mood-setting moments where the player – gasp – has no way to kill anything at all, then it’ll be the perfect sci-fi shooter. As it stands now, Crysis 3 is a very good game, with a refreshingly different style and setting that sets it apart from so many me-too military shooters.