Over the course of many years, videogames have managed to normalise the preposterous idea of the one-man army. Now, players are used to taking on the role of the unstoppable super-soldier effortlessly mowing down waves of foes, toting around enough guns and ammo to equip a platoon, and shrugging off bullet wounds like they were mosquito bites. Crysis 3’s protagonist, Prophet, is one such musclebound killing machine, but in this case his ultra-badassery comes at a cost – enhanced by nanotechnology and alien DNA: he is so changed that it’s hard to tell if there’s anything left of the man inside the suit. The game asks players to consider what it means to be the hero if you must sacrifice your own humanity in the process.
The game's philosophical leanings are only really brushed upon over the course of the game, but at times they do manage to generate some actual emotional weight for its story and characters. Unfortunately the overarching plot does no favours by comparison. It's a half-hearted mish-mash of genre conventions that pits the gruff hero, working with an underground rebel force, against not only a world-ending alien invasion but also an evil corporation that controls the world’s energy supply. Hackneyed doesn’t begin to describe it, but what it all boils down to is this: New York is encased in a big dome controlled by some bad humans, and some bad aliens are attacking. You’re the good guy.
Graphically, Crysis 3 is superb. The post-apocalyptic New York landscape is rendered stunningly throughout, from crumbling, overgrown buildings, to fields of long, swaying grass dotted with rusted-out vehicles, and further to futuristic, humming power plants. Lighting, weather, and water effects all look great, too, and serve to bring the game’s literal urban jungle to vivid life. If there’s any criticism to be made here, it’s that the game’s enemies could be a little more varied, but the models in the game look fine, and while Prophet’s nanosuit does make him look a bit like a buff version of the Michelin Man, the main supporting characters are excellently animated and competently voice-acted, too.
At Prophet’s disposal is an impressive array of weaponry that feels and sounds suitably chunky and powerful. Each gun is also able to be customised on the fly with things like silencers, scopes and underbarrel attachments, so the permutations are seemingly endless. However, it’s entirely possible that many players may not ever get around to sampling the full assortment, due to the highlight of the arsenal: the Predator Bow, a high-powered compound bow that unleashes one-hit kills without disrupting Prophet’s stealth camouflage.
Modes of play
Crysis 3 allows players to choose which style of game they want to play. The nanosuit has two distinct functions: the first is an armour power-up that increases Prophet’s damage resistance, and the second is stealth camouflage that allows him to sneak around undetected. The suit can be upgraded one way or the other, so the basic choice is whether to charge in guns blazing or tiptoe around and pick off enemies one by one. Coupled with the game’s large and open level design, it makes each section of the game feel like a big playground, with multiple options available as a means to progress. Will players sneak to a handy vantage point before unleashing a barrage of lead at their enemies? Will they hack hostile turrets and minefields and lead their foes to explosive deaths? Will they take out guards with the Predator Bow, collecting their spent arrows from the bodies in their wake? Or will they try to crawl past trouble completely undetected?
The choice afforded to players is welcome, but it soon becomes apparent that each option was not created equal. In fact, playing Crysis 3 as a sneak ‘em up game – while not a dull experience by any means – does reveal several limitations. The main problem comes from the fact that the nanosuit’s stealth capabilities are entirely too generous. While stealth camoflage is active, the player is effectively invisible to any enemies standing further than a scant few metres away. The suit does have limited energy reserves, so it is necessary to find hiding places for the few seconds it takes to recharge, but with a little planning this is easily achieved. And if players do get caught out, simply whacking stealth back on and taking a few steps in any direction will cause alerted enemies to lose track of Prophet's whereabouts completely.
Wide of the mark
Guards behave inconsistently, too. They will instantly spot and open fire on Prophet from across the map if his camouflage goes down out of cover, while remaining cheerily oblivious to the thunk of a misdirected arrow hitting the wall mere centimetres above their heads. What’s more, when alerted they’re completely and utterly ineffective at flushing out intruders. Kill an enemy and his co-workers will dutifully, incompetently investigate the scene one at a time, allowing players to set up shop and pick off the poor saps as they repeatedly wonder aloud, “What going on here?!”
It’s frustrating that more work wasn’t put into making Crysis 3 a great stealth game, because playing this way can still be a lot of fun, regardless of its faults. Hitting stealth kills, listening to the cries of terrified guards, and drawing back the string of that deadly Predator Bow: these are all sneaky, visceral thrills. Playing the game as a straight-ahead shooter, on the other hand, is a pretty middling experience, again mostly due to lacklustre enemy AI. There are a few excellent moments in the campaign, such as when Prophet must run through a field of head-high grass while being pursued by Stalker aliens, but more often than not, shooting things up in Crysis 3 is a bit of a bore. There’s also a rather pointless and annoying driving section tacked on – the less said about it the better.
Multiplayer boasts a long list of game modes, including most of the usual suspects: team deathmatch, capture the flag and so on. Call of Duty fans will feel right at home choosing equipment, earning XP for kills and assists, and being rewarded with game-changing bonuses for stringing together killstreaks. Nanosuits, as in the campaign, are integral to the experience, and adding the ability to go near-invisible gives Crysis 3 its own feel despite its familiar trappings. Its most unique feature is Hunter mode, in which two players begin the game as invisible, bow-toting hunters and the rest start as nanosuit-less soldiers. The aim for the soldiers is simply to survive for two minutes, but with every fallen ally respawning as another hunter, it’s much easier said than done. Add a creepy-sounding proximity detector to the mix and Hunter is a tense and exciting match type that adds a lot to a multiplayer package that is otherwise perfectly fine but pretty much by the numbers.
On the surface, Crysis 3 seems like it should be a contender – its graphics are incredible, its nanosuit and Predator Bow gimmicks are unique and enticing, and its longevity is boosted by its good-if-not-great multiplayer – but as polished as the game looks, there are some rough areas hiding beneath its shiny exoskeleton. The game gives players the option to go for stealth or action, but, to put it bluntly, neither is as fun as it could or should be. To call Crysis 3 “just another first-person shooter” perhaps sounds overly damning, because it really is a pretty decent game, but as a supposed “triple A” title, it should stand out from the crowd more than this.