When asked if developer Crytek should necessarily be synonymous with pushing the limits of technology, senior creative director Rasmus Hojengaard is quick to offer a pragmatic explanation.
"I think we would probably be challenging some of Crytek's pillars if we didn't do that. The value you get from pushing these things is different now from what it was ten years ago.
"But it's part of our DNA. Even if people aren't conscious about doing it, it'll just happen anyway."
Statements like these are indicative of the ingrained desire by the Frankfurt-based studio to up the ante with every Crysis release. When the first Crysis slammed on to screens in 2007 it may have caused a generation of PC overclockers to gasp in despair, however the sequel was a more refined affair. Abandoning the desert island theme in favour of a concrete jungle, many felt Crysis 2 lacked the sandbox attributes so favoured in the first, even if the technical requirements weren't quite so brutal towards hardware platforms that had largely caught up by then.
It's no real surprise then that Crysis 3 radiates further compromise. The setting – a lavishly ruined New York City circa 2047 – allows Crytek to appeal to the US market by providing a familiar location. New York, extensively overgrown and covered by a dome, is further populated by the so-called "seven wonders"; seven distinctly different rainforest-inspired regions with their own varied features, and threats.
The contrast is jarring, the symbolism obvious; put Crysis and Crysis 2 into a centrifuge, and the highly enriched Crysis 3 will eventuate. Think broken skylines, crumbling buildings, and sprawling undergrowth that channels the leafy, high-detail textures that wowed the world nearly five years ago.
It's not just a consolidated setting that breeds familiarity either, as the return of Prophet and his remarkably adept suit will attest. The story may have advanced some two decades, but our erstwhile hero hasn't lost one iota of strength, thanks to the nanosuit's superpowers.
Perched on a branch overlooking the ruined landscape, Prophet is on a mission of revenge. The CELL corporation, seemingly in tune with the population's desire to thwart the evil Ceph invaders, are in charge of encasing major cities in nanodomes for their own protection. Prophet suspects otherwise however, as given the prevalence of alien life it seems likely that CELL's motives aren't entirely altruistic.
Crytek's demonstration shows only night combat, although a caveat is issued that the nanodomes themselves are transparent, so the game won't be permanently plunged into darkness. Large towers illuminate swathes of the land as Prophet surveys threats. It's explained that the goal is to push strong lighting effects and interesting shadows using a central tower; light, and the absence of it, are central themes.
In a fully cloaked position with a large, elaborately mechanised compound bow, additional dreadlocks and a wrist-mounted interface could easily complete a convincing Predator makeover. Pause briefly to reflect on the popularity of The Hunger Games as arrows are equipped with various warheads; I Am Legend.
Following the river towards Chinatown, much is made of the new water features. Currents flow convincingly as wildlife abounds, thanks to the nanodome's regenerative properties that have imbued the city with a 500-year-old rainforest in a fraction of the time.
Ceph marauders are dotted everywhere, providing suitable target practise for the hugely powerful bow. This weapon can be fired entirely from stealth – a new addition to the Crysis gameplay – and causes immense disruption to enemy movements. Crysis 2 never allowed this kind of stealth warfare and felt too rigid for the experience, explains Hojengaard, as an arrow is loosed and followed closely by the camera until it reaches its target.
Naturally, the bow isn't the only new weapon. Prophet can acquire the "Typhoon", a massive, overpowered hand cannon that fires 500 rounds per second, causing unimaginable damage to anything unfortunate enough to be within a kilometre radius. Not only that, but Ceph weapons can be turned against them, ably demonstrated by the procurement of a plasma rifle that is used to blast several Ceph units back to their own planet.
This concept of technology sharing works "...much like it does in District 9", informs Hojengaard. The continuity is spot on; Prophet is no longer entirely human, his DNA has long been mixed with that of the Ceph.
Yet, for all this tinkering under the hood, Crysis has always been a series defined by one attribute above all else: the suit. This time around, there's one major addition in the form of hacking, a feature designed to balance out the power of remote sentries, and the detrimental darkness that makes combat all the more difficult.
By selecting the hacking feature, outposts, mechanisms and other as-yet undefined entities can be targeted and disabled, or convinced to attack allied units. In a scathing rebuff to BioShock, Hojengaard dismisses pipe games and instead insists on a more practical hacking mechanic, however exactly how this works will likely be fodder for E3 or some additional reveal before the 2013 release. The only concession to date, however, is that various hovering sentinels that are in no way related to those in BioShock can disarm the stealth abilities of the nanosuit in an attempt to balance out Prophet's advantage.
Hacking aside, Crytek wants the older features of the suit to feel more powerful even if they're not, explains Hojengaard as he casually power-punches a Ceph unit q full fifty metres into the undergrowth before ducking, entering stealth mode and narrowly avoiding a flying brick wall struck by a Ceph explosive round.
As the action heats up, the Ceph encircle Prophet, and our demonstration draws to a close as a massive boss unit comes into view. Drained of ammunition, low on energy and facing almost certain death, there's nothing left for Prophet to do but issue the battle cry: "One by one, you're next!"
Bold words for half-human, half-alien solitary hunter on a revenge mission deep in a ruined city covered in treacherous undergrowth and swarming with hostile forces. But then, this is Crysis, and stranger things have happened.