Crysis 3 Review (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
“Gameplay beats graphics”
You’ve probably heard that term being used by the dozen in the last few years, usually when a game has below average graphics but stellar gameplay. And it’s true, because no matter how good looking a game is, it lives and dies depending on how fun it is to play and how polished its mechanics are. It’s a statement that usually proves true on multiple occasions…until now. Crysis 3 may look the part, and it may trample all over the competition with its technological superiority, but unfortunately that’s where the bulk of its achievements ends.
Crysis has always been a series famed mostly for its hardware-pushing technological prowess. The first title all those years ago pushed the limits of the PC hardware until it started to bleed at the USB sockets, and 2011’s Crysis 2 made the jump to consoles to continue the trend. For the third entry in the franchise, those limits are surely bulging at the seams once again but after two chances to move beyond simply being a good-looking series, Crysis needed to evolve into something more than just eye candy–but it hasn’t, and instead it fits into the crowded FPS genre comfortably as opposed to causing shockwaves.
Crysis 3 continues after the events of the second game, with the Nanosuit-toting Prophet being awoken from a state of dormancy twenty-four years after the conclusion of Crysis 2. New York has been reclaimed by nature, with its buildings abandoned, its streets overflowing with foliage and the villainous Cell Corporation run the city with a tyrannical hand. There’s also aliens and bigger versions of aliens, so plenty of aliens. There can never be too many aliens…right?
Prophet’s journey to overthrow the Cell Corporation and prevent their dastardly plan to rip a hole through the Earth (yes, really) takes him across a devastated New York and back, to giant underground caverns and even space in a series of missions that are largely forgettable, threaded together by a story that fails to truly engage you or make you care and are interwoven with a plot so predictable and full of traditional sci-fi tropes that it fails to leave any impact at all.
One of the chief problems amongst Crysis 3’s long list is how tedious its story mode actually is. It starts off with promise but after you’ve followed your comrades down corridor after corridor, carrying out mundane objectives ad nauseam, the initial shine quickly wears off and exposes the game’s true nature underneath–one that’s generic and makes no effort to distinguish itself from the many other military shooters on the market. In a genre as overpopulated as the FPS genre, it’s crucial that a game like Crysis has something to identify itself with, but it doesn’t.
Although later levels give you some degree of freedom in progressing to the next objective, as well as larger areas to explore complete with optional secondary objectives, there’s still that hint of linearity lurking just out of eyeshot which refuses to go away, and regularly makes an unwanted appearance. For every large area you conquer, a bland and boring ‘go here, open this door, go there’ section awaits, and they contribute to Crysis 3’s campaign being a mostly restrictive, uninteresting affair.
Crysis 3 doesn’t improve in its cast of characters either as you are surrounded by one-dimensional beings that churn out endless pages of hastily-written dialogue that fails to give them any substance beyond being mouthpieces for the story. They do occasionally show signs of personality, but those moments are unfortunately few and far between. The worst has to be Pyscho–Prophet’s former comrade and partner on the vast majority of the game’s missions. He swears more times than you can keep up with, says them in a grating cockney accent and he feels like a walking, ‘macho man’ video game stereotype. Crysis 3 had ample opportunity to show the human side of an inhuman scenario but it failed to do that the majority of the time, including with the main protagonist.
In the three Crysis games that currently exist, each one had you playing as a superhuman warrior capable of shrugging off bullets as though they were marshmallows, turning himself invisible whenever he pleased and punching the bejeezus out of anybody in his way. It’s always made for a great experience when you just want to escape the grim realities of life and stand in the shoes of someone who can level buildings with his strength–which is what some would argue gaming is all about. However, the adverse consequence of that is the total inability to engage with the character you’re playing as, and in Crysis 3, that was more noticeable than ever before.
You can see the problem here when you think about it: how can you, as a regular, average player who probably struggles to shift the refrigerator back into place, connect with a character that can quite literally face off against tanks and emerge the winner? It’s a tricky puzzle because they could’ve made Crysis 3’s protagonist an entirely human soldier with no powers at his disposal, therefore making it easier to care about Prophet, but doing so would inevitably detract from the fun and take away Crysis’ main ingredient. Unfortunately, Crytek couldn’t seem to find a solution and as a result, playing as Prophet feels fun and enjoyable but hollow and empty at the same time.
On top of that, being able to withstand ridiculous amounts of damage removes all sense of threat from the majority of the game. On the Normal difficulty, there is rarely a time when you feel that you are outnumbered or outgunned, simply because should you find yourself in the heat of combat and losing health, you can simply activate your armor, retreat and wait for it to regenerate. The lack of challenge–even in the game’s boss fights–makes the game feel too easy at times, although it could be different on the higher difficulties (and hopefully would be).
The biggest problem with Crysis 3’s story is just how much it fails to engage you or immerse you in any way. The biggest contributing factors to that are not only the predictable story and the flat cast of characters, but how it simply feels like all you are doing is shooting folk and blowing up stuff. Playing as a character that feels like a God among men may feel fun and enjoyable but it actually harms the experience in a bizarre way. Crysis 3 is saddled with the conundrum that one of its best features contributes to one of its worst–and it couldn’t figure out how to solve the problem.
You may have the notion in your head that Crysis 3’s story is an entirely disastrous affair based on the previously mentioned points, but it isn’t all mediocre. The story, even though it’s flawed, flows at a breakneck pace and rarely lets up which despite being unengaging, provides around 4-5 hours of unfiltered action. It may not connect with you but it certainly cannot be accused of being unexciting, especially with the epic set pieces, occasionally huge scale and the knowledge that you’ll get to blow shit up around the next corner. It’s a shame that the game couldn’t find a way to involve you in the experience but with what it does have, it makes relatively good use of it.
As well as that, Crysis 3 has an excellent control scheme that will feel familiar to veterans of the FPS genre but also easy-to-get-accustomed-to for newcomers. Prophet sprints, leaps, slides and pounds with the utmost amount of fluidity and the same can be said for the game’s gunplay.
All throughout the game are various weapons to collect, use and discard when you’re finished with them, ranging from shotguns and submachine guns to mounted machine guns and huge alien rifles. Regardless of what you’re using to decimate folk with, the guns all feel appropriately weighty and responsive to the aforementioned tight controls, including the deadly Predator Bow.
It’s no secret that the Predator Bow is an important part of Crysis 3; it’s even on the boxart. Given to you early on in the game, it soon becomes your weapon of choice as it kills in one hit the majority of the time–and even has various arrow types that explode in a flash of lightning or gunpowder upon impact. It’s so powerful and useful that it almost makes all other weapon choices feel redundant in comparison, which probably shouldn’t be the case, but the limited amount of ammunition you have stops it from being the only weapon you need bother to use.
Crysis 3 has a solid control scheme and hard-to-beat gameplay but it’s unfortunate that those traits don’t carry over to the game’s multiple driving sections. The minute Prophet steps behind the wheel things become awkward, clumsy and sluggish in comparison to how smooth things operate while on foot. Fortunately the driving sequences are few and far between and it isn’t an intrinsic part of the game, because if it was you’d inevitably feel like using the disc as a frisbee rather than deal with them.
Despite being clumsy while in a vehicle, Prophet’s nanosuit–the metal exoskeleton that grants him the power to grind folk into dust– doesn’t disappoint outside of one. Crysis 3 allows you to unlock and equip several ‘perks’ from within three trees, and your selections can be saved into three slots for easy access–even during combat. It brings over a sense of character customization that is usually reserved for the multiplayer offering and it works rather well, if a tad unnecessary due to the fact you can still escape death with ease with or without equipping them–just another unfortunate consequence of the nanosuit’s gift of godliness.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, gameplay always beats graphics in a game but Crysis 3 has some hugely impressive visuals to offer, which shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re even vaguely familiar with the franchise. Stepping out into a nature-fied New York is one of those ‘holy crap’ moments in games that force you to just stand there and stare before getting on with the actual game. Crysis 3 is full of moments just like that and although the game suffers at multiple points in other areas, it can’t be accused of not bringing the visual ecstasy to the table.
Of course, the full effect of Crysis 3’s visual splendour will only be experienced on a PC with hardware built like a tank but that’s not to say that its console brethren can’t provide the goods. Although the frame-rate on the Xbox 360 version can sometimes be a little erratic–and the first few minutes of playing the game were full of freezes between scenes and choppy dialogue–the majority of the game runs without a hitch.
Audio-wise, Crysis 3 also fails to disappoint in that area. The gun sounds are all punchy and recognisable, the soundtrack is strong, and the voice acting (other than the irritating cockney fellow) is decent. Overall, Crysis 3 is a well-built game in the technological department but it’s not in these areas that the title needed to evolve, unfortunately. If it was, it would have hit a home-run with its successes.
As per the previous entrant in the franchise, Crysis 3 also contains a multiplayer offering that includes all the traditional competitive modes you’re used to, such as Team Deathmatch, Domination etc, with obvious Crysis twists. It’s a fairly straightforward outing with the expected loadouts, challenges, unlockable weapon attachments and so forth, but it still manages to be an improvement over Crysis 2’s debut performance.
Chief among the game’s improvements over Crysis 2’s multiplayer are a bigger–and stronger–selection of maps (twelve in total), more weapons on offer and more choices in how you customize them, less of the ridiculous lag frequently experienced in the previous game and an overall more robust feeling compared to how amateur things felt back in 2011. It’s hardly going to set the online multiplayer world alight but if you want a few days, or weeks, of fun throwing pipes at folk or shooting explosive arrows in their groin, it’ll provide the goods. Beyond that, however, it’s likely that the community will migrate to the more established shooters that provide what Crysis 3 provides, even if they are inferior. But that’s what happens when a lesser-known franchise contains a multiplayer not dissimilar enough to the far more popular competition.
Despite Crysis 3’s multiplayer being stronger than before, it is plagued with issues of its own. For example, the predator bow + cloak combination makes for a frustrating experience of dodging incoming arrows seemingly shot from thin air, the matchmaking can occasionally be very slow (or at least it was for a few days after launch), the host migration rarely works the way it was designed to and matches disconnecting–often taking challenge progress with them–happens far too often. With these in mind, it’s clear that Crytek still have some minefields to navigate when it comes to how they design their multiplayer.
Moving back to the singleplayer, it’s no secret that Crysis 3 is a technologically sturdy game, but it’s not all roses and violets. The enemy AI can still be extremely poor with enemies of both human and alien varieties regularly standing in one spot and looking at thin air while you pummel them with bullets from a close range.
Also, there are numerous sound bugs that occur during the game that ultimately affect the experience as you play it, ranging from speech cutting out before the end or the sound effects, such as walking through grass, becoming distorted for whatever reason. They seemed to become less frequent as the game progressed but their existence didn’t disappear entirely, unfortunately.
Crysis is a franchise that could offer so much to the FPS genre yet always seems to offer so little with each title. What could be an epic, involving tale of human survival against a situation as inhuman as it gets becomes limp and unengaging, seemingly concentrating on making everything bigger at the expense of better. What could be a unique series, with its nanosuit capabilities and limitless potential for storytelling, tries too hard to replicate what the other, more popular, franchises do and a result fails to find a section of the market not yet occupied. Crysis 3 feels like stepping into a luxurious, top-of-the-range mansion, feeling amazed that it’s all yours and then discovering that you only get the closet. Crysis 3 will ultimately be remembered as a fairly average shooter sitting on the cusp of the current generation of gaming, but at least it looks good, huh?