Developer: Crytek / Publisher: Electronic Arts / Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC / Price: $59.99 / Release Date: February 19, 2013 / ESRB: Not Yet Rated
All other things being equal, whenever a game’s early concept art and its eventual, you-are-(playing) their implementation are close to being practically the same thing… well, prospects can genuinely be said to be looking up. Good thing too—since practically everything else about Crysis 3‘s post-alien-invasion apocalypse is looking pretty grim at the outset, at least for us humans. On the plus side of the conflict, we’ve of course got one-man avenging army, Prophet—and brother, the other guys are going to have Losses, that much I can guaran-damn-tee you.
So: In 2047, it turns out that the Ceph ‘defeat’ at the end of Crysis 2 actually wasn’t worth the expended ammo-packs it was littered with; not only are the Ceph alive and, uh, scuttling, but the Cell Corporation has slapped gargantuan, city-sealing ‘Nanodomes’ over some of our hitherto most happening metropolitan population centers. Welcome to The Liberty Dome, which has in effect turned the former, depopulated Big Apple into a sprawling urban rainforest… among other things.
Under the Dome, seven unique, unnaturally-accelerated sub-environs (dubbed ‘The Seven Wonders,’ see more on this below) allow the Crytek designers a chance to show off their Environmental Design-Porn virtuosity level-creation chops in the guise of showcasing post-invasion New York City as a study in natural urban reclamation.
CryENGINE3’s gorgeous attention to environmental detail jolly-chokes DirectX 11 pretty near to death, and almost qualifies as an active gameplay danger all on its own, really—because while you’re marveling at all the astounding shading and dynamic-water effects with your jaw all a-hinge, there is the highest likelihood that something really unfriendly is going to do its damnedest to fill you full of high-energy particles, exotic toxins, or good old-fashioned dumb-slugs.
While Crysis 3 ultimately still tends toward the linear structure of its immediate predecessor rather than a true open-world world approach, your options to badass it up as Prophet are legion and immensely promising—and they even take considerably longer strides in the direction of tactical subtlety: In this high-tech, low-population reclaimed wasteland, Prophet’s seemingly glaringly-anachronistic multi-function bow alone is an exercise in pure low-fi, high-tension death-dealing.
Its array of different and deadly types of ammunition—including basic ballistic/impact arrows, electronics jammers, antipersonnel scatter-charge explosive loads and special thermite-tipped bolts (for those heavy-armor turrets and/or hovering Ceph patrol-bots specifically engineered to sweep their vicinity with cloak-disrupting beams)— affords you myriad opportunities to exploit stealth-combat opportunities without burning through Prophet’s available nanosuit energy (which is huge all by itself).
Of course, when you finally do land yourself in a situation where stealth is no longer of immediate practical benefit—mark that, not if but when—no one will fault you for unceremoniously breaking out the noise-makers: One of Prophet’s particularly awesome high-ammo-consumption assault rifles, for example, is specced to fire 500 rounds a second (and makes a loud, particularly satisfying hum as it chews through ammo, nearby enemies, the immediate landscape, etc.). Even when you can’t quite manage something as spectacular as that, there are still the semi-auto shotgun and ‘Feline’ sub-machinegun options on which to fall back. Further, this time around, Prophet’s nanosuit can even interface (at varying rates of success) with new and purely extra-terrestrial weaponry, including a brand new type of Ceph mortar-launcher.
Throughout the game, the ever-present environmental result of The Liberty Dome’s nature-reclaimed interior is Crytek’s collective vision of hundreds of years of urban ‘forestation’, crammed into roughly 20 years of the in-game timeline. Central Park? Yyyyyeah–it’s actually closer to ‘Central Veldt’, now. The skyscraper-cluttered Financial District is for all intents and purposes the equivalent of a rough-passage, mountainous region, these days; and Chinatown, along with the depths of the flooded subway system, is on the whole an overgrown swampland, choked with rioting vegetation and populated by croaking, hopping waves of tiny little frogs, doing their tiny little best to stay out of your way.
For the detail-oriented, one thing that’s important to keep in mind—and we know it’s important, because the Crytek folks made it a point to keep telling us—is that the each of the neighborhoods/environments bursting with new foliage under the Liberty Dome were painstakingly designed to demonstrate a projected course of realistic natural reclamation. In other words, these are not merely ‘plant-flavored’ organic-flora patterns painted onto stock models of buildings; if the overgrown landscape can be imagined to have a visual, textural or even functional role in the environment, it will function as such in the game-world. If you think it’s a long way to the nearest subway exit now, imagine doing it through ankle-deep muck, or over two decades’-worth of accumulated, encroaching, tangled (and for that matter quite likely poisonous) greenery—or across an inconveniently-raging river, for that matter!
Imagine blundering your way clear of head-high stalks of grass, only to come face to face with a whole pack of hitherto-unseen Ceph Stalkers; awkward. Maybe you can turn that mountainous Fi-Di district’s buildings to your advantage by using your nanosuit to take an ‘assisted jump’ up to a ledge and get a hunter’s-eye view of the surrounding tactical situation. Your many potential battlefields have a ‘sandbox’-style freedom to them, without blatantly calling excessive attention to themselves as The Stealth Route, The Death-Trap, The Choke-Point, and so forth.
Crysis 3 looks like it’ll do a fantastic job of making players feel unpredictable, unseen and dangerous, to a degree that would make even Solid Snake turn post-humanity-foliage green with envy.
And the Prophet sayeth: Amen to that.