Developer: Crytek / Publisher: Electronic Arts / Played on Xbox 360 & PC [Also on PlayStation 3] / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood, Strong Language, Violence]
For as much as Crysis 2 differed from Crysis in foregoing open world level design, the sequel managed to carve its own identity with the help of a dramatic context of a near future New York under siege. Crysis 3 is also based in New York and not only retains the previous installment’s “wide linear” level design but also reunites us with Prophet, who awakens to a Manhattan overrun by the antagonistic faction known as C.E.L.L..
Waking Prophet after 24 years is his old squadmate Psycho who has shed his formerly infused nanosuit, but not out of choice. Psycho struggles with being human again but does his best to ignore this perceived impotence. He does this by helping Prophet and a band of rebels take down C.E.L.L..
As the game’s thematic marketing imagery conveyed time and time again, one of Crysis 3‘s messages is the hunted becoming the hunter. Often seen with a bow, it’s convenient that Prophet gets to ride the recent pop culture fascination of archery. It takes little time to get used to this weapon and makes for a welcome addition the arsenal, especially for those who prefer playing stealthily. By giving a bow to the already powerful Prophet, you might think this would make Crysis 3 too easy, and in some respects, it is. But that’s why harder difficulties exist. If anything prevents this game from being a cakewalk, it’s that Crytek has improved the enemy AI over the last game, specifically in fixing pathing issues and enhancing their fields of vision.
Making you that much more of a silent killer does favor the stealth approach overall, but folks who like it loud and out in the open <ahem> will still find the same appealing playground style level design that worked immensely well for Crysis 2. Since the levels aren’t corridors, there’s a lot more to assess. Like a secret agent mentality noting all the exits and alternate routes even before firing a single round, Crysis 3 feels most gratifying when you do manage to clear an expansive area without dying and having used the environment to your full advantage. You realize that the Crysis series is your kind of shooter when dying doesn’t feel like a negative; that just means you have a new opportunity to address the situation with a different approach.
It’s a blessing that these levels have a significant level of replay value, especially when this is unquestionably one of shortest worthwhile shooters in recent memory. If you’re the type of player who doesn’t need to clear an entire map of enemies, just the direct threats, expect to beat the game at its Veteran setting in less than five hours. If you’ve been griping that action game campaigns are typically too long during this console generation, Crysis 3 is definitely for you. But if you expect a narrative and playthrough at the same grand scale of Crysis 2, prepare to be disappointed.
The one casualty to this short playthrough is the flow of the screenplay. Heavy-handed drama and character development is nothing new, but when compressed in a five hour end-of-the-world context, some characters come off as bi-polar when reacting to the rapid change of events. For instance, rebel leader Claire goes from having all-business assertiveness to fits of despair to being positively reinvigorated in the span of thirty minutes. As one of the game’s few new characters, this kind of emotional rollercoaster makes her feel out of place in the larger scope of the series.
Whatever your opinion of short playthroughs, Crytek makes each of the seven chapters count when it comes to presentation. New York in Crysis 3 is consistently saturated in beauty within decay. And even with all the gutted buildings and the rampant vegetation, there are subtle touches to the level design that help steer you to objectives without having to rely on hallways; of course, waypoint indicators help.
The series’ expansive arsenal and the depth of the weapon modulation has made competitive multiplayer a natural complement to the campaign. Along with the bow and the unique features of the nanosuit, Crysis 3′s multiplayer manages to stand out while relying on familiar modes like Capture The Flag (retitled Capture The Relay) and Deathmatch. Many of these modes were already in place in the previous game, with Spears and Hunter being the new additions.
Spears makes up for the lack of a Conquest or Domination mode in Crysis 2. The twist is that the team that captures a spear doesn’t have to stay close to the spear to earn points. As you might expect, this creates an unusually fast-paced version of Conquest, which works great for Crysis 3.
Hunter is this game’s version of Infection mode. Normally the predators in this game type do not have ranged weapons, but the nanosuited troops in Crysis 3 do. The challenge lies in trying to survive as C.E.L.L. prey and without stealth. Get killed and you become a bow-equipped hunter. This mode is surprisingly well-balanced; while the hunters have stealth, the prey only need to survive for 90 seconds.
While there is a satisfying sense of resolution to Prophet’s story, the short play time makes Crysis 3 feel more like an extended epilogue than a complete final act in a trilogy. Still, the openness of the levels and the variety of skills at Prophet’s disposal makes each chapter a joy to play and replay. The literal urban jungle provides a sense of continuity with the final events in the last game, yet what’s more important is the believability of this decaying metropolis, however otherworldly it might be. The gameplay foundation laid by the previous installments helps add considerable replay value to the campaign, and especially the expanded multiplayer. These are enough to recommend Crysis 3 to any shooter fan as long as they don’t put a dollar amount on campaign length.