Crysis 3 Review
Crysis 3 is really pretty to look at. I think we all expected that. It’s also a well produced, nicely paced shooter that is technically proficient and loaded with lots of entertaining set pieces. They even try to tell a deeper and more engaging story than the plots we’ve seen in past series entries. This all being said, the latest Crysis simply feels…lighter. Essentially, it feels more like most any other shooter you’ve played, only with some positive blending of linear and open-ended concepts and awesome weapons. So I feel like I’ve done this before.
Graphically, the game shines. The character models, the environmental detail, the meticulous implementation of great style, shading and color; it’s all worthy of praise. It also helps that this time around, Crytek opted to blend a natural landscape with an urban one, which leads to an odd yet intriguing marriage of different settings. The only downside is that the PS3 version doesn’t quite have the level of clarity found in the 360 version. From what I saw, though, the differences are mostly minor and shouldn’t dissuade PS3 owners from trying the game. Still, I’m not necessarily blown away by these visuals…despite Crytek’s continual crowing.
Many of the technical elements really are fantastic, though, and the sound is good, too. The voice performances range from passable to excellent and the soundtrack is nicely orchestrated and properly bolsters one’s immersion. The effects are the highlight, as you may have anticipated. The ambient audio is especially cool, because this further drags you into the intense action. If there’s one game that should be played with a decent surround sound system or a great headset, it’s Crysis 3. It crackles and snaps, it bursts with crystal-clear clarity and the music continues to drive you forward. The balancing is a little iffy, though.
You are in New York City, where destruction reigns and a private military company (CELL) has erected a dome over the city. This has turned the decrepit metropolis into a sort of sprawling, wild greenhouse; half forest, half eradicated town. You’ll come across huge trees growing right through the tops of busted-out skyscrapers, staircases that go nowhere, and lush copses of trees and bushes intermingled with crumbling, falling down structures. It’d be unfair to say that Crysis 3 is all about technical superiority, because the creativity and artistry on display is much appreciated. Therefore, the environment is primed for something special.
But while we get a fully competent shooter with all sorts of flash and panache, we don’t necessarily get “something special.” It’s not that the game isn’t good. It’d be a critical mistake to go, “meh, just same ol’ same ol’ so it isn’t worth playing.” The problem is that we expect more from Crysis; we don’t necessarily want it to seem like other shooters because this franchise has always been a step ahead of most FPS franchises. It excels in the realm of visuals, yes, but it also excels when it comes to the innovative usage of the nanosuit and the inherent challenge involved. The third Crysis just seems content with being shiny and fun.
Ain’t nothing wrong with fun. Never has been, and I want to make it abundantly clear that the game is fun and comes recommended to those who love the genre in question. But we’re lacking that little extra “oomph” that always made the experience feel head-and-shoulders above a Call of Duty or even Battlefield. Perhaps the biggest issue is that with only a five or six-hour campaign, Crysis 3 feels very short. Rushed is a bad word and I don’t want to use it here, but I’m wondering what this adventure could’ve been like had it been double the length.
The gameplay is indeed solid. The nanosuit is as bad-ass as ever and with the addition of that multipurpose bow of Prophet’s, the action rarely disappoints. Explosive arrows are only the beginning and when cloaking up, you’re an absolute annihilation machine. Alien and human foes alike fall beneath the mighty technology your character sports, and Crytek obviously put a lot of emphasis on crowd-pleasing sequences that don’t require a ton of effort. This being said, such a focus brings disappointing drawbacks to the forefront, such as lame-duck AI and the simple fact that Prophet feels way too powerful this time around.
You can always use other weapons if the bow is feeling too easy, and the nanosuit abilities are begging for experimentation. There are times when you're sucked into the flow of the combat, with the protagonist sneaking a bit here, lighting it up there, and basically doing what he damn well pleases. I do like this, by the way; I’m not one of those people who believe a game needs to be difficult in order to be good. That has never been true, in my humble opinion. However, the spirit of Crysis is such that it was supposed to be more demanding and although visceral, also cerebral in some cases. There’s no cerebral function necessary for Crysis 3, which is my point.
There are only two boss fights (unless I’m forgetting some) and the end feels anticlimactic. You will likely enjoy the large levels that are a cross between linear and open-ended, because Crytek maintains direction and momentum while still allowing you some freedom for approaching enemies and obstacles. It’s also invigorating to mark out your targets from afar, plan an approach, and execute that plan with stunning and deadly accuracy. In short, it’s easy to get caught up in what Crysis 3 is and what it does well, but fans will soon start to notice what it isn’t. I hate to say it, but this really does feel like a fancy Call of Duty.
The AI really is a letdown and given that unbalanced and uber-powerful bow, combined with the stealthy cloak, Prophet never feels vulnerable. And he has always felt a little vulnerable in the past two games, which was a big part of how the adventure delivered a sense of urgency and tension. This is more about sitting back and blasting away, rarely worrying about whether or not you get spotted. Sometimes, you might just want to run right through a hectic battlefield, which you can also do with relative ease. In other words, while you will die, you’ll probably only die if you're immensely careless.
The multiplayer offers a few great modes, including the returning Crash Site, which involves teams capturing and keeping airdropped pods. It’s fast, entertaining, and even strategic. Other modes, like the new Hunter Mode, are worth looking into. Hunter involves two teams: CELL operatives versus a few cloaked foes armed only with bows. If you’re one of the stealthy hunters, you have to take out as many operatives as possible; once an operative goes down, he becomes a hunter. So obviously, the goal is for the CELL team to stay alive as long as possible. This isn’t a revolutionary mode (we’ve seen it’s like before) but it works very well.
I’m just not sure there’s enough going on in the multiplayer to entice the hardcore shooter fanatics. On top of which, the single-player campaigns in this series have always been fantastic in my eyes; the campaign here just seems short, too straightforward, and too easy. The developers don’t jam enough thrills into those five hours to impress me. I had fun but I wasn’t impressed and that’s the long and short of it. The game is constructed nicely and the action doesn’t skip a beat, and I appreciated the extra effort they put into the story, even if it doesn’t fully blossom. The multiplayer is a solid addition although it isn’t necessarily a must-play.
Crysis 3 is a worthy sequel that is highly entertaining on a number of different levels. The graphics are a definite achievement, the new bow is really a sweet weapon (and never gets boring), the nanosuit capabilities are just as appealing as ever, and the environment is very cool. But the story falls shy of what it initially promises, the AI is a disappointment, and the game is too short and too easy. Perhaps it’s most accurate to say that this feels like a more casual, mainstream effort from Crytek. Flashier and louder than any entry before, but without the substance – some of which subtle and indefinable – that we had. The fans may be split on this one.
The Good: Fantastic, highly detailed visual presentation. Immersive environment. Great graphical, audio effects. Nanosuit skills are diverse and appealing. Weaponry, especially the bow, is cool. Control is fluid and responsive. Solid multiplayer.
The Bad: AI doesn’t cut the mustard. Story starts out promising but ends up blasé. Too short and too easy. Not enough of the franchise’s patented challenge and thrills.
The Ugly: “I’m glad Prophet is such a powerful dude…but surprisingly, I kinda miss some of his past fragility.”
2/21/2013 Ben Dutka