It’s the de rigueur comment for any Crysis piece but gosh, Crysis 3 doesn’t half look good.
Now we’ve covered the necessaries, onto more interpretative matters. The Crysis series has never slumped far down the quality chart, but the first game remains the franchise headshot; a shooter diametrically opposed to the empty-thrill, pop-up shooting galleries that have come to typify the genre. Crytek knows it. With the third game, the veteran developer is hoping to evoke the glories of the original game, albeit within the vague context of Crysis 2’s New York. 15-minutes hands-on time with the single player is hardly enough time to scribble down a few illegible notes about how killer everything looks, but here, regardless, are the thoughts that passed through my head while playing.
The single player campaign sees players reprise the role of Prophet, some 20-odd years after the glum events of Crysis 2. New York has undergone one hell of a refurbishment in the between time with nature staging a dramatic coup in the absence of any notable human presence. The result is rather exciting, a crush of Crysis’ verdant battlefields and Crysis 2’s thick urban tangle; a happy middle ground embracing the sweeping nature that characterised Crysis’ blood-stained dancefloors without sacrificing the narrative elements of the sequel. It’s more than just jazzy decoration; the lavish greenery has a marked impact on how battles flow, not least of all in terms of how you approach combat situations.
The demo level takes place in New York’s Chinatown district. It’s a cheerless neck of the woods several steps removed from any preconceptions of what you might expect Chinatown to look like. A lengthy un-interactive first-person cut-scene sets the tone as Prophet skulks through the swampy gloom while CELL soldiers swap military barks. It’s a scene full of voguish, white-of-the eyes assassinations and enemies who languish a dozen rungs on the ladder below incompetent.
Fortunately, that’s not nearly the case when you eventually gain control. The emphasis at this stage of the campaign is set squarely on stealth; avoiding spotlights and auto-turrets while playing diligent Grim Reaper with the devastating new sci-fi bow and arrow which, in truth, is a little bit silly. For one, you can use it while invisible with little penalty to Prophet’s power gauge. It’s also a pretty reliable one-hit kill beast. While I’ve no issue feeling empowered – least of all in a Crysis game – it felt a little too much like the first-person shooter’s very own blue shell. There wasn’t a great deal the enemy could do as I picked them off from medium range.
This glorified game of hide and seek does a jolly good job of playing up to the hunted/hunter theme Crytek have been keen to underscore. You’re free, of course, to storm in wrecking ball style with an assault rifle but you’ll have a rough time of it without at least a spot of forward thinking. To your advantage, the majority of the large multistory buildings stretching out from the overgrowth have seen better days with rooms doubling over as excellent sniper roosts and dozens of makeshift entry points. It’s no paradise island – not yet, at least – but as Crysis levels go it’s certainly more open to interpretation than the majority of Crysis 2.
Enemies boast a great deal more gumption than they have done before. They cluster together when storming buildings, clamber up to higher floors to gain a vantage point when they lose sight of you, hunker down in corners and they’ll flank you in combat. There were a few inconsistencies (they’re a little too keen to wander through doorways one at a time, trampling over the corpses of their comrades in the process), but the occasionally spasmodic soldier doesn’t do much to tarnish what appears to be an impressive AI system.
Following a bout of stealthy hijinks in Chinatown the action spills out into a more open combat arena, at which point control is wrestled away as an enormous digger-alien hybrid explodes out from the ground and starts swatting helicopters from the sky, all in slow-motion. It’s a cacophonous, Hollywood moment caught in the midst of what was, for me, quite a calculated ten-minute spell; a reminder that there’s plenty of silly, cinematic pizzaz to go with the more thoughtful combat sections.
The nature retaking New York shtick looks to be lending Crysis 3 an added layer of tactical depth; one Crysis veterans will no doubt appreciate. Sat listening to Cevat Yerli speak at length about the process of creating realistic grass, it’s hard not to peg him as an obsessive. But it’s precisely that obsessive drive to make sure everything in Crysis 3’s world is there for the benefit of the hunter vs. hunted theme that will surely help Crytek win over those it lost when it made the call to ditch Crysis’ paradise island.
This preview was originally published on Strategy Informer.