Whoever made the call to set Crysis 2 in the ‘urban jungle’ of New York seems determined to defend that choice to the death. We all heard, many with I imagine joy, Crytek were planning to bring Crysis 3 back to the jungle where it belongs. I must have missed the memo where they mentioned that, really, they were just going to go back the New York again, except this time it’s slightly overgrown with some grass and the odd tree. Cheeky.
Not that I mind that much, but it’s slightly sad to watch companies cling desperately to an overused ethos of urban environments and linear levels. Not that it’s Crysis’ fault – it can’t help but live in the times – but once you’ve played the game, you see glimpses of what could have been and you can’t help but dream of better things.
There are hints that Crysis hasn’t forgotten where it came from. It’s hard to tell whether setting the game once again in New York, albeit one overgrown with grass and some trees, is a bit of a cop-out or not, but it did lead to some deliciously terrifying moments.
Picture this: it’s early on in the game, you’ve just entered the New York ‘Liberty Dome’ and you’re getting reacquainted with this over-grown ‘urban’ jungle. The Ceph may have been defeated in Crysis 2, but they’re not gone, and there’s a particular moment where you’re running through an area with tall grass, and feral Ceph Stalkers are jumping out at you left right and centre. There’s too many of them, and they take too many bullets to kill, and suddenly you find yourself running for your life through a sea of grass, Stalkers in quick pursuit. It’s like that bit from Jurassic Park 2, or Predator.
When you encounter Ceph after they’ve gotten their act together, that feeling of fear still remains. Ceph are harder to take down, and the fact that they are a hive mind means that even if you manage to stealth take-down one of them, the others will instantly know what has happened. You don’t want to get into a shooting war with Ceph, so you’re almost forced to take the stealth route, knowing that if you’re caught you may have to run for your life. Well, you don’t HAVE to run for your life, but as you’ll discover as you play through the game ammo dumps aren’t exactly abundant, and even when you do find one it may be the wrong type of ammo.
Even when you’re facing regular CELL operatives, Crysis 3 (and Crysis 2) has always favoured a more stealthy approach, which is puzzling because without the truly open environments of the original game, Crysis struggles to find balance between being a first-person shooter and a stealth-action game.
Unfortunately, the game only manages to be truly exhilarating when you’re the one being hunted. You can give Prophet all the bows in the world, but as the Hunter instead of the hunted, you don’t really get quite the same feeling. As a stealth game, Crysis 3 quickly manages to fall into the same methodical trap that can snare many games with similar design: kill him, run around here, snipe that guy, snap that guys beck, boom, boom, boom… a planned route, perfected through trial and error (or just hose down everything with lead if you get bored) doesn’t really have the same excitement as hunting a prey.
I used to go to that restaurant… really good noodles.
And then of course there’s the main focus of the game – prophet saving the world in a spectacular fashion, with him basically going “I told you so” to anyone who’ll listen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s got the atmosphere and the action down to a T now. Everything hit’s the fan about halfway through the game, and as you’re running through Liberty Dome you can see and hear the battle raging all around you. It reminds me of Planetside 2 in a way, although sadly no matter how much you drive around in the random driving segments they throw in, you can’t go anywhere other than where the game wants you to go.
The multiplayer side of things is interesting. Sure, you have your Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch, and then the Hardcore equivalents (called ‘Maximum’ in this game), but you also have thematically spun Capture the Flag and King of the Hill type modes. The ‘Hunter’ mode though manages to capture some of the emotion and tension present in those gameplay segments I mentioned earlier – one person starts off in a nanosuit and a bow, and is permanently cloaked. Everyone else gets to choose one of four generic classes and play as Cell Operatives, and the aim is to try and stay a live as long as possible, while the Hunter hunts you down and kills you all. When you are killed, you join the Hunter team, and things generally snowball from there unless you can find a good spot to hole up. It’s about the only time the cloak/bow thing is actually menacing and meaningful, and again running through an abandoned train yard, desperately hiding from an enemy you can’t see, brings out those primal instincts that this game doesn’t capitalise on enough.
Aside from this, Crysis 3’s multiplayer mode is no better or worse than Crysis 2’s, and it remains a frantic yet tactically challenging balancing act between managing your cloak and armour abilities, and killing your enemies. Being able to run and slide along is a nice touch as well. There’s a mixture of levels old and new – Skyline in particular we remember fondly, and it returns like an old missed friend. With multiplayer portions fairly standardised, it’s the little touches you appreciate the most – playlist options, for example, based around certain themes that lump a lot of game modes into one so you can cycle through without having to leave and rejoin lobbies.
No-one could ever accuse Crysis 3 of being a bad game – CryEngine 3 is a gorgeous as ever, it’s technically well made (playing on a PS3, I haven’t yet encountered any of the bugs that some of my peers seem to have come across), and it hits all the right buttons for an action/FPS game. But it joins a long list of many other visually stunning and technically well-made games. Line them all up in a row, and they might as all be wearing faceless nanosuits, as you’ll never be able to tell what’s really inside. Our only genuine criticism of the game, apart from being slightly uninspiring perhaps, is that it feels a lot like Crysis 2, and not really in a good way. We’d have liked to have seen more freshness.
Imma going to kill you now.
Ultimately, we can’t help but feel that you’ll play through the rather short campaign, and while you’ll probably have a great time doing it, you’ll shrug your shoulders and either give multiplayer a quick blast, and/or go back to Call of Duty or something.
The single-player lacks the replayability for multiple playthroughs, and despite some interesting game modes, most people just seem to be playing on Team Deathmatch at the moment, and there are better games to play for this. But for all its grandiose action set-pieces and prophet heroically saving the day like Alcatraz and Nomad before him, I’ll always go back to that overgrown train yard: low on ammo, vision obscured by long grass, scared shitless and running for life from Ceph Stalkers. Wonderful.