Crysis 3 follows Prophet, a soldier cloaked in alien Ceph technology granting him superior strength. His counterpart is Psycho, a former member of the elite Ceph-driven soldiers who was forcibly removed from the suit and tortured.
Psycho is far more interesting, and it is a core problem for the title.
Psycho is a guide, one of those “follow me” characters who barks orders and carries personality when Crysis 3 slows down. His misfortune at the hands of power conglomerate The Cell has turned Psycho into a careless, even mindless killing machine, but a fallible one. The power suits are not merely removed; they are ripped off after being part of the body. Most die from shock in the process, Psycho unlucky enough to have survived the ordeal. There is pain, suffering, and even a human in Psycho despite his given call name. Prophet… well, Prophet simply kills.
Ten years have passed since Prophet decimated the Ceph, the world returning to spotty order with the aliens in remission and The Cell rising to power. They control energy, and enslave those who cannot pay. That’s everybody, although there is little evidence in the ground war. People are never seen toiling away at work stations to pay off their Cell debt, nor are their camps of oppressed humans bemoaning their existence. Crysis 3 sticks to dim-witted soldiers, possibly slaves, who are unable to keep up with Prophet’s growing technological base.
Crysis has always been a technology first franchise, from the perspective of Prophet or physical hardware. Yes, the Xbox 360 can run Crysis 3, although it would seem the system has little else to do other than render tall grass, dilapidated New York streets, or heavily darkened sewers. Physics are of little consequence as enemies awkwardly crumble into their death positions, and guns have such menial impact. At times, contact is sold only by a hit marker, not animation. The suite of slightly modern and slightly futuristic assault rifles feel the same, with little distinguishing characteristics. Maybe that is why the 3D mode goes against the grain and runs so smoothly on the 360. The hardware has room to handle it.
Crysis 3 makes amends with a bow. Given to Prophet early, the weapon becomes a dominating force of brutality. Explosive, electrical, and standard arrows are viciously crafted to send foes reeling from the force or even pin them to walls. Prophet can then casually walk over those downed and retrieve the necessary ammunition as it is designed to be restrained from use.
Despite an outward appearance of being gung ho with a super soldier, the series remains a title best played as unseen. Prophet’s growing connection with the Ceph does not limit his ability to cloak or harden his shell to deflect opposing ammunition. Level layouts, as confusing as they often are, space out to allow ample perches from afar. Cross that design with a sharpshooter bow, and the terror generated from spooking Cell operatives is nearly a game changer.
In a way, the joy of stealth makes this CryEngine 3 title balanced. The key to Crysis’ internal gameplay conflict is crafting a super soldier with inhuman abilities while making him vulnerable. You can run through much of Crysis 3, stages expansive enough to see enemy fire missing in the chase. Walls eventually crop up that block further movement and force the fight. That is bad design, a downside of opening up stages to experimentation, while also cheating the rushed user out of what the title can do best. Prophet should be a silent killer, if only because the stock gunplay is unsatisfactory.
The world of Crysis 3 in 2047 is a blending of previous games. Once entirely jungle based, then city based, the trilogy creator spawns a balance of the two. New York is rundown and petrified as wars create ruins. This is more of an outpost now for soldiers to patrol and unseen terrors to roam. Despite the purveying gunplay, Crysis 3 is bolted down in variety as the Ceph are not as timid in their Earth-bound extinction as it would initially seem. The changes, both in mid-game enemy swaps and the devastated city, give the back-end of the seven or so hour campaign something to chew on. This is not a shooter with a lot to give, or overly pad the confrontations with needless shoot-outs (i.e., Crysis 2). It gives each situation a more purposeful place within the campaign.
Despite its base issues, nothing crashes and burns Crysis 3 like bugs, including one which finds the player unable to shoot, the reticule visible, the gun lost. That one propped up twice, including at the end game as the final boss was in its last form. Due to a checkpoint, the game was unable to be completed despite being mere minutes from the credits. Brief driving segments rarely treated the environments logically, becoming trapped in rubble and forcing abandonment.
So, into the world of competitive multiplayer Crysis 3 goes, trying to juke and jive with the likes of Halo and Call of Duty. Cue the general shots fired from customization – a shared concept with the campaign via an upgradeable suit – and vehicular combat. Maps are sprawling destinations, tiered with enormous height and complex corridors. Super soldiers vie for victory against one another with (of course) the same languid shooting mechanisms found elsewhere.
Eleven modes make up the back-end, traditional territories and deathmatch (with variants) making up the crux of the playfield. Hunter is the only stand out, with a balanced set-up that finds a mix of prey versus hunted ideals that creates, if nothing else, something different. It is also more in line with the rest of the Crysis style, somewhat more methodical than the run-and-gun modes, which can disguise the often pale weapon selections.
Crytek is reportedly moving on into a free-to-play arena, leaving behind their FPS hallmark creation, if only for now. This system pusher remains a visual darling (even on seven year old hardware) without much actually taking place within the playfield. Crysis has been built on raising the stakes and utilizing a powerful hero for more than cheap thrills, yet Crysis 3 feels tired. This, not unlike the end saga of Halo Reach, is a developer whose interests are beginning to lie elsewhere, and the shrugged off campaign quality and me-too approach to online battles make it all too evident.