Crysis 3 is super-gorgeous, but there’s nothing of substance behind that shiny exterior. The dynamic lighting and detailed textures make overgrown New York City look lush and verdant; there’s something powerful about seeing nature overtake the familiar concrete and steel of the broken city. Although the plot incessantly pushes you along, you’ll often pause to absorb the heartbreaking vistas of Crysis 3. The nanosuit and new bow are useful, but nothing you do in this game will really stay with you. Crysis 3 is a fast food shooter – it sure tastes good but there’s no real nutritional value to it.
After being rescued from a 20 year imprisonment by his old squaddie, Psycho, the consciousness known as Lawrence “Prophet” Barnes is still convinced humanity is threatened by the so-called Alpha Ceph that’s commanding the hivemind of the alien Ceph race that invaded New York in Crysis 2. Psycho doesn’t care about all that malarkey, he just wants revenge against the human CELL organization that’s taken over the country after using alien technology to exploit a limitless power source. The two romp through the jungle that’s overtaken the city to kill both CELL operatives and the relentless aliens with equal fervor. The cutscenes between them are fraught with dramatic speeches and tense words, but even though the performances are fine, Crysis 3 doesn’t ever make you really care about these characters. The betrayals and reconciliations feel like they were sketched in using Drama-by-Numbers, and the ultimate culmination of the Crysis trilogy will likely fail to move you beyond allowing you to say to yourself, “Welp, that’s done.”
The real star of Crysis is the nanosuit. It basically has two modes: You can either harden the suit to provide more armor, or cloak yourself to become invisible in stealth mode, but you can also jump farther and kick stuff using the extra strength the suit provides. As you find nanosuit upgrades throughout the maps, you can install various modules to improve certain functions like stronger armor, or improved vertical jumping. Here’s where you can customize the game to your playstyle. While there are certainly uses for both armor and cloaking throughout the 8-hour campaign, the suit lets you play Crysis how you want. If you like to wade into danger, you’ll live in the armor, while stealthy players will use the suit to backstab as many enemies as possible. Or, if you like a more balanced affair, you can switch between them fluidly.
The new toys in Crysis 3 are a blast at first, but they start to feel like cheating after a while. The nanosuit’s visor not only lets you mark targets so you can track them anywhere, but you can now hack into enemy sentry guns and mines. The hacking minigame is well-designed – it’s simple but can still be tough if you’re trying to complete it while under enemy fire. Being able to turn defensive guns against their masters is pretty sick. You need to get close enough to hack, sure, but you can do it while cloaked, so assaulting defensive positions kind of loses any challenge; while at first interesting, by the end of the campaign, hacking starts to feel like busy-work.
The addition of the fancy Predator bow is just as flawed. In the first mission, Pyscho hands you this new magic bow somewhat unceremoniously and points out how you can fire it without breaking your cloak. One shot with a bow is generally lethal, so it’s a simple matter to stand out in the open while cloaked and take out 3 or 4 enemies without their pals even knowing you’re around. Arrows are scarce, but because they are so valuable you’ll find yourself combing the battlefield to recover the arrows you’ve used to slaughter your foes. It’s just not as fun to shoot guys when there’s little danger involved. The bow turns this amazing looking FPS into a glorified shooting gallery.
Prophet also gets the chance to use some alien hardware against the Ceph. As is common in sci-fi shooters these days, they break down to shinier versions of a minigun and a sniper rifle, but you’ll be thankful of their heavier firepower when your back’s up against the wall.
The missions of Crysis 3 don’t feel as open as the first game, but you still have a fair amount of choice. Coupled with a few secondary objectives, like finding a weapons cache, the campaign unfolds organically enough to give a decent feeling of player agency as you decide how best to approach the mission. Where Crysis 3‘s design slips up is when it tries to throw in different gameplay modes purely for the sake of variety. The portions where you get behind the wheel of a vehicle are tedious to control with a mouse and keyboard and the obligatory helicopter – sorry, VTOL – shooting sequence doesn’t add anything. It’d be better if the mission design focused on the open sections to bring the nanosuit’s capabilities to the forefront.
Multiplayer is cutthroat and vicious, with no forgiveness for the weak-skilled . Everyone gets a nanosuit in most modes, and you can pick your loadout from four sets before unlocking custom classes at level five. The modes range from mundane deathmatches to the more complex like the Hunter mode in which a team of invisible stalkers have to kill all the normal humans in less than two minutes. There are an impressive number of maps from locations around ruined New York City, and the metagame of leveling your profile is robust, with many achievements and goals to work towards. Just be warned: Because of the stealth ability of the nanosuit, you’ll be killed a lot without ever seeing your opponent. Luckily, after you die you’re treated with a short snippet of video showing you exactly how your enemy murdered you. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Bottom Line: Crysis 3 is visually stunning, and it’s still fun to jump around in a nanosuit, but the new additions to the gameplay and the lackluster story don’t make it very memorable.
Recommendation: Unless you really need to find out what happens to Prophet and the Ceph or you need a good new multiplayer fix, I’d wait until Crysis 3 is on sale.[rating=3]
This review is based on the PC version of the game.