Although the Crysis series’ claim to fame is arguably its flashy graphics and technical bells and whistles, the sci-fi shooter is much more than meets the eye. One would find more than the typical run-and-gun gameplay or the run-of-the-mill military FPS in the suit mechanics, open levels, and gun customization which are hallmarks of the Crysis series. Even though the three games have a lot in common, there are significant changes throughout each one, both in gameplay and setting. Hit the jump to see if I think we should return to the sweltering tropical jungles of Crysis 1, or stay in the overgrown urban landscape of Crysis 3.
The first thing you’ll notice about Crysis 3 is the environmental theme; not the sprawling outdoorsy areas of Crysis 1 or the confined concrete metropolis of Crysis 2, but a combination of both. There are modern buildings all over the place, but rendered into mere ruins taken over by nature. Trees and vines grow in the midst of abandoned apartment buildings and skyscrapers. And the only people that lurk within them now are the CELL (the bad guys) and yourself-a guy named Prophet in a fancy combat suit.
The context of how a modern city came to be neglected is quite silly, like the rest of the game’s story. The bad guys had come across some powerful thing that gives them access to unlimited energy, allowing them to corner the energy market and charge exorbitant prices for power, causing everyone to go bankrupt. Somehow, government or military are nonexistent and it falls to one guy, Prophet to save the day. Aliens will suddenly stop by at one point, as is expected in a Crysis game but there’s no more to be said about the story; it is simplistic, implausible, and forgettable.
Although they star in some overly dramatic moments, the characters seem slightly more developed than the story. The story explores Prophet’s identity crisis as either a man or a machine, and his partner Psycho’s emotional struggle to accept the fact that he no longer has his suit. The question of what really separates a normal human being from a machine-like soldier is the only interesting thematic element from Crysis 3. Unfortunately, the game approaches this question through scenes which are too dramatic to take seriously, since the whole context of those moments were not even shown. This is probably a result of Crysis 3‘s short length: there was not enough time to convey all the backstory required for the player to have an emotional response to say, Psycho’s suit being stripped off of him. However, it is appreciated that they had something for the player to ponder on between killing off CELL soldiers and mysterious aliens.
If there is one constant throughout the Crysis series, it is the suit. With the suit, the player can jump extraordinary heights, take large amounts of gunfire, and turn invisible. The feeling of being something like a superhero is what makes Crysis special. However, if there is one thing that disappoints me in the Crysis series, it is how they changed the functions of the suit from the first game to the second. In the first, the suit had four functions: armor, stealth, strength, and speed. The first two are self-explanatory. The strength function allowed the player to reduce gun sway and throw heavy objects with deadly force, while the speed function allowed the player to run as fast as Sonic the Hedgehog. These functions, combined with the open-ended nature of enemy encounters and the missions themselves, made the gameplay of Crysis 1 very dynamic and enjoyable. In Crysis 2, both the strength and speed functions were taken away to accommodate consoles, which greatly hampered the dynamic style of combat by reducing it to pure Rambo or pure ninja. There’s no more running around at blinding speed, switching to strength mode, and socking soldiers in the face, or putting explosive charges on barrels and chucking it at people a football field away. The emasculation of the suit stays with Crysis 3, and even if it had to be done due to the series transition to console, the fact still remains that the suit isn’t as good as it once was.
Although Crysis 3 introduces some new things to the series, the game neglects to capitalize on these elements to their fullest potential. Crysis 3 does away with the compacted areas of its predecessor and reintroduces the large open areas of Crysis 1. The openness of the first title greatly helped its fun factor: You felt like the whole island was teeming with enemies you can’t see, and randomly encountering a squad of soldiers strolling down the beach was a joy. However, in Crysis 3, openness becomes a curse rather than a blessing. Enemies are tightly packed in key areas, and everywhere else is just empty space. Without being able to expect spontaneous encounters, players will resort to making a beeline for the waypoint every time. Large open areas become a cause for boredom because the game is very linear. Random encounters are what make large, open levels in games fun, and it is disappointing Crysis 3 did not take a page from its predecessor’s book and use space to its advantage.
In the areas that the player actually sees action in, enemies are pretty spaced out, in separate patrols. Presumably, this particular placement of enemies is meant to encourage stealthily hunting them down. Although it does just that, it is overdone. Stealthily hunting becomes the ideal way to play. Since enemies are often far away from the player, it is not advantageous to run and gun since enemies will just shoot from afar. This playstyle is further encouraged by the player’s ability to mark any enemy from a good distance away, even through walls. With no expectations of encountering any surprises, it becomes ideal for the player to stealth, pick off a few targets, hide, and repeat. This playstyle can be awfully fun when used sparingly, but it gets tedious after a few hours. If the placement of enemies on the map were revamped and if the suit was given more versatility, the combat in Crysis 3 would have been much better.
The introduction of hacking does not make combat any better. The player can turn alien machinery and minefields against their enemies with a simple minigame of timing. If the player was hoping to use mines to lay a trap for pursuing enemies, or turn an alien against its own kind, they would be disappointed. The player would find quite a few mines, but often in the middle of an area with no enemies to be found. A alien machine, when hacked, will stay immobile and not attack your enemies like it should. Hacking should have opened up more strategic possibilities when dispatching enemies, but it doesn’t.
The most prominent of new additions is the bow. The bow is a great weapon: shooting a soldier results in instant death with the most satisfying noise. Like the rest of the weapons in the game, the shooting feels solid. The player can also use the bow to shoot electric or explosive arrows to take down machinery and aliens. Although a greater enemy variety to allow for more opportunities to use special arrows would be nice, the bow is a unique and appreciated addition.
Although there is a variety of guns already, the gun customization which has been a standard in the Crysis series remains as good as ever. The player can switch out different scopes, attachments, and ammo types on the fly. Whether the player wants a sniper scope on an assault rifle or electric shots on a shotgun, they can instantly adapt to a situation without being forced to get another weapon.
A similar kind of versatility is shown in the revamped skill system. The skill system allows players to gain bonuses to armor, stealth, accuracy, and whatnot, with the capability to respec at any time. Skills can be leveled up through actions such as stealthing near enemies or getting melee kills. Although the skill system doesn’t make a very noticeable impact on gameplay, it adds a slight sense of progression and choice.
There’s not much to be said about the production values of Crysis 3: impressive as in the previous titles. The graphics and sound are top-notch. The story mode is a bit short (5-7 hours), but longer than your average FPS.
Unfortunately, Crysis 3 failed to make up for its lackluster story and gameplay with extra polygons. Although there were some new elements introduced to the series, the potential was squandered. The graphics are still great, the weapons are still great, the customization is good too, but an extra layer of depth could have been added if hacking and open space was utilized in gameplay in a more significant way, and if the versatility of the suit was returned. Crytek made an effort to make the story above average, but it ends up appearing cheesy and overly dramatic.
Verdict? Disappointing. And average. Gamers might want to return to the jungle for a better Crysis fix.
[+High production values] [+Great weapon variety] [+You're a superhero] [-Forgettable Story] [-Lots of empty spaces] [-Tedious combat]