Crytek and Electronic Arts unite once more to bring the latest episode in their futuristic shooter franchise to their adoring audience. Prophet is back, and he’s meaner than ever in the simply spectacular Crysis 3.
Crytek just seem to be able to squeeze out every last pixel and power performing byte as they produce, by far and away, one of the most gorgeous looking games this entire generation. This review was compiled after playing through Crysis 3 on the Playstation 3, and it looked simply amazing! But rest assured, the graphics on the Xbox360 look just as jaw-dropping and the PC version looks like a next-gen console version before the 8th generation even kicks off! ( just imagine what Crytek have planned for PC gamers with the power of the 8th gen hardware unites to boost their own market leading engine? )
Everything about Crysis 3 has been polished to such a high sheen that even beeswax couldn’t compete when in the hands of a master French polisher. The characters are extremely fluid and the movements so lifelike that it is hard to believe, sometimes, that you are not partaking of an interactive movie more in the style of a Heavy Rain, as opposed to an all out ‘backs to the wall’ shooter title such as Crysis fans are familiar with. Level’s are superb with an attention and an eye for detail that, if truth be told, is lost on any number of today’s development teams.
Although not quite as ‘Skyrim’ as PC players will remember, nevertheless, Crysis 3 still takes other corridor hugging or tiny skirmish zone titles, such as the recently launched Aliens Colonial Marines for example, and shows them how it really can be done, if you just bother to put a little extra effort into your environments. Crysis 3 grants players expansive gameplay area’s with enormous sprawling vista’s and panoramic views of magnificent clarity even as back drop, but it is in the immediate zones that you will find the most impressive of all the added bonuses.
The dark, almost oppressive atmosphere lends itself more to a survival horror as Prophet is tasked with stealthy creeping through zones that are made up of thoughtful level design, constructed in such a way as to have multiple paths through the designated area, but alas, only one will be the safest route, with the rest of the options leading players into ever more risky scenario’s and situations, in which they must utilise all of their skills and attributes at the peak of their performance, if they are to survive any hostile encounters.
This brings us to the gameplay, and we have to say….we were impressed. Although the storyline may have come in for some quite unnecessary attention from a number of media outlets, all we have to say is that in a shooter title what did you expect? The complete literary works of William Shakespeare? Or would you rather that the developer paid greater attention to the things that really matter in a fast paced stealth shooter title, maybe like…oh, let’s say ” The Action”? Yup, that’s what we thought too!
So, ‘thin’ plot aside, ( even though it is not as slender as a great many reviewers are attempting to mislead you into believing, but more on that in a moment ), we delve into all the digital delights that Crytek have littered their latest title with, and there are a lot of them, let us assure you all.
The weapons are just once such ‘bonus’ where great attention has been paid so that players believe that the firearms with which they wield against their enemies are ‘meaty’ enough to produce such startling devastating and accurate results. Of course, ever since the first image during the games extensive PR campaign showed Prophet with that sleek-looking bow players have been itching to get their hands on the silent but deadly killing machine, and it does not disappoint.
Powerful, precise and perfectly suitable for the job at hand this new addition to Prophet’s arsenal of available weaponry has taken the more careful approach and tactful option for the stealthy player to new heights. Deliberate in its wickedness and unforgiving in its doling out of punishment the bow adds a new dimension to the gameplay of the sci-fi shooter series, and with it allows the player to feel more deeply involved in the gameplay and plot, as Prophet’s timeline is stretched out to the maximum by careful planning and execution of targets and objectives.
Naturally, Prophet also has the ‘usual suspects’ of assorted armaments in the shape of pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, SMG’s and sniper rifles and a veritable plethora of explosives and projectile powerhouses such as the rocket and grenade launchers, all of which will play a massive part in not only your enjoyment but also your survival as you take on a literal army of PMC’s and mercenaries, but we have to say that the inclusion of the bow gave us a new-found level of enjoyment, especially when playing through on the more demanding difficulty settings.
Collectibles are there, as always, as well as the ever elusive ‘intel’, for the more ‘completionist’ type gamer among you, but even without the hidden objects, files and forms that are scattered throughout the entire Crysis 3 mission maps, there is still a good amount of gameplay to be had within the confines of Crysis 3 on its own merit. To offer you a time limit is a moot point, as each gamer is a law unto themselves, and each gamer plays differently. Where one player may just run through the game on ‘easy’, collecting nothing and completing the bare minimum required to progress to the next section of the story, others want to go everywhere, see everything and do it all. Add to that the vast differences in difficulty when playing through any of the increasingly troublesome presets and you have a time set so wildly variant that to say ‘Crysis 3 offers up 15 hours of gameplay on the toughest settings’ is nothing short of ridiculous. The game is what you make of it, and should you choose to race through at a blistering pace ignoring all of the added freedom of the expansive zones, or the multitudous murderous bad guys then don’t go on to write a round-up for your Youtube channel that slags the game off because you completed it in record-breaking time.
Attributes, namely Prophet’s alien technologies which have now superceded his Human self and left him little more than a combination of ‘Nano-Suit’ and far-reaching telepathic and telekinetic powers, are all back for more of the same, as players extend their psychic and physical abilities care of the superior intelligence of the suits designers. Beneficial though they are, they do, in some small way, also serve to hinder the gameplay by making some sections a little too simple: Crowd of enemies in front of you? Not a problem, just whip out your invisibility cloak like an armed to the teeth, homicidal Harry Potter and sneak on past them unnoticed.
To get the best out of Crysis 3, whilst at the same time not just using the powers granted by the suit to blast past enemies and blaze a scorching trailer through levels, then it is probably better to run through the entire game on a higher difficulty setting. Merely gliding past checkpoints, breezing unseen through hordes of opposition troops and picking off snipers by the dozen from afar on the easier settings is really not any kind of challenge for the Crysis veteran, nor even the grizzled shooter player. This leads us nicely to the one area where Crysis 3 may just have a teeny-tiny issue, the Artificial Intelligence of those said same enemy soldiers.
Whereas the graphical content of Crysis 3 has shown gamers just what can be achieved with even this generations engines, and even hints at the glittering future that awaits us all in the 8th gen, this tweaking and tinkering of the visuals seems to have distracted the development team away from one of the most crucial elements of any shooter title, and that is the AI. So, even though the content on offer to you, as you stare open-mouthed in wonderment at your screens and monitors, may well look stunning, and even though a lot has been done to enhance the gamers viewing pleasure, the actual gameplay has been forsaken in favour of this spit and polish as we are left with a barely competent AI that, more often than not, ends up killing its own men as opposed to presenting any kind of threat to the challenge of Prophet.
Often aimless and directionless the enemy AI will scamper around the game zone without so much as a thought for their own safety, hurtling from one poor cover spot to the next, back and forth, like some kind of pointless pendulum. Whether it’s the Human forces, in the shape of the ‘Cell’ private military contractors, or the threat from above, in the form of the Ceph aliens, the AI still takes players on a rollercoaster of emotions as they run around like headless chickens lobbing grenades and blasting away with the new removable Ceph weapons that you can loot from the fallen hulking monsters.
But, hey, at least there is a good deal of variety to the proceedings now, as not only are you battling the embittered Cell militia, you are now also faced with a couple of new variants on the Ceph species. The most notable of which just has to be the impressive brutes packing the humongous blasters that you can rifle off their person. Fun times lie ahead as you rip this hand cannon from their still warm corpses and go on an absolute killing spree with this powerhouse of a weapon.
The solo campaign armaments and AI do make for some moments of pure comedy gold, but if you thought that this was going to get better in the multiplayer, then perhaps think again, as the exact same problems and issues that quite literally ruined the online experience for millions of shooter fans are back rearing their ugly heads once more just to spite you, as you search in vain for a run and gun title that lives up to its name.
The problem is uniform throughout a myriad of shooters that leaves development teams scratching their heads in disbelief as they look to each other with quizzical expressions on their faces wondering why it is that a title like Call of Duty can be so very popular, and yet their own gorgeous looking game struggles to fill the numbers for an online lobby. The answer to this conundrum, particularly in the case of EA and their first party studio’s, is a simple one, and one that we will offer up using a trio of top franchises to better explain our theory.
As most gamers, and just about all FPS players will agree, the handling of a title is the lifeblood pumping throughout its veins. Your game can be the best looking masterpiece that the industry has ever seen, but if it plays sluggish, stiff or sloppy then gamers will be as unforgiving as Charles Bronson in another Death Wish sequel. Just ask any Sony executive who worked on Killzone 3. Now, herein lies the problem. How to make your game look better than the competition, but at the same time still manage to keep those silky movements and lag-free issues at bay during the multiplayer. Well, the truth of the matter is that most players aren’t too fussy about a great many of the features that EA developers seem intent on piling into their multiplayer modes. One such ‘deal breaker’ has been evident throughout the Crysis series, and it returns in this third outing for the franchise only to murder its multiplayer prospects yet again, and that is the ‘invisibility cloak’. This innocuous little asset is the bane of many multiplaying gamers and one so loathed by run and gun gamers that it single-handedly could well have been what put paid to Killzone 3, as well as the younger sibling to this title: Crysis 2.
Developers need look no further than the best-selling shooter franchise currently on the market to see that its own numbers have began to dwindle as they cater more and more to the static, hide in a corner player camping for hours on end, and only daring to poke their nose out from behind a wall of developer designed attributes, all aimed at protecting this player from gangs of burly marauding run and gunners, to move silently across to yet another ‘camping spot’ to pitch their tent and wait for the next wave of players to happen into their line of fire.
Gamers, on the whole, do not want this type of action, they want quick shoot-to-thrill based gameplay that pits them against their opposite number in a faster finger first type scenario, and not, as developers seem to believe, to have every attribute and addition to the format based on and around the sniper. Quickscoping has plagued Call of Duty since its discovery as a ‘glitch’ in Modern Warfare 2, what did Infinity Ward do to combat this groan inducing nonsense? Did they eradicate it? Did they patch the glitch to bring back the spirit of their original Modern Warfare title that broke the mould and brought with it all those millions of admiring players? Nope! Instead they chose to pander to the minority and, in fact, added into even the Treyarch versions as a feature to be enjoyed as opposed to what it originally was, and that being a glitch to be exploited.
This, is why titles such as Call of Duty, and now ultimately Medal of Honor, Battlefield and Crysis have all been suffering, as gamers who love shooter titles have to find ever more obscure games, such as Day Z and War Z, to fulfil their online multiplaying enjoyment.
Speaking of Medal of Honor, a point we have to make, seeing as this is an EA title after all, is that what is beyond us for an explanation is that when all along Electronic Arts and Dice had the winning formula in their hands and chose to ignore it, instead producing the underwhelming Warfighter, whereas in the Medal of Honor Tier 1 mode from the previous title, the answer to all of EA’s online prayers was right there contained in that very excellent segment all along. If Crytek had implemented a similar style of gameplay, instead of merely making everything pretty, and then pandering to the more static shooter player, then this would have been the Crysis online mode to break with tradition and possibly even set the series up to be direct rivals against Bungie’s upcoming MMOFPS, Destiny.
But alas, in this lies a huge reason why a lot of first person shooter titles, all challenging the behemoth Call of Duty for the crown of King of the FPS genre, have been found wanting. Whereas the men and women behind the CoD series have often been criticised for using the same regurgitated engine over and over again, ( something that, it has to be said, the vast majority of game developers have done also ), the one thing that the teams working on the Modern Warfare and the Black Ops franchises have understood is that gamers, particularly when you take those gamers into the online multiplayer arena, are more than happy to forego graphical detail in favour of the way that game performs and handles. When you are hurtling through a zone with all guns blazing and being pounded at by incoming mortar and cannon fire, and with snipers trying to ventilate your melon from three different directions then ‘who cares’ how pretty the flowers are, or how the tree’s waver in the light westerly breeze?
In an FPS game, of all things, the only things we really want to work with pinpoint precision are the weapons, the controls and the troops populating both friendly and enemy forces. Ask any pro gamer in any one of the MLG leagues what they prefer and they will concur with this sentiment. Pretty is good, but fast and smooth is better.
Yes, the multiplayer is engaging at times, just as long as you don’t have a lobby full of snipers all packing every silent trick and trait in the book before donning their cloaking device, but ultimately we fear that the multiplayer mode of Crysis 3 is doomed to suffer for the same mistakes not learned in previous versions of the franchise. Pretty is good, if all you want to do is look and coo at the game, but if you actually want to play and spend some time with it, then you must have gameplay that is actually enjoyable and not something that makes you want to dropkick the neighbours cat into orbit every time you are shot in the back, ( just after spawning ), by some cackling 12-year-old as he sits in his tent surrounded by mines, claymores, tripwires, sentry guns, attack helicopters, dogs, tanks and finally made invisible, just to run salt into that openly infected run and gun wound.
A visually resplendent title, with some truly memorable moments during the single player campaign, but one, we fear, that is destined for the back burner as the novelty of being headshot by unseen snipers wears even thinner than ‘Psycho meets Prophet for bullets and bombs’ plot. Crytek may have the tools, but they so desperately need some direction. 7 out of 10
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Version Tested: Playstation 3