Few game series have as specific a reputation as Crysis. Without a doubt, Crysis is the prime example of technical prowess.
Each Crysis release sets a new standard in just how incredible a shooter can look and a similarly remarkable standard on just how hard one game can work a PC, as shown by the PC screenshots we’ve used in this review. And so I wondered as I played it, what is Crysis 3 doing on a console?
The Suit of the Future
Crysis 3‘s main character, Prophet, like Alcatraz and Nomad of the previous games, is clad in the series’ trademark Nanosuit, a slick-looking suit of armor that looks like a paintball mask and steel muscles. The suit informs every aspect of the game, for better or worse.
When a game boasts openness to different play styles, what it usually means is that you can play it this way, or if you really want you can try out the other thing we half-built for more bullet points. Crysis 3 does an admirable job, as have past entries in the series, of making both the stealth approach and straightforward combat viable.
The Nanosuit’s upgrade system has been tweaked to promote switching between options at will. While you’ll still select a number of powers to use at any given time, Crytek has added a couple wrinkles. Each power, once purchased, has an upgraded version available. Instead of having to pick up more points to augment it, though, you merely play the game as one would with that power. A stealth power might require, for example, that you spend 100 seconds cumulatively near enemy soldiers while cloaked before it upgrades the amount of time you can spend cloaked.
There’s a pretty good balance of powers for both armor and cloaking, and this new system rewards both methods well. Further, you can now save loadouts of different power sets, putting a total shift in play style just a few button presses away.
The other notable addition is the bow you pick up early in the game. Just like the suit, the bow can be modified on the fly, allowing it to fire different arrowheads at different strengths. The bow is, however, just a bit overpowered. Not only does it not uncloak you the way firearms do, but it’ll also drop just about any standard enemy in one shot. Further, standard arrows can be reclaimed, making the short supply of ammunition for the weapon a moot point.
While the bow really does a good job of making the stealth appealing, some less immediately obvious problems present themselves in long-term attempts to use stealth. I found myself getting stuck on geometry more often than is excusable anymore, especially with a game as polished as Crysis 3 is in other respects. More than a few times, I found my stealth attempts foiled not by enemies or mismanagement of my energy bar, but by a stair or lip of rock I couldn’t bypass while remaining crouched. I felt like I had to learn not about the quirks of the game’s world but of the game itself to enjoy the stealth. I had to experiment to learn where the game wanted me to go to make stealth work.
Issues like the geometry problem are exacerbated by the reappearance of the checkpointing system used in Crysis 2. While this is certainly nothing new to console gamers, I often found it interfering with my desire to explore some of the more open sections of the world. It certainly raises tension, but at the cost of feeling like I’m missing out on interesting sights. It proved even more frustrating when the game froze during the final boss, sending me back further than it really should have.
Story? What story?
Just try to make sense of the storyline of the Crysis games. I dare you. This is an easy dare because, even if you can explain the events to me, they’re still an incomprehensible mess made worse by some impressively goofy writing.
While the stories of the three Crysis games are ostensibly linked by an overarching plot, it’s sometimes hard to tell. They hardly feel related to each other, only slightly less disparate than Crytek’s own Far Cry series. Having finally finished Crysis 2 just weeks ago, one might assume that the link between the two games is clearer, but aside from characters carrying over, there’s not really much holding the two together.
The worst part of all this is that the most interesting story from Crysis 2 was just left aside. The game ends (spoiler alert) with the revelation that you, Alcatraz, aren’t in nearly as much control as you might’ve thought. It begins with Prophet giving you the suit and killing himself, but you find by the end that Prophet’s personality had already transferred into the suit. Instead, Alcatraz is a prisoner (see what they did there?), a physical body meant to operate a suit to Prophet’s will. Crysis 3 barely mentions Alcatraz.
Games like Half-Life have demonstrated that good writing can hold together a plot that might otherwise be bursting at the seams. Crysis 3, unfortunately, doesn’t have that either. Instead it has some of the hammiest writing I’ve seen in a game in a while. Your British buddy Psycho goes through the list of “Things British People Say in Guy Ritchie Movies” in pretty much alphabetical order. People tell Prophet that it’s “not about the suit,” while he screams at aliens that the suit belongs to him and they can’t have it.
Naps With Friends
Crysis 3’s multiplayer works. It functions as Crysis multiplayer, but it won’t be making any waves that the likes of Black Ops or Halo will notice.
The multiplayer capitalizes on the things that make the single player effective; an interesting balance of stealth and heavy-armor gameplay. It adds a bit of spice to Team Deathmatch that no one else has going. Again, it’s just not that interesting even with that additional twist.
The Hunter mode is the major exclusive for Crysis 3, making use of not only the stealth armor but of the bow as well. As a hunter you must find and assassinate the Cell soldiers. As a Cell soldier, you look around in terror, backed into a corner, waiting for a flash of color that tells you to pull the trigger if you don’t want to die where you stand. The mode is actually fun and quite tense, but a lack of player variety on the servers right now keeps even this type from staying interesting for too long.
The PC Killer
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Crysis is a prime example of how to push a computer—whether in console or PC form—to the limits of its graphics processor. That a game can look this good on hardware nearly a decade old really says something, but the PC is Crysis’ true destination, running at 1080p with the settings turned all the way up. All the other aspects of Crysis fall to the wayside when compared to the emphasis on visuals. It looks so good that its other shortcomings are almost excusable.
Thus, it feels a bit weird to play it on a console. What’s the point of running a bleeding-edge game designed entirely for the purpose of murdering top-shelf PCs on a console? It looks good, but we’ve long since run up against the concrete wall of the 360′s power, and Crysis doesn’t look appreciably better than some of the other high-end games on the system, even while its PC counterpart is a leap ahead of anything else out there.
There’s not much bad to say about Crysis 3. The gameplay, both single and multiplayer, works. Even accounting for problems that should’ve been solved by now (geometry), Crysis 3 isn’t bad.
The writing is excusable if only because it’s what we expect from Crytek games. But as I played it on the Xbox 360, I couldn’t help but think I was playing the other version of Crysis, missing out on the real thing.
We purchased Crysis 3 for Xbox 360 with company funds. We completed the single player mode once, as well as exploring multiple multiplayer modes before starting this review.