California Literary Review

Video Game Review: Crysis 3

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March 6th, 2013 at 9:35 am

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Crysis 3

Release date: February 21, 2013
Platform: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Crytek Studios
Publisher: EA
Genre: Sci-fi, First-person shooter
Campaign game time: 6 to 8 hours.
ESRB: M

CLR Rating: ★★★☆☆

Crysis 3

In future New York it’s still impossible to get a parking spot.

In the decaying canyons of New York, jungle riots. From behind the car-corpses and the grass bed our avatar, Prophet, de-camouflages. The drawn compound bow creaks in his augmented hands. He, and developers Crytek, fire two arrows our way in quick succession. The first is fired at our head: a direct hit. Our eyes pop and spill before the green, gold vistas of New York, our ears shimmer with the swell of cinematic music and in our mind, where the arrowhead nestles, the gameplay makes perfect, well-crafted sense. The second arrow however, aimed at our heart, misses, and skittles off into another wave of squids and soldiers.

I was left with two distinct memories of Crysis 3‘s predecessor – Crysis 2. The first was that, graphically, it was the best game of its generation. There’s something magical about CryEngine 3. It’s not only the global illumination, the realistic water, the lush texturing but the fluidity of movement that gives CryEngine its signature look. The second memory was the endless narration of Jacob Hargreave dragging me across a convoluted, emotionally untethered plot. The Crysis series to date, like so many sci-fi misfires of any medium, is bereft of human stories, lost somewhere between techno-babble and far fetched schemes of world destruction. Unlike Crysis 1 & 2 however, Crysis 3 does well enough to skim the edge of the mark instead of missing it altogether.

Crysis 3

A next generation experience? Not quite. But close.

A little backstory: The Ceph (Short for cephalopods) are a breed of ancient aliens reanimating from the earth. They’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is the extermination of all human resistance. There’s Cell – an evil mega-corporation who’ve taken over the world, looking to use the alien’s technology for their own vile means. Then there’s you: Prophet. A super soldier who wages war on both Cell and Ceph. He’s a stale, uncharismatic protagonist who’s best attribute is his Nanosuit, embroidered with Ceph DNA, that can make him invisible one second and impervious to bullets the next.

Crysis 3 begins with Prophet getting reanimated from cryosleep in the midst of enemy ships (wait, isn’t that Halo 4?). Our rescuer is none other than Psycho from Crysis Warhead, developed by Crytek Budapest in 2008. He wants Prophet to help him and his rebels take down the Cell corporation. Prophet, tormented by premonitions of world destruction at the tentacles of the Ceph, wants to take the fight in another direction.

Crysis 3 tries to tackle some big themes amidst the gunfire and the swift cut scenes: Prophet’s internal struggle between the power of the Ceph DNA and his own humanity, the sacrifices and betrayals of war, even Psycho’s character arc could’ve been an interesting insight into the mind of a soldier who’s aging, un-armored body is struggling to keep pace with the ferocity of modern war, but no single element is given enough time to truly bloom. Jacob Hargreave’s incessant, droll narration is gone, ousted for Psycho’s constant yelling, tantrums, and cliché cannon (C’mon Mate, it’s not the end of the world… yet). He’s well acted but he’s not particularly likable, which is a shame because he’s Prophet’s only link to the world he’s trying to save. The henchman for both Ceph and Cell are endlessly replaceable and they give no weight to the violence of the game. Overall it’s a story that’s typical middle of the road sci-fi, it was never urgent, never surprising, but it does have its emotional moments and greatly improves on Crysis 2.

Crysis 3

The most elegant, lyrical, subtle name they could create with for this guy was “Psycho.”

Walking into the ruins of New York for the first time is a visceral experience. It’s a beautifully designed and well executed dystopia. Individually rendered grass, leaning skyscrapers, gorged and festooned with jungle. The levels are a happy medium between the sandbox of Crysis 1 and the more linear Crysis 2. Straight out of the gate you’re given Prophets new, custom designed compound Predator bow. It’s the first weapon in Crysis that lets you fire without decloaking. It’s badass too, coming equipped with four different arrowheads that let you blow up, electrocute and generally devastate enemies. It’s the golden gun of the Crysis series. In fact, it’s a little too badass, letting you kill most enemies in one shot with none of the drawbacks of a real bow: there’s no parabola to take into consideration when lining up, no adjustments for wind. But hey, he’s a super soldier firing a super bow, I’m happy to run with it.

Crysis 3

After years of salt and pepper calamari the Ceph are fighting back.

Crysis 2 had a great soundtrack and Crysis 3 does even better, swelling and dipping in all the right places. The gun sound effects hit you right in the chest. Explosions ripple and crack. The sound isn’t perfect (one scene early in the game comes to mind when Prophet and Psycho are running up a staircase in the howling wind but their voices are recorded as if they’re standing right next to each other and the dialogue sits juxtaposed against their surroundings) but it never does anything so bad that it takes you out of the game.

The best part of Crysis 3 is the gameplay. It is superb. The controller layout allows you to modify your weapons, cloak and decloak, boost armor, throw grenades, change weapons, scan the area for targets, all without leaving you HUD. And even though Crysis does a great job with their menus design-wise its refreshing not to have to spend much time there. There’s a new Nanosuit upgrade system that allows you to save different subsets of unlockable perks to switch between depending on the situation and your playing style. And like previous Crysis titles you can play as stealthy or as Rambo as your heart desires.

Multiplayer is your typical fare but it’s executed well and even though the graphics take a hit online there’s plenty of great maps and game modes to keep you firing. Hunter Mode has captured peoples imaginations: two players start out as hunters, permanently cloaked, and each time they make a kill that player become a hunter, until there’s one poor schmuck left running madly around, firing wildly into the architectural canopy.

The Crysis storyline was always too convoluted to be properly conveyed in a commercial first person-shooter. Crysis 3 does its best to break free and present a more emotionally engaging story but, as great as the experience is, it remains a game that punctured my head but not my heart.

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Crysis 3 Gameplay Trailer

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