What does it mean to be human? Are there certain qualities that one must possess in order to be classified as such? What if some of those qualities were heightened while others were dampened? These are the questions that Crytek asks of you, the player, throughout Crysis 3. They ask you to define loyalty, and determine where the line is that separates patriotism and the overwhelming, consuming desire for vengeance.
24 years have passed since the incident in New York City. Major Laurence “Prophet” Barnes has been found and rescued by his former teammate and friend Michael “Psycho” Sykes. In the time since Prophet was captured by the enigmatic and malevolent CELL corporation, a “nano dome” has been constructed over the remains of New York City in order to produce limitless clean energy. CELL has been using System X, a lost construct of the alien species known as the Ceph, as no more than a battery to fund their cause.
The game opens as Prophet is being rescued, and Crytek wastes no time showing off their new engine. Facial animations this believable haven’t been seen since L.A. Noire, and even those pale in comparison. Minute motions such as the movement of the speaker’s tongue during annunciation are spot-on, as are the characters’ eyes as they deliver their lines of dialogue. Lighting effects are just as impressive. Light from the dock dances over the water, shadows are cast by the smallest of objects, and reflections are flawless. It’s apparent that a great deal of work went into making every minor detail in the game look believable.
While other shooters do a fine job of making the player feel like a bad ass, no game does it like Crysis. Equipped with a nanosuit, players are able to cloak themselves to be almost invisible as they snap necks and keep quiet. On the other hand, there’s always a chance of being discovered. Should the need arise, you can engage Maximum Armor on the suit, allowing you a few seconds to soak up enemy fire as you find a safe place to hide. The HUD is simple and unobtrusive, a rarity in the genre.
Gun play is just as fluid and maintains the cleanliness of the various functions of the nanosuit. Instead of having to pause the action and fiddle with menu after menu, holding down the Select button will bring up an interface from which you can choose attachments and ammo types for the gun you’re currently using. With a quick press of one of the face buttons, you’re able to seamlessly swap out scopes, barrels, and ammunition without ever once pausing the action. It’s imperative to be aware of the battleground, however, as the action doesn’t stop just because you decide that you want a reflex sight instead of an optical scope. It’s small additions such as these that separate Crysis 3 from the ordinary, run-of-the-mill FPS.
Additionally, Crytek has added a pseudo-RPG element to the nanosuit. As the game progresses, nanosuit upgrade modules can be found that allow access to various upgrades. Up to four perks can be used at a time, and various combinations can be set to three different face buttons to ensure that each battle is met with the right tools. Stealth enthusiasts will feel at home using a set of perks that allow them to cloak faster, see trails of enemy footprints, and muffle their own sounds of movement. Those that prefer the “shoot first, ask questions later” approach can reduce their reload time, increase their speed while aiming down the sights, and gain a boost to mobility to gain the upper hand during a particularly heated skirmish.
While all of these tweaks and additions are particularly impressive, there are some minor flaws. Objective waypoints can be particularly confusing, as you’re not sure whether it’s something that you need to do or someplace you need to be in order to complete it. There were several times when I found myself searching for a switch to press or a door to open because the objective wasn’t clear. Furthermore, the visor used to tag enemies and hack turrets didn’t always seem to work. Despite being right up on a turret with no enemy in sight, the game seemed to think that I was not in the turret’s line of slight, losing me the opportunity to hack it and turn it on its lackeys.
Caveats aside, Crysis 3 does a marvelous job of giving you plenty of reasons to care instead of labeling it as another typical shooter. The graphics are the best we’ve seen (yet) on a console, the characters are believable and relatable, and the mechanics are solid. It does delve into a bit of science fiction cliché for a small part in the middle, but the questions that it offers – and, in turn, for us to ponder – help it leave its mark. This is a very polished, very fun game, and it deserves more than just a passing glance.