In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, German Philosopher Frederich Nietzsche introduced his concept of the Übermensch (or, the superman/overman). He described this post-god character as one who is willing to abandon his urges to nihilism and sacrifice everything to advance humanity. To Nietzsche, the man who takes the needs of his species survival over his own was the next step in human evolution. In Crysis 3, the human/alien hybrid super solider Prophet is something of a living superman. His fellow humans are powerless against the forces of an invading alien military, but the nanotech biosuit bonded to his skin elevates him to a nearly indestructible creature. With this power, he faces an Übermensch like dilemma: would you sacrifice everything to save your species?
Set in 2047 after the events of Crysis 2, the CELL corporation is busy operating their nanodomes, giant bubble-like structures containing the alien quarantine in New York City, with a presence becoming more militaristic. A small team of rebels believes CELL is protecting an asset and has no real desire to eradicate the alien presence on Earth, instead favoring the harvest of Celph energy to set up a global power hegemony. Meanwhile, Prophet starts having apocalyptic visions he believes are prophecies, warning the others about the danger of inaction against Cell’s untapped resource hogging. He says it’s time to pull the plug.
That’s where you come in.
Like other Crysis games, it’s not long before you realize how powerful your character is, even on the harder difficulties. There’s never a moment where you don’t feel like a super solider, because the simple controls of the nanosuit will have a novice operating this war machine like a veteran in under 5 minutes. It’s easy to choose which type of war machine, too, as scopes, attachments, and ammo type are all done on the fly with no restrictions. Games with forced stealth missions are big pet peeves, but Crysis lets you choose your own destiny. Going ninja mode with an arrows and knives or walking through the front guns blazing is entirely up to you. Leaning on heavy armor for boss battles or going lighter for superior stealth in the more populated areas can be done without even hitting the pause button. When the harder difficulties turn up the dial, upgrades to your armor, cloak, and weapon(s) will stack the deck in your favor again.
There’s no phrase I enjoy in FPS gaming more than “cloak engaged.” In Crysis 3, the biggest addition to stealth combat is the predator bow; a deadly piece of machinery capable of producing enough kinetic energy to take down nearly any target in the game. With long-range, retrievable ammo, and complete silence, it’s the most versatile weapon in your arsenal. Did I mention it doesn’t reveal your cloak? Finding safe spots to pick off enemies is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Leading your enemies to water and shooting a charged electrical arrow at them is a satisfying exercise in homicidal ingenuity. It’s a great feature for living out Rambo fantasies, but also makes the game a breeze to conquer, as I finished the game by killing most enemies with the predator. A little creativity to hide while your cloak recharges is all you need to beat 90% of the game with nothing but silent assassination. Taking out one enemy with a well-placed arrow brings in more to investigate, allowing you to slip through most areas undetected. This comedic invisible man routine is fun initially, but Crysis never rewards you for engaging the enemy, leaving no real reason to not use this tactic. Even the upgrades to your nanosuit are found places where enemies are absent.
The New York City of Crysis 3 is more war-torn than post-apocalyptic, but while the certifiable jungle provides plenty of opportunity to hide in the natural habitat, many levels in Crysis 3 are too big and too empty. The expansive designs make it effortless to outflank your opposition, and the suit adds a giant disparity in power, reducing most of your enemies to nothing more than coffin fodder. I didn’t even lose a life until I fought some of the bigger Celph creatures.
The polished graphics are beautifully rendered, but there’s all this struggle to save a humanity that’s absent from the game. Outside of your comrades in battle, there’s no glimpse of a human anywhere. Enemies spread out in a few remote areas, the world around you is decrepit, and for such an open environment, it’s a lifeless landscape. It’s the gaming equivalent of a great painting–aesthetically beautiful–but with no possibility for interaction. There’s not even a gratuitous sympathy play cut-scene of innocent people being ravaged by an invading force of deadly extraterrestrials. Some things are better left to the imagination, but it’s pointless to play up the “save the humans” angle in a world no one seems to inhabit.
Crysis 3 has a big scale environment wise, but few things can compare to watching Central Park lift off the ground to form a giant platform in the sky in Crysis 2. The incredible action sequences of a colonizing alien army attacking a major metropolitan city are still burned into my gamer brain. Exploring the dizzying heights of NYC skyscrapers, the Celph infantry marching on city streets. These are the kind of set pieces missing from this story. Crysis 3 has no ambition to tell an epic story.
Instead, Crytek exchanges the set pieces for more terrible manned vehicle missions. Driving a buggy into the heart of Ceph territory should be a recipe for xenophobic ass kicking, but it’s impossible to drive. The unresponsive steering wheel sends it flailing wildly into the air after hitting any bump. What kind of off-road vehicle can’t handle the off-road? Unless you prefer your vehicles to handle like a Prius on a Biloxi back-road, these missions are going to be frustrating. There’s even a dizzying plane mission where figuring out which way is up before you’re blown to high hell is more imperative than enjoying being a tailgunner.
There is a lot to love about Crysis 3, but the lack of polish gets in the way. Here are a few of the errors I experienced playing the campaign.
- The landscape wouldn’t render, causing a permanent blurred vision effect that didn’t fix itself until I refreshed the game.
- Getting stuck on a random piece of landscape, a dead enemy, or debris from an explosion happens all the time. I couldn’t pass until I quit and reloaded.
- The sound constantly drops out. I’m not talking once every few hours, but long scenes of dialogue that cut out mid-conversation, forcing me to miss some potentially key chunks of the story. I don’t want to quit to the menu to watch a cut scene video again.
They’ll fix these issues with a patch in the future, but I don’t think this was the replay value they had in mind.
Ultimately, Crysis 3 ends up feeling more like Crysis 2.5, with no real gameplay improvements to call it a true sequel. It’s the epitome of playing it safe. Instead of going bigger and taking some risks, Crytek sticks to formula and clings to what made the predecessors successful, but doesn’t expand on any of it. The set pieces are smaller, the campaign is shorter, and the story skips from act 1 to 3 without any real meat in the plot.
It’s a fun 5 hour sci-fi romp, but for $60?