Crysis 3 multiplayer hands-on: seven PCG writers test their mettle
All too often, multiplayer gets short shrift at preview events - there's too little time to test the features and none of the cooperation and competition you get from playing alongside your friends. But with Crysis 3 we got a chance to experience multiplayer as it is meant to be: with multiple players. Seven of our writers braved snowflakes and Britain's horrendous rail network to bring you their thoughts on Crysis 3's online offering. Each gives their impressions of the Hunter and Crash Site modes below.
We played two different modes: Crash Site, which is basically king of the hill, and Hunter. Hunter's more interesting on paper: two players start as permanently cloaked nanosuit guys with bows, and everyone else is an ordinary marine trying to survive until the timer ticks down. When marines die, they come back as hunters, making it even harder for the few left. Because it's so hard to see hunters at any kind of distance, most of us huddled in dark corners or dead ends and waited. Unfortunately, this works. Your objective is just to survive, so you're incentivised to avoid action and hope nothing at all happens. If anything does, it's usually an arrow out of nowhere killing you instantly.
I had a lot more fun with the more conventional Crash Site mode. Everyone has the normal nanosuit in this, so you can all switch between cloak and armour modes, but you also pick a class. I liked Scout: fast, light armour, shotgun. I'd sprint around in armour mode, power-jumping and mantling up onto higher ledges, then cloak as soon as I saw anyone. If you find partial cover and crouch, you're pretty hard to spot in cloaked mode. And when you're still, it doesn't drain much energy. So I'd wait until I was fairly sure I knew where they were going, burn through the rest of my energy sprinting to where they'd be, then decloak and shotgun.
Cleverly, I noticed I got killed a lot less doing this than squabbling over that crash site everyone seemed so interested in just because it's the objective of the game. When it comes out, I'll probably play team deathmatch to repeat this tactic until people get good enough to shut it down, then stop playing forever.
I am the opposite of Tom, so much so you can just call me Mot. I enjoyed Hunter a lot more than Crash Site, though the latter was standard-issue manshootyface fun. No, Hunter is where I’ll probably spend some time post single-player.
Everyone knows I have an affinity for cloaked characters with one-hit kill skills, and dropping into the transparent boots of the Hunter was instantly gratifying. He’s always cloaked, and armed with a bow. Such a get-up should leave me slowly stalking people through the leaves and streets, but there’s also a two-minute countdown to contend with, and any normal character killed is turned into a Hunter. It turns a potentially tense situation into a hilarious dash for cover: pipes with one exit were coveted by the stalked, they’d cover into them like the cowering cowards that they are (unless I was with them, in which case it’s a tactic of unparallelled genius), holding onto the shields that dot level, and putting up an ad-hoc human wall.
Those bloody shields. Crysis 3 finally remembers that there was an element of slapstick in the first game, and the shields are a nod to that. They can be tossed with lethal force by the defenders. If it so much as grazes the covert killer’s knees, then he drops. I’ve died under piles of the death discuses.
Tellingly, I laughed each time. The ‘hero closet’ defense might be obnoxious and unsportsmanlike, but it’s also really funny to follow the radar to a clot of red only to find a bunch of soldiers hiding in a pipe.
"Why did CounterStrike get rid of riot shields again?" Rich, Chris and I wondered, as we squatted side-by-side in a sewer, like the dirtiest phalanx. It doesn't speak well of a multiplayer mode if it incentivises you to hide in a tiny area, hurling your shield whenever your proximity sensor beeps too much or when the water at your feet starts sloshing too rhythmically.
Thanks to this tactic, to my preternaturally good skills at running away and hiding, and to my luck in driving the stupidly-lethal Pinger (a giant tripedal robot) in the Crash Site mode, I found myself at the top of the leaderboards. This meant that I was unlocking all sorts of goodies as I levelled up rapidly. Unfortunately, the game spends so much time telling you how great you are at the end of each round that there's no time to change weapons. It took me four rounds to build a custom class and the silent sub-machine gun class I built was so crap that I dropped from the top of the leaderboards to the bottom for the last session.
Neither mode was original or perfect; the Hunter's bow is spectacularly inaccurate (so I just meleed victims to death) and Crash Site is unbalanced by the overpowered Pinger. With friends it was fun, but I won't bother playing on release.
I really like winning at stuff, so when Dan, Chris and I discovered our dead-end sewer in Hunter mode was a pass to an easy Hunter mode victory, we gravitated toward it on all successive rounds. Backed up against the wall with two shields and a shotgunner covering the only entrance, we were in a nigh-on impregnable position. When people were able to, um, pregnate us, they’d only be able to kill one before the other two hurled their shields full-force into their face, killing them despite their fancy cloak.
I had more fun in Crash Site mode. I kept my eyes on the skies as others scurried around below, watching the map’s hovering alien drone as it prepared to poop out a pod. When it did, I guided my heavy machine-gun toting soldier to its location, stood within capture radius, and engaged my armour mode. When another force got there first, I used my suit’s super-jump to launch myself a few feet into the air and fired a rocket at my nano-bootied feet, shredding enemies forced to stand within the pod’s prescribed space.
The lives of the men and women of Pipe Town have been well documented already, so I won’t dwell on that particular aspect of the experience. Hunter mode basically turned the game into a first-night-in-Minecraft terror scenario, with the exception that riot shields are prettier to stare at than dirt blocks and as far as I know there’s no MAXIMUM LUMBERJACKING option. There is, however, some kind of killstreak upgrade that prompts the nanosuit to bellow ‘MAXIMUM NANOSUIT’, which made me laugh. How much of the nanosuit was I wearing before, nanosuit? Just a codpiece?
I remain curious about who or what is represented by the nanosuit voice, incidentally. I know it’s probably the suit, but I like the idea that it’s Prophet. Just, you know, muttering to himself. MAXIMUM PUTTING THE KETTLE ON. MAXIMUM HAVING CORRECT CHANGE FOR THE BUS. MAXIMUM FEELING A BIT SELF CONSCIOUS NOW.
The way that the arrival of new objectives in Crash Site can be anticipated by watching the trajectory of the inbound dropship (which becomes the designated capture point) is a neat touch, creating little running battles that I prefer to the scraps over the capture points themselves. Wiping out the enemy team as they’re all bunched up is fun when you’re doing it but can feel a little like having the rug swept out from under you when you’re on the receiving end. This is because defenders are usually so locked into the fight happening around them that they don’t notice the sniper, rocket or drop attack before it’s too late. No denying that hopping from rooftop to rooftop to land the perfect team-wrecking ground slam is pretty satisfying, though. MAXIMUM PHYSICS.
The airport map won the vote more often than not because it packed a lot of different arena types into a relatively small space - corridor fighting, indoor and outdoor open areas, multiple elevations, and, you know, pipes. The museum map we played was much less enjoyable - I spent a lot of time getting killed by stray bullets from the mist, and the repetition of certain assets - particularly those storm drains - made its circular layout pretty disorientating, at least for me.
I did have fun, though. Crysis 3 is incredibly keen to play and replay your best moments - and those of your friends - and this is a smart move given that its combination of superpowers and high concept weaponry already makes for decent anecdote fuel. I think the rhythm of each gametype could do with tweaking, though - at the moment, I can’t see myself playing hunter mode without a full group of friends. Or a riot shield.
I've always preferred the concept of the nano-suit to its various in-game implementations, but I got a cheeky kick out of the suit's cloak functionality in the Crash Site capture point mode. You can stay still and invisible for ages while surveying the battlefield, and choose the precise point at which you want to super-leap over the cap, and super-punch everyone below into nano-oblivion.
Map design is much improved over the second game. The Airport arena had a nice mix of exposed sniper spots on the raised fuselage of the crashed jet, and a warren of filthy sewers for shotgun rats. The classes fielded predictable loadouts, the assault guy rocked a meaty assault weapon, the heavy weapons chap favoured a jittery light machinegun, and the shotgun guy ran around cloaked doing what shotgun guys do best - laughing maniacally and blowing people away at point-blank range.
I'd like to have had a chance to play Crash Site with Hunter mode weapons, though. Crytek saw fit to give non-hunters (or huntees) bonkers murder-tools to balance out the whole permanently-invisible one-shot-kill enemy nonsense. The auto-shottie was nice, but the machinegun that fires a million rounds per nano-second was in a league of its own. It's a shame that Hunter mode is a game about hiding in a fucking box.
Oh, and the whole thing’s couched in a web of levelling systems, unlocks, achievements to create the addictive gradual progression curve that’s all the rage these days, and there’s kill-streaks to be earned in-game, the funniest of which is Maximum Radar, a comedy term for an all-seeing, all-knowing minimap.
The best moments I had with multiplayer in Crysis 3 were the silliest. I wish Crysis would embrace how ridiculous it is. I’d like to see less pseudo-military seriousness and more rubber-muscled men firing rocket launchers at at maximum speed. Nevermind, time to boot up Unreal Tournament instead.
Do you love getting punched in the face by an enemy that you can't see? Then you're going to loooooove Hunter Mode.
As a Cell your sole objective is simply to stay alive for a set amount of time but it's not as easy as you'd think when your enemy, the Hunters, have silent crossbows, are harder to see than Arnie's Predator and have your position nailed on a sat-nav. Luckily you're suitably prepared with a choice of classes/weapons and a 'hunter scanner' to let you know when your guests have arrived. Cast your mind back to the heart pumping sounds of the marines' alien detector in the second Aliens film and you'll recall a sound that put sweat on the palms of your hands. Now imagine your next door neighbour putting up an Ikea shelf at 10am on a Sunday morning and that's pretty much the sound of Crysis 3's version of a proximity detection device. Generally speaking Hunter Mode involved scurrying around the map for the first few seconds before ‘les invisibles’ arrive, franticly searching for the most acutely angled camping spot in which to park yourself and await the inevitable.
In stark contrast Crysis 3's more traditional Crash Site mode was a lot more enjoyable. One map in particular offered a variety of different hiding spots and escape routes in the context of a crashed and crumpled plane and its surroundings. Although less refined and balanced as Call of Duty Maps, it adopted a similar scale and the pace of the multiplayer experience of it felt spot on. Attacking and holding a single objective allowed cheeky flanking manouvers and avoided choke points whilst keeping the action focussed and aggressive.
I had a lot of fun with Crash Site mode and I'd hope that there was more behind my not enjoying Hunter mode further than the fact I was utterly dump at it.