Crysis 3 review
It’s remarkable how well Crytek’s UK division has made Crysis’ overpowered pajamas work in multiplayer. Migrating the mechanics of invisibility and near-invulnerability into a balanced arena can’t be easy. Online play, like the campaign, does feel more like a renovation than original work. Even one of the 12 maps, Skyline, is a reskin of the popular Crysis 2 level of the same name. But this whole side of the game feels as affectionately made as it did in 2011, and anyone that played the previous multiplayer should welcome more of it.
Some of the mode’s cleverness comes from Crytek worrying more about what’s fun than what makes sense within Crysis’ canon. In multiplayer, the Nanosuit’s stealth and armor powers operate on two separate batteries, not a shared pool. You can cloak and then immediately activate armor mode with no penalty. This wrinkle encourages a heavier use of stealth—armoring-up, bagging a kill, and then cloaking away is a viable getaway maneuver.
What I love about the the ubiquity of invisibility in competitive play is the way it makes seeing and listening necessary skills. The pace of movement in multiplayer—fast respawns, bottomless sprinting stamina—exceeds Call of Duty, but I rarely fall into the tired meat grinder mindset that I usually do in that franchise. It’s mitigated by two things: a killstreak system that doesn’t shower skilled players with ridiculous bonuses (you also have to earn rewards by retrieving enemies’ dropped dogtags), and the need to observe the world around you and absorb every drop of audio to stay alive. The sound design, vibrant and functional as it is in the campaign, clearly communicates threats and events. Footsteps betray enemy positions. Distant, crackling firefights let you know where you’re needed. Metagame accomplishments don’t overpower the moment-to-moment combat. When you penetrate an enemy’s armor, it crunches like a trillion walnuts, an effect that coincides with a shower of neon marbles falling off an enemy’s body.
"The the ubiquity of invisibility in competitive play makes seeing and listening necessary skills."
Imitating the campaign, multiplayer maps are also sprinkled with the new alien guns. They operate as arena-style power weapons, but their rarity and limited ammo assures that they never grant more than a handful of kills. Their presence doesn’t fundamentally change Crysis’ multiplayer into Quake or Halo, but it does make it more interesting. As does the addition of passive aircraft on some maps. On certain modes, you’ll spot an empty CELL VTOL. It hovers softly around the map like a turret-strapped ice cream truck. Hopping into it makes you a target, but even though it’s as slow as a crippled carousel horse, I loved the platforming challenge of sprinting up a ledge and leaping in before it flies away. You feel like Bruce Willis.
Creative mode design also continues to be a strength. Among eight modes, the stand out is Hunter, an asymmetrical, infection-style game type that matches two Nanosuit players against 14 CELL soldiers. Unless they’re hit with an EMP grenade, the Hunters are permanently invisible, with Predator Bows and a bottomless stealth battery. Everyone has sparse ammo. Playing as the prey, CELL, you feel like a bunch of teens thrown into a two-minute horror movie—you’re equipped with a proximity alarm, which pings like a paranoid steel drum whenever a Hunter is close.
"You feel like a bunch of teens thrown into a two-minute horror movie."
It’s such a wonderful rearrangement of the mechanics. As a Hunter, you feel a ton of urgency, as a CELL, you’re balancing the safety of sticking with your teammates against the potential protection of isolating yourself in a far-off corner of the map and hoping you get ignored. There are also massive body shields in the environment that CELLs can pick up. In my finest moment, I cornered myself with one of these as Hunters encircled me. With my doom a certainty, I threw the shield at a cloaked player in front of me, crushing him with it in a final blaze of hilarious sacrifice.
Even with all the praise I’ve thrown at it, I worry about the longevity of Crysis 3’s multiplayer, based on how people seemed to abandon Crysis 2’s after release. It’s a minor tragedy that people don’t seem to see Crysis as a multiplayer game. They still think of it as the GPU-eating titan it debuted as.
Really, it’s both. Crysis 3 is launching with the same advanced settings Crysis 2 took months to add. That includes high-resolution textures and DirectX 11 support, and all the effects knobs you’d expect: shading, lens flares, shadows, water, anisotropic filtering, and more. Less scientifically, it looks as good and plays as well as anything on the platform. Every particle effect—from the flash of sparks when you pull the trigger on a Typhoon, to the radial detonation of an airburst arrow—is candy coming out of a piñata. CryEngine’s lighting makes mundane corners of the world feel authentic. The score, too, is outstanding, retaining its hints of Hans Zimmer despite the composer no longer being involved. Every moment benefits from the thudding, modern action movie music (that never resorts to dubstep in a search for relevance), songs intermingled with understated electronic sounds.
Crytek hasn’t pushed itself with Crysis 3. Compared to the wonderland that say, Far Cry 3 drops you into, its world is low on moments-of-awe per hour, and on the hours you’ll spent in it: I finished in about nine. The legacy left by Crysis, assuming this is the last we’ll see of the franchise in the near future, is much different than the craterous impact the original game made in 2007. It’s still a terrific, dazzling action experience with a core mechanic that empowers you, and ultimately, this feels more like Crysis 2: Episode 2 than a sequel that deserves your maximum enthusiasm.
Worthwhile more for its visual flare and multiplayer than for its campaign. A modest improvement of Crysis 2.