Review: Crysis 3 is like a bad date at an extremely fancy restaurant
You've made the reservations. You've both dressed up: business casual, let's call it, with a modicum of hair-styling, makeup, and your second-fanciest pairs of shoes. The menu is beyond enticing, never mind that it's presented in a leather folder, bound with gilded rope. The chandeliers sparkle, seeming to sway gently overhead, as a band plays exactly the right music at exactly the right volume. And hey, look at that! The food is stupendous! It nearly even vindicates its obscene price, which you were at first certain was markup for the textiled walls and imported carpets. But as you get into your car to drive home, you reflect: something just didn't feel right. It was a bad date, and despite the food, the decor, the ambience, you're probably not going to call each other for a follow-up.
Such is Crysis 3 -- a conflicted little package wrapped in extremely pretty paper. So conflicting, in fact, that it's hard to know where to begin...
So let's start here: it truly is the year of the bow. Before Lara Croft tries her hand at a bow and arrow, Prophet sports it in Crysis 3. The third main installment (fourth game) is set 24 years after the events of Crysis 2 in a New York overgrown with plantlife. Playing as Prophet, you use the Nanosuit -- outfitted with a combination of human and alien technology -- to uncover a mysterious power source being used by CELL. It's in the urban jungle that you'll use all of the Nanosuit's capabilities to battle CELL and the Ceph.
Let's start off where everyone goes when they think of Crysis -- the visuals. Having reviewed Crysis 3 on the Xbox 360, I can easily say that a new console generation would do wonders for this game. I have no doubt that the graphics will melt faces on high-end PCs, but on the Xbox 360, it merely makes your face sweat a bit. The urban jungle of New York is a sight to behold,but it's just not where it should be; once you take in the environment for a few minutes, you'll cease being impressed. That being said, the facial animations of the characters are amazing. Psycho, in particular, has some of the most impressive facial animations and rendering that I've seen this console generation.
Unfortunately, the visuals are just make-up, covering up the the numerous flaws that plague Crysis 3. Let's start with the combat. The Nanosuit provides a wealth of possibilities on how to approach every scenario. Whether you want to activate armor mode and engage in a firefight with some invulnerability, or you'd rather activate stealth and be a silent killer, you have options. Choosing Nanosuit upgrade load-outs -- such as longer sprinting and assassinations not taking you out of stealth -- adds even more variety. Then, you're able to reconfigure weapons on-the-go, adding from a buffet table of sights, grips, fire modes and other attachments.
The crowning achievement of Crysis 3 is the bow. The bow is both the best and worst part about Crysis 3. It's undoubtedly the best weapon in the game, and it taunts you into playing the game entirely from stealth. You see, normally when you fire a weapon from stealth or engage in melee, you break out of stealth for a short duration. The bow does away with that. You can fire and kill an enemy from stealth with the bow and never worry about being seen. Also, shots from the bow are almost always a one-hit kill. You only have a certain number of arrows available to you, but simply turn on your visor, see where your arrows are, and pick them back up again. It's basically an unlimited supply of ammo for an overpowered weapon. Now, you can still play the game balls-to-the-wall with guns blazing, but things are so much easier with the bow.
I went through 90 percent of the game without ever using the Nanosuit's armor ability. I primarily snuck around in stealth, assassinating enemies with either melee executions or swift shots from the bow. It was my choice to play that way, but it was also the most logical one. It's so easy that it does away with any strategy involving the Nanosuit. Simply put, there's no reason to ever use anything other than stealth and the bow. It wasn't until the last hour or two of the game that I started using other abilities and weapons. That said, you will feel like a badass the entire time you use the bow.
Level design was yet another flaw that plagued the game. When you see the sprawling urban jungle environment, you'll undoubtedly feel the strong urge to explore. However, you'll find that there's not much to see. You can go off on your own, to a certain extent, but there's never really anything to see or do. You'll get the feeling of an open-world, but you're stuck in a linear map that seeks to deceive you. There's little reason to diverge from a straight path to a waypoint. Combined with some poor AI and the bow, the levels offer little challenge. Sometimes you'll have to ascend a building, sneaking around in stealth and picking off enemies with concise shots. And what of those other enemies roaming around? Just wait for them to head towards the body of one of their deceased allies and you'll easily dispose of them, as well. It's straightforward with little freedom that feels wasted considering the scope of what Crytek could've done with these missions and maps.
By far one of the biggest letdowns was the story -- boy is it forced. I'm part of the group that's never been impressed with Crysis' story to begin with; it's definitely not the game's strong point. Killing is the strong point, but it's hard to ignore the shortcomings of Crysis 3's story. You never get the sense of intensity, regardless of how hard the writing, action sequences and voice acting tries. I've just seen it all before. You'll be able to predict what's going to happen two missions before it happens. I never want to be bored in a sci-fi shooter that's supposed to be full of action, but I felt lifeless playing through the Crysis 3 campaign.
Crysis 3 comes with the standard multiplayer fare that's found in all modern shooters these days. What sets Crysis 3's multiplayer apart from the rest are the Nanosuit abilities. Watching two squads of stealthed super soldiers engaging each other adds tension and makes for some exciting kills. The maps offer some diverse ways to get around. Why go through hallways to get to the enemy sniper when I can jump off the peir, travel underwater between huge cargo ships, and climb up the rear of a boat to surprise him from behind?
There's not a lot of creativity from the modes, though, as you've seen it all in other shooters. Hunter mode is the one that stands out the most. In Hunter mode, two players are assigned as the Hunters, equipped with permanently cloaked Nanosuits and wielding bows. Their objective is to kill the other players (Troopers). Every time a Hunter kills a Trooper, that Trooper becomes a Hunter. They grow in numbers until only one Trooper is left, fighting for his life. It does help, a tiny bit, that Troopers can deploy Nanosuit jammers to see cloaked Hunters. If you're thinking it's kind of like Flood mode from Halo 4, it's because it is. Regardless, it's a ton of fun.
Fans of the Crysis series will enjoy Crysis 3, but for someone with no allegiance to the franchise, it doesn't offer anything not already available in other games. The graphics are excellent at times, but other times they'll leave you unimpressed. Compared to a game like Halo 4, you'll wonder why Crysis is lauded for its visual achievements. The controls are tight for responsive combat, but there's never much of a reason to play with anything other than stealth and the bow. And the levels come off as a large, pretty mansion with tons of wasted space. It's like all of those rooms in Wayne Manor where there's nothing to see. You're left thinking, 'Wow, I should be able to do something over here.' When a level gets it right, like the dam level, Crysis 3 is a bloody good time, but most of the game will have you burying arrows into enemies in-between yawns.