With consoles dominated by simplified mass-market FPS titles - like Activision’s Call of Duty behemoth - the arrival of the Crysis franchise was a breath of fresh air.
Initially a PC exclusive that garnered a reputation as a hardware-crushing FPS for the hardcore gamer, it would be easy to assume that the incredible graphics that made Crysis famous would have been lost in translation whilst transitioning to the fledgling boxes of Sony and Microsoft, but like its predecessor Crysis 3 manages to be one of the best looking titles on the Xbox 360; locales are stunning, characters are believable, weapons are substantial and realistic, and the way Crytek has utilised light to complement their highly stylised aesthetic is a wonder to behold. Sure, the graphics are never going to come close to what a high-end gaming rig is capable of, but games like this make you question whether a new generation of consoles is really needed.
That’s not the only thing that successfully made the transition. Rather than succumbing to the simplified FPS formula laid out by the Call of Duty franchise, Crysis sticks to its guns with a reliance on thoughtful strategy and tactics that make it a true joy to play. The core mechanics focus on the Nanosuit and it’s various abilities, and it essentially makes the game a ‘Predator simulator’, as you tag enemies with your visor and activate the cloaking ability to silently stalk your prey before sending a well placed arrow into your target’s skull. If stealth isn’t your preferred approach, then the endurance ability - that reinforces your armour and essentially makes you a tank until your power depletes - affords you a more direct approach, and it’s the contrast between these abilities that makes Crysis 3 so diverse and accommodating for a number of play styles. Want to remain undetected and silently take down your opponents? The game will reward you. Want to play as a tank and use force to power your way through the map? Go right ahead. Sometimes the abilities can feel a bit unbalanced, as you play a highly-trained invisible combat machine facing off against a handful of mere mortals, but the limit on the length of time you can use these abilities means you’re constantly ducking in and out of cover to recharge and taking note of your surroundings so that you don’t find yourself feeling the heat once your energy supplies deplete and your cloak disappears.
Crysis serves up an impressive array of weapons, from the more conventional guns held by the CELL soldiers, to the more outlandish sci-fi offerings that the alien Ceph bring to the party. Each weapon has a number of options that can further customise your approach depending on your preferences and play style. The most notable weapon of Crysis 3 is the bow that you acquire early on in the story. This is an incredibly powerful weapon that takes down the majority of enemies with one shot or two shots and offers an array of ammunition, from electric arrows, arrows that explode on impact, or the more traditional Robin Hood style arrows. While the bow is a joy to use and superbly complements the stealth aspects of the game, it can be argued that it further unbalances the gameplay, leaving you to silently skulk round the map and take out your targets with a swift arrow to the knee. Regardless of any balancing issues, the feeling of being an absolute powerhouse is one of the most satisfying aspects of Crysis 3, and the levels are designed in such a way that the logistics of taking down your targets can be challenging and some serious thought is required.
The story that drives Crysis 3 - while not revolutionary - serves its purpose well, pulling you through the campaign and providing enough of an emotional pay-off so that you feel invested in the characters and the stakes that they face. Prophet and Psycho are the stars of the show, with Prophet (the main character) struggling to maintain his humanity whilst buried deep in the Nanosuit, and Psycho struggling to come to terms with his own humanity having been forcibly removed from his Nanosuit. Crysis feels like the typical sci-fi premise of Halo (super soldier is the last hope for a world threatened by a great evil) combined with the cinematic set-pieces that made Call of Duty such a phenomenon, and whilst the plot of Halo became so convoluted that the majority of gamers had lost interest in the narrative by the third installment, Crysis 3 succeeds as a standalone story in its own right; even if you have no prior knowledge of the Crysis universe, you’ll have no trouble whatsoever jumping in to Crysis 3, understanding the story, and enjoying the various twists and turns the game throws at you. If you’d like to delve deeper into the back story, then Crytek has provided a cut-scene in the opening menu that will bring you right up to speed with prior events.
One of the biggest complaints about the game’s campaign is its length; the single player story can be completed, from start to finish, in around 6-7 hours and this is a significant concern for game that will set you back around £40. However, the concise nature of the campaign ensures that Crysis 3 never outstays its welcome; the conclusion is epic and satisfying but leaves you wanting more like any successful entertainment always should.
Crysis 3 justifies its price tag by supplementing the campaign with comprehensive online multiplayer offerings and, while it’s unlikely that the Call of Duty faithful will jump ship, the wealth of options and modes that Crysis offers is sure to maintain a healthy following well into the future and provides a unique Nanosuit enhanced approach that other FPS games simply can’t replicate. The standout gameplay mode has to be Hunters, where two players are given the game’s trademark bow and the simple objective of taking out the other players within a set time limit. Each player the hunters manage to take down respawns as a hunter, which leads to a frantic game of cat-and-mouse, where an ever increasing number of hunters silently stalk their prey while the vulnerable soldiers grow increasingly paranoid and spray bullets frantically into thin air hoping to take down one of their Nanosuit-equipped adversaries. Matches like this culminate in either epic holdouts or mass slaughters, which is a great turn of pace from the campaign and a great addition to an already stellar offering.
For a game as polished as Crysis 3, the shockingly stupid AI on offer is somewhat of a surprise and is a major point of contention. Rather than investigate the source of the arrow that just penetrated their buddy’s skull and begin searching for the invisible threat that has already plagued their other strongholds, they will merely investigate the fresh corpse of their colleague. This made some areas of the campaign incredibly easy to conquer and served only to the already vast gulf between Prophet and the CELL soldiers.
Crysis 3 is a polished and accomplished FPS that warrants its place among the Xbox 360’s top shooters. While the game is unbalanced and only offers a significant challenge on the higher difficulty settings, the quality of the visuals, the diversity it offers, and the focus on tactics and strategy makes this an absolute joy to play and a refreshing experience when compared to other titles in this genre. Despite its notable shortcomings, Crysis 3 oozes production value, and the cut-scenes and cinematic set-pieces only serve to remind you that this game is amongst the best examples of the FPS genre.
If you’ve never played a Crysis game before, now is the perfect time to do so.