The Crysis series has an odd lineage, now that the sequels appear on console hardware from 2006. What began as the PC-destroying exclusive screenshot generator became the standard bearer for the platform for several years. “Can it run Crysis?” was the joke most run into the ground between 2008 and 2011, but when Crysis 2 was announced for Xbox 360 and PS3, the PC elite’s attitude towards the series changed.
It’s not that Crysis 2 was a bad game; but it has to be said, the shift was surprising and not altogether welcome. The original Crysis - at least, the first half of the game that people fondly remember - is a testament to what a game developed exclusively for more powerful platforms can be, with wide-open levels and unbelievable graphics. The way the game’s best levels - Assault and Onslaught in particular - provide a playground for people to experiment with the game’s nanosuit superpowers that not many other shooters match. Crysis 2, on the other hand, is a fairly pretty linear shooter. That’s not a bad thing, but to fans who were expecting a generational leap to new heights were disappointed.
Crysis 3 keeps a lot of 2’s streamlined aspects. It is, after all, a game designed to run on the practically ancient PS3 and 360. The suit powers are still consolidated into single-button presses (strength and armor are one, speed and stealth are one), and the game still funnels the protagonist along through scripted events and hallways. However, Crysis 3 feels much more ambitious. For every corridor to blast through, there is a massive open level to play around in - and, unlike Crysis 2, Crysis 3 will make your PC cry. It’s practically guaranteed.
The Crysis canon is so convoluted at this point that story is barely worth mentioning. Suffice to say that the game is set in New York again, but cynics who reasoned that this was a lazy move to reuse assets are mistaken. The game looks nothing like its predecessor, with gorgeous swathes of grass and hollowed-out buildings littering the landscape. The Crysis 3 New-York-by-way-of-biodome is far more interesting than the bog-standard interpretation of the city present in 2. Crytek’s art directors stepped up to the plate on this one, making the game’s setting a joy to trek through, even if the story is still completely bonkers.
The environment is much more interesting this time around, which makes it kind of a shame that Crytek didn’t open the suit powers back up to their individually-selectable versions. The huge open spaces of the game really only provide two main options: go invisible and snipe everyone with the bow, or pump up your armor and charge everyone head on. That being said, there are tons of enemy encounters that lean one way or the other, which keeps things from becoming stale. The game constantly provides opportunities to switch between styles, which makes Crysis 3 feel much more mindfully designed than 2.
By the way, I mentioned the bow just now - let’s talk about that. Crysis 3’s bow is one of the coolest weapons in a recent game, almost to a fault. It has different tips - including explosive ones! - and the game allows you to choose your draw strength, which is something all games with bows need to do in future. It’s a good Crysis 3 is stingy with arrows, because it’s honestly a bit of a showstopper. Why use a sniper rifle when I can stay cloaked with the bow? There are some moments - including one level where the player is alone in a field full of velocioraptor-esque enemies - where Crysis 3 feels like the jumping-off point for a Predator game.
Luckily, simply shooting things is still fun. While none of the guns are as lovingly crafted as the bow, everything in Crysis 3 has significant weight to it, and the ability to change equipment like sights and silencers on the fly is still one of the series’ best features. Unfortunately, the moments in between the raw action of the game is where some seams show - there are still too many moments where the AI is noticeably braindead, or the player is stuck following an ally to the next door that needs to be opened. At the very least, the ally is one of the most insanely detailed character models ever seen in a video game. It’s just a bit of a shame that the mechanics themselves aren’t more ambitious.
The PC version’s graphics have to be lauded. Crysis 2 was pretty, but the PC version didn’t feel like it had the care given to it that the original game did. Crysis 3 gets it right, with a load of visual bells and whistles that make it look absolutely stunning (side note: make sure to download the cvar editor Crytek made public, which allows for in-depth setting tweaks). For one thing, the texture work is unparalleled - but there are loads of other subtle effects that work together to make the game look like a fever dream on a good PC. You probably won’t be able to turn all of them on, but the game looks good on any settings.
Crysis 3 is a mishmash of Crysis and Crysis 2, which is probably the best thing we could hope for now that the series has to work on aged consoles. It takes the urgent Call of Duty-esque run-and-gun changes of 2 and marries them with Crysis’s more open design, a combination that pays off in its best moments. The one major fault of Crysis 3 is that it spreads its options too thin - it has amazing standout moments, like the Stalker field or the vehicle level - that are unfortunately stuck in their own levels. If the inevitable Crysis 4 or other spiritual successor can overlap these experiences into an even more open environment, Crytek will have a classic on their hands. As it stands, Crysis 3 is another great entry in a series of flawed gems.
Eight out of ten