So many supersoldiers, so little time.
Crysis 3 puts the player in control of series veteran Laurence "Prophet" Barnes, an augmented warrior who at the start of this episode, more than 20 years after the events of Crysis 2, reports some chilling visions involving the race of aliens known as the Ceph.
Throw in a New York City choked by rainforest growth, an imposing dome overhead, some serious anti-corporate sentiment and some horrible alien life, and in the middle is you: the last hope for a withering but committed resistance force.
Prophet's new weapon, the bow, is the coolest thing going in first-person shooters right now. The hero initially baulks when his comrade, Psycho, hands him the weapon after a "messy" first combat scenario - but after a rundown of its features, Prophet admits he's "coming around". So he should - the bow has great range, almost laser-precise accuracy, adjustable draw strengths and a selection of customised arrowheads that can help you wipe out entire squads and even bring down enemy aircraft. Being something of a traditionalist, I find the standard impact arrows the most agreeable.
They're handy for stealth kills (using firearms can mess with your cloaking ability) and if you use them well you can pin your enemies to walls. Plus, you can retrieve spent arrows if they land in accessible places or in bodies, which is a small mercy considering the relative scarcity of arrow caches and a limited carrying capacity.
The bow is a weapon set all on its own, but there's a handy range of firearms at your disposal as well. Toss in some nasty melee attacks, some grenades and the ability to hack enemy turrets and traps for control, and Prophet may be the best-prepared warrior in gaming. Even better, the suit's visor allows you to locate and track individual enemies - and each one's level of threat awareness - to help you plot your next move.
Thanks to some brilliant control design, it's a piece of cake to master the commands necessary to have Prophet do what he does, and advanced weapon settings can be configured without the need to pause the game. Add in the upgrade system for the nanosuit, which will augment your abilities and even set extra challenges for you along the way, and the battle system is as agile and efficient as Prophet himself.
The one aspect of Crysis 3 that was likely to be beyond dispute was the graphics. Crytek's challenge was not to avoid disappointment but to exceed expectations and this game does it in spectacular style, with jawdropping detail throughout. The Liberty Dome and the remnants of New York engulf you in an all-encompassing world that is wide open and utterly claustrophobic in one. Sure, you could strip a lot of the game's active areas back to the wireframe beneath and you'd find level design much like any other shooter on the market, but Crytek's artists really know how to apply a layer of paint.
Some passages of play are more linear than others, and Crysis 3 allows you to play in a sandbox style, and does it tantalisingly well. Once an area is cleared, don't be surprised if you want to go back and play it again to see how you could do it differently, especially once the Ceph enemies come into play. If the Cell soldiers can be picked off like scabs by patient players, these aliens attack with breakneck speed and rabid ferocity that is jarring to your rhythm.
The plot and scripting are ambitious and thought-provoking, but also predictable and hackneyed in places. It'll take more than that to scrape the gloss off of Prophet's armour though. Crysis 3 is clever, cool, and comes highly recommended.
Platform: Xbox 360, also on PlayStation 3 and PC