When Crysis first came out, I loved it. It came at a time when first person shooters were getting a little cruddy on the PC, and Crysis' blend of extreme graphical immersion, storytelling, physics, and flexible combat was a sight for sore eyes. Since then, there has been a reasonably well regarded sequel, and now the third installment in the saga is about to drop on the shelves.
EA haven't been pushing Crysis as hard as other titles this year, which is surprising. Sure, it might not have the glamour of FIFA 2013, and it might not have the intensity of Medal of Honor's Warfighter, but it's still decent IP. Part of me wonders out loud if EA are slowly giving up on their PC fanbase, because this could explain some of the recalcitrance. I hope that I'm wrong, as one of NZGamer.com's few PC reviewers I am very protective of the platform.
Crysis 3 is set in New York after the events of Crysis 2. But it's not New York as we know it. Things didn't exactly stay docile in the previous game, and New York is mashed up and destroyed. But in an interesting aesthetic twist, Crytek have decided to pretty the Big Apple up a bit. The CELL corporation have built a massive biodome over Manhattan and, as a result, lush jungle, running water, and misty air is now wrapped around ruined buildings, over broken payments, and through disintegrating apartment blocks. The CELL Corporation has named it the "Liberty Dome"- which make absolutely no sense, because you're trapped inside it. But what'evs.
Weird names aside, I quite liked this inventive take on the urban experience. But I do have quite a few unanswered questions about how the hell they managed it. Manhattan isn't exactly small.
Maybe these answers will be provided in the story, and hopefully so will a few others as well. The biggest being why you play, once again, as Prophet. The only answer I got from a developer was the slightly cheesy quip that Prophet has literally become a 'Prophet'. He's seen a vision and is on a mission to give players the good news, or something. It was all a bit weird and confusing.
My playthrough had me jump into Prophet's shoes and fight through a ruined section of New York's urban green jungle. Like the previous two titles, Crysis 3 looked very good indeed. Weapons are rendered well, audio is both weighty and forceful, and I often caught myself retreating from the action simply to move my mouse around and take in the view. Crytek have done a good job creating a well-realised stage for Crysis' actors to play out their final act, so if anything else - at least it looks good.
I was, however, left with the distinct impression that this was just more Crysis 2, but with a new name and more story. We were promised the ability to use alien weapons, but none were present in my playthrough and the introduction of Prophet's new bow and arrow and sneaky style of gameplay wasn't particularly exciting. There were a few additions to round out these experiences - different types of arrows, including one that explodes, for instance - or the ability to now hack remote turrets and door shields. But these still felt like add-ons to a mechanic fans have already played through.
I hasten to add that the experience was not a poor one. I quite enjoyed what Crysis 2 had on offer, and I have always been impressed by the intuitive nature of Crysis' flexible stealth, speed, and armoured combat system. My hands-on firefights were sufficiently challenging, and the AI was as vicious and as tactical as they've always been. But I was still a little underwhelmed. Crysis 3 is not expanded DLC, it's a stand alone title - and I expected a little more depth to be revealed this close to its February 13 PC release date.
I pushed some of the developers on the playing experience, asking questions about the combat mechanic, the difficulty settings, the adaptability of the hackable turrets and if there would be expanded utilisation of Prophet's combat options - but the only response so far was that these things were "still up for discussion". This was a fob-off so wide you could build your own "liberty dome" inside it.
I will still be keeping one eye on Crysis 3's development, and fans of the series should too. PC gaming still deserves some high quality loving and Crytek have tried their hardest in the past. But I am little concerned that as far as experiences go, we are being saddled with safe bets.
Crysis 3 looks gorgeous, plays well, and maintains the thrust of the franchises solid storyline - but it can't rest on its laurels and needs to up the ante. While a resolution of the complex Crysis narrative is hungrily anticipated, my first impression of the title is that the return of old characters, well rendered bows and arrows, and hackable turrets might not be enough to push forward the Crysis experience.
But there's time to go yet, and hopefully the finished product has a few unannounced tricks up its sleeve.