- Developers - Crytek Frankfurt, Crytek UK
- Publisher - EA
- Platforms - PlayStation 3(tested), Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
- Release date - Out now
- Price - £39.99
Most people will be aware of the web-series Will It Blend? where a giggly man chucks every-day objects into a powerful food blender to see if they'll powderise. It's made by BlendTec, and designed to show how the company's technology can be used to blend anything, even an entire human skeleton, together.
Crysis 3 is a lot like Will It Blend? Using its peerless CryEngine, Crytek is out to show that anything and everything from the past decade of first-person shooters can be merged seamlessly together. It's open-ended, but has narrative aspirations; it's set in an urban cityscape, but one overrun by natural fauna. There's an ostensible mix of stealth and action mechanics, and even the lead character, Prophet, is mixed up, as his human personality blurs together with his iconic, robotic Nanosuit.
In a climate of on-rails war games v. sandbox shooters, Crysis 3 attempts to muddy the waters, chucking action, stealth, story and freedom into the powerful CryEngine blender. Will it blend? No.
Crytek has been experimenting with environments since Crysis began, toying first with a lustrous open-world, in the form of the first game's Philippine island and then with a more enclosed, threaded cityscape in Crysis 2's version of New York City. Both of those experiments were overwhelming successes; Ling Shan was beautiful and broad and let you tailor your approach to each gun fight, whereas NYC was more miserable and enclosed, and better suited to the second game's set-pieces and murky drama.
Crysis 3 is a lot less cohesive. Twenty years after the second game, the government has quarantined New York City inside an Eden Project style dome and animal and plant life has begun to reclaim the Five Boroughs, creating a literal urban jungle where the aesthetics of the first two Crysis games come together. But where it's visually splendid (an overgrown Chinatown, rendered flawlessly in the CryEngine serves as one of the game's main attractions) the world of Crysis 3 is a confusing and muddled battleground. The sprawling wilderness of Crysis 1 and the narrow, vertical defilade of Crysis 2 are thrown together in a way that disrupts the flow of combat. Fights are neither large-scale nor close-knit, leading to jumbled, scrappy shootouts that don't welcome a tactical approach. The previous Crysis games encouraged you to snipe from afar or muck in close up; to sneak around bloodying up your K-BAR, or overheat the barrel of your 50 calibre in a full front assault.
Crysis 3 doesn't accommodate that kind of pragmatism. In the way that the environments are muddled together, so too becomes the gameplay, as you clumsily juggle tact to keep up with the cluttered topography. It makes for a chaotic, sometimes exciting first-person shooter that keeps you on your toes and forces you to make decisions on the fly. But in regards to making you look cool, to enabling you to outwit and dominate your enemies in the way the Nanosuit is supposed to, Crysis 3 is too messy to let you plan that clearly.
Even the suit itself is mixed up. Crysis 2 especially had this simple, excellent system of customising your suit powers by letting you flick between them by tapping either triangle, square or circle. You could upgrade either your stealthy abilities, extending the battery life of your invisibility cloak and making your footsteps quieter, or bolster your power moves, letting you take more bullets and pounce on enemies from overhead. That was all you needed. But in the way a lot of sequels (Resident Evil 6) accumulate successive and overbearing amounts of options, Crysis 3 goes way overboard with how you can tweak the Nanosuit and you tend to lose track and lose interest. You can customise basically everything, right down to the tensile strength of the string on your bow and arrow. Improving becomes a chore and an irrelevance; of the dozens of tune-ups there are to wade through, only about three are really necessary and its possible/preferable to play the whole game without bothering with the customise menu.
There's just too much in Crysis 3. The first two games were wonderfully lean, giving you a limited, indelible tool set to learn and a cohesive, immediate landscape to use it in. This third entry is really loose and rattly. Graphics wise, it's shinier than anything from the Crysis series or, perhaps even, anything from all of videogaming so far. But that's not enough to carry the game. Crysis 3 is gorgeous - it's magnificent to look at. Whether you're seeing irises flicker in character's eyes, tracking aliens as they scurry through long grass or just standing back and breathing in one of the game's many, beautiful panoramic views, Crysis 3 sets the benchmark for what seventh-generation consoles can produce. It's just a shame that technology isn't being applied to better ideas and a better script.
Dialogue is Crysis 3's real weak-point. The entire series has a troubled relationship with writing. On the one hand Crytek seems reluctant to dump story altogether, but on the other, the studio's writers have been consistently unable to work in a competent narrative. British novelist Steven Hall pens the script for Crysis 3 and his writing is incredibly clunky. Series frontman Prophet returns, this time to defeat the big alien boss, the Alpha Ceph. Things are complicated by Prophet's relationship with the Nanosuit which has begun symbiotically fusing itself with his personality, corroding away at his personality and humaneness. There's a group of rebels also stuck inside the domed-off New York and a cursory love story between their leader and Prophet's mate, Psycho, who returns from Crysis 1.
It's total rubbish. When Prophet and Psycho aren't hogging the screen bellowing at each other about humanity and all that gust, there's lazily written talk about the end of the world and alien MacGuffins and boring Crysis mythology. After a few sequels, a lot of game, comic book and film series begin to wallow in their franchise mythology and it's always boring. Prophet's past, the intricacies of the alien plot - no-one cares about these things, especially when they're so half-written. Aside from a few total clangers ("Can't...hold on...much...longer") the writing in Crysis 3 is merely bland and poor. That would be fine, except the game takes itself so seriously. You strut around a futuristic New York, killing aliens in a robot suit, yet Crysis 3 tries to keep a straight face the whole time and the resulting bad melodrama just comes off as faintly laughable.
And that's a pity, because it overrides the fun of just shooting things in Crysis 3. The mix of action and stealth is jumbled, but in terms of pointing and pulling the trigger, Crysis 3 feels great. There's a real joy to be had with experimenting with the guns, fastening on different silencers and scopes to see what makes the best noise and the swiftest kill. Enemies go down in theatrical death throes and a gratifying tuft of blood and it's frustrating that Crysis 3 gets so far away from this central, unassuming pleasure.
There are things to like here. As aforementioned, the game is stunningly pretty and, though it's a dumb, boisterous thrill, shooting aliens with a big gun is done really well throughout. But only occasionally does everything in Crysis 3 properly click together. It has way too many ideas happening at once and rather than blend, they tend to collide and overlap, creating a scattered, stop/start first-person shooter that doesn't fit together. Multiplayer is considerably tighter than the campaign, and features several stripped back game modes with small amounts of players and clearly defined objectives. Hunter Mode is the strongest, which sees a four-man squad of invisible, Nanosuit troops take on a larger platoon of standard grunts. Flittering between the two sides between rounds guarantees a varied sweep of emotions as you switch between hunted and Hunter, scared and on the assault.
But like every console FPS in the post Call of Duty, post Battlefield market, Crysis 3's multiplayer is doomed to become a side-note, a quickly forgotten addition to a botched, mis-written main campaign. Undoubtedly, this is the weakest Crysis game to date. It's not really that bad - it certainly has its moments - but Crysis 3 lacks direction. It needs a visionary to come in and streamline the whole thing, trimming off a lot of the customisation uselessness and choosing the environmental aesthetic more carefully. It's fun to play nevertheless, but a seamless blend of ideas, Crysis 3 isn't.
- Gameplay: 6/10 - Tweaking your guns is fun and there's a great sense of chaos and violence to Crysis 3, but stealth and action don't merge anywhere near as well as in the first two games
- Sound: 8/10 - Strong voice acting, despite the bad dialogue and some excellent sounding guns are stoppered only by a pedestrian musical score
- Graphics: 9/10 - Beautiful, shiny, superb. Crysis 3's mix of natural and man-made isn't very enjoyable to play through but it's wonderful to look at
- Writing: 4/10 - Hammy, directionless and totally humourless, Crysis 3 would be so much better without the forced melodrama
- Replay value: 6/10 - The campaign is forgettable and the multiplayer, though good, is unlikely to draw much of an audience, at least on consoles
- Overall: 6/10 - A competent, good-looking game that lacks cohesion and vision. The weakest Crysis so far.
Find out what our review scores mean, here