What’s been awesome about the Crysis series is its very close connection to the Predator films. It’s like you play as a combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and his mandibled alien nemesis – you’re both a muscled jackass and an invisible killing machine. The original game even took place in a similar jungle setting, while Crysis 2 moved the action to a war-torn New York. Next year’s Crysis 3 looks to meld the two environments together, while retaining that feeling of being an invisible hunting machine, and this time Crytek are hoping to pull off their best game yet.
After slipping inside the nanosuit armor of Nomad and Alcatraz in the first two games, the protagonist of Crysis 3 appears to be Prophet, a character who rather unceremoniously offed himself within minutes of the last crisis. Yet, he’s back, and players who completed Crysis 2 may have a good idea of how this is possible. His mission now is to take down the CELL Corporation, who Producer Mike Read revealed in our recent interview, are after something in New York which allows them to harness unlimited energy. To this end, CELL have built a massive nanodome over the city, enclosing its buildings and allowing all manner of fauna to grow over their ruins.
EA have been promoting Crysis 3 with a new series of short films, produced entirely using the game’s new CryEngine 3, these promos do highlight the game’s ‘Seven Wonders’, or the seven distinct types of environment that are housed within the nanodome. The west side of Manhattan has become a fields-like area, almost like something you’d find in the savanna , while Chinatown is now home to swamps and downtown Manhattan is now canyon-pitted area.
Playing Crysis 3 is a familiar experience to any veteran of the past two games, although even playing on Normal difficulty, the level I went hands-on with was a really challenging experience. Set in a train station, Prophet had to work his way up from the tunnels below to the roof, while dodging CELL guards. Armed with the new crossbow and Typhoon gun (capable of shooting up to 500 rounds a second), it is possible to tackle the soldiers head-on and launch into a firefight, although it isn’t the smartest tactic. The levels are open enough to allow all kinds of strategies.
The more appropriate course of action seemed to be using the nanosuit’s cloaking system to move past the majority of the guards. The nanosuit interface seems to have been streamlined, now there’s only three major options to choose from on its selection wheel – nano vision, armor and cloak. The other options let you customise your weapon (as always) and launch the upgrade system (which wasn’t available during the hands-on). As usual, cloaking drains your energy rather quickly when moving, meaning it was a tough challenge moving from cover to cover in cloak, before decloaking and recharging to move again. Even when behind cover, the guards’ sightlines seemed really unforgiving, detecting me almost instantly and launching into firefight after firefight. This may be due to the game touting upgraded AI, which promises a different response with every playthrough.
The crossbow is certainly an interesting weapon, coming with three ammo types in the hands-on demo – regular, electrified and explosive tips. Turrets set up around the level could be taken out with either the electric or explosive bolts, while regular CELL soldiers were susceptible to any ammunition you throw at them. This is especially useful, considering that the crossbow can be fired without compromising your cloak, although even then I found it difficult to get the better of many guards without alerting the others.
There are new alien weapons in the game, although they are treated like most heavy weapons – able to be picked up for periods of time and left behind, but not forming part of your regular inventory. Crytek promise five in total, and while I didn’t encounter any in the demo, it’ll be interesting to see what designs are in store.
New developments to the game’s multiplayer were also a big focus of the hands-on. The game will ship with twelve maps at launch and eight game modes, allowing 16 players on PC and 12 on consoles. If you’re playing on PC, you get the extra benefit of dedicated servers, while console players will have to make do with peer-to-peer.
The big new multiplayer mode is of course ‘Hunter’, which has been promoted as a new asymmetric gameplay type. It involves two players playing as nanosuit powerhouses, while everyone else takes on the role of ordinary CELL troopers (although you can pick your class). The two nanosuited individuals are permanently cloaked, and it’s their job to, as you would expect, ‘hunt’ everyone else. Every CELL trooper that falls becomes a nanosuit soldier, so eventually the tide turns until there’s only one CELL trooper against an army of cloaked killing machines.
It’s a sound and exciting idea, and the rounds are kept short and sharp, proceeding in sets of five with the nanosuit roles switching between players each time. However, in the matches I played, too often were there stretches of running around as a CELL trooper encountering no enemies, as the nanosuit players weren’t advancing far enough to increase their numbers. In the nanosuit, the hunting aspect proved more difficult than I imagined, as the crossbow is much more challenging to use when you’re aiming for unpredictable human opponents. That said, it is an enormous amount of fun to pick up a heavy shield and launch it at a cloaked nanosuit player (once you’ve found them), providing an extra amount of ‘f*** you’ to your victory.
Crysis 3 is meant as a homage to the best of the last two games, and it certainly retains the feel of being an invisible supersoldier ‘Predator’. However, it also has its own identity, and the single player really seems to open up your playstyle options, much more than Crysis 2. It may have just been my rusty Crysis skills that made the game as challenging as it was, but the AI is certainly very on-the-ball and out for your blood at every second. The multiplayer shows promise, but perhaps needs a bit more tweaking to tighten up and make sure rounds are fast and frantic. Nevertheless, I’m excited to get back into the nanosuit for what’s sure to be maximum awesomeness come 21 February, 2013.