Occasionally, we in the world of games journalism are asked by people in the world of public relations what we thought of a game we just saw. Surely, anything I could say to them, I could say to you, reader of Kotaku. And I should, right? Otherwise I'm just doing free consultation.
In answer to those who asked what I liked or didn't like about Crysis 3 after I played the February 2013 first-person shooter several weeks ago, I'd say, first of all, that I'm hoping to like this game more than I did Crysis 2. That 2011 game presented the promise of open-ended level design but its campaign was ultimately more constricted and funelling than I expected. For a game that was supposed to be the thinking gamer's Call of Duty, it was too, well, Call of Duty.
I was, therefore, happy that the one level I've played of Crysis 3 — the dam-detonating level you see chopped up in the trailer above — felt like it offered a variety of tactical options. I felt I could play through it stealthily or aggressively. I could stick to the water or fight on land. I could work my through the level's main building or around it. I liked all of that.
The Crysis games fetishise the super-suit worn by the the player's character. The suit lets you jump really high, turn nearly invisible, punch trees and so on. Crysis 2 made a big deal about the suit always crashing, re-booting and apparently upgrading, though all of that seemed like inconsequential special effects to me. I'm not sure Crysis 3 will do a better job with the suit, but now they've added a new item to fetishise, one that I like more: the bow-and-arrow.
The prevalence of bows-and-arrows among the games at this past E3 became a bad joke, but Crysis 3 gets a pass from me. Its' bow-and-arrow is great and fits the series perfectly. Over in the new Tomb Raider, we've got a bow-and-arrow that is used as a survival weapon, as a sort of gun-replacement in a place where guns aren't easily obtained. In Crysis 3, the bow-and-arrow feels like something better than a gun. It's lethal, it fires fast and, best of all, it's quiet. Previously, Crysis was a game about trading off power for stealth, of choosing to forgo one's own cloaking device when it's time to uncork a spray of machine gun fire. In Crysis 3, the bow-and-arrow feels like the best of all worlds, offering quiet lethality, a combo that feels like it trumps the tactical options of the previous game. This particular weapon also suits the Crysis series' appeal to the shooter player's tactical mind, requiring them to use the ammunition in their quiver efficiently and encouraging them to pick up their spent arrows to use them again.
The new game will let players hack and use alien weapons and still offers bunches of suit upgrades. These features don't interest me much, nor does a perpetuation of the previous game's plant-overgrowth-in-the-city aesthetic. While other shooters globe-hop perhaps too much, it feels that Crysis may be erring in staying too still. The new game is supposed to feature a variety of climates and terrain in special biodomes that house the game's levels, but the overall foliage-and-steel look that I've seen makes this new game look, to me, like an add-on to a Crysis 2 campaign that had already gone on too long for me. I'm hoping to see more visual variety than we've seen so far.
I did not attend EA's E3 press conference a month ago, and I was surprised to hear that this game closed the show. I'd walked away from my demo of the game feeling that Crytek's series was on the upswing, but I did not walk away feeling that it was grand finale material. Blame the marketing team or show organisers for that, I guess.
Crysis 3 feels a shade more conservative than the next Call of Duty, which is adding branching story to its own previously-safe formula. I look toward games like Metro Last Light and its striking Russian post-apocalypse for an aesthetic left turn. I now look to whatever the former Infinity Ward folks at Respawn Entertainment are doing for the next big shake-up in first-person shooting game design. I wasn't the kind of person who was dying for a new Crysis and I could, honestly, have been content without one.
But there's something about this game's bow-and-arrow. It was just about the most satisfying weapon to shoot of all the E3 games I played. Can one weapon alone make a game? I don't know, but it's something I can say got my attention and got me to care about what comes next for Crysis.