Much to the surprise of pretty much no one, Crysis 3 turned out to be quite the looker. But that's just what Crysis does! So what else is there to like? For some, the exciting cat-and-mouse stealth gameplay. For others, the brand new weapons you get to hunt with.
Let's take a look at what they're saying about 2013's newest bow-murder simulator.
As ever with Crytek though, the actual game just seems to be a glorified tech demo for the developer to show off how good it is at making things look really very nice, yessir. In a way it's reminiscent of professional football freestylers, like Mr Woo. Ever wonder why, with all their amazing skill, they're not dominating the actual sport? Because their aim isn't nailing the core elements of the game. It's all about, essentially, showing off. It feels the same with Crytek.
Ah, the bow. Take it as read that Crysis is a shameless Rambo simulator of almost self-parodying intensity, and the bow becomes an excellent toy. With its silent one-hit kills and its ability to be fired while you're still cloaked, it's also the key to understanding which part of the series' DNA Crysis 3 has focused on. Play Crytek's latest as a sinewy sort of stealth game — lurk in the long grass, waiting for your moment — and you'll have a lot of fun.
There are some definite high points, despite the overbearing feeling of familiarity and ease. Some of the quasi-open areas, aside from looking quite beautiful, boast optional side missions with rewarding upgrades or unique weapons. Areas covered in tall grass hide now-feral Stalker Ceph, who run through the greenery and try to hide, before closing in for sneak attacks. These moments are at least quite interesting, and manage to break up the monotony. Vehicular sections make the occasional appearance too, and include an excellent road trip sequence evocative of Half-Life 2's wonderful "Highway 17" level (though with far better buggy controls).
Crysis 3 succeeds not only as a shooter, but as a stealth game too. It's entirely possible to sneak through the game and minimise casualties, and doing so is challenging and incredibly rewarding (should you succeed). The same goes for players who prefer to quietly assassinate every enemy one-by-one. The inclusion of the bow — a silent weapon that doesn't force you to break your cloak when you use it — is a big boon to the stealth experience in Crysis 3.
But new combat features aside, the biggest reason that Crysis 3 is such a consistent joy to play is because its control system is near flawless. The fact that you can quickly augment your weapons with different sights and grips without retreating into menu screens, or the ability to quickly pull out a grenade by double-tapping the weapon-switching button; it all works wonderfully and means there's never any kind of artificial interface standing in the way of your natural instincts. Even on the PC version of the game playing with a controller almost topples the traditional mouse and keyboard: what you lose in mouse fidelity you gain in ergonomics. The exception to the rule on all platforms, however, are the handful of vehicular sections, which feature disappointingly clunky control by comparison.
Experimenting with different strategies is still enjoyable — doubly so, now that it's not nearly as easy to just pop on your invisibility and walk past half of a level — but the most memorable moments arise when the game drops you into less-conventional scenarios. In one segment, you're tasked with hunting down a jamming device hidden in a field of tall grass while you're being hunted by alien Stalkers. In another, you need to traverse a staggeringly large battlefield to take down three anti-aircraft emplacements, but the order — and whether or not you complete optional objectives to gain allied support — is entirely up to you. The big moments here are every bit as impressive as those in a tightly scripted shooter like Call of Duty, but Crysis 3 manages to pull them off without simply shuffling you past a series of cheap façades. There's real, tangible depth.
Despite this laundry list of shortcomings, Crysis 3 still contains flashes of that delightful predatory thrill that makes Crysis games so fun. But they're too infrequent, hidden within a game where fancy tech disguises conservative, uninteresting design. The more I think about and play Crysis 3, the more frustrated I become. Crysis 2 managed to get an admirable number of things right. I would have loved to see the third game build upon that foundation and close the series out with style.