Modern science fiction is filled with wondrous alternate realities showcasing awe-inspiring technologies, but good stories are hard to come by. The “Crysis" series, with its rotating cast of sterile protagonists and questionable hard sci-fi plot twists, is just as guilty of this deficiency as the majority of Syfy shows. While the nanosuit is an amazing asset capable of transforming players into deadly hunters, the narrative vehicle for this great gameplay mechanic has been so badly damaged over the course of the last three games that it barely runs.
Though it's still saddled with the plot baggage of its predecessors, “Crysis 3" is at least the most cohesive story in the series. The game opens with “Crysis 2" protagonist Prophet being rescued from captivity by Psycho (the hero from “Crysis Warhead"), who has joined a dissident group fighting against the evil corporation that quarantined a decimated New York City to harvest alien technology for its own nefarious purposes. Psycho, who no longer dons a nanosuit, expects Prophet to turn the tide against the overreaching corporation, but his former commander has his own agenda. While in captivity he saw visions of the end of the world, which comes courtesy of the Alpha Ceph alien that lies dormant under Manhattan. Prophet will stop at nothing to prevent this extinction-level event.
“Crysis 2" traded the wide-open jungles of the first game in favor of a series of smaller micro-sandboxes. This approach still allowed players to use the attacking tactic of their choosing, but some players longed for the freedom the first game provided. “Crysis 3" delivers a better balance of these two design philosophies. Many battles still take place in controlled spaces that limit your movement, but the action eventually opens up. The best missions, which come later in the game, feature multiple objectives you can tackle in any order, a healthy mix between standard infantry enemies and menacing heavies like the Pinger, larger tracts of land, and an array of vehicles the player can choose to use or ignore in favor of a stealthy approach.
Whatever tactic you use, “Crysis" veterans should turn up the difficulty if they want a serious challenge over the course of the six-hour campaign. With a customizable nanosuit that allows you to tailor the suit's powers to your play style, a new compound bow that you can use in stealth mode, and several high-powered alien weapons at your disposal, Prophet is more deadly than ever before. The AI is more competent than it was in “Crysis 2," but it still has trouble tracking a cloaked enemy. Those who have mastered the nuances of the nanosuit will have no problem breezing through the game on the basic difficulty setting. The exception is the jarring boss battles, which require repeated playthroughs to decipher how the game expects you to emerge victorious.
If you take your time moving through the missions, you have more opportunities to admire the amazing sights provided by the CryEngine 3. From the gorgeous water effects and global illumination to the detailed character animations and photo-realistic environments, “Crysis 3" is one of the best-looking games on the planet. I often found myself activating the cloaking device while in the presence of enemies just to watch a frog hop along the jungle floor or to regard the wind effects on a canvassed shipping container.
This impressive graphical fidelity takes a serious hit in the transition to multiplayer. Though “Crysis 3" has some of the better-designed maps in the series, the muddied textures are a far cry from the jaw-dropping visuals of the single-player campaign, especially on consoles.
With 50 levels, a progression system of unlockables, and your standard array of modes, the multiplayer doesn't feel much different from its predecessor. The new Hunter mode, which pits a small team of nanosuit wearing stalkers against a larger force of human operatives, captures the thrill of being the predator and prey, but I still preferred the classics like team deathmatch or domination. The sketchy hit detection (of which there is ample evidence on killcams), questionable respawns, and some problematic terrain navigation need to be addressed if Crytek wants to compete on the high end of the multiplayer spectrum.
“Crysis 3's" evolutionary enhancements don't move the needle for the series very far, but the core nanosuit-based gameplay is still thrilling. If you have a rig that can run the PC version of “Crysis 3," I strongly recommend you go this route. The high-resolution textures, realistic lighting and detailed facial animations give you a taste of the graphical fidelity we expect to be standard in next-generation consoles.