Having recently played Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Far Cry 3 in the same week, it wasn’t long before I started craving that FPS middle ground between ultra narrow linearity and a story-driven sense of direction. The “wide linear” design of Crysis 2 hit that sweet spot, and after a brief but satisfying hands-on session with Crysis 3, I’m pleased to say that I’m wholly optimistic about Crytek’s 2013 sequel.
The traditional FPS controls (and having reviewed Crysis 2 only last year) made getting into Crysis 3 nearly instantaneous. Nor did I need much orientation with the added bow and arrow, which is toggled with the d-pad. Its tactical advantages complement an already fortified Prophet, the game’s protagonist, particularly when it comes to stealth. You'll find enough tools and environmental options that you can’t help but be proactive, and it’s a joy to mix things up during a firefight, confusing the enemy by dropping in and out of stealth and keeping steadily fortified with the armor.
The demo’s first section put us in a dilapidated train yard filled with the game’s antagonists, CELL operatives. The area’s solid blend of staircases, platforms and train husks provided enough environmental variety to try out multiple types of combat tactics. At times I played the sniper, going for headshots and making use of exploding barrels. Other times, I confronted CELL troops out in the open, letting foes know exactly where I was with loud gunfire. A couple troops were dumb enough to come right at me with no sense of caution, though that was more the exception than the rule. I’ll be looking to see how the AI behaves in the final version of Crysis 3, since some enemy behavior in the last game left me unimpressed.
While this train yard scene was enough to be optimistic that Crytek’s on the right track, it was the demo’s second half that truly sold me, mostly from a graphical standpoint. I’m seldom impressed with grass in games, so much so that the last time I found it truly admirable was in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. That said, the overgrown grass in Crysis 3 got my undivided attention. It's so gorgeous that for first time in ages I'm seriously considering purchasing a gaming PC, just to handle Crysis 3 at its highest settings. The overgrown vegetation provided the best post-humanity visuals I’ve ever seen, even eclipsing the fleshed out world of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. It will be interesting to compare Crysis 3’s urban landscape to The Last of Us when the latter ships three months after.
The tall forest of grass made for a proper reintroduction of the other hostile force of the series, the alien Ceph race. It was a tense game of hide and seek as they darted around with enough speed to make ranged weapons tough to use, let alone the bow and arrow. Though with my armor activated, I soon figured out that I could get up close and personal and simply pummel each alien with melee attacks. I doubt relying on this tactic for most Ceph would work throughout the rest of the game, but it does highlight Crysis 3’s theme of being the hunter and taking the fight to the enemy.
This grassy area also provided enough of the same kind of “playground” openness that I loved about Crysis 2. Once again, I felt like Jason Bourne, making a mental list of all exit points, cover spots and elevated sections to make the most of the level. It does a lot for the replay value of these kinds of shooters, and dying isn’t all that disappointing with the appeal of approaching a situation differently on your next life.Though the demo ended on a curious note with an all-too-familiar on-rails subway tunnel scene whose scripted nature felt unoriginal, it was at least loaded with a satisfying level of set piece destruction.
I also had a chance to play through Crysis 3's multiplayer. The one available mode, inspired by other first person shooter 'infection' modes, sets up one player as a Hunter against everyone else as CELL operatives. Picked off CELLS respawn as Hunters, and the game is over after the final CELL is killed, unless CELL(S) manage to survive when the time runs out. Although I come to the Crysis series for its single player, I can see this mode being addictive, especially with the bow and arrow, absent in Crysis 2.
With gamers knee deep in holiday releases, Crysis 3’s launch just might sneak up on us with its February 18, 2013 ship date. I, for one, am excited and will spend this time pondering whether to stick with the Xbox 360 version or make the leap to a high-end PC.