Crysis 3: Amazing Graphics, Boring Execution

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Dull, with a side of frustrating

Crysis 3 picks up 20 years after Crysis 2. Prophet has been in suspended animation for 20 years. You're woken up by Psycho (another returning character from Crysis 1), only he's lost his nanosuit. You've been rescued to stop the evil Cell corporation. New York has gone from virus-infected wasteland to primeval forest wasteland.

There are some beautiful sequences.

Prophet is obsessed with finding something no one else believes exists, but he's perfectly happy to walk through a few missions attacking Cell's New York facilities in the hopes that he'll find some information or something. The only reason to use a trope like "You wake up 20 years later" is because it gives you freedom to establish a compelling back story for a character. If Crysis 3's traipse through the New York Jungle had been interrupted by playable flashbacks of Prophet's search for the Alpha Ceph, imprisonment, and interrogation 20 years earlier, it would've been storytelling dynamite. Instead, we get a few blurred images and reverbed voice-over.

The engine is beautiful in every instance. These shots show the view from underwater, at night, and a burning building.

The game is also rather short. TimeToBeat lists a "Main Story" play through as taking 5 hours, 42 minutes. That's significantly shorter than Crysis 2's 8 hours, 47 minutes, which was still shorter than the original Crysis' 10 hour, 19 minute length. I ended up beating the game in a bit under 12 hours, but I also died frequently, lined up screenshots, and am generally a slow game player.

Dull Gameplay

Great games don't need gripping storylines. Serious Sam and Orcs Must Die are great examples of game franchises that eschew stories in favor of heart-pounding action. Here, Crysis 3 again misses the mark. Cevat Yerli's team treats the nanosuit armor Prophet wears in nearly fetishistic terms; it's the equivalent of being a Jedi Knight in the Crysis universe. Ensconced within the suit, Prophet runs faster, jumps farther, is encased in near-bulletproof armor and has a nearly perfect cloaking device. Clearly, you're meant to feel like an utter badass.

There are moments of badassery, to be sure. This thing looked pretty expensive.

The game's design and some poor pacing decisions completely undermine what should be its greatest selling point. There are three major problems:

Bad Weapon Design:  If you buy the Hunter Edition for $59.95 (and that's the standard copy that EA is selling on Origin), you get the Predator Bow at the beginning of the game. Pyscho hands it to you after the tutorial level is over. Problem is, the Predator Bow is easily the best all-around weapon in the game, particularly at higher difficulty levels. It allows you to fire while cloaked from the start, whereas you have to buy this power using suit upgrade points if you want to use it with other weapons.

It holds a maximum of 18 arrows -- three thermite-tipped, three lightning-tipped, three-explosive, and 9 carbon-reinforced penetrating shots. The carbon shots can be retrieved and all of the arrows are silent (no need to use a silencer, either). I love the bow -- but the way that it's just handed to you cheapens what ought to be a difficult unlock or substantial reward.

Of Perfect Eyesight and Glass Jaws: The next problem with Crysis 3's balance is the way you're virtually forced to sneak around and dispatch guards while cloaked in the early game. Most FPS games with a sneak component implement at least some sort of shadow system -- if you're back in the brush, or behind thick greenery, you can't be seen.

In Crysis 3, if you're behind a door / wall, you're invisible. If you're cloaked, you're invisible up to point-blank range. If you aren't one of those two things, you're visible to any enemy who so much as glances in your direction. Even if you're crouching, motionless, in grass so tall you can't see over it. Soldiers you can't see due to oceans of greenery can see you, perfectly. And at higher difficulty levels, your unarmored self has the life expectancy of a field mouse at harvest time.

The Checkpoint System: Crysis 3's checkpoint system is entirely event/location-based. In a straight-line run-and-gun, this isn't so much of a problem -- but Crysis 3 also hides "Intel" -- backstory briefings -- all over the damn place, along with ammo dumps, new weapons, and nanosuit upgrade kits. If you want to beat the game in style, you have to explore every nook and cranny. That can be a problem when you're also easy to kill and enemies like to attack from stealth. There were multiple points during the game when I'd killed all the enemies in the area, went exploring for goodies, took a wrong step, fell, and then had to replay the entire area again.

Grass:  Now with 200% more sexy

It's a game mechanic that actually discourages experimentation or new tactics. The need to kill from cover means a lot of careful sneaking and shot positioning, but it also means a fairly lengthy replay time. You don't need to die more than once or twice while trying out new melee moves, air stomps, or grabs to decide that no, this is a bad idea -- you don't want to replay the same chunk of game 6x in a row. Time to haul out the bow and snipe from a distance.

There are other flaws that degrade the game's experience. Key binding is glitchy -- I use EDSF instead of WASD, but the "F" key is hard-bound to dropping objects. I could pick them up all I wanted, but tapping "F" meant immediately dropping them. There's no way to run while using the Visor view to search for intel or ammo dumps, so you'll do all your map exploring at a walk. This is especially fun when combined with the infrequent, irregular check points.

Near the end of the game, there are a few flashes of brilliance. There are some driving sequences that recall the very best of Half Life 2's canal chases, only with considerably more firepower and a nanosuited Prophet that could bench press six Gordon Freemans on each arm. You roar through Cell territory on a rocket-packing dune buggy, blowing everything to smithereens while Cell and Ceph forces clash overhead. It's epic. It's what the game should've felt like throughout, but doesn't.

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