Somewhere in the desert is a pile of burnt out, barely functioning PCs. Victims of owners who thought they could handle Crysis. Now, while these rusted out veterans spend their days running spider solitaire, fans of the series have purchased new computers or taken the console route, in preparation for Crysis 3. Due out in a few weeks, I enjoyed some hands on time with the single player campaign on PC.
The demo took me into an overgrown train shed, deep in the New York enviro-dome, known as The Fields. I battled my way through hoards of CELL Agents to get to the top of the room, only to run into a Ceph-infested stretch of tall grass. The Ceph moved fast and silently, in and out of the overgrowth, taking out CELL Agents along the way.
I took any opportunity I could to push forward, until I found Psycho, who requested I blow as many enemies as I could to smithereens using a mounted canon. Psycho worked out where we had to go next and of course, it was behind a giant iron door. The kind of iron door that a heavy force could break through! So we commandeered an abandoned fuel train, rolled it through the door and rammed it into a hoard of enemies.
It’s no surprise that Crysis 3 is eye-meltingly gorgeous, but the decaying urban environment isn’t just a treat to look at, it’s a wonderful world to play in. Every now and then you’ll stop for a moment and take in the lush, green visuals, as everything down to the tips of the leaves is dripping with intense detail. But when you get beyond the beauty, you’ll find a lot of satisfaction in the environment’s design.
Levels are essentially broken up into small areas, requiring you to get from point A to point B. Each area is designed to cater to any number of gameplay styles, including stealth, action or a smart combination of both. Moving from zone to zone feels organic, blurring the sections together to create the sense that you’re playing in a single giant level. It’s a clever design approach that adds a sense of non-linear gameplay, while still maintaining the drive and pacing of an action FPS.
Once you slow down and examine the world around you, you’ll begin to notice subtle variations in the overgrowth which act as gameplay aids. At one point I was pinned down, CELL Agents hauling grenades at me left right and centre. As I was about to risk a suicide run, I noticed a small hole in the ground, which I promptly jumped into. I found myself in a network of underground pipes, which gave me a precious few seconds to find my bearings and stealth kill a few CELL Agents before I was rediscovered.
Crysis 3 regularly presents you with alternative options like this that you might not have noticed until you look a little deeper, or until the situation forces you to do so. While it may look beautiful though, rest assured, nothing is there just for show. The only element that felt forced was the overt placement of red barrels, which, at least in the train shed, were over used and blatantly obvious. Despite the decaying world around them, these explosive barrels looked as though they had been freshly painted in preparation of my arrival.
Enemy AI has also been refined to the point where if you ever find yourself out in the open, don’t expect to live longer than ten seconds. Sneaking into the train shed, I raised my crossbow, took time to take aim and with a silent twang, watched as the nearest CELL Agent fell to his knees, arrow in the back of his skull. Then the bullets started flying. I hadn’t noticed, but off in the distance was another CELL agent, patrolling from a higher platform. Within seconds, another had run up the stairs and into another room, hiding from me and cutting off my only means of escape. Attacking enemies is difficult, as they rarely follow any specific attack pattern, opting instead to actively hunt for you in groups. But if you do manage to wipe out a group, don’t expect the handful of survivors to hang around.
This aggressive response makes taking a stealth approach difficult, but achievable. Enemies will rarely act in a manner that will overtly place them in a vulnerable position when acting alone. It’s dynamic programming which is able to respond to almost any situation you throw at it, so you’ll have to consider each step you take.
The finest addition to the game however, is Prophets’ crossbow – a weapon that makes everything else look dull by comparison. The choice of regular, electronic, or explosive bolts opens up more options, provided you remember to use them. CELL turrets were tearing me to pieces before I remembered the electronic bolts, which fried the turrets in an instant. But despite your mighty arsenal, Crysis 3 constantly reminds you that you’re not the only super soldier – CELL possessing armour and weapons that are almost, if not more, powerful than yours. Pumping enemies full of bullets will eventually take them down, but strategically planned, well placed shots will quickly become your preferred method of attack.
The Nano Suit has been tweaked, adding a few small new features, but mostly refining what was already there. Different cloaking and reinforcement options add to the versatility on offer, as does the welcome addition of firing the crossbow while in stealth mode. While I wasn’t gifted with any upgrades, I was able to take a peek at the Nano Suit upgrade menu, and by the looks of things, following particular paths is streamlined, but detailed. If I had to mention some drawbacks (and I do), it would be that at times the demo felt a little padded out and that the voice acting is pretty average.
At its core, Crysis 3 is an action game, but it’s an action game with a variety of options. You can run in and try to unashamedly blast all your enemies in the face, or you can strategically work your way forward, popping off enemies with finesse. You can run up the stairs, or you can use boost jump and take the less obvious route via the top of the trains. But most importantly, Crysis 3 captured that awesome feeling of being a bad-arse, fast moving wrecking machine, whose only job is to hunt down the threat, and neutralise it. You’ve only got a couple weeks Crysis fans. Start upgrading your rigs.
Crysis 3 will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on February 21st.