PC gaming is where you go for high-octane visuals, and the original Crysis was no exception when it dropped in 2007. The highly anticipated sequel in 2011, however, proved a less ambitious affair. We traded a vast, free-roam jungle for the relatively restricted avenues of a war-torn New York City. There was usually more than one route to take, but this more linear experience arrived with some seams showing: Its advanced graphical options were inaccessible, the AI did not impress, and it did not even use DirectX 11 (at first). Crysis 3 fares better in some ways, but not in others.
He may not be pretty, but he's beautifully rendered
The game’s artificial intelligence is the most frequent and obvious offender. AI opponents are simply not very aggressive, even on the highest difficulties, and their tactics are reliably countered by just activating your stealth cloak and sprinting a short distance away. And you can now upgrade your abilities to make yourself even stealthier, faster, and deadlier. Ammunition is also plentiful, and your melee attacks are brutal even when the enemy sees you coming.
But while combat may be lacking, your arsenal certainly is not. The game provides a steady flow of new and interesting ways to kill people dead, from a heavy-duty composite bow with optional explosive-tipped arrows, to experimental assault rifles and things that don’t even look man-portable. Crysis 3 is like a gun-nut toy store. You won’t grab Assault Rifle #4216 and just stick with it the whole way. That said, some weapons are not as helpful, such as the shotguns; you’ll rarely get close enough for them to be effective. And if you do get that close, a quiet bare-hands execution is usually more efficient and safer.
Your suit's stealth cloak lets you get up close and personal
And let’s not forget what Crytek consistently gets right: looking pretty. Out of the box, Crysis 3 has the full retinue of tweakable features, from ambient occlusion to texture quality to three different types of antialiasing. And it has DX11 on day one. The end result is a highly customizable experience. Or you can use one of four presets. The visual difference between “High” and “Very High” (presets three and four, respectively) isn’t dramatic to the untrained eye, so you shouldn’t feel obligated to build a new box with a $500 video card just to play this game. “High” gave us about 30–40fps on a GeForce GTX 660 (314.07 drivers) and a stock-clocked Phenom II 1090T at 1080p. The GTX 660 is about $200, but if you want a higher frame rate or to play at higher resolutions, you’ll need more graphics oomph.
But it’s not just graphical features on display. Crysis 3 is a genuinely beautiful game, especially in the faces of the characters you encounter. They are about on par with those of Far Cry 3, but with better lip-syncing and facial animation. Crysis 3 ends up providing some eerily convincing digital “acting.” The dialog isn’t the best we’ve ever heard in a video game, but the delivery and body language are consistently well-done. The length of several of these in-game cutscenes may leave you restless, but you can skip ahead through most of them.
On the brightside, the rent on this street is cheap
The scenery of a semi-reforested, rusted, and decaying New York City also has a kind of beauty, with trees growing in the middle of the street, high walls overgrown with ivy, and grass sprouting everywhere (though the grass’s constant movement can get distracting at times). Rays of light shine through tree branches, and forest creatures such as squirrels and deer scamper around. There’s really no city at all, at this point. Just the remains of civilization.
The lack of humanity left to rescue does undermine the story at times. Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that Crysis 3 ups the ante on save-the-world heroism, compared to the earlier games in the series and even sci-fi shooters in general. It would be nice to play one of these things without the story turning you into the only guy who can and must save everything. Are relatable motivations and perspectives really so bad? Never mind that sometimes you just want to forget all that, blow up some stuff, and have a few laughs.
Don't like the default multiplayer classes? Roll your own.
Multiplayer offers a now-familiar model of experience point–based unlocks. You’ll usually collect trickles of XP just from shooting other players, but there’s also an achievement system that will deliver large chunks of it at once. You can also unlock abilities as well as equipment, deepening your specialization as a sniper, scout, heavy, or stealthy guy. Lastly, you periodically get a set of challenges to choose from, like “Get 10 kills with this weapon in one round,” that reward a chunk of experience points. There’s no failure condition, either—you can attempt it as many times as you like.
Multiplayer gameplay is definitely different because of your ability to stealth, but opponents are not impossible to detect at medium distance. Your cloak has a faint neon wireframe that distinguishes you from the environment. Enemies are even color-coded red for easier targeting, while your teammates are blue. We played on a number of public, third-party servers and rarely experienced lag or even slow load times.
The size of the multiplayer population is not heartening, however. On a random Thursday afternoon several days after release, the game reported about a couple thousand players online. Hundreds of servers, but most of them empty or under-populated. Granted, this is not deal-breaking (Natural Selection 2, for example, hovers around 2,000 active players), but it’s definitely less than you’d expect from such a high-profile game. This kind of uncertain future can create a negative feedback loop, where people don’t play because other people aren’t playing.
Crysis 3’s visual effects, voice acting, music, and animation are all about as good as it gets. But perhaps these more complex environments are simply too difficult for the AI to navigate and turn to its advantage; the single-player campaign rarely engages you or puts your suit abilities to the test. Multiplayer has a satisfying feel, but there isn’t a killer feature or game mode to distinguish it from the dominant franchises.