Having been a long-time fan of the Crysis series, my initial reaction to the news that Crysis 3 would be set once more in New York City ran along the lines of 'what…again?' My second comment was 'they gave him a….a bow?'. However, despite the action once again being set in the most invaded city in the world, Crysis 3 is a fitting end (for now) to the series, taking the open-world action of Crysis and the story-driven campaign of Crysis 2 and forging both into an alloy all of its own.
Picking up a number of years after the explosive conclusion of Crysis 2, the game opens with nanosuit-wearing supersoldier Prophet being rescued by a team of freedom fighters. In the time since the apparent defeat of the alien 'Ceph', evil corporate empire CELL has expanded to become the world government in all but name, holding a monopoly on power from its New York headquarters.
As for the city, it's been covered in a gargantuan 'nanodome', and has regressed to an 'I Am Legend'-style urban wilderness, complete with bogs and roaming herds of deer.
Prophet – now an entity made of alien technology, a dead man's body and a disembodied soul – is convinced the Ceph are still a threat, but consents to help the freedom fighters fight the power. Naturally, it all goes to hell. Thankfully, however, you're still the nanosuit-wearing badass you always were.
The action will feel instantly familiar to anyone who's played Crysis before. Prophet's alien suit allows him to turn invisible, run an stupidly fast speeds, jump like a cat, punch through walls and deflect bullets like chaff. How you use these abilities is up to you, but most players will likely find it best to mix and match the nanosuit's powers for the task at hand.
However, the inclusion of Prophet's new toy – a compound bow with a selection of different arrowheads – demonstrates the game's heavy slant towards using the nanosuit for stealth and hit-and-run attacks. Thankfully, that’s the kind of play I like best. The bow can be used while cloaked, allowing the player to take out a room full of bad guys like Rambo, leaving the last remaining enemy to panic about being hunted and fire desperately in every direction.
There are, of course, a selection of other weapons on offer, but you're likely to find yourself coming back to the bow more than most, unless you prefer to hit the armour and rip that heavy machine gun off its mounting. Hacking enemy turrets and drones is another option now available, and one which can come in very useful as a distraction.
While the game's levels are fewer in number this time around, the arenas Prophet must negotiate are far bigger and offer a number of ways to approach your target, be it through stealth or force. This plays to the gamers who experienced the freedom and sandbox nature of the original Crysis – but sadly includes the awkward-to-drive vehicles and occasional poor AI.
Thankfully, this time the enemy won't wade into shallow water and drown trying to find you…
Graphically the game looks amazing as usual. While I was initially irritated at the setting, seeing New York transformed into a wilderness can be a fascinating experience – such as finding an overturned, rusted taxi being used as a bird's nest.
The character animation and AI are a lot better this time around as well – good thing too, as the brilliant voice acting makes the cast so much more three-dimentional than in previous titles. My personal favourite is former series protagonist Michael 'Psycho' Sykes, an ex-nanosuit soldier who was tortured almost to death and 'skinned' of his symbiotic suit. It's intriguing to see how he adjusts to being 'only human' once again. In two words: not well.
The sound effects and score are top-notch, as usual, and maintain the illusion that the excellent graphics create.
As for the multiplayer, which was pretty shoddy in Crysis 2, only minor improvements have been made in the series' final instalment. While the matchmaking is a little faster, the game still suffers from occasional but debilitating lag issues, resulting in players ignoring headshots until five seconds after you pulled the trigger. That said, the new 'hunter' mode – which sets two nanosuited agents against unaugmented human soldiers – is great fun.
Overall, Crysis 3 is an excellent conclusion to a brilliant series. While it doesn't get everything right, there's more than enough to keep both longtime series fans and newcomers alike happy.
Reviewed on Xbox 360
Check out Andy Hemphill's blog after the jump