A shadow quickly slips into the swamp, invisible and unheard as a squad of CELL agents fan out into the murky waters investigating a few scattered noises. They’re not quite sure what to expect but they remain vigilant if not a little tense, burdened by heavy weaponry and itching for a fight. The shadow has a eluded them before- always seeming to explode out of the ether and devastate the unsuspecting soldiers. Moving in a tight formation, they see a splash nearby. It’s just a disinterested frog plopping into the muck croaking to itself. Satisfied nothing is wrong, the mercenaries retread their steps back to camp. One turns around just to double check but it’s already to late. The invisible viper they had been hunting sinks its steel fang into the soldier’s throat. The real hunt has just begun.
In many games you are the hero. This time, however, you are the monster – some twisted combination of phantom and tank melded into a single lethal vector of chaos. Thanks to your alien-tech powered Nanosuit, you are more than human, a super soldier able to take the toughest foe. One minute, you can activate your stealth a become rendered completely invisible and perfectly camouflaged in the environment. The next moment, you can flip on armor mode becoming a bulldozer with a purpose- to storm into a group of enemies crushing them with your might. It’s these choices that have always been the basis of combat in the shooter franchise. Either go in quite or run through guns blazing. In “Crysis 3” not much has changed mechanically. But that ain’t exactly a bad thing because you can sneak up to a dubious merc, wring him by the neck, then hurl him into space.
For a guy nicknamed Psycho he has a pretty level head.
Before my hour and some change with the swamp level, I ran through a short tutorial to reacquaint myself with the controls. Playing on an Xbox 360 near-final build, you probably already have an idea of the basic layout so I’m not going to bore you with Shooters 101. The controls are fairly intuitive and after a few minutes you’ll soon be blasting away aliens and stealth killing soldiers like a champ.
I you have played previous Crysises (Crysii?) you should note a few changes. Running no longer drains energy unless using stealth -whereby energy drains quicker while moving faster. Also, your nanovision has been tweaked to be a bit more user-friendly. To tag enemies and objects of interest, tap up on the d-pad and hover your reticule over the item for a moment. No more fumbling around while looking and awkwardly pressing the back button.
Like after a night of Mexican food, The Predator Bow is both silent and deadly
The next prominent change is the inclusion of a bow weapon. Listen, unless you’ve been under a rock during the last 14 months or so then you’ll know that 2012 was declared the “Year of the Bow.” Here, CryTek answers with an updated version of the classic weapon, The Predator Bow. It’s potentially the most versatile tool in your belt. How the Predator acts depends on a couple of things, namely your draw strength and arrows. Like most of your arsenal you can open up a menu to restructure the weapon by adding various sights, ammo, etc. The bow has three modes of fire as well as regular, explosive, and electric arrows. Need a silent, one-hit kill? Choose the strongest draw, line up a target, and loose an arrow. There’s a real satisfying feeling when you perfectly nail a target way in the distance. Just as fun, you can attach an explosive tip, select quick draw and you know have a fast shooting grenade launcher.
As cool as the bow can be, the real meat of combat is shooting. You can hold three weapons at a time from a pretty traditional stable ranging from rifles to shotguns. You also have grenades and alien Ceph weaponry that mixes things up a bit. Shooting feels fluid as you move from target to target, each pull of the trigger punctuated with ear-bursting reports. The shotgun is brutal, especially when getting up close and personal anything that gets in your way. About halfway though the demo, I decided to forgo stealth while happily blasting apart Ceph and CELL agents alike. Not much is better than hearing the suit’s AI announce “maximum armor” and plowing through a group of hapless foes.
If being a sneaky snake is more your style, then you’ll want a silenced handgun and the bow. The neat thing about “Crysis” is the way the game encourages you to switch up tactics from moment to moment. The arena style maps provide interesting hotspots to engage or evade enemies. In fact, I was able to sneak by a few guys entirely bypassing an optional mission directive. It’s interesting, to note that from time to time you might have a few extra directives that you can choose to tackle that may reveal more about what’s going on or lead to an upgrade.
Speaking of upgrades, no longer do you need Ceph DNA goop to increase the Nanosuit’s powers. Instead you’ll acquire Upgrade Modules scattered about that you’ll plug into an ability tree to enhance your armor, speed, stealth, etc. You’ll also be able to mix and match certain upgrades to fine tune your playstyle further, incentivising a need to explore or otherwise complete varios side objectives to unlock your true potential.
Graphically, CryTek knocks it out of the park again. The visuals really speak for themselves, but still it’s amazing what the devs are able to squeak out of the 7 year old 360. I’m sure the PC version will be absolutely spectacular, so that as a primary console owner, I’m more than a little jealous. The major downside console-wise is the frame. Without committing to a full 60fps, it’s not as silky smooth as some shooters. While not a game breaker, there were a couple of moments of stilted frames when rapidly spinning around or speeding through a particularly dense environment.
And this game is dense. The swamp level had plenty of lush foliage and twisted, gnarly trees jutting out from the dilapidated buildings of a submerged China Town. It looked unreal. The environment pulsed with life as insects, amphibians, and reptiles chirped, burped, and lurked in the dark. Taking place in a devastated NeW York 20 years after the events of “Crysis 2,” expect to see more biodiversity in the Big Apple. The screen shot below shows the massive bio-dome structures overtaking the city. Each one slowly cultivating a world bring the steel and concrete streets back to nature.
The lighting is particularly noteworthy here with billowing motes of dust and smoke trapping a glimmer of light that grows with volume. Electric sparks and fire bursts out cool particle effects bring a sense of raw energy to the environment. Water swishes and pools realistically while stalking prey. Even the blood spurts are sickly beautiful as soldiers and aliens burst into puffs of blood. Basically, it’s a pretty damn good looking game.
Of course this is all a preview and if this build is working this good, then sign me up for the gold release. With multiplayer currently available for demo, you can get a small taste for yourself. Look for a full review of “Crysis 3” when it releases February 19 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.