The extent to which Prophet can customise his weaponry borders on absurdity – altering even the draw speed and tension on his bow – given the lack of a reason to do so. Crysis 3 gives players a jangling bunch of keys, but provides a dearth of locks to open with them. “It’s up to you”, Prophet’s cockney companion frequently reminds you when it’s time to decide how you’ll approach any given encounter. But such freedom feels hollow when any old approach will do.
What’s worse, the game’s level design mirrors this problem of bloat without function. The first Crysis had maps that were genuine sandboxes, and the second offered tighter bubbles of open-ended gunplay. Crysis 3 has negotiated an awkward truce between the two, expanding its action bubbles, but refusing to allow you to escape them. What this means is a great deal of redundant space padding out the same style of arena as seen in Crysis 2. The first game’s scale worked because players could get lost in it. You can’t escape Crysis 3’s encounters, you simply skulk and scrabble at their edges like a spider in a bathtub before giving in and following that checkpoint indicator down the drain.
Levels boast more visual depth, at least, with Crysis 3’s lush rainforest roughing up the second game’s city-planned straight lines. But as striking as Crytek’s vibrant post-disaster New York is, the setting is wasted. Prophet’s movements through it lack direction, with loading screens teleporting him around the Nanodome in service of a derivative, portentous story in a way that undermines any sense of a journey through a coherent space.
There’s a series of imaginative, evocative settings here – a financial district transformed into a towering hydroelectric dam, say, or Chinatown-cum-swampland – but playing through them is like flicking through concept art. They simply don’t exist as part of a thought-out, directed whole. This is all the more surprising considering Crysis 3’s modest length in comparison with its immediate predecessor. There’s about five hours of game here, a length that, even without Call Of Duty’s linear rails, should really be able to sustain a stronger sense of pacing than this.
It looks beautiful, of course. Everybody knows Crytek can work magic on a gaming PC, but it’s the Faustian pact that the studio has presumably entered into in order to conjure such imagery from consoles (while avoiding Far Cry 3 levels of performance) that has us concerned. What was lost along the way? The first game’s soul was traded away by Crysis 2, but at least that game was aware of its limits, using its new walls to guide players through a series of emergent, reactive encounters. Crysis 3 has neither direction nor freedom, though it does have human weapons, alien weapons, a cloaking device, an Armour mode, and a bow. And with this many options at your disposal, Crysis 3 insists, surely you must be having fun.
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