ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Crysis 3 – What Crysis was Meant to Be (Review)

They say the third time’s the charm, and the adage has an uncanny way of ringing true. While Crysis has been a staple of the gaming industry since the first series title hit back in 2007, most of its popularity has stemmed from being famously taxing for gaming machines to run due to its intense, realistic visuals, not for actually being remarkably fun to play. Though the main draw of Crysis 3 is still to prove the worth of your gaming hardware, this time around Crytek has made a game actually worth playing and not merely seeing.


While Crysis 1 and 2 did have storylines, to the player they amounted to simply heading towards a checkpoint and blasting anything that got in their way. A few cutscenes served as jarring reminders that there was actual purpose behind everywhere you went, but as a whole the story seemed distant and disconnected. Thankfully Crysis 3 finally breaks this trend and even realizes the potential of its predecessors’ plots, though there are still a few of these disconnected moments along the way.

The story picks up a few years after where Crysis 2 left off, putting you in the shoes of the hybrid man and machine—and mostly machine—that has become of Laurence Barnes, James ‘Alcatraz’ Rodriquez, and the persona codenamed Prophet, collectively. If that seems a bit confusing, you’re not alone. The nature of Prophet’s existence is a major point of discussion and contention from the get-go, though much of this emotion doesn’t make it across to the player unless they stop to really think hard about it. But digression aside, Crysis 3 starts out strong. Early missions are interesting and flow together naturally, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re complemented by a great script mostly following Prophet and ‘Psycho’, an old friend from Crysis 1. Voice acting is terrific with only minor exceptions, and the acting performances (yep, games have those) really sell the characters’ emotions. In fact much of the story’s weight is carried in gestures and facial expressions, a testament to the realism and visual quality of the game’s cast.

Unfortunately things do get less interesting over time, and you may get a bit of a sense of disconnect in the game’s later levels, yet Crysis 3 always manages to present just enough story to keep you engaged. There’s loads of readable content throughout the game to explain the backstory, obtainable by way of picking up various computers and other digital equipment, but it’s far more voluminous than you’ll probably take the time to read or even unlock in the first place. But for what it’s worth the written pieces are done well and perhaps will keep your appetite for story sated long enough to get you through the duller segments. Because you will want to play through to the end. Though far from the most epic boss fight in FPS history the final scenes of Crysis 3 are certainly entertaining to play through, and finally draw the series’ story to a close. It’s a satisfying ending, equal parts head-scratcher and brilliance, though only series veterans will be able to really appreciate it. It’s not exactly something you’d want to make a movie out of, but Crysis 3 possesses the first plot in the series that is actually a decent part of the experience rather than merely an excuse for it.


Crysis has always stood for great graphics that push your PC’s hardware to its very limits, so it’s no surprise that Crysis 3 is a stunner…most of the time. Crytek finally abandoned Windows XP and DX9 this time around, allowing them to concentrate on doing their best with the latest in DX11, but even then polygons and average textures abound. Closeups of player models and dense forest-filled ruins all look especially great, sometimes even photorealistic, but overall it’s a mixed bag. But of course this is Crysis—nothing in the game looks particularly ugly, but by comparison to all the realism certain objects and features just stand out as distractingly videogame-like. Technically Crysis 3 isn’t next-gen, but it makes a solid effort and will still be quite easy on the eyes years down the road—even if not so easy on your hardware. Realism to number crunching is not a 1:1 ratio, and there’s plenty that Crysis 3 does which is far from efficient. In other words, you can safely expect future games to both look better and run better than Crysis 3—this one is meant to be a workout, whether it needs to be to attain its current level of realism or not. Prepare to be impressed and occasionally amazed, but you’ll have to wait until next-gen sets in a bit more to find out what your powerhouse gaming rig is really capable of.


Crysis 3 is primarily a stealth shooter, emphasis on the ‘stealth’. While there are no express rules about how you approach, the game clearly favors a slower, more cautious walk through the dense forests and ruins if for no other reason than to give the player time to appreciate all the detail. Even with the world’s most advanced military suit you’re no bullet sponge and can die fairly easily (unless you’re supercharged with alien technology, but that is an occurrence reserved for the last mission). While suit upgrades can toughen you up somewhat you’ll have to go exploring to find them, so in any case you won’t go blowing up anywhere fast. The game wants to be a marathon, not a sprint, though technically you are free to go about your objectives as you please. If you really want to you can ditch all sense of realism and run around guns blazing, health perpetually on the brink of death, but be warned that there’s no manual save function and dying will set you back. On the contrary, a few of the game’s later areas rather expect you to charge right on through, and going silent is a secondary option that will often land you more trouble than just picking off the opposition as you go. It’s a way of giving you freedom that also strongly suggests how to use it, but overall though Crysis 3 finds a happy medium between the sometimes too-unrestricted world of Crysis 1 and the much more linear world of Crysis 2. Gamers who are not primarily shooter fans will be delighted with the even pacing, but a CoD killer this is not.

The multiplayer mode picks up the pace a bit, but still is not fast-paced enough to attract hardcore players. Maps are average in design and the only really unique aspects of the gameplay (powerful bows and large pieces of debris, for example) are mostly outlawed by the inordinate amount of rules enforced by most servers. Seriously, server owners: lighten up and let people just play the game!


I didn’t expect to actually enjoy Crysis 3. As with the past two games, I was in for the visual experience alone. But what I got was much more than just a benchmark. The trilogy’s conclusion finally tells an interesting tale wrapped in a compelling presentation, especially early on. Crysis 3 may not quite be good enough to feel like real life, but it’s good enough that when you turn the game off real life will feel a little like Crysis 3. Though there’s still room for improvement in virtually every major department this is finally the sort of game Crysis was always meant to be.