You are at the wheel of a finely tuned luxury car. The upholstery creaks when you get comfortable. it smells of quality here. You haven't even turned the key and you can feel the car hum and its tightly coiled energy waiting to be unleashed. This car is not intended to make you feel romantic or poetic. It was designed to make you feel powerful.
You run your fingers over the dashboard. Near the edge, just above the glove box, part of the dashboard pops up under your fingers. Huh funny how did that happen? It must have come unglued or something. You flatten it and look at it. As good as new there. You turn the key in the ignition.
The car comes to life! It's throaty and strong! Wait, but do you feel like there are problems? No, couldn't have been. Smell this leather! Cars that smell like that don't couple. But … yes … wait. You hear something just below the rumble of the engine. A high-pitched, sharp sound, like metal wire spinning around a non-greased spool. You put the car in gear and it chugs. Is it chugging? Oh yes, there was no doubt: this shouldn't be happening.
You are at the wheel of a finely tuned luxury car. But something is wrong.
That's how it is to play Crysis 3.
Crysis 3, releasing today on PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, is the third (technically fourth) in a series of first-person action games that combine stealthy sneaking with giant explosions, all of which are over-luscious, exquisitely rendered Environments are distributed. Historically, the result was a bit smarter and more open than Call of Duty or Medal of Honor, for example.
The Crysis series isn't really known for its winning personality. The games don't get along with their stories, characters, or lore. They're not even really that famous for their gameplay or design. They are primarily known for their cute, sweet technique.
The first Crysis was released exclusively on PC in 2007 and almost instantly became the high-water brand that all PC graphics have been compared to. It looked like a PC game from the future: breathtaking sunsets splashing over a shimmering ocean, tiny little frogs leaping through a carpet of jungle undergrowth. It was the game that PC gamers could rule over their console-owning brothers. Not only was it unavailable on Xbox 360 or PS3, it was also widely believed that those platforms couldn't handle the game if they tried. (The irony here is that Crysis was eventually brought to the 360, albeit as a weakened port.)
The game's developer, German studio Crytek, always seemed a little less interested in making great games than in using their Cryengine technology to make great looking games.
Still, I always had a soft spot for the series. I like both Crysis and Crysis 2 equally, but for slightly different reasons.
In Crysis games, you play as a man in a suit. Specifically, a "nanosuit" exoskeleton that looks like SCUBA gear combined with one of those frozen human muscles you'll see on Body Worlds. The suit offers a distinct advantage in fighting bare mortals, as players can switch between various powerful modes on the fly. There's a stealth mode that makes you invisible like a specific alien dreadlock, and an armor mode that lets you suck up bullets. There is a speed mode that allows you to run super fast and jump super high. You can breathe underwater and in case you haven't felt like The Predator enough yet, you can activate a visor that lets you see heat signatures.
So the games are all about using the powers of your suit to track down and kill guys. Sometimes you hunt human types and sometimes you hunt alien types. This has traditionally been a lot of fun as the Nanosuit has one crucial balancing feature: it runs out of power pretty quickly, and you can't stay invisible or bulletproof for too long before you have to pause and recharge. Previous Crysis games were always at their best, with players facing a range of enemies in moderately open exterior or semi-exterior areas. In these scenarios, the games, especially Crysis 2, feel like the "thinking man's mindless shooter". You will crawl and hit, crawl and hit, hide, camouflage, attack, hide and recharge before rushing again.
You're a guy called "Prophet" who is the same guy everyone thought you were for most of Crysis 2 when you were actually a guy called "Alcatraz", even though you became a Prophet by the end of this game anyway. (I know right?)
But every time Crysis games deviate from this core routine, things get significantly less entertaining. In the back half of the first game, which took place on a South Pacific island, there were huge flying squid enemies, fighting a tenth as fun as the overmatched but numerous North Korean soldiers from the first chapters. The second game, which took place in a shell-fire New York City, featured aliens who were more humanoid and much more fun, but still not quite as entertaining as the PMC soldiers of the opening and closing acts.
Unfortunately, Crysis 3 spends most of its time in the weeds. There's a lot to hunt, but it's sporadic, and changes to the formula are combined with shady AI and weird level design to make the whole thing feel awkward and awkward.
In Crysis 3, you're still wearing the suit. By some plot making up that doesn't deserve detailed explanation, you are a guy called "Prophet", the same guy everyone thought you were for most of Crysis 2 when you were actually a guy called "Alcatraz" . "although by the end of this game you somehow became a prophet anyway. (I know, right?) The story goes like this: It's twenty years after the events of Crysis 2, and the Prophet has been frozen in stasis all the time and being from a megalomaniac mega-corporation called Cell kept under lock and key.
The Prophet's old pal, Psycho, who was one of his squadmates in the first game (and was the star of the Warhead spin-off), shows up, older and fatter and flashy with no nanosuit, and wakes the Prophet up. After the events of Crysis 2, New York has evolved into a cell-controlled, bio-dome jungle laden with ruined, overgrown buildings. (It looks beautiful.) There is wildlife and foliage everywhere. The aliens have been blown to the wind, and the Cell Corporation has Lex Luthor fully in their sights – they are trying to take over the world. Time to show them who the boss is.
Sounds good right? A decent action game setup. But from the start, Crysis 3 seems a little awkward. The first level takes place at night on board a Navy cruiser with Psycho accompanying the Prophet to freedom. I was surprised that I spent the opening act doing what I imagined as a first-person shooter follow. Look here:
I would follow Psycho to a door, wait for him to open the door, then go through and shoot a few people. Then I would follow him even further. This is de rigueur in a Call of Duty game, but in Crysis? At least it set off some warning bells.
The entire induction stage took place at night and I struggled through small labs, then bigger labs, and then corridors. Nothing felt open, empowering, or particularly fun. It certainly didn't feel like Crysis. This continued for the entire opening act of the game before the camera finally opened to a spacious, daylit view. (Screen coverage of that moment is a little further away in this review.) If you're anything like me, at this point you'll be thinking, "Thank god the real game begins."
It just doesn't start. I had to follow Psycho a little more.
After that, I was finally released in the urban jungle. Sweet! Oh no wait Actually, I wasn't that relaxed, because there was a huge rocket launcher in the sky that would blow me up if I didn't take cover anymore. So I did a tedious linear reconnaissance (not a fight) for a few minutes and then finally got to the first open area where some soldiers had to fight. And … I handily defeated them because I was given a futuristic bow that fires silent, instantly fatal, and / or explosive arrows, and I was able to use it without camouflaging it. (More on the bug later.)
I made mince out of those poor thugs and then moved on … but not to any other outdoor fight sequence! No, it was time to follow Psycho again and then go underground and fight some guys in another dark indoor area. Some aliens showed up about 20 minutes later, and from then on it only got worse.
WHY: Aside from the nice graphics, Crysis 3 is a mostly mediocre shooter, with fancy graphics easily obscuring the random design and lack of technical gloss. Crysis 3
Platforms: PC (tested), Xbox 360, PS3
Release date: 19th of February
Type of game: Tactical first-person sci-fi shooter that is a mix of stealth and action.
What i played: Completed the single player story in approximately 6-7 hours and repeated levels worth several hours on various levels of difficulty. Played a couple of hours of multiplayer and a couple of hours of the Xbox 360 version. For comparison, several parts of Crysis 2 have been played again.
My two favorite things
- If it's pretty, it's damn pretty. In terms of razor-sharp fidelity and near-photo-realistic views, this is sure to be one of the best looking games you can play right now.
- Multiplayer mode has a number of special charms, most notably the fact that any player can become invisible.
My two least favorite things
- The final chapter is a chore, the final boss is a mess, and the breakup is ridiculous.
- Enemy AI just can't keep up with the new, larger environments, and both humans and aliens are too unpredictable to have much fun fighting.
Back-of-box offers made to order
- "I didn't know my PC could actually work up a sweat."
-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
- "Why should I ever use anything other than this bow?"
-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
- "That's it: the mediocre game that screenshots will sell."
-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
That was more or less when I started to think, hey, there might be something weird under the hood of this supposedly fine-tuned car.
Before I get too into design or writing, let's back down and talk about the technology. That's why a lot of people end up playing Crysis games: they want their PC to plead for mercy, they want their Post-FX slider to be set to "low" for the first time since purchasing this new graphics card. They want to play this game and think, "Yeah, but in three years when I have a new PC, I'll be playing this again." Let's call it ambitious PC gaming. We want to taste the future, even if it gives us indigestion.
I'm using an Intel i5 2.8 GHz with 8 GB of RAM and a GeForce 660Ti graphics card. It might not be the hottest setup money can buy, but it's not too shabby, and it can run Crysis 2 on all of the high-resolution bells and whistles at a steady speed of 60fps. It can also run pretty much any other PC game, from The Witcher 2 to heavily modified Skyrim, with no issues.
My computer must have choked on Crysis 3. I played a review of the game that Crytek put together last week and the game's performance was erratic at best. A combination of medium and low settings made it a solid 60 fps before dropping to 30 or 25 in certain scenes. Just by changing every setting to Low, turning off antialiasing, and running medium quality textures, I was able to get a consistent 60 fps at a resolution of 1920×1080. And even then – sometimes it fell off.
I followed this NeoGAF thread with interest as gamers there have tried all kinds of high end cards and are reporting similar degradation in performance. Almost no one seems to be able to get the game running at maximum settings without getting a significant frame rate hit. Still, this stuff is very difficult to find – I installed the latest drivers from Nvidia today and didn't see any significant improvement, even though they were specifically optimized for Crysis 3. I still play with textures on "medium" and all my settings on "low". On the other hand, you may not care as much about frame rate as I do. Responsiveness is key to me; I'd rather play an ugly game at a steady 60 FPS than a nice one at 30. And worth repeating, Crysis 3 looks very good even at low settings.
I like the idea of a future-proof PC game. And I don't doubt that people will be buying this game on sale in three or four years' time just so they can get the most out of it on their new 8GB GPUs or whatever, just like I did with Crysis in 2010 at the same time I have to say that I find the underperformance of Crysis 3 a bit stupid. Not only is the game challenging, it also feels poorly optimized. The fact that it doesn't seem to be able to maintain a consistent frame rate if I don't dial it all the way down and even then have dips makes me think that it just isn't that well engineered or stable. It's likely that future updates and patches will iron this out and make the game more consistent, but for now it's a real stuttering bronco.
In this regard, the Xbox 360 version of Crysis 3 is a big step up over its big PC brother. I played the 360 version for about an hour to see how it compares and the difference is noteworthy. It's still good enough for a console game, but it doesn't move that well. It's too crowded for Xbox's native resolution, and the low-resolution jags and textures make everything look squishy. Not only does the game have a lower resolution and it lacks some of the DirectX 11 particle porn. The PC version smears your screen so regularly that the Xbox version's frame rate is quite sluggish, which makes gaming less enjoyable.
All that has been said, yes: if your interest starts and ends in ultra high definition PC gaming, Crysis 3 will quench your thirst. And part of me enjoys that Crytek tosses and tosses this insane game that is less of an entertainment product and more of a glove, making PC gamers throw their machines at it with reckless abandon. The studio did an excellent job positioning itself as a supplier of a product that users should not be using properly. It's hard not to admire her chutzpah. "This game looks so good you can't play it for another two years," they say. "But you know you'll buy it anyway because you just want to see it stack up."
In summary, it's totally playable as it is, though it would be nice if the damn thing worked a little better. And one more graphic caveat: while the game looks fantastic in screenshots, it doesn't always look that hot in action, even on PC. Animations, especially facial animations, are stiff and waxy. The motion capture is strange, battle animations can be stilted, and characters regularly leave large gaps of silence between lines of dialogue.
Crysis 3 is an open stealth / fighting game that falls far short of the standard Far Cry 3 recently set. (For example: do you see this view in the picture above? You actually never get to explore that in Crysis 3.) And as a transhumanist science fiction adventure, it doesn't match the melodrama and romance of Halo 4 or the moral credibility of Deus Ex. But while the shadows of these games stretch long across Crysis 3, the shadow that covers them most thoroughly is, oddly enough, that of its predecessor, Crysis 2.
I've always viewed Crysis 2 as an underrated game: it's a meaty, largely well-designed shooter that is polished, atmospheric, and offers players a ton of excellent ways to creatively blow shit up. It is superior to Crysis 3 in almost every way. Crysis 2 feels like an ambitious game made by developers who weren't afraid to take their time and get things right. Crysis 3 seems to have rushed out the door, almost like Crytek was clearing old businesses before turning back to focus on free games.
The differences between the two games are obvious from the get-go: Crysis 2 lets you go almost instantly in an outdoor setting with soldiers. With Crysis 3, you'll follow a man for about an hour and take you either into closed rooms or into semi-open, dark areas full of enemies on tall scaffolding that you can't see but that you can see. The new game is also significantly shorter and less narrative ambitious: Crysis 3 takes place in seven chapters, while Crysis 2 contained nineteen. There are also minor differences, like the fact that for some reason Crysis 3 removed the interesting and functional first-person cover mechanic from Crysis 2.
Crysis 3 takes place in seven chapters, while Crysis 2 contained nineteen chapters.
To make sure I wasn't imagining anything, I loaded up Crysis 2 last weekend and dropped the needle on random single player missions. At every turn I found a superior game. One minute I'd be fighting aliens in a grueling showdown in the middle of Grand Central Station, the next I'd be helping Marines topple a skyscraper to block alien mortar fire. Or I would hold a room against onrushing soldiers who rappel down from the skylights and at the same time fend off an attack helicopter. Or, I started a deeply satisfying stealth attack on an enemy base on Roosevelt Island, a sequence that was so much fun that I delved into and played it for almost an hour before remembering I was going back to Crysis 3 had to.
The closer I look, the more shortcomings accumulate in Crysis 3. It's a very short game, but not a particularly focused one. I played through, given, or took the single player story in about 6-7 hours and couldn't believe the story was moving as fast as it was. There are only three other characters in the game as a Prophet, and one of them gets around 5 minutes of total screen time. It's only day for two of the game's seven chapters (and for comparison, remember that Crysis 2 had nineteen chapters). The rest of the game takes place underground, in the haze or at night.
Only one chapter – a nighttime excursion through the flooded ruins of Chinatown – comes close to consistently capturing the kind of sneaky, hunting encounters that were so much fun in Crysis 2. It's fun while it lasts, but even then feels short-lived. It wasn't long before I got behind the wheel of a tank for a stunted segment of the vehicle or a frustrating tower sequence in the gunnery area of an airship. The game just never gets into a groove and therefore feels rushed and out of whack.
Here is another unexpected problem: The Prophet's bow is overwhelmed. It's basically a Swiss Army Knife weapon that can act as a rocket launcher and can defeat any enemy in the game. And as I mentioned earlier, it is silent and allows you to shoot invisibly. There's no need for stealth melee kills or even silenced weapons as you can just whip your bow and waste anything that moves. Crysis has always relied on a careful balance between the suit's energy timer and the enemy's superior numbers. A powerful new element like the bow throws the scales off balance.
As an example of this imbalance, consider this scenario: First, I mark the enemies with my visor. Then I crouch over the roof, camouflaged. I change the draw weight to make my bow super powerful and then take them off one at a time. It's not just that the arc is overwhelmed and makes me attack invisibly, the enemy AI just doesn't really respond to the fact that their friends are dying right in front of their eyes.
It happens a lot. Bugs kept popping up throughout my playthrough, from the weird AI to numerous graphics and audio issues. Enemies froze, a security guard I'd tagged somehow fell up into space, and I was able to cling right through the vents.
Yes, these examples are all small things. Some of these bugs will likely be removed from the game. But we're talking about a game that has been viewed as this amazing looking gift from God, a beacon of incredible future technology. A sign of the future. So I can't help but be disappointed that there is so consistently a lack of technical gloss. Despite the screenshot-able graphics, there are many current generation games that are far more technically executed than Crysis 3, with the added benefit of actually running them consistently on modern computers.
Crysis 3's level design often feels too tight, but a few times it also feels too big. It's an excuse of mine to keep saying "something is wrong", but that's the best way to sum up the design of the game – almost every level just feels a little bit bad. Disoriented, difficult to navigate, the open areas feel too open and the closed areas feel claustrophobic. A later level in particular is very big, but feels too big and therefore seems a bit empty. You have access to a few vehicles, but the level is also littered with deep pools of water that these vehicles swallow as a whole.
Enemy AI seems unable to coordinate over long distances and many times I saw an enemy targeted by my snipers who was unable to do much other than take cover in an endless loop, sticking your head out and then withdrawing. A later side mission asked me to rescue some people in a tank. I came in to fend off attackers and found that they were just waiting for me. They drove off in their tank and invited me to take the place of the rifleman. Then they drove out about fifty yards and sat motionless while the enemy blew them apart.
Was Psycho really anything but a Cockney accent disguised as a personality? I do not think so.
The story and dialogue of Crysis 3 are just as overcooked as the rest of the game. All enemy guards seem to have gone to the Splinter Cell school of bad enemy dialogue and regularly shout things like, "He's chasing us!" and "He uses arrows!" and "You think this is hiding? Show yourself!" At some point I shot a lonely security guard with an arrow, only to hear one of his compatriots in another room yell: "He's using a bow!"
Someone at Crytek seems to have heard complaints about the relative lack of personality in the past games, and the writers have tried last-minute emotion injection. This attempt, while undoubtedly well intentioned, was unsuccessful. In contrast to the second game, the protagonist speaks and emotionalises, but it is never convincing. The script tries to present a meaningful theme about victims that never merges into anything or is related to the events of the story. The authors seem to feel that repetition alone makes the subject meaningful. I haven't cared about any of the characters in past Crysis games, and this attempt to suddenly get me to take care of their victims feels like a band-aid on a corpse.
Psycho, the freedom fighter who has been with you for most of the story, is an idiot of a character. Before I played, I was happy to hear he was introduced. Now that I've played it, I wonder: was Psycho really anything but a Cockney accent masquerading as personality? I do not think so.
The overarching story of a reborn alien leader and wormhole invasion straight from a TV adaptation of Mass Effect 3 is nonsense even by sci-fi video game standards. What drama is there elsewhere? You just hear it on your radio. The dialogue is a disheartening set of clichés that stinkers like, "We're all human, Psycho! Nomad, Jester … We all fought. Not the goddamn nanosuits!"
At some point a character yells: "It was never just about the suit!" I always thought it was about the suit. I kind of liked that. It kept things simple. I think it should have stayed over the suit.
Here is a short list of other disappointments:
- Collectable audio diaries that must be listened to in the pause menu, but not during playback. They never shed any light on where you are, who the speaker was or what is going on.
- A strange attempt to paint the Cell Corporation as a cheerfully evil corporate entity that feels inspired by Portal, of all things.
- A poorly crafted final boss fight that uses all of the game's strengths and takes you against a confusing enemy.
- Waypoints and destinations that feel unclear and leave you wandering for minutes through a large, empty area looking for a way forward.
- A hacking mini-game that feels pinned and annoying.
- A lackluster map hidden under one layer of the menu and a mini-map that is largely impenetrable.
- Grenades that ricochet off a doorframe and land at your feet as easily as they do near your target.
- Incredibly vigilant enemies you can spot undisguised from two hundred meters, even when crouching in the shade.
Multiplayer is a welcome ray of hope. By and large, it's kind of a nifty amalgamation of the twitching iron visors from Call of Duty and the heavily armored mega-jumping from Halo. In my limited pre-release multiplayer sessions, I was surprised at how much fun I had. Multiplayer matches follow the typical templates for this type of game – there are deathmatch, team deathmatch, exfiltration and point capture. What really makes it pop is the fact that everyone has a nanosuit that can become invisible or armor-resistant. It's impressive how much fun a multiplayer game can be when everyone has the ability to become invisible for a short time.
The new multiplayer mode in Crysis 3 is called "Hunter Mode" and I had a good time with it too. You play either as a disguised "hunter" wearing a nanosuit or as a humble cell guard. If you are a hunter it is your job to kill all the guards. When you are a security guard it is your job to stay alive for a period of time. If you are killed, you will reappear on the map as a hunter, so the last surviving guard will have to outsmart a number of hunters. I was surprised that the most tense and enjoyable moments of my multiplayer session with Crysis 3 crouched in a corner hoping no one would find me before the clock ran out.
It was an odd thrill, more like playing hide and seek than any familiar first-person shooter multiplayer mode. This video seems like the least exciting multiplayer video ever – it's just a guy crouching on a wall! But it was more exciting in some ways because it felt so new. Ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob ich den Hunter-Modus länger als ein oder zwei Nachmittage spielen würde, aber es ist eine gute Idee und schön, mehr Spiele zu sehen, die mit asymmetrischen Multiplayer-Wettbewerben experimentieren.
Es gibt noch andere Lichtblicke: Sie können immer noch ein anderes Zielfernrohr, einen anderen Aufsatz oder einen anderen Schalldämpfer auf Ihre Waffe setzen. Der Kraftsprung hat immer noch das befriedigende "Sprießen!" Gefühl. Es gibt immer noch Momente der Bösartigkeit, in denen Sie sich auf einen Kerl einschleichen und ihn runterholen und dann wegschleichen, kurz bevor sein Freund um die Ecke kommt. Seltsamerweise macht es jetzt mehr Spaß, gegen die Außerirdischen zu kämpfen als gegen die Menschen, aber es kann in der Tat ziemlich lustig sein, gegen sie zu kämpfen. Und wenn Crysis 3 hübsch ist, ist es natürlich auch ziemlich hübsch.
Multiplayer ist ein willkommener Lichtblick.
Trotzdem bleibt so viel von Crysis 3 weit hinter der Messlatte zurück, die Crytek selbst mit Crysis und Crysis 2 gesetzt hat. Der Publisher des Spiels, EA, hat mir versichert, dass Crysis 3 einen Patch für den ersten Tag erhalten wird, aber ich kann mir das nicht vorstellen tue zu viel, um das Spiel von dem zu ändern, was ich gespielt habe. Wie gesagt, es ist wahrscheinlich, dass Crytek in den kommenden Wochen und Monaten die PC-Version optimieren wird, um eine konsistente Leistung auf einer größeren Anzahl von Maschinen zu erzielen. Obwohl diese Art von Patches möglicherweise einige der kosmetischeren Fehler behebt, auf die ich gestoßen bin, ist es unwahrscheinlich, dass sie sich mit dem zufälligen Level-Design des Spiels, der schlechten KI, dem seltsamen Tempo, dem ungeschickten Skript und dem unausgeglichenen Kampf befassen.
Trotz dieser Wäscheliste mit Mängeln enthält Crysis 3 immer noch Blitze dieses entzückenden räuberischen Nervenkitzels, der Crysis-Spiele so unterhaltsam macht. Aber sie sind zu selten und in einem Spiel versteckt, in dem ausgefallene Technik konservatives, uninteressantes Design verschleiert. Je mehr ich über Crysis 3 nachdenke und es spiele, desto frustrierter werde ich. Crysis 2 hat es geschafft, eine bewundernswerte Anzahl von Dingen richtig zu machen. Ich hätte gerne gesehen, wie das dritte Spiel auf dieser Grundlage aufbaut und die Serie mit Stil abschließt.
Stattdessen ist Crysis 3 ein fein abgestimmtes Luxusauto, das, wie sich herausstellt, nicht allzu fein abgestimmt ist. Sie sitzen, drehen den Motor und hoffen, dass das seltsame Geräusch verschwindet, aber das tut es nicht. Es wird lauter. Sie senken das Fenster auf der Fahrerseite. es bleibt auf halber Strecke stecken. Sie ziehen die Sonnenblende herunter; es kommt in deiner Hand ab.
Verwirrt drehen Sie das Visier um und untersuchen die Unterseite. Sie fragen sich, ob es sich lösen soll. Vielleicht ist das eine Funktion? Du siehst auf, machst eine Pause, schnüffelst. Nochmals schnüffeln, um zu bestätigen. Yes. Unter dem reichen Geruch der Polsterung riecht es nach etwas anderem. Etwas weniger Angenehmes.
Und Sie starren für ein paar Momente auf das Steuer und schließen Frieden mit der Tatsache, dass dieses Auto trotz seines glänzenden Äußeren wirklich kein schönes Auto ist.
Mit Genehmigung neu veröffentlicht. Kirk Hamilton ist Redakteur bei Kotaku.