Crysis 3 – Preview

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Take a trip to the urban rainforest in the boots of Crysis 3's Prophet.

As director of creative development Rasmus Hojengaard opens the floor for questions after introducing Crysis 3 he could probably have predicted the first volley: ‘How will the shooter look on PC versus console?’ ‘How has CryEngine 3 evolved?’ ‘How does it measure up to DICE’s Frostbite 2.0?’

I wonder if deep down he’s happy that the debate over those undoubtedly lush visuals swamps other aspects of the game, or if he would rather the assembled press asked how the new bow weapon changes up the flow of hostile encounters, or how the sandbox approach to tactics means you can, in theory at least, play through the game utilising entirely different tactics?

One thing’s for sure, only the merest of lip service is paid to Crysis 3’s plot, an element of Crytek’s tactical shooter which has seemingly become little more than a device by which excuses are made to integrate aliens, high-tech devices and rainforest-engulfed cities all into the same game.

Hojengaard almost admits as much, telling us that the New York’s ‘urban rainforest’ setting was designed more to give players (and developers) something to look at, mouth agape, than it was to further the plot. Critics might point out that it also handily meant that old stages could be recycled – albeit with added green hues – though as Hojengaard points out the return to New York does at least highlight the devastation those same areas have suffered in the intervening years; this third outing set in 2047, some 24 years later.

There is a reason of course for the extra vegetation – something to do with the nefarious CELL corporation encouraging such tree growth by erecting huge nanodromes over the world’s cities, all with the goal of battling back the expanding Ceph alien race. To be fair I wasn’t paying much attention either, content to sit and stare at the pretty images on the big screen; at least during this small (and impressive) dose.

Hojengaard explains how a rejuvenated Prophet (who returns sporting a now Ceph-infected nanosuit) will explore the seven wonders of the rainforest as he progresses through the game. Why seven? Because Crytek’s team identified seven characteristics – from densely vegetated environments, to mountains and lakes – before deciding each would make a splendid centrepiece to showcase Crysis’ rather explosive shoot-outs, and what tools you have at your disposal for just that.

It seems Crytek must have been somewhat underwhelmed by the collection of weapons handed to the player previously, for Prophet suddenly has whole repertoires of brand new armaments up his sleeves. The aforementioned bow is no ordinary tool, but rather rapid-firing launcher of electro and explosive arrows amongst others.

Then there’s the chance for Prophet to make use of Ceph weaponry, his modified and infected suit now capable of interfacing with the alien’s devices and so giving him access to plasma guns and similarly explosives armaments. Even the usual array of human-made guns have been overhauled, the Typhoon Metalstorm rifle firing a staggering 500 rounds per second for example.

In gameplay terms such fire power is being described as Prophet’s transition from ‘hunted to hunter’ as the tables are turned on CELL and Ceph alike. That said, the footage I was privy too didn’t quite capture such a shift in approach.

Sure, Prophet’s suit makes him formidable – an unsuspecting soldier being smashed across the dome by a right hook for example – but that didn’t mean he was able to emerge from the shadows all together, with Ceph scorcher tanks sending him cowering into cover for example.

Thankfully Prophet’s nanosuit comes with improved bells and whistles beyond the usual cloak and strength enhancements. For example, remote hacking – which appeared not unlike that seen in EA’s recently released Syndicate – allows him to commandeer automated guns and so turn the tide while sowing confusion amongst enemy ranks.

Worth the wait? For the visual wizardry alone Crysis 3 is surely worth a look – the juxtaposition of concrete and floral jungles providing a stunning backdrop on which to do battle. No doubt those who like to obsess over such qualities will point to the PS3 and Xbox 360 potentially holding back the PC version, as they did with Crysis 2. Concerns do however remain with regards to Crytek painting a flowing storyline as engrossing as those graphics, for even the prettiest of diversions requires a little substance if it’s to command the attention for the long term.

For: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Crytek
Publisher: EA
When? Q1/Q2 2013

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