However, I am not as sure about Prophet, the hulking superhuman I'm in control of. He doesn't seem to really be himself. Is he more alien Ceph than human now, and how much of Alcatraz is really left in him?
To answer these questions, we're once again thrown into the war against both the Cell and Ceph, one that sees us caught in the middle of the battle (with only good ol' Psycho, who more than ever lives up to his name, backing us up).
It's not the sort of back-up you'd turn down, regardless of whether you're off to chop some trees or save the world. You'll also notice how Prophet has undergone a slight personality change. He now poses, is viewed from arty camera angles, and hands out one liners to anyone listening. He's not just some guy in a suit these days.
One major topic when talking about Crysis 3 ahead of its release was the location. We're in a war-torn New York, which has been ripped to pieces. Vegetation has consumed the Big Apple, now a true concrete jungle where skyscrapers resemble giant trees. The weakened Ceph encapsuled New York in a giant dome and inside of this giant structure time passes at an accelerated pace. Think of Will Smith's I Am Legend, but a hundred times worse.
Rivers flow where Kung Pao Chicken once did in a destroyed Chinatown. The National Museum now houses mould instead of beautiful art. That your initial weapon of choice is a bow feels entirely natural in this kind of environment. You're a superhuman Rambo.
The bow is something you always will have access to, and it quickly grows into an indispensable weapon for those who want to stealthy decimate enemies. You never have to ditch your bow in favour of some other weapon, and as soon as you run out of ammunition it's there to help you hunt the enemy.
There are several types of arrowheads, with explosive and electrifying ones being the most potent. This makes for an even more satisfying experience, and there is really no time when it's not suitable to use your trusted bow. Killing off an enemy that has strayed to close to you while cloaked only to use your bow to finish off his friends is simply incredibly satisfying. Same goes for the combat change-up, as you transfer from cloaked jungle warrior and unsheath your Typhoon rifle - which sprays a thousand bullets per second - to finish off the remainder.
Crytek have found the right direction for Prophet in Crysis 3, and he feels much more iconic and prominent than in the previous games. Cue plenty of cut scenes in which he demonstrates superhuman abilities that would make Master Chief green with envy. Some of you may be turned off by the fact that Prophet has more of a personality to him, but every main character doesn't need to be created from the same mould as Gordon Freeman and Master Chief and personally I found the dialogues Prophet and Psycho share entertaining, partly thanks to great voice acting.
Likewise, the lush surroundings are the right compromise between the more open approach found in the original, and the linearity of the sequel. Crytek often referred to Crysis 3 as a mix between Crysis 1 and 2 in this regard, and I feel that's an apt description. Sure, you're constantly driven towards an objective, but there are often several alternative routes, plenty of side-quests and alternative ways to tackle problems.
The best parts of the game are the levels that feature more open environments where you can choose to go on foot or use a vehicle to approach your enemies. These levels also show off some of the most impressive visuals of the game, and the effects are simply outrageous. There is a great sense of freedom as you take higher ground and look down on the swaying tall grass below, you can tell by the ripples in the grass the enemy is approaching, completely unaware of your position. You take out your bow and send an explosive arrow where you think an enemy is heading. A second later you're rewarded with a wonderfully meaty explosion that's a feast for your eyes.
Naturally a lot of focus lands on the graphics, as they are without a doubt the best looking graphics in any game on the market. It's the new benchmark against which upcoming titles over the next two years will be measured. I mainly played the PC version of the game for review purposes, but I was also given the opportunity to try it out on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. There is a huge difference in graphical quality if you compare them side-by-side as the technical divide grows larger than ever.
That said, the console versions of the game are pretty in their own right, and they deserve to be compared to their peers on console, not against a high-end PC. For those who want to play Crysis 3 on PC using a controller the experience is very good as Crytek have found convenient ways of mapping all the necessary functionality onto the controller (including double clicks). While most major releases on PC supports controllers, with Crysis 3 there is a feeling that you don't lose out too badly compared to a mouse/keyboard set up.
Crytek have made a number of good decisions that promote playability. Among other things, you can now sprint without the armour meter draining. This solves the problem from the older entries were you often enter battles without having enough energy left to make yourself invisible or use armour gain. This was particularly a problem in Crysis 2, where you weren't able to use the nanosuit as much as you would have liked.
The change really benefits the game, as you use armour abilities significantly more. You can also upgrade equipment to enhance what you think is important, such as greater stealth options. This is managed quickly via convenient menus and you can set up multiple sets and quickly switch between them as the situation changes. These options are greatly appreciated.
Everything would be wonderful were it not for a couple of unnecessary blemishes. Count them off: poor vehicle physics (I'm looking at you buggies), a lousy boss fight (unfortunately one of the more important moments in the game - but don't worry as I won't spoil it) and a selection of new hacking mini-games that appear far too many times. Unfortunately, these prevents the Crysis 3 single player from reaching its true potential.
The multiplayer portion does feel unexpectedly fresh, thanks to a series of new and returning features. The arsenal includes less weapons than many competitors, but in return, these load-outs are much more varied and well designed. The maps are also more organic than what we're used to, which makes for lots of hiding places and a number of other factors to consider. My favourite map is located in Chinatown that features lots of shrubs and bushes among its ruins and it's one of the maps where you have to take it slow as running out guns blazing is a recipe for disaster.
In addition, there are fun modes like Hunter, where two invisible hunters, equipped with bows and arrows, hunt down ten Cell soldiers. Every dead soldier turns into a hunter, making it harder and harder for the remaining squad to survive. When you're left as the last man standing, you will literally feel the sweat flowing down your forehead as you cower in fear of a large number of invisible enemies with access to thermal cameras. There are also several other modes to choose from, including takes on classics such as Capture the Flag, and all of them are surprisingly enjoyable.
This is largely thanks to the fact that, much like in Halo multiplayer, your opponents can withstand a lot of damage before biting the virtual dust. It makes for surging and entertaining battles, with openings for comebacks and long kill streaks. There appears to be no issues with spawn points either, something that often tends to be an issue with multiplayer these days.
All this, combined with a story that ends the trilogy satisfactorily and answers all lingering questions, Crysis 3 feels like Christmas all over again for fans of heavy-leaded action. The FPS genre doesn't come much more rounded than this. Forget waiting for the next generation of graphics to appear: they're here already, and that we can thank Crytek for. Prepare to have all of your senses dazzled as a result.
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