Prophet, the protagonist of Crysis 3, has undergone a lot of changes. While he wears the most advanced suit of armor known to man, there really isn't much of a human being left within. The suit is capable of facing down the most brutal alien threat, but events have constantly chipped away at Prophet, turning him from a gruff commanding officer into the sole warning of an alien apocalypse. While he's still more than capable, there's a distinct feeling that he is a powerful husk of a man.
In many respects, Prophet's path mirrors that of the series. At face value, there is little that Crysis 3 doesn't technically execute quite well; you'll find no better visuals or presentation, and the new nanosuit mechanics are very streamlined. However, at its core, Crysis 3 seems much more vacant; it lacks much in the way of a motivated plot, and it strays from the series' strengths. While it's not a bad game, Crysis 3 has fantastic window dressing that obscures frayed gameplay mechanics.
In the first moments of the game, you are being freed from a containment vessel aboard the deck of a docked freighter. Your rescue party is a group of rebels led by Psycho, the protagonist of Crysis: Warhead, and another member of the ill-fated squad of nanosuit soldiers sent to the island during the events of Crysis. Psycho has been stripped of his suit by CELL, a paramilitary organization that controls much of the world's energy reserves after the events of Crysis 2. The rebels' intent is to get Prophet's help in taking down CELL, although he tries to warn the rebels of an even greater threat. Through mysterious visions, Prophet learns of an incoming alien invasion led by the Alpha Seph, a force that is capable of conquering Earth.
It is really hard to forget any of these plot points, as Prophet and Psycho do most of the talking during the game, and it seems to be their only discussion topic. Most of the cut scenes boil down to a handful of subjects: Psycho lamenting the fact that he is "human" again, Psycho trying to convince Prophet that CELL is their main goal, and Prophet vaguely rambling on about the alien menace. It may be a three-trick pony, but it's not enough horsepower to generate any personal investment in the story. While there are side characters that become involved with the proceedings, their offerings usually fall in line with the same plot points. There's no intrigue or suspense, especially after the aliens make their presence known.
The bulk of the gameplay remains unchanged, but it's a bit more streamlined. You only have two suit modes, armor and stealth, with other actions such as super jump, sprinting, and melee attacks requiring little to none of your suit's energy. The energy draw from the two available modes is more forgiving, so you can sustain them for longer periods of time. A new addition is the ability to collect and spend nanosuit upgrade points to enhance the suit, such as staying cloaked during stealth kills or reducing your weapon recoil. The unlocked abilities are further upgraded through normal use.
However, the base gameplay has seen some changes, and it's not all for the better. Stealth mode is an incredibly bipolar affair due to the suit's overpowered stealth mode against the similarly overpowered enemy senses. While you're running around in stealth mode, killing people is a joke, especially if your suit is upgraded to make no movement noise. Though the new bow weapon incurs no energy penalty when firing it from stealth, a single shot from a rifle incurs only a marginal energy penalty, and it's enough to kill an enemy just the same.
On the other hand, you are completely reliant upon stealth mode in most environments, as enemies can see through any concealment between you and them. While they can't see through hard objects like walls or building debris, they have no trouble spotting you while you're crouched in thick brush many meters away. It is a complete destruction of conventional stealth tactics, even ones that worked in previous games of the series, so it forces you to completely rely on the suit's stealth mode. Whereas previous games made it feel like the stealth mode augmented the player's stealth ability, Crysis 3 down boils stealth gameplay to a gimmicky reliance upon your suit.
In many areas, there can be penalties if the enemies become aware of your presence, mostly in the form of new enemies spawning into the level. This means that every enemy is actively searching for you, and you now have even more of them. This makes open combat a pretty attractive option, as the suit's armor mode makes it incredibly hard to be taken down. You can still modify your weapons to swap out silencers, expanded magazines, or new optics to adapt to changing firefight situations. It really doesn't matter how many enemies come tumbling down from the rafters; with armor mode, cover, and decent aim, you'll lay waste to the opposition.
The problem is the defining object of the series, the nanosuit and all its technological powers, becomes little more than flashy body armor. With stealth being such a frustrating option, the game quickly devolves into the latest entries in the Call of Duty series: Use your rifle to drop anything human, deal with the respawns of enemy reinforcements, reach your objective, and repeat.
Much of the game environment doesn't lend itself to any other option, and it sometimes actually limits your options. Crysis had open environments and a suit that allowed for many options to work your way through it. Crysis 2 had much more linear environments but retained the suit's usefulness. Crysis 3 further reduces both categories to the point that the gameplay lacks a defining characteristic. The nanosuit simply doesn't allow for the tactical options or freedom that it did in previous entries of the series.
There are a few new additions to the suit that come in handy from time to time. You can still tag enemies using the suit's built-in visor mode, and you can also tag dropped weapons or ammo caches for later retrieval. However, you can now hack certain targets that are a pretty generous distance away, such as disabling land mines in your path or hacking an automated turret to attack the enemy instead. The hacking is a skill-based minigame where you press a key while a sine wave moves up and down over a hotspot; you must successfully clear two to six of these spots to hack the device. The game doesn't pause during this time, so enemies can spot and engage you, but you can freely hack while in stealth mode.
Unfortunately, it's not enough innovation to make up for what has been lost in Crysis 3. As expected, the graphics are absolutely incredible, and the nanosuit allows for a modicum of variety, but the series has lost a lot of steam in this entry. Take away the graphics and the title, and the game doesn't have many noteworthy aspects. The gameplay is decent but in a very generic way that doesn't differentiate itself from any other shooter on the market. That's depressing, considering the series' roots.
Reviewed on: Intel i5 2500k, 8gb RAM, nVidia GTX 660 Ti
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