Of franchises using the "Star _____" title format, there's one that has long stood beside the titans of Trek and Wars in my mind: Stargate. For the last four years, a team that shares my reverence for the franchise has been modding the world of evil Egyptian space snakes and interstellar military adventure into the original Crysis, along with nods to other sci-fi franchises like the aforementioned Star Wars and Battlestar. StarCry, the end result, is now finally available for download to all of us Tau'ri.
The trailer above shows off a variety of environments, zat guns, staff weapons, and the titular Stargates themselves. But that's far from all. The mod's release notes boast "More than 1000 new objects, 2000 textures, 20 weapons and 1000 lines of dialog were added to the base game to offer a brand new adventure." Check out the screenshots below, then grab the mod and see it for yourself.
Toads don't tessellate. Trust me, I've tried. So how to Crytek pull it off? It's top secret, sadly, but you can watch one tessellated toad jump off a log in the latest CryEngine 3 tech on Gamespot, which also shows some lovely lighting tech and some grand Crysis 3 environments, some of which starred in the recent Crysis 3 combat/stealth trailer. It's pretty impressive, but is it better than the Unreal Engine 4 tech demo that Epic released a couple of months back?
This footage of Crysis 3 shows an extended version of the E3 demo in which Prophet assaults and explodes a huge dam. This time you get to choose at the start of the demo whether the player will take the cloaked, quiet approach or the noisy I AM GUN MAN YOU DIE NOW approach. The sneaky style sends Prophet to some high ledges where he skewers passing guards with arrows before infiltrating the dam through some ducts. The high-octane playthrough rips mounted cannons off their hinges and charges through every alarm in the building. Tragically for the dam, the outcome is the same.
This preview originally appeared in PC Gamer UK Issue 240
Rasmus Hojengaard, director of creative development at Crytek, on the genesis of the idea for Crysis 3: “We wanted to do something with some kind of dome, over some kind of city.”
Well, this is Crysis, so the dome had better be a nanodome. And they just made all of New York for the last game, so that might as well be the city.
It’s 20 years after you shot all the aliens invading NYC in Crysis 2. Everyone’s given up trying to work out whether or not you’re Prophet, whose memories and voice you mysteriously took on after his death in the last game, so you are. And instead of having his voice in your ear for guidance, as you did in Crysis 1, you have the cockney lilt of Psycho, who you played in Crysis Warhead. It’s such a jumble of stuff from the previous games that it almost feels like a remix. The good news is that when you remix New York City with a densely jungled island, the result looks awesome.
Technically the Crysis games always have, but this time the appeal isn’t just technical: this is a cool, visually imaginative place.
The (cough) nanodome the evil Cell corporation have built over (sigh) New York artificially accelerates plant growth, in order to (er) ‘cleanse’ the alien ‘pollution’. Look, I’m not Cell Public Relations, I don’t have to justify their science. I just have to tell you that Chinatown is a swamp now, and six other districts of New York have been spliced with six other natural environments to make this a more interesting place.
The mission I’ve seen starts in a Chinaswamp subway, lousy with creepers and glistening wet. It’s night. Outside, Crysis 2-era aliens are finishing off injured Cell troops, and prowling the waterlogged streets. Argon lights blare from a nearby Cell tower, one of the completely scientifically logical devices that sprinkle a dash of Crysis 1’s jungles in Crysis 2’s cities.
It’s a tight environment: Prophet has a little space to stalk his prey before attacking, but in minutes the mech-like aliens show up in overwhelming force and he resorts to a straight firefight. After the plasma’s cleared, Rasmus tells me there are more open levels than this: it’s not as sandboxy as Crysis 1, but not as tightly directed as Crysis 2. Like some kind of remix. Their plan is to alternate between the two styles, for pacing. The seven visually distinct zones of their overgrown New York make a good excuse to do that.
Rasmus explains that linear play is more popular in the mainsteam, while sandbox is a hardcore thing. That’s not much comfort to those of us who live entirely in the hardcore camp, and were half hoping for a return to Crysis 1 expansivity.
One addition does suggest some playfulness, though: the nanosuit can now hack alien gun emplacements to attack enemies. It’s a simple click-to-subvert interaction, but it opens a few more doors.
The main new weapon, a bow, is also promising. It’s a backwards step in technology, of course, but Crytek are keen to feed the hunter fantasy that made Crysis 1 exciting. And it does have a practical advantage: because of science, and nano, you can fire it while cloaked without revealing your location. If it’s ever bothered you that your enemies sometimes have the chance to fight back when you invisibly kill their friends, this is an appreciated boost to your already ridiculous power. It’s limited only by the scarcity of arrows, and a new enemy: Half-Life 2-style scanner bots, whose inquisitive beams can pull you out of cloak and zap all your suit energy. You’re safe if you kill them first, but when they show up in large numbers, that tactic clashes badly with arrow economy.
The bow also fires exploding arrows, but you’re rarely short of a weapon that can make things explode. Prophet’s nanosuit has been modified to use alien weaponry, but it’s not exactly exotic to the experienced shooter player: two of the weapons I saw lobbed exploding projectiles, the third had two fire modes: assault rifle, or shotgun. Crazy aliens.
I ask Rasmus if they even considered doing away with the aliens entirely, given that players overwhelmingly prefer human opponents. An immediate “no”. He couldn’t estimate a proportion of human combat versus alien fights, but says the city is crawling with both.
I think Crysis 3 is going to be great to explore, in a way that Crysis 2 wasn’t. I’m not convinced it’ll be any more fun to play. Whether you call it consistency of vision or self-destructive stubbornness, Crytek are never going to stop trying to make a mainstream sci-fi blockbuster in favour of the freeform predator sim they’re capable of. They’re good at making weapons feel nice, and their shaders look shiny, but you can always see that more ambitious, more interesting game struggling to escape the Halo straitjacket they shove it in.
If you enjoyed Crysis 2, this is bound to be better. If you’re still pining for the first game, though, Crysis 3 is only willing to meet you half way.
"It's your call how you want to do this", says Crysis 1/Crysis: Warhead veteran Psycho at the beginning of EA's official Crysis 3 trailer. It's a nod to critics of Crysis 2 who missed the original's wide-open approach to combat: despite the return to New York City, Crysis 3 promises to bring back a bit of that freedom.
Freedom is represented here by a few different routes through an area, and there's more emphasis on Prophet's new penchant for archery than his various suit powers. Nontheless, Crytek's ability to orchestrate massive environmental damage is still very much present and correct: if blowing up a dam is the kind of thing they'll stick in the first trailer, hopefully there's some truly vast crumbling mountain/flying park-style chaos waiting for us down the line.
See below for some new screenshots. They're pretty, but rather staged. Can Crytek hit this high bar they're setting for themselves?
Check out Evan's preview from earlier in the year for more on the game. What do you think, readers? Is the E3 2012 bow fatigue setting in, yet?
Last June Crysis 2 was suddenly removed from the Steam store. The game was "expelled," in EA's words, because a separate agreement with another download service violated new rules from Steam, EA said.
This contract conundrum between Crytek and digital distributors seems to've been resolved: Crysis 2 is back on Steam as a $40 re-release. The Maximum Edition bundles existing multiplayer map pack content for the game. This version of the game is also available on Origin today, duh.
What's in Crysis 2's Maximum Edition:
Bonus XP - Access to preset classes plus a custom class Scar weapon Skin - Scar assault rifle digital camouflage Weapon Attachment - Day 1 access to scar hologram decoy Unique Platinum Dog Tag - Display your multiplayer rank and stats
The Maximum Edition also includes the content of C2's Retaliation and Decimation packs: Nine additional multiplayer maps supporting all game modes Two new weapons - FY71 Assault Rifle and M18 Smoke Grenade
If you purchased Crysis 2 on Steam before it was removed, you can upgrade to the Maximum Edition for 50% the cost, EA says.
Man, it's tough being Prophet. Today I fought an alien with a flamethrower built into his face. He was trying to kill a tree. It's weird, ever since we built a giant dome over New York and accelerated the plant growth the alien population have gotten really serious about gardening. I took a picture of myself using the remote nano cam and waited for them to pass. You're my only friend now, nano cam.
As a supersoldier fused into a nanosuit that gives me superpowers, I have few regrets, especially since that day I found out how to go to the toilet in this thing. There is one thing I'd do differently though. When the brass asked me if I wanted to "enter the nano dome to destroy the alien menace with this bow" I shouldn't have said "hell yes." Man, I really hate domes.
I remember how things used to be five years ago, roaming sunny beaches punching sheds to death. It was the best time. Now I'm forced to roam this broken city posing on logs, fighting aliens and taking pictures of myself. That way, maybe the people outside the dome will see, and finally understand. Being an invisible, super strong, super fast, well muscled, bro-tastic, robo-tastic supersoldier simply isn't that awesome.
Apart from the parts where I get to shoot the bow. Those are pretty great.
Last night in San Francisco, EA showed me five minutes of live gameplay of Crysis 3. The level they arrowed, nanopunched, and cloaked their way through takes place about a third of the way through the game, in an area formerly known as Chinatown in New York City—you can see footage from the demo I saw in today’s Crysis 3 trailer. From that brief demo, here’s nine notes and impressions I made.
You’re Prophet. Yes, the Prophet that killed himself. Crytek, of course, didn’t make clear how Prophet survived his very real suicide in Crysis 2 (“Nanosuit magic” is the likely medical explanation), but he’s the playable character. The mission we saw had Prophet en route to save Psycho (Crysis Warhead’s protagonist), who was being held underground, presumably by CELL.
It’s still set in NYC. The year: 2047, 20 years after the end of Crysis 2.
...but Crytek is using an absurd plot device in order to make new environments. IGN’s Mitch Dyer made this observation while we were talking after the demo last night. In order to remove the Ceph spores still circulating in New York’s air, CELL erected “nanodomes” in the city itself, sphered-off greenhouses that hyper-accelerate the plant growth within them. It’s a ridiculous premise, but Crytek says that these terraformed zones let them modularly make savannah, canyon, swamp, and other environments.
It’s unclear how sandboxy Crysis 3 will be. Crytek and EA’s big, read-off-a-teleprompter marketing line was “adaptive sandbox gameplay” last night, but the demo I saw didn’t showcase any true openess. Perhaps it wasn't long enough to do so, but there’s no reason yet for me to believe that Crysis 3 will allow any of the wandering, boat-stealing, or getting lost that the original offered. Structurally, what I saw felt like Crysis 2—urban in its scale and structure.
Weapons are more over-the-top. This was a high point. Your compound, auto-loading superbow can equip shock (stun) or explosive warheads. One long-range bow kill used a behind-the-arrow camera. At the very least, Crysis 3 will be a game with a gun that shoots 500 rounds a second (the "Typhoon"). A Heavy Mortar tore up a Ceph Devastator with plasma grenades and plasma missiles, splashing neon blue all up the street. Prophet can use Ceph weaponry (“It’s a little like District 9,” Crytek said), but a disadvantage to the alien arms will be that fresh ammo for them can’t be picked up. Once they’re drained of ammunition, you throw them away.
You’ll fight many of the same Ceph. The 5-minute demo I saw mostly featured familiar enemies: Ceph Devastators, a Ceph Pinger, a dropship, and plenty of Ceph Grunts. And though they were too busy being killed by the aforementioned aliens to fight back, Crytek indicated that CELL soldiers would be another enemy.
...but some new ones. I saw the Ceph Scorcher, a slithering, metallic creature with a flat, fin-shaped head that could pop up on four legs (it’s the first quadrepedal creature in the CryEngine) to spit lines of fire, and Seekers—hovering, unarmed probes (roughly the size of a Manhack) that scan with a searchlight and deactivate your cloak if they spot you.
You can hack stuff. Hacking is the only new Nanosuit ability that’s been revealed. From what was demonstrated, it’s a one-button mechanic for making enemy devices fight for you. From the second floor of a faceless office building, Prophet moused over a tall turret and activated a hack. A progress bar filled. The turret opened fire on nearby Ceph, and Prophet sprinted along toward his objective.
DX11 at launch. Crytek Senior Creative Director Rasmus Højengaard confirmed to me that DX11 will be in at launch. He was less concrete about what graphics options Crysis 3 will make available. (At launch, Crysis 2 offered four measly settings to adjust at launch: resolution, v-sync, HUD bobbing, and one of three pre-defined quality settings).
Crysis 3 will be set within New York city in 2047. It's been overrun by nature and encased within an enormous "nanodome" constructed by the corrupt Cell corporation, who've decided to start conquering bits of planet Earth by building giant domes around them. I've read the press release several times now. That really does seem to be their plan.
Never mind that. Prophet is back. He's managed to sneak into New York's "Liberty Dome" to hunt down Cell, but the alien Ceph (in their sleeker, Crysis 2 forms) are still present in large numbers. It looks like we'll be fighting both across the large, sandbox rainforest that's grown up around the ruins of the big apple. Crysis 3 is due out spring 2013.
The liberty dome will contain "seven distinct and treacherous environments," according to Crytek, though they don't mention what they'll be like. At a guess I'd say jungle world, lava world, water world, desert world, alien world, not-quite-destroyed city world and ... nano world?
Prophet will go to war with an "enhanced Nanosuit" and some "devastating alien tech." More importantly, he'll also have a bow. There's mention of additional attachments in multiplayer that'll likely be available in the single player campaign, too. It'd be surprising if there weren't different types of ammo as well. It'd be nice to see some Thief-style devices, like noisemaker arrows, and a few less subtle explosive variants. We'll have to wait for Crytek to show more to see what that bow can really do.
A bunch of pre-order options have already been announced. They're due to show up on Origin at some point. There are three options. The Stalker pack gives you the game, early access to the semi-automatic Jackal shotgun with a few exclusive bonus attachments, like a silencer and a new weapon skin. The Overkill pack grants you early access to the Typhoon assault weapon in multiplayer and the Predator pack unlocks the Feline submachine gun and exclusive skin.
Release is a long way off, but we don't have to wait at all to see the first screenshots. They're as pretty as you'd hope from a CryEngine 3 game being handled by Crytek. Click to nanogrow them.