Built with CryEngine2, the original Crysis raised the bar for PC gaming graphics in 2007 with stunningly detailed visuals that crippled even the fastest of rigs. Looking back at our first Crysis performance article, which was based on the game's demo, the fastest GPU available at the time (the GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB) struggled to average 30fps when running at 1920x1200 with high quality settings on DirectX 10.
Given how punishing the first game was, we were excited to explore 2011's CryEngine 3-based Crysis 2, but it was quickly apparent that the second installment wouldn't be a repeat performance. Not to say it didn't look better, but relative to Crytek's first title, the sequel didn't really set any new benchmarks. It was just another computer game that made great use of DX9, though DX11 was eventually patched in.
Fast-forward two years and Crytek has given us another opportunity to hammer some hardware with the arrival of Crysis 3 this month. Like the second title, the third installment has been built with CryEngine 3, though that doesn't mean you should expect lousy PC features, as the engine has been updated with improved dynamic cloth and vegetation, better lighting and shadows, and plenty more.
Plus, PC gamers won't have to wait for graphical extras. Crysis 3 launched with high-resolution textures, DX11 support and plenty of customization options that set it apart from the diluted consoles builds. The result looks incredible and we get the feeling this will prove to be the game that folks who are heavily invested in multi-GPU setups have been waiting for. Here's hoping we aren't woefully disappointed.
We'll be testing 18 DirectX 11 graphics card configurations from AMD and Nvidia, which is considerably less than the 29 we tested for Far Cry 3 because even with the medium quality preset activated, there are almost no low-end graphics cards that can play Crysis 3, even at 1680x1050.
The latest drivers will be used, and every card will be paired with an Intel Core i7-3960X to remove CPU bottlenecks that could influence high-end GPU scores.
We're using Fraps to measure frame rates during 90 seconds of gameplay footage from Crysis 3's first level, "Post Human." The test starts as soon as Michael "Psycho" Sykes hands you his backup weapon, we then simply follow the party leader until the time runs out.
We'll test Crysis 3 at three common desktop display resolutions: 1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600, using the DX11 mode. For the very high-quality test, we'll set the "overall quality" in the video quality menu to very high while also setting the SMAA level to 1 (low). The high and medium-quality tests will also be conducted with SMAAx1 enabled.
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition (3072MB)
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 (3072MB)
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7950 Boost (3072MB)
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7950 (3072MB)
AMD Radeon HD 7870 (2048MB)
AMD Radeon HD 7850 (2048MB)
HIS Radeon HD 7770 (1024MB)
HIS Radeon HD 6970 (2048MB)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 (4096MB)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 680 (2048MB)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 670 (2048MB)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 Ti (2048MB)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 (2048MB)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 650 Ti (2048MB)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 (1536MB)
Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 Ti (1024MB)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 (1536MB)
Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition (3.30GHz)
x4 4GB G.Skill DDR3-1600 (CAS 8-8-8-20)
Gigabyte G1.Assassin2 (Intel X79)
OCZ ZX Series 1250w
Crucial m4 512GB (SATA 6Gb/s)
Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
Nvidia Forceware 314.07
AMD Catalyst 13.2 (Beta 6)
High Quality Performance
Ramping up to high quality, the GTX 680 landed square on the 60fps mark when testing at 1680x1050, while the GTX 670 followed with 55fps and the HD 7970 GHz edition was forced into the 4xfps territory with the GTX 660 Ti. It seems like the non-Ti GTX 660 or the HD 7950 are about as low as you'll want to go, as both were near the 40fps mark with the Nvidia card on top by 3fps.
At 1920x1200, Crysis 3 kicked the GTX 680 10fps below our ideal and the GTX 670 joined AMD's flagship in the 40fps range—albeit with a 5fps lead. The HD 7970 GHz Edition averaged 41fps, narrowly beating the GTX 660 Ti by a single frame.
Crysis 3 is barely playable when running on high at 2560x1600, with the GTX 680 and HD 7970 GHz Edition barely offering 30fps. If you want play with these settings on a single-GPU card, you'll likely need Nvidia's new GTX Titan.
Very High Quality Performance
With the high quality preset being so taxing, we wondered if there was any point in testing on a more intensive setting. But we did, and things aren't pretty—or, well, they're too pretty. At 1680x1050, the GTX 680 managed 44fps and stood as the only card to exit the 30fps range, which is populated with the GTX 670, HD 7970, GTX 660 Ti and HD 7950 Boost, though anything below the HD 7970 GHz Edition is pushing it in our opinion.
Not much needs to be said here: the GTX 680 is your only hope of achieving playable performance, barring the Titan or a multi-GPU solution.
This is the resolution I typically game at with one GTX 680 and, naturally, I like to crank everything up. That's not an option here. We'd be interested in seeing how a pair of GTX Titans in SLI perform.
Well, actually not the future. The present. See, when first they announced the Oculus Rift VR headset, I thought, "Oh, virtual reality. I liked The Lawnmower Man. This should be weird."
Then, modder Nathan Andrews got the headset working with Half-Life 2, and I thought, "Oh, wow. Okay. I'd love to use this thing." Now he's done the same thing with the original Crysis, and watching the above video, my feelings are somewhat more refined: "Yep, I still want to play this thing. Also, I miss the first Crysis."
Behold, independent head and arm movement. Nifty. Andrews notes that he hasn't yet modded the crosshairs to track properly, which is why his aiming is a bit off. He's using a Mag II gun controller, which he says works well. If you want to see what it looks like with him wearing it, check out the Half-Life 2 video linked above.
So how far would you guys say we are from full-on Far Cry 3 cybersex here? A month? A couple months? Like, four months?
"Nanotechnology offers unprecedented possibilities for progress—defeating poverty, starvation, and disease, opening up outer space, and expanding human capacities. But it also brings unprecedented risks—the specter of devastating wars fought with far more powerful weapons of mass destruction." - Chris Phoenix, Director of Research, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology.
When you step into one of the games in the Crysis series, you step into something called a "Nanosuit." It makes you a stronger, better soldier.
The Nanosuit is supposedly made up of a material called CryFibril, also referred in the game as Nanoweave or Nanofiber. CryFibril is the single most important component of the suit, as it is the medium for the various Nanosuit functions. In Crysis 2, the CryFibril got a major overhaul, making the Nanosuit lighter, stronger and more energy efficient.
Someone at Crytek must have been doing their homework because CryFibril looks suspiciously like a recent real-world breakthrough in nanomaterial technology.
Rise of the digital battlefield—war v2.0
Medical and military scientists alike claim that nanotechnology will transform the future as we know it. With the global proliferation of nanoscale technologies, from the research bench to the consumer market, it is both inevitable and fast-approaching. The question remains though, what will the future landscape look like? The answer really depends on who you ask.
My previous article about nanotechnology in video games—specifically, the Metal Gear series—took a glimpse at how nanotechnology could completely revolutionize the future of warfare. Using some not-so-far-fetched science, soldiers and machines can be integrated into a massive command-and-control network with the help of computers, epidermal electronic sensors and wireless communication systems. The central combat environment would provide detailed battlefield information and control to commanders in real time, in what Colin Milburn (nano culture researcher), dubbed the "Digital Battlefield". Or maybe more appropriately: War—the video game.
"Taking inspiration from the Future Warrior 2020 program, we developed the Nano Fibre Suit [a.k.a Nanosuit) that can enhance strength, speed and armour levels. The player can max the speed and dash across an open field, change to the strength setting and silently punch out a sentry." - Bernd Diemer, Senior Game Designer, Crytek 2006
Does the suit make the man, or does the man make the suit?
Crysis 3 is the newest installment in the Crysis series. For the unfamiliar, Crysis 3 is set in the near future (2047ish) and follows the adventures of Alcatraz Prophet, a soldier equipped with a nanotechnology-inspired battle suit, aptly named the Nanosuit. Prophet must protect the human race from complete extension from the Charybdis, a race of technologically-advanced aliens that are dead-set on our destruction. The Nanosuit comes fully-fitted with three primary combat modes: Armour, Power and Stealth. These modes allow Prophet to battle the Charybdis with superhuman abilities. Let's take a peek behind the curtain and delve into the science of the CryNet Nanosuit.
Coincidence? I think not—CryFibril on the left and nanoscale carbon (graphene) on the right
CryFibril—fabric of the future or is it already here?
Graphene (pictured above) is a one-atom thick sheet of carbon arranged in a repeating hexane pattern that has some really amazing mechanical properties. It might not look like much, but the discovery of graphene in 2004 was a big deal. In fact, the researchers were awarded the Nobel Prize just 6 years later, which is almost unheard of. So what's so special about this graphene stuff anyways?
Well in short, graphene is one the strongest materials ever manufactured. It has a breaking strength 100 times greater than steel and weighs thousands of times less (10,194 times less to be exact). Graphene can be rolled up into tubes, called carbon nanotubes, which are even stronger than graphene sheets. Carbon nanotubes can then be spun together and woven into fibers which are much more flexible and useful as engineering materials, making them the ideal fabric for the Nanosuit. If you can believe it, carbon nanotubes are even harder than diamond. So it comes as no surprise that research is already underway towards developing carbon nanotube composite body armour for police and military applications as well as building an elevator to space, just to name a few ideas.
Graphene can be rolled up into a tube just like a sheet of paper and spun into super strong carbon nanofibers, the perfect material for an armoured Nanosuit.
"From shape-shifting armour to fabric that can turn away microbes, as well as bullets to new power sources, the defense industries are launching major initiatives and planning for Nanotechnology. The basic research in Nanotechnology conducted at these centers will provide the foundation upon which real world applications can be built." - Kevin G. Coleman, Senior Fellow, Technolytics Institute
In a pinch, Prophet can divert power to the CryFibril Nano suit armour to temporarily increase protection from incoming high-speed objects, blunt trauma and energy blasts. This process, called Armour Mode, supposedly tightens up the suit's outer weave, which decreases the suit's power upon impact, rather than valuable health.
Interestingly, there is a real world nanomaterial counterpart currently under development called D30 gel. This protective nanogel is a dilatant non-Newtonian fluid, which is a very fancy way of saying it is flexible when moving slowly, but rigidifies upon impact, before quickly returning to its flexible state again. These types of materials behave very strangely. Check it out on YouTube, you won't regret it. Studies have down that D30 gel can absorb much of the energy from a shock or impact, greatly reducing the damage to the wearer. It is already in use in protective sports equipment and is coming soon to a battlefield near you.
Shock-absorbing nanogel (D30), real life Maximum Armour
When Prophet needs to quickly sprint across the battlefield, leap to cover on top of a Pinger or toss a wrecked car at a pesky group of Ceph, Power Mode is the way to go. Power Mode uses up Nanosuit energy for as long as it is active and grants the player superhuman strength.
How can we rationalize this with some real world science? Well, we could talk about a powered exoskeleton like the Raytheon XOS. This would fit the bill in terms of Power Mode functionally but it is hardly a nanoscale technology. No, we need to go smaller, much smaller.
An international team of researchers lead by Ray Baughman at the University of Texas have come up with a nano-sized alternative. They have developed an artificial nano fiber muscle. These nano fibers are made up of ropes of carbon nanotubes which are twisted together into thicker yarns and set into paraffin wax.
The bundles of nano fibers can contract rapidly when exposed to heat or electricity, up to 200 times stronger than human muscle. The manufacturing process will have to be improved to weave larger fabrics, like our trusty Nanosuit, but the basic premise checks out.
Ropes of carbon nanotubes can be spun into thicker yarns forming high strength artificial muscles.
"Military camouflage outfits that blend with a variety of environments without needing an outside power source—blue, say, when at sea, and then brown in a desert environment—is where this work could eventually lead." - George Bachand, Team Leader, Sandia National Laboratories
Is there an annoying Ceph patrol up ahead guarding the objective? Need to sneak by a sentry and avoid being detected? No problem. Disappear from sight with Stealth Mode. This Nanosuit ability also drains power but makes the wearer invisible. The suit's surface can dynamically scan the surrounding area and modify its skin colour to match in real time. This is the principle behind active camouflage. Animals like the octopus, chameleon and sea horse have already figured it out. Humans, on the other hand, are still working on it.
One of the first experimental active camouflage prototypes came out of the lab of Susumu Tachi from University of Tokyo in 2003. They developed a camouflage system in which a video camera captures the background behind an object and displays it on a cloth in front using an external projector. It didn't really work very well, but it inspired others to try and make their own cloaking machines. There are several new approaches currently under development using metamaterials which can actually bend light around an object. This technology only works for extremely small objects, so what about our Nanosuit?
The secret behind Susumu Tachi's active camouflage prototype
Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories (a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin) have been working on a dramatically different strategy since 2009. The principle is to fabricate a material with differently-coloured lights attached to motors, which are embedded at the surface. These lights can be rotated and turned on and off dynamically to match the colour of the surroundings. Sounds pretty straightforward right? Well it is, until you scale it down to the molecular level.
Their motors are not electric; they are protein motors which run on tiny microtube rails. Their lights don't have bulbs. They are made up of quantum dot nano crystals. Quantum dots are highly fluorescent nanoscale metal semiconductors which can absorb and emit light of different wavelengths (colours). They are commonly used in nanomedicine as imaging and diagnostic tools due to their small size and favourable optical properties.
Now imagine millions of quantum dots that are differently coloured (red, green, blue) all moving around in controlled patterns at the surface of the Nanosuit. By controlling the intensity and position of these quantum dots, and with the proper video input to capture the surrounding environment, you could get very energy-efficient cloaking. While this technology is clearly in the early stages of development, it is an interesting possibility and one to consider for the Nanosuit.
"Video game traditions here shape the way that military nanoscience presents itself to the public... striving for a digital future where wars are rebootable and soldier's lives are replayable, thanks to the struggles of intrepid researches." - Colin Milburn, Nanoculture Researcher, Everyday Nanowars: Video Games and the Crisis of the Digital Battlefield
It is a wild, wild world down at the nanoscale, and scientists are just beginning to scratch the surface. Whether in our socks and sunscreen, or on the dystopian battlefields of the future, it won't be long before products made with nano technology are an inescapable part of our everyday life. I tip my hat at Crytek for coming up with an extremely cool (and more-or-less plausible) science-inspired Nanosuit.
No offence to Alcatraz, I think it is pretty clear that in this case, the suit makes the man.
If you've played Crysis 3 on the PC, you've probably noticed that the first level, even on a powerful system, chugs. Badly. It gets you off on the wrong foot with the game, because you start worrying more about hardware than the experience, and that sucks.
Stick with it, though; bizarrely, as the first level's tight corridors open up into vast expanses of a ruined New York, Crysis 3 runs a lot smoother. Which doesn't make sense, seeing as it should be the other way around.
This weird scenario has a weird solution, though: it's all to do with ropes. Yup. Ropes.
When the ropes are stationary, everything's fine and dandy at 60fps. If they move in the wind or are shot at, though, things can drop to under 40fps (that's the rate recorded by MaLDoHD... for me, it was much, much lower).
Strange, yes, and currently without a fix, but at least now you know it's the game's fault, and not that of your hardware.
The bow and arrow in Crysis 3 might throw off the game's balance, but it's still a pretty cool piece of gear. And it seems every time there's a bow and arrow in a video game, it winds up having explosives attached to it.
In this video from RatedRR, host Richard Ryan loads his compound bow up with explosive-tipped arrows and blows up watermelons in slow-motion. It's about as cool as it sounds. Hopefully next he'll do it while invisible...
Much to the surprise of pretty much no one, Crysis 3 turned out to be quite the looker. But that's just what Crysis does! So what else is there to like? For some, the exciting cat-and-mouse stealth gameplay. For others, the brand new weapons you get to hunt with.
Let's take a look at what they're saying about 2013's newest bow-murder simulator.
As ever with Crytek though, the actual game just seems to be a glorified tech demo for the developer to show off how good it is at making things look really very nice, yessir. In a way it's reminiscent of professional football freestylers, like Mr Woo. Ever wonder why, with all their amazing skill, they're not dominating the actual sport? Because their aim isn't nailing the core elements of the game. It's all about, essentially, showing off. It feels the same with Crytek.
Ah, the bow. Take it as read that Crysis is a shameless Rambo simulator of almost self-parodying intensity, and the bow becomes an excellent toy. With its silent one-hit kills and its ability to be fired while you're still cloaked, it's also the key to understanding which part of the series' DNA Crysis 3 has focused on. Play Crytek's latest as a sinewy sort of stealth game—lurk in the long grass, waiting for your moment—and you'll have a lot of fun.
There are some definite high points, despite the overbearing feeling of familiarity and ease. Some of the quasi-open areas, aside from looking quite beautiful, boast optional side missions with rewarding upgrades or unique weapons. Areas covered in tall grass hide now-feral Stalker Ceph, who run through the greenery and try to hide, before closing in for sneak attacks. These moments are at least quite interesting, and manage to break up the monotony. Vehicular sections make the occasional appearance too, and include an excellent road trip sequence evocative of Half-Life 2's wonderful "Highway 17" level (though with far better buggy controls).
Crysis 3 succeeds not only as a shooter, but as a stealth game too. It's entirely possible to sneak through the game and minimize casualties, and doing so is challenging and incredibly rewarding (should you succeed). The same goes for players who prefer to quietly assassinate every enemy one-by-one. The inclusion of the bow—a silent weapon that doesn't force you to break your cloak when you use it—is a big boon to the stealth experience in Crysis 3.
But new combat features aside, the biggest reason that Crysis 3 is such a consistent joy to play is because its control system is near flawless. The fact that you can quickly augment your weapons with different sights and grips without retreating into menu screens, or the ability to quickly pull out a grenade by double-tapping the weapon-switching button; it all works wonderfully and means there's never any kind of artificial interface standing in the way of your natural instincts. Even on the PC version of the game playing with a controller almost topples the traditional mouse and keyboard: what you lose in mouse fidelity you gain in ergonomics. The exception to the rule on all platforms, however, are the handful of vehicular sections, which feature disappointingly clunky control by comparison.
Experimenting with different strategies is still enjoyable—doubly so, now that it's not nearly as easy to just pop on your invisibility and walk past half of a level—but the most memorable moments arise when the game drops you into less-conventional scenarios. In one segment, you're tasked with hunting down a jamming device hidden in a field of tall grass while you're being hunted by alien Stalkers. In another, you need to traverse a staggeringly large battlefield to take down three anti-aircraft emplacements, but the order—and whether or not you complete optional objectives to gain allied support—is entirely up to you. The big moments here are every bit as impressive as those in a tightly scripted shooter like Call of Duty, but Crysis 3 manages to pull them off without simply shuffling you past a series of cheap façades. There's real, tangible depth.
Despite this laundry list of shortcomings, Crysis 3 still contains flashes of that delightful predatory thrill that makes Crysis games so fun. But they're too infrequent, hidden within a game where fancy tech disguises conservative, uninteresting design. The more I think about and play Crysis 3, the more frustrated I become. Crysis 2 managed to get an admirable number of things right. I would have loved to see the third game build upon that foundation and close the series out with style.
When hallowed British media institution The Sun partners with a video game publisher for some advertorial, as you can imagine, the results are deftly subtle.
The pair have managed to combine detailed coverage of Crysis 3 with a tasteful recognition of the broadening demographics of the video game market. How? By putting a blonde former popstar in bodypaint. Then writing things like this.
FORMER Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts shows she's a kitten with claws—donning full bodypaint to celebrate the launch of video game Crysis 3.
The saucy skin covering was in tribute to the game's trademark Nanosuit, a customisable set of power armour which helps the player battle through hordes of enemies.
But it's fair to say that the game's hero, Prophet, doesn't look anywhere near as good in the outfit as Ashley, with the black-and-grey paint showing off her sizzling curves.
Despite her stunning looks, the 31-year-old blonde admitted: "I might just be cuddled up with Coop. That kind of sounds sad doesn't it?"
And pushed on whether any fellas have stolen her heart since she moved to Britain, she said: "No, not yet...I've been busy, but we'll see."
If she's bored, the latest Crysis title looks like an intelligent answer to your average shooter, asking players to combine stealth with an all-guns-blazing approach to best their enemies.
She could try to kick-start her love life by asking a few fellas around for a game...
Keep it classy, The Sun. You too, EA (or whatever marketing firm repped you on this).
(A warning, if you want to read the whole thing, the images are kinda NSFW).
You're sitting behind the wheel of a finely tuned luxury automobile. The upholstery creaks as you make yourself comfortable; it smells like quality in here. You haven't even turned the key and you can feel the car humming, its tightly-coiled energy waiting to be unleashed. This car isn't designed to make you feel romantic or poetic; it's designed to make you feel powerful.
You run your fingers over the dash. Near the edge, just above the glove compartment, a piece of the dashboard flicks up under your fingers. Huh, weird, how did that happen? It must've come unglued or something. You smooth it down and look at it. There, good as new. You twist the key in the ignition.
The car roars to life! It's throaty and strong! Wait, but did you feel it hitch? Nah, couldn't have been. Smell this leather! Cars that smell like this don't hitch. But… yeah… wait. You hear something, just beneath the rumble of the engine. A high-pitched keening sound, like metal wire spinning round an un-greased spool. You put the car into gear, and it chugs. It chugs? Oh yes, there was no mistaking that: That was not supposed to happen.
You're sitting behind the wheel of a finely tuned luxury automobile. But something's wrong.
That's what it's like to play Crysis 3.
Crysis 3, which comes out today on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, is the third (well, technically fourth) in a series of first-person action games that mix stealthy sneaking with huge explosions, all draped across lush, exquisitely rendered environments. The result has historically been something a bit smarter and more open-ended than, say, Call of Duty or Medal of Honor.
The Crysis series isn't really known for its winning personality. The games don't get by on their stories, or their characters, or their lore. They're not even really all that widely regarded for their gameplay or design. They're known, first and foremost, for their sweet, sweet tech.
The first Crysis was released exclusively on PC in 2007 and almost instantly became the high-water-mark to which all PC graphics were compared. It looked like a PC game from the future: eye-watering sunsets splashing across a shimmering ocean, tiny little frogs leaping through a carpet of jungle-undergrowth. It was the game that PC gamers could lord over their console-owning brethren. Not only was it unavailable on Xbox 360 or PS3, it was commonly held 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 toned-down port.)
The game's developer, the German studio Crytek, has always seemed a bit less interested in making great games and more interested in using their Cryengine technology to make great-looking games.
That said, I've always had a soft spot for the series. I like both Crysis and Crysis 2 in equal measure, though for somewhat 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 musculatures you'll see on display at Body Worlds. The suit gives a distinct advantage in combat against mere mortals, as it allows players to switch between various powerful modes on the fly. There's a stealth mode that makes you invisible like a certain dreadlocked extra-terrestrial, and an armor mode that lets you suck up bullets. There's a speed mode that lets you run super fast and jump super high. You can breathe underwater, and just in case you didn't feel enough like The Predator already, you can activate a visor that allows you to see heat signatures.
The games, then, are entirely about using your suit's powers to stalk and kill dudes. Sometimes you hunt human dudes, and sometimes you hunt alien dudes. This has traditionally been a good amount of fun, because of one crucial balancing feature of the nanosuit—it runs out of energy rather quickly, and you can't stay invisible or bullet-proof for too long before you'll have to pause and recharge. Past Crysis games have always been at their best when players are set loose in moderately open outdoor or semi-outdoor areas, pitted against a bunch of enemies. It's in these scenarios that the games, particularly Crysis 2, start to feel something like the "thinking man's brainless shooter." You'll creep and strike, creep and strike, hiding, cloaking, attacking, hiding and recharging, before pouncing again.
You are a guy named "Prophet," who is the same guy that everyone thought you were for the bulk of Crysis 2, when you were actually a guy named "Alcatraz," though at the very end of that game you actually became Prophet anyway. (I know, right?)
But every time Crysis games get away from that core routine, things become significantly less enjoyable. The back-half of the first game, which was set on a south pacific island, featured giant flying squid-enemies that were a tenth as fun to fight as the overmatched but numerous North Korean soldiers from the opening chapters. The second game, which took place in an under-attack New York City, featured aliens that were more humanoid and a lot more fun to fight, but still not quite as enjoyable as the PMC soldiers of the opening and closing acts.
Crysis 3, unfortunately, spends most of its time lost in the weeds. There's plenty of hunting, but it's sporadic, and changes made to the formula combine with dodgy AI and odd level-design to make the whole thing feel uncomfortable and ungainly.
In Crysis 3, you still wear the suit. Through some plot contrivances that don't really merit a detailed explanation, you are a guy named "Prophet," who is the same guy that everyone thought you were for the bulk of Crysis 2, when you were actually a guy named "Alcatraz," though at the very end of that game you actually somehow became Prophet anyway. (I know, right?) The story goes like this: It's twenty-some years after the events of Crysis 2, and Prophet has been frozen in stasis this whole time, kept under lock and key by a megalomaniacal megacorporation called Cell.
Prophet's old buddy Psycho, who was one of his squadmates in the first game (and was the star of the Warhead spin-off) turns up, older and fatter and conspicuously nanosuit-less, and wakes Prophet up. In the wake of the events of Crysis 2, New York has become a Cell-controlled, bio-domed jungle, loaded with wrecked, overgrown buildings. (It's lovely-looking.) There's wildlife and foliage everywhere. The aliens have been scattered to the wind, and Cell Corporation has gone full-on Lex Luthor—they're trying to take over the world. Time to show them who's boss.
Sounds fine, right? A decent action-game setup. But right from the start, something seems hinky with Crysis 3. The first level takes place at night aboard a Navy cruiser, where Psycho escorts Prophet to freedom. I found myself surprised that I was spending the opening act doing what I've come to think of as the "First-Person Shooter Follow." See here:
I'd follow Psycho to a door, wait for him to open the door, then go through and shoot some guys. Then I'd follow him some more. This kind of thing is de rigueur in a Call of Duty game, but in Crysis? At the very least, it set off some warning bells.
The whole introductory level took place at night, and I found myself fighting my way through small labs, then through bigger labs, then corridors. Nothing felt open, or empowering, or particularly fun. It certainly didn't feel like Crysis. That went on for the game's entire opening act, before the camera finally opened onto a sprawling, day-lit vista. (A screencap of this moment is a bit farther along in this review.) If you're anything like me, this is the point where you'll think, "Thank god, the actual game is starting."
Only it doesn't start. I had to follow Psycho some more, then this happened (This clip is from the Xbox 360 version of the game, wobbly foot and all. Everything else in this review is of the PC version):
After that, I was finally set loose in the urban jungle. Sweet! Oh, no, wait. I wasn't all that loose, actually, because there was a huge missile-launcher in the sky that would blow me up if I became uncloaked out of cover. So I did some tedious linear recon (no combat) for a couple minutes, and then finally, finally, I got to the first open area where there were some soldiers to fight. And… I defeated them handily, because I'd been given a futuristic bow that fires silent, instantly deadly and/or explosive-tipped arrows and I could use it without uncloaking. (More on the bow later.)
I made mincemeat of those poor goons and then moved on… but not to another outdoor combat sequence! Nope, it was time to follow Psycho again, and then head underground and fight some guys in another dark, interior area. Some aliens turned up about 20 minutes later, and it just became more of a mess from there.
WHY: Lovely graphics aside, Crysis 3 is a mostly mediocre shooter in which fancy visuals faintly disguise haphazard design and a lack of technical polish.
Developer: Crytek Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3 Release Date: February 19
Type of game: Tactical first-person sci-fi shooter centered around a mixture of stealth and action.
What I played: Completed the single-player story in around 6-7 hours, replayed several hours' worth of levels on various difficulties. Played a couple hours of multiplayer and a couple hours of the Xbox 360 version. Replayed several chunks of Crysis 2 for comparison.
My Two Favorite Things
When it's pretty, it's damned pretty. In terms of razor-sharp fidelity and near-photorealistic vistas, this is easily one of the best-looking games you can currently play.
Multiplayer has a number of distinctive charms, particularly the fact that every player can become invisibile.
My Two Least-Favorite Things
The last chapter is a chore, the final boss is a mess, and the dénouement is laughable.
Enemy AI just can't keep up with the new, bigger environments, and humans and aliens both behave too erratically to be much fun to fight.
Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes
"I didn't realize my PC could actually physically break a sweat."
-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
"Why would I ever use anything but this bow?"
-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
"This is it: The mediocre game that screenshots will sell."
-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
So that was more or less when I started thinking, hey, there might be something weird under the hood of this supposedly finely-tuned automobile.
Before I dig too much deeper into the design or the writing, let's back up and talk about the tech. That's why a lot of people play Crysis games, after all: They want to make their PC beg for mercy, they want to set their post-FX slider to "low" for the first time since buying that new graphics card. They want to play this game and think, "Yeah, but in three years, when I have a new PC, I'll play this again." Call it aspirational PC gaming. We want to taste the future, even if it gives us indigestion.
I'm running an Intel i5 2.8GHz with 8GB of RAM and a GeForce 660Ti graphics card. It may not be the hottest setup money can buy, but it's not too shabby, and it can run Crysis 2 with all the high-res-texture bells and whistles at a consistent 60 frames per second. It can also run pretty much every other PC game I have, from The Witcher 2 to heavily modded Skyrim, without a hitch.
My computer certainly choked on Crysis 3. I played a review build of the game that Crytek had put together last week, and the game's performance was erratic at best, with some combination of medium/low settings giving me solid 60fps before dipping down to 30 or 25 in certain scenes. Only by dropping every setting to "Low," turning off antialiasing, and running medium-quality textures have I been able to get a consistent 60fps at 1920x1080 resolution. And even then—sometimes it'd drop.
I've been following this NeoGAF thread with interest, as players there have been trying all manner of high-end cards and are reporting similar performance dips. Almost no one seems to be able to get the game to run at maximum settings without taking a significant framerate hit. That said, this stuff is very difficult to get nailed down—I installed Nvidia's newest drivers today, and didn't really see a noticeable improvement, despite the fact that they're optimized specifically for Crysis 3. I'm still playing with textures on "medium" and all my settings on "low." Then again, you may not care about framerate as much as I do. Responsiveness is key for me; I'd rather play an ugly game at a steady 60FPS than a pretty one at 30. And it's worth reiterating that even on low settings, Crysis 3 looks very nice.
I like the idea of a future-ready PC game. And I don't doubt that in three or four years, people will buy this game on sale just so that they can run it maxed-out on their new 8GB GPUs or whatever, just like I did with Crysis in 2010. But at the same time, I have to say that I find Crysis 3's under-performance to be a liiiittle bit of a bummer. The game isn't just demanding, it feels poorly optimized. The fact that it seems unable to maintain a consistent framerate unless I dial it all the way down and even then has dips makes me think that it's just not that well-constructed or stable. It's likely that future updates and patches will iron this out and make the game more consistent, but for the time being, it's a real bucking bronco.
On a related note, the Xbox 360 version of Crysis 3 is a big step down from its PC big brother. I played an hour or so of the 360 version just to see how it compares, and the difference is remarkable. It's still plenty okay-looking for a console game, but it doesn't move all that well. It's too busy for the Xbox's native resolution, and the jaggies and low-res textures make everything look muddy. Not only is the game lower resolution and lacking any of the DirectX 11 particle-porn the PC version so regularly smears onto your screen, the Xbox version's framerate is quite sluggish, which makes it less pleasant to play.
All that said, yes: If your interest begins and ends with extremely high-res PC gaming, Crysis 3 will slake your thirst. And a part of me enjoys that Crytek struts out and throws down this crazy game that's less an entertainment product and more a gauntlet, daring PC gamers to throw their machines against it with reckless abandon. The studio has done a marvelous job positioning itself as purveyor of a product that users don't deserve to use properly. It's hard not to admire their chutzpah. "This game is so awesome-looking that you can't even play it for another two years," they say. "But you know you're gonna buy it anyway, because you just want to see how you stack up."
In summary: It's totally playable as is, though it'd be nice if the damned thing worked a little bit better. And a further caveat on the graphics: While the game looks amazing in screenshots, it doesn't always look so hot in action, even on PC. Animations, especially facial animations, are stiff and waxy. The motion capture is odd, combat animations can be stilted, and characters regularly leave huge gaps of silence between lines of dialogue.
As an open-ended stealth/combat game, Crysis 3 falls well short of the standard so recently set by Far Cry 3. (For example: See that vista in the image above? You don't actually ever get to explore that in Crysis 3.) And as a transhumanist sci-fi adventure, it doesn't match the melodrama and romance of Halo 4 or the moral credibility of Deus Ex. But while those games' shadows stretch long over Crysis 3, the shadow that most thoroughly covers it, curiously, is that of its predecessor, Crysis 2.
I've always thought of Crysis 2 as an underrated game: it's a meaty, largely well-designed shooter that's polished, atmospheric, and gives players a ton of excellent opportunities to creatively blow shit up. It's also superior to Crysis 3 in almost every way. Crysis 2 feels like an ambitious game made by developers who were unafraid to take their time and get things right. Crysis 3 feels like it was hurried out the door, almost as though Crytek was clearing out old business before re-focusing on free-to-play games.
The differences between the two games are apparent from the very start: Crysis 2 almost immediately set you loose in open-air, outdoor environments filled with soldiers. Crysis 3 makes you follow a guy for an hour or so, putting you either in closed rooms or semi-open, darkened areas filled with enemies on high scaffolding who you can't see but who can see you. The new game is also significantly shorter and less narratively ambitious: Crysis 3 plays out over seven chapters, while Crysis 2 featured nineteen. There are smaller differences, too, like the fact that for some reason, Crysis 3 has stripped out Crysis 2's interesting and functional first-person cover mechanic.
Crysis 3 plays out over seven chapters, while Crysis 2 featured nineteen.
To make sure I wasn't imagining things, this past weekend I loaded up Crysis 2 and started dropping the needle on random single-player missions. At every turn, I found a superior game. One minute I'd be fighting aliens in a fraught showdown in the middle of Grand Central Station, the next I'd be helping marines topple a skyscraper in order to block alien mortar fire. Or, I'd be holding a room against onrushing soldiers rappelling from the skylights while simultaneously fending off an attack helicopter. Or embarking on a deeply satisfying stealth-assault on an enemy base on Roosevelt Island, a sequence that was so fun that I became engrossed and played it for the better part of an hour before remembering that I had to go back to Crysis 3.
The harder I look, the more Crysis 3's deficiencies pile up. It's a very short game, but not a particularly focused one. I played through the single-player story in around 6-7 hours, give or take, and couldn't believe the story was moving as quickly as it was. There are only three other characters in the game other than Prophet, and one of them gets about 5 minutes of total screen-time. It's only daytime for two of the game's seven chapters (And remember, by way of comparison, that Crysis 2 had nineteen chapters). The rest of the game takes place underground, in a haze, or at night.
Only one chapter—a nighttime jaunt through the flooded ruins of Chinatown—comes close to consistently capturing the type of sneaky, hunt-y encounters that were so fun in Crysis 2. It's enjoyable while it lasts, but even then feels short-lived. Before long I was behind the wheel of a tank for a stunted vehicle segment, or in the gunner's seat of an airship for a frustrating turret sequence. The game just never settles into a groove, and as a result feels hurried and off-balance.
Here's another unexpected problem: Prophet's bow is overpowered. It's basically a swiss-army-knife weapon that can double as a rocket launcher and can take down any enemy in the game. And, like I mentioned earlier, it's silent and allows you to fire while invisible. There's no need for stealth melee-kills or even silenced weapons, because you can just whip out 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 out of whack.
For an example of that imbalance, watch this a mid-to-late game encounter with an alien patrol:
First, I tag the enemies using my visor. Then, I crouch up across the roof, cloaked. I change the draw-weight to make my bow super-powerful, then I pick them off one by one. It's not just that the bow is overpowered and lets me attack while Invisible. Note, too, how the enemy AI simply doesn't really respond to the fact that their friends are dying right before their eyes.
That kind of thing happens a lot. Here's another example of three guards I came upon during a similar sneaking segment:
(Also note how the music skips right at 0:12. The music actually skipped a lot while I was playing the game. Rough edges, man. Rough edges.)
Bugs popped up throughout my playthrough, from the weird AI to numerous graphical and audio issues. I regularly saw stuff like this:
Or these guys, who froze in place and wouldn't let me get around them to pick up the gear I'd liberated, forcing me to reload a save:
Or this guard I tagged, who then somehow fell upwards into outer space:
Or this vent-cover that I'd clip right through:
Yes, these examples are all little things. Some of those bugs will likely be patched out of the game. But we're talking about a game that has been pitched as this amazing-looking godsend, a beacon of incredible future-tech. A sign of things to come. So I can't help but be disappointed that it so consistently lacks technical polish. Despite its screenshot-ready visuals, there are plenty of current-gen games that exhibit far stronger technical execution than Crysis 3, with the added benefit of actually running consistently on modern computers.
Crysis 3's level design often feels overly narrow, but a couple of times it also feels too big. It's a cop-out of me to keep saying that "something feels off," but that's the best way to encapsulate the design of the game—almost every level just feels a bit off. Disorienting, difficult to navigate, with the open areas feeling too open and the enclosed areas feeling claustrophobic. One later level in particular is very large, but feels too large, and as a result seems somewhat empty. You're given access to a few vehicles, but the level is also dotted with deep pools of water that will swallow those vehicles whole.
Enemy AI seems incapable of coordinating over great distances, and often I'd see an enemy stand still in my sniper-sights, unable to do much of anything except perform an endless loop of ducking into cover, sticking his head out, then ducking back. One late-game side-mission tasked me with rescuing some guys in a tank. I came in expecting to fight off attackers and found them simply waiting for me. They drove off in their tank and invited me to take the gunner's seat. They then proceeded to drive out about fifty yards into the open, and sit there motionless while the enemy blew them apart.
Was Psycho every really anything more than a Cockney accent masquerading as a personality? I guess not.
Crysis 3's story and dialogue are as undercooked as the rest of the game. Enemy guards all seem to have gone to the Splinter Cell school of bad enemy dialogue, regularly yelling stuff like, "He's hunting us!" and "He's using arrows!" and "You think this is hide-and-seek? Show yourself!" At one point I shot a lone guard with an arrow, only to hear one of his compatriots in another room holler "He's using a bow!"
Someone at Crytek seems to have heard complaints about the past games' relative lack of personality, and the writers have attempted a last-minute emotion-injection. This attempt, while doubtless well-intentioned, was not successful. In contrast to the second game, the protagonist speaks and emotes, but it's never convincing. The script attempts to lay out a meaningful theme about sacrifice that never actually coalesces into anything or connects with the events of the story. The writers appear to be under the impression that the theme will become meaningful through repetition alone. I didn't care about any of the characters in past Crysis games, and this attempt to make me suddenly give a damn about their sacrifices feels like a band-aid on a corpse.
Psycho, the freedom-fighter who accompanies you for most of the story, is a dud of a character. Before I played, I was happy to hear that he'd be featured. Now that I've played it, I find myself asking: Was Psycho every really anything more than a Cockney accent masquerading as a personality? I guess not.
In this scene, Psycho gets so mad he gets telekinesis:
The overarching story, which concerns a reborn alien leader and a wormhole-invasion straight out of a made-for-TV adaptation of Mass Effect 3, is nonsense even by sci-fi video game standards. What drama there is takes place elsewhere; you just hear it over your radio. The dialogue is a dispiriting collection of clichés that includes such stinkers as "We're all human, Psycho! Nomad, Jester…. We all fought. Not the god damn nanosuits!"
At one point, a character cries out, "It was never just about the suit!" I always thought it was about the suit. I sort of liked that. It kept things simple. I think it should've stayed about the suit.
Here's a short list of further disappointments:
Collectable audio diaries that must be listened to in the pause menu, but not while playing. They never shed any light on where you are, who the speaker was, or what's going on.
A weird attempt at painting the Cell corporation as a cheerily evil corporate entity that feels inspired by Portal, of all things.
A poorly designed final boss-fight that ditches all of the game's strengths and pits you against a confusing enemy.
Waypoints and objectives that feel unclear, leaving you wandering around a large, empty environment for minutes on end looking for a path forward.
A hacking minigame that feels tacked-on and annoying.
A lackluster map that's hidden beneath one layer of the menu, and a mini-map that is mostly impenetrable.
Grenades that are as liable to bounce off a doorframe and land at your feet as they are to land near your target.
Incredibly vigilant enemies that are able to spot you uncloaked at two hundred yards, even if you're crouched in the shadows.
Multiplayer is a welcome bright spot. Broadly speaking, it's a sort of slick merger of the twitchy iron-sights of Call of Duty and the heavily armored mega-jumping of Halo. In my limited pre-release multiplayer sessions, I was surprised at just how much fun I was having. Multiplayer matches follow the typical templates for these sorts of games—there's deathmatch, team deathmatch, exfiltration and point-capture. What makes it really pop off is the fact that everyone has a nanosuit that can become invisible or armor-tough. It's impressive just how much goofy fun a multiplayer game can become when everyone has the ability to become invisible for brief periods of time.
Crysis 3's new multiplayer mode is called "Hunter Mode," and I had a good time with it as well. You either play as a cloaked nanosuit-wearing "hunter" or a lowly Cell guard. If you're a hunter, it's your job to kill all the guards. If you're a guard, it's your job to stay alive for a set amount of time. If you get killed, you spawn back on the map as a hunter, so the last surviving guard winds up having to outwit a whole lot of hunters. I was surprised to find that the most tense, enjoyable moments of my multiplayer session with Crysis 3 involved me, crouching in a corner, hoping no one found me before the clock ran out:
It was an odd thrill, more like playing hide-and-seek than any more familiar first-person shooter multiplayer mode. That video may seem like the least exciting multiplayer video ever—it's just a guy crouching by a wall! But it was actually more exciting in a way, because it felt so new. I'm not sure I'd play Hunter Mode for more than an afternoon or two, but it's a neat idea, and nice to see more games experimenting with asymmetrical competitive multiplayer.
There are other bright spots: You can still pop a different scope, attachment, or silencer onto your weapon on the fly. The power-jump still has that satisfying "sproinggg!" feeling. There are still moments of badassery, when you'll creep on a guy and take him down, then creep away just before his friend comes around the corner. Oddly, the aliens are now more fun to fight than the humans, but they can indeed be pretty fun to fight. And of course, when Crysis 3 is pretty, it really is quite pretty.
Multiplayer is a welcome bright spot.
But still, so much of Crysis 3 falls well short of the bar Crytek themselves set with Crysis and Crysis 2. The game's publisher EA has assured me that Crysis 3 will be receiving a day-one patch, but I can't imagine it will do too much to change the game from what I played. As I said, it's likely that over the weeks and months to come, Crytek will optimize the PC version to get consistent performance on a wider range of machines. But while those sorts of patches may address some of the more cosmetic bugs I ran into, it seems unlikely that they'll address the game's haphazard level design, poor AI, odd pacing, clumsy script and unbalanced combat.
Despite this laundry list of shortcomings, Crysis 3 still contains flashes of that delightful predatory thrill that makes Crysis games so fun. But they're too infrequent, hidden within a game where fancy tech disguises conservative, uninteresting design. The more I think about and play Crysis 3, the more frustrated I become. Crysis 2 managed to get an admirable number of things right. I would have loved to see the third game build upon that foundation and close the series out with style.
Instead, Crysis 3 is a finely tuned luxury automobile that's not, as it turns out, all that finely tuned. You sit, revving the engine, hoping that weird sound will go away, but it doesn't. It gets louder. You lower the driver's-side window; it gets stuck halfway. You pull down the sun-visor; it comes off in your hand.
Perplexed, you turn the visor over and examine the underside, wondering if it's supposed to come off. Maybe this is a feature? You look up, pause, sniff. Sniff again to confirm. Yep. Beneath the rich smell of the upholstery is the smell of something else. Something less pleasant.
And you stare at the wheel for a couple of moments, and you make peace with the fact that despite its lustrous exterior, this really just isn't a nice car after all.
You'd think with all the vintage rock and classic films and iconic imagery that Vietnam would be the easiest war to if not make a decent video game out of, then at least capture the essence of the conflict.
But nope. We've had the God-awful pastiche that was Black Ops' attempt. Battlefield tried, but Vietnam rivals 2142 for "most forgotten" game in that hallowed series. The less we say about games like Shellshock the better.
Yet here, out of nowhere, comes a Crysis mod, made by Germans, that looks fantastic. It appears to be only a single mission—and in German, which given the setting is weird—but whatever, that music, that foliage and that lighting looks perfect. If only they hadn't skimped on a few of the models, and actually made Jeeps instead of just re-skinning Humvees.
Having been in development for ages now, Vietcry is now available for download.