When one thinks of this industry's true tech-driven developers, one doesn't have to think too hard. Count them on one hand—Id, Epic, DICE, Valve, and Crytek. When these teams reveal their games, the titles often feel more like tech demos than game demos. Last night in San Francisco, Ca., Crytek debuted Crysis 3, and it was very much like seeing a tech demo.
OK, it was a tech demo.
So let's be honest: CryEngine 3, which runs Crysis 3, is an in-your-face, razor-edged visual sledgehammer that will wow you. The demo I witnessed didn't stray from the now clearly-understood memes the game industry is known for: dazzling light effects, enormous guns, and even bigger explosions, aliens, and deaths. The presentation was a muscular audio-visual display of powerful technology. And demos like this don't come around too often.
But the experience was bigger than just better shaders, more lens flares, and bigger vistas. For those who played Crysis for the PC in 2007 or last year's multi-system sequel, you know the Crysis series has always been about setting up new ways of playing. The innovations each of the games has brought, whether they're multifunctional weapon sets or futuristic interfaces and suits, delivers a great gameplay experience, too.
Crysis 3 takes place in 2047, 20 years after the events in Crysis 2, and it returns to New York. The Big Apple has been obliterated, severed, and contained. Director of creative development Rasmus Hojengaard explains that in the aftermath of the ongoing war with the Ceph—the futuristic alien race that arrived on earth to eliminate all human life in Crysis 1—and the ever-expanding control of the international conglomerate, Cell Industries, New York has been sectioned off into containment domes. (Check out the game's new trailer up top.)
Remember the dome in the sci-fi film Logan's Run? How about the Halo in Halo: Combat Evolved?
Cell Industries has developed domes to contain Ceph threats and eradicate remaining alien cells. The drastic cleansing method means that all human life has either been moved out of the nano domes, or wiped out by the alien diseases. The domes also create perfect gameplay sandboxes. "We wanted to go beyond your standard urban war field," says Hojengaard. "The architecture of the domes gives us the ability to create a distinct artistic vision. The domes act like super-accelerated greenhouses, and in each one there are different geographic regions. In this demo we're seeing the swamps. They also tie into our gameplay philosophy."
Our demo started one-third of the way into Crysis 3 in a rainforest dome, replete with croaking frogs that leaped through the level's murky creeks. Called the Liberty Dome, it contains the "Seven Wonders"—a "wonder" represents a different geographical type, such as grasslands, swamps, rain forests, etc. And each wonder shows off Crytek's "AAA" gameplay philosophy: Assess, Adapt, and Attack.
Players will slip on the nano suit of the character Prophet, who returns from the dead in Crysis 2 (apparently he didn't die). "We brought Prophet back because he has the most heritage; he's the most layered, flawed, and the most interesting characters in the franchise," says Hojengaard. "He was a good soldier before, but now he's returned to find out what happened to his squad (killed in Crysis 2) and to redeem himself by becoming the hunter, not the hunted. It's the theme of the game, redemption and revenge."
Prophet starts the demo inside an abandoned building within the Liberty Dome and his nano suit enables him to read the new hostile situation accordingly. Sneaking through the shadows, Prophet's gaze identifies enemies, their threat level, and the weapons they wield, giving him an idea of what he's up against. This is the assessment.
Now he can adapt to the situation. Should he run in with guns blazing or pick them off one by one? Prophet's nano suit retains many abilities, the first of which is an invisibility cloak, enabling him to sneak quietly in the shadows—or silently kill. Before dropping down into the swampy muck, Prophet slings his tech bow with a standard arrow and kills a grunt-level Ceph. On the ledge below, he spies three more enemies. He quietly slays them all.
The tech bow might raise some eyebrows. What on Earth is such an archaic weapon doing in such a futuristic game? "The tech bow brings new functionality to Crysis 3," says Hojengaard very seriously. "In the previous games, weapons drained your energy. The tech bow doesn't. Also, you can use it while cloaked, giving Prophet certain advantages."
The arrows come in a couple of different flavors, standard and explosive (and we expect Crytek to reveal more in the future). Moving forward, Prophet sees a new Ceph enemy called a Seeker (or Decloaker), a small, scout hovercraft that can recognize the nano suit and send up an alarm. Silently taking out the Seeker, Hojengaard switches to an explosive warhead and lights up a squadron of Ceph in the near-distance, starting in on the third phase: attack.
The rest of the 10-minute demo featured full-on combat ranging from straight-up headshots to actual melee uppercuts, using assortment of weaponry and attack styles. There were some surprises concerning the new nano suit. In Crysis 1, the nano suit was not a multi-tasking suit. Players had to switch from one mode to another, one at a time. In Crysis 2, the suit could multitask. One of the new features in the third game is Prophet's ability to wield enemy weapons, not an option in previous games. EA hasn't revealed everything about the suit's new functionalities, but it's clear the suit has been infused with alien technology that enables it to adapt to alien weaponry. Crytek's visuals showed how, one-third of the way through the game, the nano suit was having trouble identifying various alien weapons, with confused numbers and tech phrases popping up.
For a sandbox FPS, the bow won't always be useful, so Prophet will have to pick up alien guns. One of them is the Typhoon, which shoots 500 rounds per second (yes, that's not a typo, 500 rounds per second). The other is a heavy mortar, which shoots plasma grenades and plasma missiles.
Another new ability is hacking. After zipping around and kicking the crap out of a bunch of Ceph, Prophet quiets down and sneaks over to a two-story building in the bush and spies a turret. From a distance, he hacks it. As it starts to mow down its own kind, he rushes toward a massive red tower structure, encountering new enemies such as the Scorcher, "the first quadruped in a Crygame," and a Pinger, a Star Wars AT-ST-type walker. "The hacking characteristic gives us a deep and varied level of play we didn't have before," says Hojengaard.
All this splendor, and yet Crysis 3 is still a ways off. Scheduled to appear on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in Q2 2013, Crytek's shooter will likely be one of the last wave games of this current generation. There was no mention of a multiplayer game, although certainly Crysis 3 will have it. We expect to see EA dribble lots of details out across the coming year, with E3, Comic-Con, GamesCom, PAX, and TGS coming up between June and September.
EA and Crytek showed off a playable title that, since the series debut with Crysis in 2007, has matured in character and grown in design complexity, has deepened with layers of options and gameplay styles, and continues a path of innovation. It's a tech-driven game, but one that consistently scores high with hardcore gamers. Here's hoping the game remains as important as the tech that's driving it.
So don't get too excited, OK? Actually, given it seems to be little more than a tease for a longer trailer, it'd help if you don't get excited at all.
When we talk about games, the word "immersion" gets tossed around a lot. It's generally held to be a good thing: If a game has amazing graphics and audio, and a convincingly built world, we will become immersed in it to the point that it feels real.
But is it the right word? Is it actually something for which video games should strive? Does the word have meaning at all?
In this cool video essay, game academic/critic/Critical Distance maestro Ben Abraham takes a look at the word and the concept and draws some interesting conclusion. Attention, he argues, is a more useful term than immersion when talking about games that command us sensorially. Vitally, games require attention at some times but not at others, and the best games that are thought of as "immersive" (including Far Cry 2 and Crysis) give players space to find their bearings so that they're not overwhelmed when it comes time to pay attention.
The video's also got some some thoughts on Starcraft 2, the awesome theatrical production Sleep no More, Enter the Void, Uncharted developer Richard Lemarchand's by-all-accounts brilliant GDC talk, and books. Yeah! Just like, regular books. That you read.
Attention and Immersion [Ben Abraham Dot Net]
Yesterday brought official word that a profitable videogame would see a follow-up. Surprise! But while we got to ogle a few Crysis 3 screenshots, we didn’t get to see it in motion. We still don’t, because life is harsh and cruel and that’s a lesson that we all need to learn at some point. Now go to bed without having any dinner. Once you wake up tomorrow, starving and miserable, we might just let you watch this footage of the latest update to CryENGINE 3, which might just offer some visual hints about what to expect from Thrysis. Included – more ear-shaped ears, diving fish-guys, a man with multi-coloured stubble, the kind of fantasy castles that we all wish Skyrim had, a lovely waterfall, a man taking out his existential rage on a window and a shed. (more…)
Here is a poorly-kept secret: I’m not a very tall man. Here is another one: Crysis 3 is happening. Even before evidence turned up last week, a fourth nanosuited adventure seemed something of a given, but it’s taken the EA-Crytek announcengine this long to formally confirm the next game. I’ve just played Press Release Bingo and I’ve got a “stunning”, a “state of the art”, an “unparalleled visuals”, an “ultimate”, a “leveraging the latest technology” and enough pre-order unlocks to kill a small horse.
Confirmed: we’ll play as angry baldy man Prophet (those who’ve finished Crysis 2 can probably work out why that’s the case), that bow and arrow is legit, it’s due next Spring, it’s using CryEngine 3, it’s going to have “sandbox gameplay” and it’s set in a New York trapped inside an Nanodome which has caused it to transform into an ‘urban rainforest.’ (more…)
This morning EA and Crytek have officially unveiled Crysis 3, the third installment of the high-tech military shooter franchise and the second set in New York City's lush rainforests and teeming swamps. Wait, what?
The first Crysis took place on a tropical island. The second Crysis took place in New York City. The third mashes these two environments together, thanks to the power of the sinister Cell Corporation's Nanodome. Yes, New York City has been encased in a bubble and transformed into an urban rainforest, with seven distinct environments (known as the Seven Wonders) ready to put Prophet's skills and technology to the limit.
It's the perfect place for a bow, as it turns out, like the one we saw during last week's leak.
"Crysis 3 is a thrilling mix of sandbox gameplay, advanced combat and hi-tech human and alien weaponry that shooter fans will love," said Cevat Yerli, chief executive officer of Crytek via the official press release. "Leveraging the latest CryENGINE technology, we're able to deliver seven unique themes that offer stunning and visually loaded gameplay experiences. We cannot wait until people get their hands on the game."
And EA cannot wait to get fans lined up to play. Despite the game's 2013 release date, Origin is already taking preorders, with customers that commit early to the Crysis 3 Hunter Edition scoring early access to the bow weapon and double experience points in multiplayer up to level five.
They've even lined up retailer-exclusive preorder bonuses already:
So yes, EA and Crytek would really like you to play Crysis 3, eventually. Did I mention the hunter has become the hunted, and that everyone is a target in Prophet's quest for retribution? I probably should have. That sort of originality must be lauded.
With Crysis 3 on the way, even if we know almost nothing about it, we can at least guess it'll feature improved visuals from the second game in the series.
Especially since developers Crytek just announced a range of upgrades to their proprietary engine, including "revamped DirectX 11 tessellation, advanced character rendering options" and an "improved AI system".
What does that mean? Pretty things can now look a little prettier. As you can see in the video above.
Free CryENGINE 3 SDK 3.4 available [Crytek]