Ah, So That's Why Crysis 3's First Level Is So Terribly SlowIf 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.

Modder MaLDoHD, who has done some very fancy work on Crysis 2, discovered that, for whatever reason, the ropes used in the level to hold up cargo containers are cutting people's framerates in half.

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.

Performance bug in Crysis 3 first level [MaLDoHD, via PC Gamer]


Remember the dancing CELL soldiers from Crysis 2? No? Well, either way, the easter egg is back in Crysis 3—all you have to do is press a certain button while in a certain menu. Check out this video by Game Front to see what I mean.

Also visible: frogs and robots. And, sure, Prophet himself (but that's not as interesting!)

Feb 21, 2013
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Crysis 3: a first-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic, alien-invaded New York, in which you wear a Nanosuit which enables you to temporarily become invisible, damage-resistant or able to leap moderately-sized walls in a single bound. It has a lot of graphics. It’s out now in the US, and tomorrow in the UK. Here is an opinion.> (more…)

PC Gamer

In this week's debate, Evan argues that Crysis 3 is the best-looking game in gaming, while Tyler isn't wooed by its tessellated vegetation and volumetric fog shadows. It's undeniably impressive tech, but does Crytek still wear the graphics crown?

We assault, parry, and counter-parry on behalf of both sides in the debate below. Make your own case in the comments, and jump to the next page for opinions from the community. Evan, you've got the floor:

The Debate

Evan: C’mon, Tyler, have you seen Crysis 3? Go ahead, look at it. I’ll wait here.

Tyler: Oh, I've seen it. CryEngine is technically fantastic. Just like Thomas Kinkade was a technically skilled painter. But do I like his paintings? Not at all. Now Evan, I know you've seen BioShock Infinite. If Crysis 3 is a Kinkade, BioShock Infinite is a Norman Rockwell.

Evan: BioShock is beautiful, and I’ve talked with Irrational a bunch about what they’re doing to make the game look as good as it can on PC. Infinite’s art direction is inspiring, but I don’t think its fidelity and effects approach Crytek’s stuff, to be honest.

Man, we sound like a stereotype of teen girls, don’t we? “Oh my god Tyler, Orlando Bloom is so much cuter than Ryan Gosling, I don’t even know you anymore.”

Which would be a better date, Crysis or BioShock?

Tyler: Psh, Gosling is way cuter, but I see your point. If not technical quality, we're arguing a subjective preference for one style or another. But we can still argue it. Art criticism is valid, and if it isn't, my doodles are just as special as Crysis 3’s art direction, because that’s just my opinion.

Evan: We have to consider both sides, though. Crysis is totally concerned with maximum performance, and that theme extends to the technology that drives the art as well as the art itself. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all, but Crysis also wins from a quantitative standpoint. The gun models are carefully animated, but they’re piled with polygons. Wall textures in obscure corners of levels are given an unusual amount of care, but they look higher-resolution than any other game. In terms of raw texture quality and the 3D and 2D assets Crytek puts into the game, it’s evident that Crysis 3 is the prettiest thing on PC. Even the damn grass is innovative.

Tyler: I see we've hit the semantics hurdle already. It's hard to avoid in debates like this, but let's try to leap over it. “Prettiest” can mean a lot of things. I’m not taking it to mean “great anti-aliasing” or “look at all that grass!” To me, it could mean Limbo’s black and white film reel or Mirror’s Edge's stark playgrounds. Can you argue for Crysis 3 on those grounds?

Evan: Sure, but as PC gamers we’re interested in what our handmade machines can do. If someone asked you “I just built a PC. What game will really show me what my hardware can do?” would you recommend Limbo over Crysis 3?

Tyler: Alright, maybe not, but if you want to go technical, mods make Skyrim and GTA IV way more fun to look at than Crysis 3's rusted metal and overgrown foliage. iCEnhancer is insane.

Evan: iCEnhancer is a terrific mod. It’s a great demonstration of what’s possible on PC. And I don’t want to shrug off the effort it took to make it, but it isn't a comprehensive approach to creating something visual and interactive. It’s CG for the sake of CG. It’s novelty, to some extent, like the Star Wars special editions. Great visual design originates from an artistic vision and having the technology to convey that vision. Crysis has both sides of that.

Tyler: So you agree it’s not just about cranking up the polycount, but I disagree that Crysis nails the vision side of things. If I were going on vacation, I’d much rather book a tour through Skyrim’s snowy peaks and shimmering lakes.

Evan: Yeah, it’s obviously not all about stuff like polycount, but if we’re comparing two 3D, first-person games, the technical quality of assets matters. It’s the reason Skyrim’s characters appear slightly flat to me—they feel like inexpressive NPCs, and Psycho feels like a virtual person.

Skyrim's Mr. Corn Cob Horns

Crysis 3's Psycho

Tyler: Your counter-argument is vanilla Skyrim, but I'll go with it anyway. Yeah, it's got some blurry bits, but a trip to New Zealand with my glasses off is still better than visiting a movie set with 20/20 vision.

Skyrim is so full of character and variety. It's got this unique sense of scale, where mountains somehow feel like huge miniatures. It's got- well, I could go on, but instead I'll just show you my tribute to it:

Crysis 3 just doesn't do that to me—It's got some lovely swaying grass, but for all that foliage it doesn't feel alive.

Evan: Skyrim is pretty, but not nearly as impressive. I guess I judge visual experiences more on how intensely (and how often) they produce that feeling of “I can’t believe this is coming out of my PC.” Or “I can’t believe this isn't pre-rendered.” Those moments that raise the bar in my mind of what computers can do. Crysis does that more than any other game for me.

Tyler: Does it? Crysis 1 got us so used to holding the series up as the benchmark for PC power that it’s become our default, but it’s not 2008 anymore. Have you seen Witcher 2 with ubersampling? It’s called “ubersampling,” man, how could we ignore it? And don't forget about RAGE. We didn't totally love the game, but damn it looks good.

Sorry buddy, id is still the tech leader. Since you like comparing characters:

A passive gaze in RAGE.

Evan: Two bandanas? CryEngine can only render one; I am defeated.

But yeah, I actually had forgotten about RAGE. It speaks to id’s technical strengths that they can take a brown setting and make it look that beautiful. I’d be willing to say that RAGE’s acrobatic mutants are better-animated than Crysis’ bad guys. But I’d rather be in Crysis’ sunny, overgrown jungle than RAGE’s bright, barren desert.

Psycho in his debut role on Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Tyler: No fair choosing such delightfully dramatic lighting.

Evan: I just like the idea of Psycho telling me a ghost story behind that flashlight.

Tyler: It'd probably be way better than some silly story about slapping a “Nanodome” over New York. Forget about people faces, there’s something really special about RAGE's rock faces. Look at them for a while, and you realize that they haven’t had a tiled texture slapped on like, say, almost every other 3D game before RAGE. The whole surface has been hand painted with virtual texturing. Yeah, that’s something John Carmack invented. Have fun with your dumb non-virtual textures.

I asked id’s Tim Willits to help explain, and he said something that's hard to argue: “Michelangelo could not have painted the Sistine Chapel using procedurally generated textures.” Hear that? id Tech 5 would totally be Michelangelo’s preferred engine if he were alive today. Alright, maybe that's not exactly what he was saying, but it makes the point: an engine that removes limitations from the artist enables better art.

Evan: Virtual texturing is an exciting technique, and I’d love to see it used and iterated on more. But innovations in how flat, static surfaces are rendered don’t excite me as much as the improvements Crysis 3 made to lighting, animated vegetation, and character tessellation. The game has more moving parts, and they all feel authentic. Here’s a trailer that pans through some of the improvements:

Tyler: Alright, so that’s some stunning simulation. I especially like the “dynamic water volume caustics.” Still, I think you might have something else to say about “flat, static surfaces” when Arma 3 comes out. Its scale is incredible and the lighting is gorgeous, but check out that repeating ground texture. Blech! It and Crysis 3 would benefit from id’s technology and artists.

Evan: Oh, whatever. Arma 3 is a huge step forward from Arma 2, and I could even write a massive defense of Arma 2’s visual design, flawed as it is. The animations are rigid, and most of the textures look like they were picked up at a garage sale, but it’s one of the few games (with Crysis) where I go out of my way to run through grass because I love how authentically it animates.

It’s easy to be critical of all of these games. I don’t like Crysis 3’s overuse of motion blur (though some console commands can help with that). But we’re here to name a king—the best-looking game on PC. And I think Crysis’ sci-fi setting, neon weaponry, uncompromising approach to movie-like effects, and Crytek’s incredible engine represents the best-yet combination of aesthetics and technical quality.

Tyler: We'll see about that. You managed to derail my train and put it on the tech track, but now I’m re-railing it: objectively, both CryEngine and id Tech are superior to Unreal Engine 3, but BioShock Infinite is still better-looking. It’s got more style than Crysis 3 has blades of grass, and that’s where it counts. The magic isn't in the fancy shaders or even virtual texturing: it’s in the idea-havers and the art-makers.

Follow Evan, Tyler, and PC Gamer on Twitter to react to our battle prompts as they happen, and see how the community responded to this one on the next page.

@pcgamer modded or un-modded? Because I'm pretty sure you can make Skyrim look better than real life if you install enough mods.

— superkillrobot (@superkillrobot) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer technology wise? Probably. Art direction? Imagination? Notsomuch.

— Tony Heugh (@standardman) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer Definitely, no contest.

— Jake (keyboardN1nja) (@keyboardN1nja) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer For me, I gotta say Battlefield 3.

— Tribesman Gaming (@tribesman256) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer it is definitely, by far, the best unmodded game in terms of raw graphics ever. It just is. Real time caustics. 'Nuff said

— Kai Moseley (@Kibby_Cat) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer Yes, from a tech perspective. Psycho's model is IMO the most realistic looking human model in a game yet, coming from a #BF3 fan.

— Gerardo Pena (@Tobi5480) February 20, 2013
@pcgamer Crysis 3 does look fantastic, but something. about the snowstorms in Skyrim just blow me away.

— NSVG Blog (@NSVGBlog) February 20, 2013

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...


Reviewers Think Crysis 3 Is—Surprise—Really, Really PrettyMuch 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.

Reviewers Think Crysis 3 Is—Surprise—Really, Really Pretty


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.

Reviewers Think Crysis 3 Is—Surprise—Really, Really Pretty


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.

Reviewers Think Crysis 3 Is—Surprise—Really, Really Pretty


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).

Reviewers Think Crysis 3 Is—Surprise—Really, Really Pretty


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.

Reviewers Think Crysis 3 Is—Surprise—Really, Really Pretty


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.

Reviewers Think Crysis 3 Is—Surprise—Really, Really Pretty


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.

Reviewers Think Crysis 3 Is—Surprise—Really, Really Pretty


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.

PC Gamer
Crysis 3 armor mode

Though Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli is under a non-disclosure agreement from both Microsoft and Sony to not MAXIMUM BEAN-SPILL details on their next-gen console reveals, that doesn't prevent him from preaching a bit to the Nanosuited choir. Speaking to Eurogamer, Yerli flatly proclaims the hardware rift between modular PC setups and the upcoming console family makes it "impossible" for the latter to match beefy battlestations.

"It's impossible to package $2,000-$3,000 worth of hardware into a mainstream—let's say $500—console," Yerli says. "I'm not saying they are $500 consoles. They may launch a console at $2,000, but the consumer pricing is usually much lower than that. So, given consumer pricing, and given the cost of production of a gamer PC and the amount of wattage and power it needs, which is like a fridge, it's impossible."

Yerli believes PC gaming's flexibility with swappable hardware components and the range of possible configurations gives it a competitive edge against consoles.

"The whole modular way you can design a PC today with two, three, or four graphics cards in them, and you can water-cool them and overclock to infinity, that didn't exist even six or seven years ago," he says. "You just bought one or maybe two graphics cards and then you were super enthusiastic.

"It's very difficult to compete with that. People have these massive nuclear power plants standing in their rooms that will run your games really fast. It's hard to compete with."

Crytek's sleek Crysis franchise boasts a long-standing reputation for pushing the limits of hardware as far as it can, but in the realm of consoles, Yerli admits the studio's efforts to drive graphical innovation only progressed so far.

"It was like a five or ten percent gain," he estimates. "That's it. We improved quality on consoles both visually and perception-wise through different techniques, not just brute force technology. So I think it's above Crysis 2 on consoles.

"But the PC version, because the specs are now much more evolved—this is two years later, effectively—this is two generations of PCs we could leverage and DirectX 11 is fully rolled out, so now we could really push it," he continues. "I made a joke at one point saying, 'We're going to melt PCs,' and I think we're going to melt PCs again. People want that, and we'll deliver that."

It seems Crytek decided to unleash the full might of its CryEngine 3 workhorse after hearing requests from hardware-philes for a game to truly churn their machines.

"With Crysis 2, we tried to make the specs available to as many PC gamers as possible," Yerli explains. "Then we heard back from the loudest group, which was enthusiast PC gamers, who said, 'Our PCs are running this game at 200 frames. What the hell? We should be running at 30 frames.'

"Our graphics programmers said, 'We're going to give them a game they can't run any more.'"

We accepted the challenge of running the un-runnable and dived into the brush and rubble of Crysis 3 for our review, which you can read right here. Also check out <a href="" target="_blank">Eurogamer's full interview.

How To Advertise A Video Game In A British TabloidWhen 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.

And this:

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).

Puss in suit! [The Sun]

Feb 19, 2013
PC Gamer

An action hero’s weapon is an extension of their identity. They’re inseparable implements, representative of their approach to combat and justice. Bond’s silenced PPK. Batman’s iconic boomerang. Mjölnir and Thor. Even Popeye’s transformative spinach says something about him as a character.

What does the Nanosuit say about its wearer in Crysis? That the player has a need to improvise, a need to see-saw between being an assassin and being a brute. “Press Q,” reads the manufacturer’s tag on the collar, “to harden your skin like a brick wall. Press E to become as transparent as a pane of glass. Tumble dry low.”

Crysis, at its best, is a franchise that puts you in situations where the Nanosuit doesn’t do the dirty work for you, but simply serves as a springboard for spontaneous problem-solving in hazardous battle-playgrounds. Crysis 3 doesn’t deviate from this template, but it does mostly repeat Crysis 2’s interpretation of it. It’s a less sandboxy and groundbreaking one than the original Crysis, to be sure, but linearity isn’t an inherent sin. Crytek’s shooter remains one of the best-looking games anywhere. It’s acrobatic and deliberate, especially in multiplayer, and an expression of what PC hardware can do.

New New York
Crysis 3’s campaign feels more of a continuation than a reinvention of Crysis 2. You’re still in the Big Apple, though one that looks like your neighbor’s house when they’ve been on vacation for a month, leaving their mail to pile up and yard to overgrow. Paramilitary bad-guy corporation CELL has taken credit for your heroic effort in the last game, and while you’ve been asleep they’ve gotten busy exploiting some secret power source to revitalize ruined NYC. Enormous, spherical barriers called Nanodomes have been erected to accelerate ecosystem growth.

At the start of the story you’re sprung from a stasis pod by Psycho, a former fellow Raptor Team member, to join a rebellion against CELL. Psycho and others have been “skinned” of their Nanosuits, making you, Prophet, the only one on the planet. Cue the standard “you’re humanity’s savior” spiel: Prophet’s unique bond with Ceph DNA grants him new power, but also exposes him to potentially being controlled by the Ceph hivemind. Psycho’s vendetta to find out who separated him from his superskin motivates the first few hours. He joins you as a temporary companion character on missions to sabotage a few well-designed CELL facilities, like a hydroelectric dam.

My hope was that this plot and the terraforming power of Nanodomes would be natural excuses for Crytek to create a broad set of exotic environments. And my worry was that Crysis 3 might simply coat Crysis 2’s somewhat-claustrophobic city blocks with moss. In 2011, I criticized the sequel’s narrowness: “Expressing your abilities as a player demands vertical and horizontal space, and there’s slightly less of it in NYC than I would’ve liked.”

Psycho's presence isn't unwelcome, operating as a passive guide for Crysis 3's first couple hours.

"My worry was that Crysis 3 might simply coat Crysis 2’s somewhat-claustrophobic city blocks with moss."The level design of Crysis 3 falls somewhere in between this gulf of opportunity and familiarity. “Urban rainforest” as an aesthetic isn’t really strayed from, and if anything, it feels under-expressed in that it’s never taken to its natural extreme. The world rarely seems wild. I never felt like I was in an NYC that’s been swallowed whole by the Amazon. A few areas filled with meters-high marsh grass are the exception. In one of my favorite sequences, Crysis 3 threw packs of Ceph Stalkers—melee assault units with scythes for arms—at me in a railway car graveyard submerged in a wavy green ocean under the sun.

The Ceph Stalkers didn’t bolt directly at me. They didn’t magnetize to my position like most game enemies. They darted. They took indirect, lateral routes. The stalks of grass quivered, but in a way that obscured the true orientation of enemies. I remember emptying a shotgun into the brush, still unsure if I clipped one. I felt anxiously, wonderfully lost. I couldn’t tell if I was in Central Park or Jurassic.

This was a legitimate “the floor is lava” scenario. In a panic, I perched myself atop one of the railcars, a rusty island. Four Stalkers, by my count, were orbiting the car, pouncing in the jungle bed like cheetahs. I gripped a grenade, pulling the pin before I even knew where I was going to throw it. The grass flickered at the opposite end of the ruined train. I chucked the bomb, holding my breath. Ten gallons of bubblegum blood sneezed out from behind the end of the car. A radar blip faded. The whole arc felt like playing Marco Polo against jungle raptors.

This moment—feeling alienated on Earth—is an outlier, unfortunately. Structurally, the level design has improved some: two chapters feature caves, and an above-average turret sequence or two, but mostly gone are the subways, parking garages, sewers, and elevator shafts of Crysis 2. The campaign also sprinkles in optional secondary objectives—no substitute for a proper sandbox, but they’re decent carrots that pull you away from primaries. Some are as simple as clearing a set of mines around an light armored vehicle using the Nanosuit’s new hacking mechanic (a timed button-press mini-game that’s appropriately complex). In some cases, completing these side missions grants functional benefits: liberating the LAV let me catch a ride with them through a segment of the map, operating their turret as they taxied me. In the same chapter, a mortar team volunteered their services after I killed some Ceph harassing them, unlocking the power to call in artillery strikes.

The Bolt Sniper, one of Crysis 3's terrific Ceph weapons. A CELL soldier gestures toward some higher power in his final moment.

Foreign imports
Most of what you shoot in Crysis 3—the CELL weapons—are copies of what you shot in Crysis 2. I’m fine with that: Crytek’s near-futuristic ballistic guns don’t need replacement. Instead, the number of violent bells and whistles you can attach to conventional weapons has multiplied. One of the basic rifles, the Grendel, can be mutated from a sci-fi M4 into a ridiculous death platform. Throw a miniature version of the Typhoon—a new SMG that spits 500 bullets per second—under the barrel as an attachment. Swap in a muzzle break to improve the accuracy of your first shot. Load a mag of 6.8mm AP ammo (if you’ve found one of the special ammo caches) for greater penetration. Even shotguns get access to electric buckshot.

The déjà vu of handling the same weapons is offset by Prophet’s newfound ability to wield Ceph guns. Each of these devastating power weapons pulls from a single, small magazine of ammo. They’re intentionally disposable; as long as you don’t mutilate an alien with explosives, you can steal their flamethrower, lightning sniper rifle, or absurd plasma minigun that transforms into a wide-firing plasma shotgun. Firing each of these produces the same pleasure I felt when I first fired the Combine Pulse Rifle in Half-Life 2: giving enemies a taste of their own medicine. Their power is offset by the weight they place on Prophet (you can’t leap as high when holding a Ceph weapon), and by the loss of the ability to swap freely between standard firearms and the new Predator Bow.

"The déjà vu of handling the same weapons is offset by Prophet’s newfound ability to wield Ceph guns. "On the receiving end of these guns, though, I found the Ceph to be a little tamer than they were in Crysis 2. Ceph Stalkers are underused. Devastators, formerly the alien tanks of Crysis 2, fall easily from the basic Ceph Grunt weapon, the Pincher Rifle. Ceph Spotters, floating drone-spheres that can zap you with EMP, were almost unnoticeable in the campaign. The new Ceph Scorchers are a bright spot. When attacked, they pop up their torso like a tower shield, making them invulnerable to direct assaults. They’re scary, glimmering little scarab-tanks—even when you’re hidden, they’ll intermittently torch an area while on patrol, like a camel might casually spit.

Turning the difficulty to Supersoldier (the fourth of five settings) did make things more comfortable (i.e., uncomfortable). Some of the increased ease of Ceph-killing is owed to the ability to wield their weapons, but more of it is due to the Predator Bow, which has a unique advantage within Crysis: firing it while cloaked doesn’t interrupt invisibility. It’s also permanently in your inventory. Crytek mitigates the Predator’s power a little by making its ammo scarce, but because you can recover basic arrows from victims, and most enemies die from a single, full-power shot, the bow occasionally feels like an easy way to clear a room. I still consider it a good addition to the weapon set because it demands being careful and deliberate in a way that Crysis’ other weapons don’t.

CELL soldiers are beautifully-modeled action figures, covered with overlapping military kit.

Invisible war
It’s remarkable how well Crytek’s UK division has made Crysis’ overpowered pajamas work in multiplayer. Migrating the mechanics of invisibility and near-invulnerability into a balanced arena can’t be easy. Online play, like the campaign, does feel more like a renovation than original work. Even one of the 12 maps, Skyline, is a reskin of the popular Crysis 2 level of the same name. But this whole side of the game feels as affectionately made as it did in 2011, and anyone that played the previous multiplayer should welcome more of it.

Some of the mode’s cleverness comes from Crytek worrying more about what’s fun than what makes sense within Crysis’ canon. In multiplayer, the Nanosuit’s stealth and armor powers operate on two separate batteries, not a shared pool. You can cloak and then immediately activate armor mode with no penalty. This wrinkle encourages a heavier use of stealth—armoring-up, bagging a kill, and then cloaking away is a viable getaway maneuver.

What I love about the the ubiquity of invisibility in competitive play is the way it makes seeing and listening necessary skills. The pace of movement in multiplayer—fast respawns, bottomless sprinting stamina—exceeds Call of Duty, but I rarely fall into the tired meat grinder mindset that I usually do in that franchise. It’s mitigated by two things: a killstreak system that doesn’t shower skilled players with ridiculous bonuses (you also have to earn rewards by retrieving enemies’ dropped dogtags), and the need to observe the world around you and absorb every drop of audio to stay alive. The sound design, vibrant and functional as it is in the campaign, clearly communicates threats and events. Footsteps betray enemy positions. Distant, crackling firefights let you know where you’re needed. Metagame accomplishments don’t overpower the moment-to-moment combat. When you penetrate an enemy’s armor, it crunches like a trillion walnuts, an effect that coincides with a shower of neon marbles falling off an enemy’s body.

"The the ubiquity of invisibility in competitive play makes seeing and listening necessary skills."Imitating the campaign, multiplayer maps are also sprinkled with the new alien guns. They operate as arena-style power weapons, but their rarity and limited ammo assures that they never grant more than a handful of kills. Their presence doesn’t fundamentally change Crysis’ multiplayer into Quake or Halo, but it does make it more interesting. As does the addition of passive aircraft on some maps. On certain modes, you’ll spot an empty CELL VTOL. It hovers softly around the map like a turret-strapped ice cream truck. Hopping into it makes you a target, but even though it’s as slow as a crippled carousel horse, I loved the platforming challenge of sprinting up a ledge and leaping in before it flies away. You feel like Bruce Willis.

Hunter is Crysis 3's best multiplayer mode.

Creative mode design also continues to be a strength. Among eight modes, the stand out is Hunter, an asymmetrical, infection-style game type that matches two Nanosuit players against 14 CELL soldiers. Unless they’re hit with an EMP grenade, the Hunters are permanently invisible, with Predator Bows and a bottomless stealth battery. Everyone has sparse ammo. Playing as the prey, CELL, you feel like a bunch of teens thrown into a two-minute horror movie—you’re equipped with a proximity alarm, which pings like a paranoid steel drum whenever a Hunter is close.

"You feel like a bunch of teens thrown into a two-minute horror movie."It’s such a wonderful rearrangement of the mechanics. As a Hunter, you feel a ton of urgency, as a CELL, you’re balancing the safety of sticking with your teammates against the potential protection of isolating yourself in a far-off corner of the map and hoping you get ignored. There are also massive body shields in the environment that CELLs can pick up. In my finest moment, I cornered myself with one of these as Hunters encircled me. With my doom a certainty, I threw the shield at a cloaked player in front of me, crushing him with it in a final blaze of hilarious sacrifice.

Even with all the praise I’ve thrown at it, I worry about the longevity of Crysis 3’s multiplayer, based on how people seemed to abandon Crysis 2’s after release. It’s a minor tragedy that people don’t seem to see Crysis as a multiplayer game. They still think of it as the GPU-eating titan it debuted as.

Really, it’s both. Crysis 3 is launching with the same advanced settings Crysis 2 took months to add. That includes high-resolution textures and DirectX 11 support, and all the effects knobs you’d expect: shading, lens flares, shadows, water, anisotropic filtering, and more. Less scientifically, it looks as good and plays as well as anything on the platform. Every particle effect—from the flash of sparks when you pull the trigger on a Typhoon, to the radial detonation of an airburst arrow—is candy coming out of a piñata. CryEngine’s lighting makes mundane corners of the world feel authentic. The score, too, is outstanding, retaining its hints of Hans Zimmer despite the composer no longer being involved. Every moment benefits from the thudding, modern action movie music (that never resorts to dubstep in a search for relevance), songs intermingled with understated electronic sounds.

Crytek hasn’t pushed itself with Crysis 3. Compared to the wonderland that say, Far Cry 3 drops you into, its world is low on moments-of-awe per hour, and on the hours you’ll spent in it: I finished in about nine. The legacy left by Crysis, assuming this is the last we’ll see of the franchise in the near future, is much different than the craterous impact the original game made in 2007. It’s still a terrific, dazzling action experience with a core mechanic that empowers you, and ultimately, this feels more like Crysis 2: Episode 2 than a sequel that deserves your maximum enthusiasm.

Crysis 3: The Kotaku ReviewYou'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.

Crysis 3: The Kotaku Review

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:

Crysis 3: The Kotaku Review

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.

Crysis 3: The Kotaku Review
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.

Crysis 3

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.

Crysis 3: The Kotaku Review

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.