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Crysis 3 (Xbox 360) artwork

Crysis 3 (Xbox 360) review

"CELL agents are the orcs to your Legolas."

Crysis 3 asset

In the first mission of Crysis 3, Prophet – or Alcatraz carrying Prophet's reincarnated spirit, or whatever the hell is going on there – is tasked with getting through an area full of CELL guards and is given, by his old buddy Psycho, the Predator Bow. Prophet is unimpressed. Psycho then claims that the bow has enough raw power to drop a rhino, uses several different arrowhead types, and can be fired while under cloak. He lists these as if they're selling points. They are, for about five minutes.

For those unfamiliar, Crysis is a series best played on higher difficulties. Its big draw is that your nanosuit gives you a number of special powers – armor, invisibility, speed, and strength – that make even ordinary situations open-ended in approach, and naturally these shooters reach their peak when the opposition is relentless and you're forced to make inventive use of the options available to you. Crysis 3 gives you all of these options, but it also gives you a bow.

The bow sucks. That's not to say that it's a bad weapon – no, on the contrary, it's so overpowered that it damn near breaks the game and makes every other tool in your arsenal feel extraneous by comparison. It can one-shot any standard enemy, and it's got explosive, electric and anti-personnel heads. And it's got three different draw strengths, one of which can pin targets to walls. And you can fire it while under cloak without revealing yourself. And you can retrieve and reuse arrows that you've fired, effectively giving the weapon unlimited ammunition. Your combat visor – the one that already pinpoints enemies, hazards, ammo drops and collectibles – will even help you locate them. The only real downside to using the bow is that it's not much of a reflex weapon, thereby making it not terribly ideal in open combat, but then this is the series that takes pride in allowing players to avoid open combat altogether.

Crysis 3 asset

To its credit, Crysis 3 offers all four difficulty settings right out of the gate, but I can testify that even cranking the game up to Superhuman doesn't make any strategy not involving the Predator Bow any less irrelevant. The game's a lot more fun if you restrain yourself, but that's like saying that if a game has a lousy soundtrack, I can just listen to my iPod. A flaw is a flaw, and Crysis 3's stealth is unbalanced as hell. I rarely felt the swaying tension that defined the previous two games, nor was I forced into much quick thinking. Factor in a new perk system and the ability to hack gun turrets remotely, and Crytek seems to have misunderstood the appeal of its own franchise. Crysis may be a power fantasy, but that doesn't relieve them of the responsibility of leveling the playing field. CELL agents are the orcs to your Legolas.

For those still on board with the story, Crysis 3's is, in stark contrast to whatever the hell was happening in the last game, refreshingly straightforward: the aliens are still here, and they're being controlled by one particularly large alien, and you've got to kill that large alien. It's simple but noteworthy, because this marks the first time in which the Ceph aliens have actually improved a Crysis game. They went from ruining the original to becoming largely interchangeable with humans in the sequel, and now they show up halfway through Crysis 3 to provide some much-needed challenge at long last. The enemy design is more varied, AI behavior is less predictable, and the Ceph are packing some serious firepower that actually proves something of a match to your bow. So while you'll slide through the campaign's first few levels with ease, the latter half is where it really finds its footing.

Of course, the second half is also where Crytek dumps all of the clumsy vehicle and turret sections that no one wants, but hey, I'll take what I can get, I suppose.

Crysis 3 is beautiful, but I expected that. What I didn't expect was for it to be to visually striking, and yes, there's a difference. This past generation has taught us that the apocalypse will be a drab, dusty place, but Crytek would have us believe that even the destruction of the world's biggest city would leave us with something lush and vibrant. New York as depicted in Crysis 3 literalizes "concrete jungle," melding your standard urban environments with bright greens and a sharp sense of verticality. If you've ever looked at the final shot of overgrowth-flooded Midgar in Final Fantasy VII and wished someone would make a game set in there, play this. Crysis 3 is a perfect marriage of the previous two games' aesthetics.

Crysis 3 asset

What it's not is a perfect marriage of the previous two game's play styles, as Crytek purported. It's frustrating, because I've always felt that this series has housed the ingredients for a genuinely perfect FPS. Combining the original's large-scale level design with the sequel's consistency would yield that result, but instead, Crysis 3 is just... more of Crysis 2. For as vast and breathtaking as its levels appear, they're still pretty linear, save for one open-ended mission near the end that's a bit too little, too late. That would all still be fine if the combat itself offered a proper degree of variance, but the bow reduces too much of it to overly simplistic stealth. It's only when Crytek really ramps up the challenge that the game recaptures the brilliance of its predecessors, but that doesn’t happen very often.

If there's a bright spot anywhere here, it's the multiplayer. I'm surprised to hear myself saying that, since Crysis 2's online offerings were little more than soulless Call of Duty worship with none of the elements that make the single-player stuff so unique. There's still plenty of that (up to and including a mode that just removes the special powers entirely), but they've thrown in a couple of game types that actually capitalize on the nanosuit. My favorite is Hunter, which pits two nanosuit agents against a team of player-controlled CELL operatives, recreating the tense cat-and-mouse game that's a bit too absent from the campaign. It's fun stuff (especially as a trooper, since you'll finally feel the dread that comes with being a disposable NPC in a game like this), and it demonstrates that Crysis multiplayer is starting to feel like its own thing.

There's still room for improvement and expansion, but it's a step in the right direction, which is more than I can say about Crysis 3's single-player mode. This puts me in an uncomfortable position as a critic, because how do you judge a sequel that generally undermines what made its predecessors so special but still offers more variance than your typical genre offering? I'm torn between my frustration that Crysis 3 is so much shorter and easier than it should have been, and my undeniable desire to see more shooters with the color and depth that this series still offers pretty plentifully. Let's split the difference and call this one a seven out of ten.

Suskie's avatar
Freelance review by Mike Suskie (February 22, 2013)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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