Crysis 3 preview: nanosuited butchery in the wilds of NYC

Crysis 3 PS3 screens and art

Few games have bested Crysis 2 in terms of making you feel like (and we shudder slightly even saying it) a badass. In most games, being a badass is boring – it amounts to little more than having giant hands, shoulder pads and a reluctance to communicate that surpasses ‘antisocial’.

Crysis 3 preview

Crysis 2, while not entirely exempt from macho cliché, empowered you with a substantial toolbox of satisfying kills that gave you godly – but not unbalanced – power. As such, everyone put up with its slightly tired locations and those flipping aliens. No one will be ‘putting up’ with Crysis 3’s levels.

To an extent it seems another safe move from Crytek to combine the jungles of its first game with the crumbly New York from its second, but the result is basically a breathtaking, enemy-filled Jumanji. New York’s been placed under a biodome by baby-strangling CELL Corporation to contain the alien Ceph invasion, which subsequently covered New York in leaves, vines and waterfalls.

It’s the kind of lush paradise where shampoo adverts are filmed, only Herbal Essences usually omits all the automatic rifle fire. Everything Crytek’s shown so far has been running on PC, so it’s folly to go too crazy about the level of visual awesome, but even a scaled-down version of the wide vistas, extreme close-up detail and convincingly fragile scenery would be sweet, sweet music for our eyes.

Presumably you win the game by riding up to the top of the dome on a motorbike with your troublesome son and flinging away a bomb, but along the way there’s an giant battle brewing between the Ceph and the CELL operatives who’ve been hard at work finding ways to exploit the alien tech. It’s not so much that they both want to kill you – you, Prophet, really want to kill all of them.

Crysis 3 PS3 screens and artHaving witnessed a vision of some future dystopia and become resolute in tracking down a key Ceph artefact that holds untold power, you’re very much the hunter rather than the hunted, and Crysis 3’s new Compound Bow sets off that image rather nicely. Apparently there’s some kind of law that makes bow-and-arrow combat mandatory for videogames at the moment (see also: Dishonored, Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3 and more) but Crytek might just have the competition licked with its hi-tech iteration.

Importantly, firing a standard arrow doesn’t break you out of Cloak mode like weapons did in Crysis 2, which is a boon to stealthier players. The explosive-tipped arrow appeals more to base instincts, though – firing a grenade on a sharp stick deep into enemies’ squishiest regions and giving you a few seconds to watch them flail in horror as the situation dawns on them.

There’s more to be excited about Crysis 3 for than pretty graphics and medieval weaponry, though – it really does look like a return to its sandbox roots. Levels are still clearly linear in a broad sense, but the lines are pretty damn far apart. The Dambusters level we’ve seen starts you off perched high above a tear-jerking expanse, and everything between you and the titular, distant dam is fair game for exploring.

There’s no checkpoint-following: just you, your toys, a giant-dam-sized objective to blow up, and a forest basin full of enemies to execute as you see fit. And this is the strength of the series, magnified here: you feel supremely powerful but also challenged, like Hulk Hogan taking on not just one toddler, but hundreds of them. There’s time to think laterally (or sadistically) and choose your approach when up against one enemy, but as they gather in numbers you’re forced into a more reactive play style. By playing to series-long strengths, Crysis 3 has clearly whipped up plenty of good feeling from you lot. It’s a toybox of futuristic tech that gives your eyes an erection, and in that regard it’s unlikely to disappoint anyone but your optician.