Though nothing to cry over, ‘Crysis 3’ comes up short

by Cody Franklin

02_28_13_Entertainment_Crysis3_CrytekOne mode missing from the nanosuits in “Crysis 3” is “Maximum Disappointment.” Nonetheless, the game itself provides that feature for you. With the release of the third game in Crytek’s “Crysis” series just a few days ago, all I’ve been able to feel for the game is disappointment. Disappointment in the story. Disappointment in how it differs extremely from the first game.

Disappointment in myself for picking up what I knew would be sadness in digital form.

But hey, I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer, so let’s start with what the game does manage to do well.

Graphically, the game is absolutely stunning. However, that is to be expected from the “Crysis” series, which has always brought computers to their little robotic knees. I’m continuously amazed with how life-like faces are becoming in video games, and Crytek sets the new bar for facial realism with every release. “Crysis 3” is no exception.

Likewise, the soundtrack was absolutely phenomenal. On more than one occasion, I found myself lingering in an area long after I had cleared it of hostiles simply so I could enjoy the zone’s music. I was happy to see Crytek hadn’t dropped the ball on music, when they had dropped it in almost every other sense.

Gameplay wise, “Crysis 3” is as solid as ever. The hallmark-fantastic feel of each weapon was apparent, both with the new additions and the old friends of the arsenal. Adding the combat bow changed things nicely, especially when combined with the still-impressive stealth mode; sneaking through the city ruins and dispatching foes by bow brought the “Predator” feel to new heights.

The nanosuit upgrade system from the previous game is back, but with a new twist. Rather than all upgrades applying at all times, you must select four active upgrades. However, the fantastic upgrade user interface allows you to set saved groups that, with just three keyboard clicks, allow you to almost-instantly swap from stealth-enhancing perks to a set of super-strength powers not unlike the Hulk.

If you’re looking for nothing more than to run around killing things aimlessly, or stealth about without much thought the gameplay in, “Crysis 3” will serve you better than nearly any other shooter today. However, the great gameplay is hindered time and time again by other aspects falling far too short.

The artificial intelligence in the game is absolutely laughable. Watching a C.E.L.L. trooper continue to use the computer I just blew up in his face made me die a little inside. On another occasion, troopers continued to take cover behind a rock, nonchalantly standing atop the bodies of the many C.E.L.L. troopers before them that took cover, and died, behind that very same rock.

Level design, though more open than most shooters these days, is a far cry from the original “Crysis.” The player is repeatedly forced into areas that are just exposed enough to give the illusion of player choice in exploration. On the rare occasion when a truly open area appears, I couldn’t help but be reminded these rarities were once commonplace in earlier “Crysis” games.

The story has suffered just as seriously. Cliché after cliché presented themselves as I stumbled through the story, with sizable plot holes threatening to devour me. Crytek offers little explanation for how C.E.L.L., an organization that was so evil and power hungry, the Marines were forced to start arresting them in “Crysis 2” managed to take almost complete control of the planet after being given full control of all alien technology by the government. The Ceph, once enigmatic and terrifying, are transformed into little more than oversized insects with fancy weapons. And, please, never remind me of the clumsy romance between Psycho and Claire that was ham-fistedly forced into the script.

“Crysis 3” is a decent game that cries out to be more than it is allowed to be. The entire experience painfully reminds the player of what “Crysis” once was and what it should be today. Fighting with the futuristic weaponry and sneaking about with the stealthy suit is enjoyable, yet both are held back by far-too reserved level design, awful AI and a lackluster, cliché story. A series that began with so much promise should end with a bang, not a whimper. “Crysis 3” is a whisper of better times past.