As much as first-person shooters evolve—what with new weapons, armor abilities, and creepy new alien enemies (if we're talking the sci-fi brand)—there's always a key component to any good game that most seem to miss the mark on.
We forget that the protagonist is perhaps more than the silent, big-bodied bulk of strength capable of taking on massive waves of armed men and fictional creatures. We forget that enemies have backgrounds, too. We forget that being in the midst of war—being the sole savior, being tied down to an image of a hero—can be frustrating for the lead character whose clunky boots you step into. Because heroes don't usually show their weaknesses. We never really get to see beyond their helmets to look at their expressive faces. Do they even have expressive faces? Who knows.
Crysis is a strikingly beautiful series from Crytek where you'll combine the powers of first-person perspective shooting and stealthy hunting of humans and aliens alike. It's somewhat open, somewhat linear, but full of tactical power granted to you by the mysterious technology of a nanosuit.
Crysis 3 peels back the layer of nanosuit to look at what the reconstruction of the human body has done to these soldiers. If you played the original game, you'll remember Psycho, who returns in this third title of the series. He's one of those that were skinned in a painful process that most don't even survive. It's a cruel, cold-hearted procedure whose purpose I'm still not clear on even four hours into the game.
Psycho represents everything that too many games forget: humanity. The man behind the kill score. The broken, confused, still viciously-talented-at-killing man behind the gun. The human behind the soldier.
Halo 4 did this to Master Chief recently, with such touching execution than we've ever seen from a Halo story.
After my demo event, I IM'd our own Kirk Hamilton (who will be reviewing Crysis 3 for us) about what I played and what I thought. I figured I'd share our chat here with you in the raw:
Kirk: how was crysis?
Tina: i liked it! i love that bow and arrow
Tina: it reminds me a lot of halo 4
Tina: in terms of the direction that the series is taking
you played the first game?
Tina: crysis? nah actually. i just read up on all of them
this is the first i've actually played
which might be why i like it
I actually think it might be good
I like both games
crysis, at its best, was better than crysis 2
but it had a lot of low points too
Tina: well first off this one has the bow
Kirk: crysis 2 was an underrated game, I thought
Tina: i should play it
they seem like my kinda games
Kirk: good action, insane-ass graphics on PC
Tina: dude even on 360 the new one looked GORGEOUS
Kirk: but I don't understand why Crytek won't just let the games do more of what they're good at, which is:
hunting dudes in an open area
enough with the aliens, the boss battles, the corridor shooting
just hunting dudes
after far cry 3, it'll be even more apparent if they're still not getting that right often enough
Tina: yeah so
far cry 3 was another comparison i made
Kirk: how open was what you played?
and how many aliens were there?
Tina: cause you basically go into a camp, mark your dudes, and then go on the hunt
it gets linear at moments, like when you're in buildings
but otherwise its very similar to far cry 3 in that you have an open space
and can choose which route you wanna take, where you want to attack from and how
but you were hunting actual humans?
Tina: here's the thing about "hunting"
i felt that i was, to an extent
cause mid-battle, reinforcements come
and i have to hide and retag everyone
which is obnoxious and it disrupts my gameplan
it sort of feels tensiony, but i would prefer to lay out a plan
Kirk: well, crysis has always been about improvisation
they tend to go more for quick improvisation and using all of the suit's abilities
Tina: yeah i figured it must be a franchise staple
Kirk: which can be annoying
it's not as satisfying as laying a plan out
but their AI is usually good, which keeps things fun
Tina: yeah you'd probably never use the armor-strengthening ability if you didn't have to do that
i can never not alert the AI though
so it makes me feel like i won't get rewarded for a particularly stealthy kill
Kirk: I got very good at crysis 2 actually
(I played that game an almost weird amount)
the trick was getting a sniper rifle and using cloaking, lining up a shot, snapping cloaking off and taking the shot, then snapping it back on and relocating
very fun! in that sadistic stealth-game kind of way
Tina: but they find the body quickly
and then are all on alert
Kirk: yeah that's fine if you keep moving
also, most of what I've played lately in crysis 2 has been on my NG+ kinda thing, where I have all the powerups
so my stealth lasts a lot longer, etc
Tina: true but i want to eliminate an entire crew
and, while creeping up on the last guy, hear him go "wtf where did everyone go GAHHH"
Kirk: those are my favorite kinds of barks, when they freak out
Tina: well it would be if they did that!
cause they're always sort of expecting it
and are too aware of the surroundings
but yeah this is the ideal game for NG+
because you can customize your abilities and amp up the crossbow, for instance
Kirk: well, it'll be interesting I guess
I sense it'll be a lot like crysis 2 but with a bit more open levels
which is fine, if boring
Tina: i didn't even get to play around with upgrades
which feels like the best part
Kirk: it's ok
well, just like
another crysis game
those games are profoundly boring in every aspect except for their gameplay
lame, perma-angry characters
no charm or wit
did your character talk?
were you playing as prophet?
Tina: yeah and yeah
Kirk: so he'll have more personality
Tina: oh! so that's the thing
where i liken it to Halo 4
they're "skinning" the dudes and putting them in suits
and one guy who has been skinned already is an emotional wreck
the dude from 1
Kirk: the cockney guy?
he's in it?
he was actually decent. he was the star of the add-on, Warhead
Tina: oohh werd yeah i like him
Kirk: that's good, sounds like they've stepped up the personality
Tina: he's in the first few levels at least
Kirk: now if they can just keep it light and have a little fun
it gets so heavy and dull
Tina: it sounds like it will be
cause the skinning process is very painful and most don't live through it
Kirk: well, I'm intrigued at the very least
the suit like merges with your body
but opens the door to some interesting transhumanism stuff
that, you know, never really reaches an interesting or coherent conclusion
Tina: yeah for real
but this year/last year feel like a year where people are taking their narrative a deeper direction
like for halo that kinda thing was never investigated
and crysis as far as i know similarly
Kirk: yeah, true
Tina: i love when you take a character you're invested in, and finally open him up
like, you've played as this character for so many years, and have built so many memories with him
but did you ever really think about what it's like to actually be him?
Kirk: sure, though it's amazing that people are able to become interested in characters like Prophet and Master Chief
we're dying of thirst in the desert!
at least this masked robot person has a voice!
it doesn't take much to get us excited
but it's a start
Kirk: yeah and people become RELIGIOUSLY attached to master chief
Tina: yeah it's strange
it's definitely a source of strength
an admiration thing
but i love breaking people down to their core and seeing who they really are
that's sort of what halo 4 and crysis 3 are trying to do
even if it's through the vessel of another character
which might even be better, cause it's proof that it's hard for these characters to open up
but their strengths and weaknesses as human beings is of course still there
it's more like a bravado thing
Kirk: yeah, for sure
it's an interesting thing to do to archetypes as well
I just wish better, more adventurous writers handled it
like, making the guy sad about his lost father is fine
but look at what Watchmen did to the superhero
that kind of shit is like, ACTUALLY interesting
Tina: yeah total tear down
Kirk: it's always baby steps, it can feel frustrating
like, let's do Basic Character Development 101 on master chief
(I still haven't finished Halo 4! lol)
Tina: haha yeah i think they're worried about taking too far a step
and freaking everyone the fuck out
Kirk: which sucks
if the game is good no one will care
no one cares when the story sucks, after all
Tina: it does
it doesn't pay to be though
Kirk: make it a sick-ass shooter and go insane with the story
people will still buy it
look at what FC3 at least attempted
I mean there were attempts at boldness in there
and when it came down to it no one gave a fuck about successes or failures because it was a good game
Tina: man what a good game
I might be being optimistic, or hopeful, but I think there's great potential in Crysis 3 to turn the series from a solid first-person shooter into a solid first-person shooter with more heart than we're used to in these kind of games. If things go well, we'll get a Crysis 3 that develops on the personal relationships and struggles of the actual people in the game, on top of a fun, tactical, sometimes stealthy and sometimes guns-blazing hunt of human and alien enemies alike.
Some last notes for you, from my scribbles during the event:
- Everything feels very real. The thick grass, the smudges on your visor, even your hyper-awesome suit feels real. If we're gonna pretend to be all powerful, you might as well be able to really feel that when you play.
- Struggle between wanting that machine, that power, and being human. Forget how much you've sacrificed because of the dependency you've developed on the nanosuit.
- Claire, a scientist/researcher who I shouldn't say much more about in fear of spoilers, is a bitch. She called me a mutation.
- There's a vicious, electric-charged shotgun type of weapon that is super effective at blowing aliens away.