“A good soldier knows there’s only one thing he can rely on when the chips are down: Not his cutting edge intel, not his state of the art equipment, and not his top of the line weapon. Just himself; it took me a long time to remember that.” —Prophet
Since the events of last time, which were drafted during Thanksgiving, I’ve watched Prophet fight through the CELL’s facilities, blew their dam to pieces, accidentally activated the Alpha Ceph, and fight to stop CELL from activating the Archangel weapons platform, which, if fired, would trigger a chain reaction that would render the planet uninhabitable. Prophet subsequently resolves to kill the Alpha Ceph, who has since opened a wormhole to the Ceph homeworld and is coordinating an all-out assault on Earth. The Alpha Ceph is killed, and Prophet uses Archangel to destroy the first Ceph warship coming through the wormhole, causing it to collapse and ending the Ceph threat for the present. Throughout Crysis 3, themes about what constitutes humanity linger: unlike the previous Crysis installations, there is a single unifying theme in Crysis 3 that is driven home repeatedly. Thus, even though Crysis 3 might be a remarkably shiny title that reclaimed its throne as one of the best-looking games of all time, the presence of a well-defined theme means that Crysis 3 provides the strongest characterisations and narratives of any of the titles (besides Crysis Warhead). This aspect was not unnoticed by more seasoned reviewers, although one must wonder how these elements allowed Crysis 3 to remain compelling throughout the entire game, while maintaining all of the graphical fidelity that Crysis games are generally known for.
The answer to Crysis 3’s enjoyment value lies in the dynamics between Lawrence “Prophet” Barnes and Michael “Psycho” Sykes: in the years since the events of Crysis 2, Prophet was captured by CELL while seeking the Alpha Ceph, and in his opening remarks, suggests that how he had been able to achieve what he had was through sacrificing his humanity. Meanwhile, Michael resents that CELL skinned him of his Nanosuit, and that without it, he is unable to fight CELL or Ceph. The dynamics between Prophet, who regrets discarding his humanity and Michael, who desires the power to protect those around him, allow the two to act as a foil to one another, and after a major battle where Michael’s love interest, Claire Fontanelli, perishes, the two come to realise what it truly means to be human: it was never about their Nanosuits, but the men using them, that made the difference each and every time. This is the main message in Crysis 3, that to be human is simply to express concern for fellow human beings, utilising all of one’s available cunning and resources to protect one another. Thus, while Prophet has physically become more machine than man, his resolve to beat the Alpha Ceph for humanity’s sake ensures that he remains human, and similarly, while Michael may no longer has a Nanosuit, his resolve makes him as effective as Prophet. Watching this unfold, and watching Prophet come to terms with what he’s become, made each level in Crysis 3 enjoyable, adding the reason to empathise with and be concerned with Prophet’s fate as the game progressed.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The Nanodome is a CELL construct that was designed to allow them to destroy the remaining Ceph and keep the Alpha Ceph subjugated so they could continue harnessing its power. Stepping out here for the reminded me of Crysis‘ first sunset, during which the darkness gives way to light and throws the world into sharp contrast to really showcase the game’s graphical fidelity.
- The abandoned skyscrapers and rusting train yard satisfactorily captures the post-human environment that Alan Weisman describes in “The World Without Us”: in fact, he uses New York as a primary example in his book, and the first real mission of Crysis 3 has Prophet evading NAX to destroy a defense tower, capitalising on the tall grasses and ruined trains as cover.
- That Prophet can pick up and use Ceph weaponry in Crysis 3 is amazing. The weapons cause Prophet’s HUD to take on a blue colour, and are incredibly powerful. A handful of shots are enough to take out NAX’s missile systems, but also leaves the weapon’s battery critically low.
- Crysis 2 had been somewhat underwhelming when it came to graphics, but Crysis 3 takes things through the top. With known specs, I designed my new machine in 2013 to be able to handle Crysis 3 on high settings at 1080p, running at 60 FPS. On the whole, the game was a very smooth experience and there were only some scenes that caused the frame rate to drop to 45 FPS.
- The hanger housing derelict trains is yet another fine example of how complex the lighting can be in Crysis 3 can be: the environment must be fairly dusty if light rays are visible. Here, I’m using the Mk.60 Mod 0 LMG; its high damage and rate of fire makes it quite effective against the Ceph, but it’s hampered by its reload time and low reserve capacity, which means that I discard the weapon once the Typhoon became available.
- Even on “merely” high settings, Crysis 3 looks absolutely amazing, besting out most of the games in my library for the title of “Best looking game”. However, Crysis 3 also excels at storytelling in comparison to its predecessor, and here, I’m keeping two eyes out for feral Ceph stalkers, which continue to roam without the Alpha Ceph guiding it.
- The L-TAG from Crysis 2 also makes a return, although I never really got too much use out of it: its 60mm grenades are quite heavy and fly in an arc, and ammunition for it is uncommon, limiting its usefulness even against tougher enemies.
- The mission to destroy the CELL dam was quite memorable: skyscrapers and streets are buried under 30 meters of water, and on the dam’s other side, the bare foundations of damaged buildings are exposed, creating a surreal environment. I’m guessing that the Nanodome suppresses cold air and wind, otherwise, the pressure on the exposed foundation would have caused some of the buildings to collapse long ago.
- While I predominantly play cloak and close-quarters, there were some cases where I merely wished to try the different weapons out, and here, made use of the DSG-1 precision rifle to pick off distance CELL soldiers. While the weapon can be suppressed and equipped with a variety of scopes, the default setup is the most optimal for the weapon’s role as a long-range weapon.
- This whole scene is quite surreal, illustrating the extent that New York’s decayed since the events of Crysis 2. The Typhoon submachine gun can be found in the dam: chambered for 720 specially-shaped pellets, the weapon is absolutely lethal at close quarters and is said to be able to drop even Ceph dropships owing to its rate of fire. Its overwhelming firing rate makes it an excellent weapon to have, and ammunition for it is surprisingly common.
- After entering the bowels of the facility regulating the Alpha Ceph, Prophet proceeds to destroy the subsystems in the hopes of crippling the CELL system and killing the Alpha Ceph once and for all. However, the plan backfires, as the Alpha Ceph merely becomes awakened and proceeds to coordinate all of the dormant Ceph in the area for a devastating counterattack.
- After this point, the Ceph become common enemies, and consequently, it’s time to put the Nanosuit upgrades to good use. I decided to improve my regeneration, obtained the sensor upgrade (which makes hacking a lot easier), added deflection and improved my stealth module. I play with a combination of approaches, utilising both stealth and firepower depending on the environment, hence my choice to upgrade a variety of modes.
- Because the Predator Bow costs zero energy when fired while the Nanosuit is in cloak mode, it is the perfect choice of stealth weapon: in fact, players going for stealthy tactics can make extensive use of the bow and recover the impact arrows off downed enemies. Special bolts (the explosive, airburst and electric bolts can only be resupplied at special containers, and those are relatively rare). Here, Prophet makes his way through Chinatown.
- The Scorchers wreck havoc with CELL soldiers to the extent where one might feel sorry for CELL: these bug-like machines can be hacked to temporarily stop them, and they drop the Incinerator, a powerful plasma thrower. While killing them conventionally causes them to explode, they can be stunned using electric arrows or by a well-place melee attack in the right spot. The Incinerator is fun to use against Ceph: the weapon produces temperatures matching those in a nuclear fireball and causes the Ceph to explode, but is balanced by a short range.
- There’s a dormant Ceph pinger that can be hacked for use against other Ceph forces, creating a convenient distraction that would allow Prophet to get to the next location. Ceph weapons become increasingly common, although the most common Ceph weapon, the Pinch Rifle, deals roughly the same damage as the SCAR and is less versatile.
- In general, I tend not to use the Pinch Rifle or Reaper cannon from destroyed Ceph units, as the human weapons seem more versatile and adaptive, but for situations where destruction is on the recipe of things needed to complete the mission, the X-PAC mortar and Bolt Sniper are fantastic weapons.
- The Grendel makes a return: it’s a burst fire weapon similar to Halo 2‘s Battle Rifle, and can be customised with a variety of optics barrels and under-barrel attachments. Because all of my special ammo is reserved for the Typhoon, which I’ve decided to carry throughout the entire game, I usually go with the bayonet for the Grendel and grenade launcher for the SCAR.
- The Resistance is unable to prevent CELL from firing the Archangel orbital weapons platform, although at less than five percent charge, the shot is enough to destroy the remnants of New York. As the game progresses, the environments become increasingly sinister, and this is captured by all of the lighting effects.
- The fifth mission is characterised by wide, open expanses that necessitate vehicles to traverse, and while a high speed buggy is available, I prefer the superior firepower that the APC offers. This is the closest to a tank that is in Crysis 3 and although not quite as fun as Crysis‘ Onslaught mission, still provided a fantastic opportunity to use the APC’s cannon to wreck the Ceph Devastator, a massive Ceph that resembles Halo‘s Hunters.
- The Gauss Sabot Rifle is the superior long-ranged weapon compared to the Precision Rifle, taking out any enemy in a single shot (Devastators require two to three well-placed shots), although ammunition is quite rare for it, and one can only hold onto one spare magazine. As a weapon requiring special ammunition, it’s not a good idea to pair it with the Typhoon.
- The penultimate mission is set in a water-covered wasteland with the remains of skyscrapers dotting the landscape. New York is barely recognisable now, and there’s a despondent feel in the air, reflecting on Claire’s death as Prophet is tasked with destroying the Ceph anti-air batteries.
- There is a lot of open space in this mission, and overall, compared to Crysis 2, Crysis 3 returns to the open-world layout of Crysis, with a few linear spots every so often to set the stage for some spectacular-looking set pieces.
- It turns out the Gauss Sabot Rifle is powerful enough to destroy an active Pinger with a full magazine’s worth of shots, although Prophet is also able to tag them and allow an immobilised but otherwise fully functional APC to destroy them.
- The abundance of Ceph in the penultimate mission makes it possible to continuously use Ceph weapons as primary weapons while carrying the Gauss Sabot Rifle and the Typhoon. Here, I make use of the Incinerator to roast another Ceph solider. There are several side missions that can be undertaken here, and I decided to do them just for exploration’s sake.
- At the crashed VTOL, I find an FY-71M, a previous-generation assault rifle seen on the Lingshan Islands that was used widely by the KPA. While technically a decent weapon, its specifications are otherwise inferior to the weapons available at this point, so there’s little point in holding on to it.
- The Ceph Mastermind is the second last boss of Crysis 3, and spawns minions from the parts of destroyed Ceph. The best way to defeat this monstrosity is to grab a Ceph battery to super-charge Prophet’s Nanosuit, and hammer it with the X-PAC until it grabs Prophet, during which Prophet can use the Mastermind’s own energy attack against it. I eventually got to the third phase of the boss fight, and was armed with nothing more than the SCAR (I exhausted the Typhoon), but managed to beat it.
- The last mission is set in a vast underground cavern filled with Ceph, and although Prophet is only armed with a pistol and the Predator bow, a good bit of stealth and precision shooting will allow Prophet to access the more powerful weapons. After interfacing with the Ceph terminals, the Nanosuit becomes supercharged, so in conjunction with the X-PAC, Prophet becomes a death machine.
- Here, I find the X-43 MIKE, a microwave-based directed-energy weapon that will boil the Ceph alive from inside their armour, eventually causing them to explode in a shower of alien liquids. Because the Crysis 3 incarnation of the MIKE is reloadable and uses special ammunition, it makes a great weapon to have in conjunction with the Typhoon.
- With the X-PAC, Ceph Batteries to provide supercharge, the MIKE and Typhoon, the Alpha Ceph becomes a boss that isn’t too difficult to best. Once the vulnerable spots are tagged and destroyed, the Alpha Ceph temporarily retreats and sends regular Ceph units to fight Prophet: these can be defeated with the Typhoon (and the Devastators can be wasted using the MIKE). The process is repeated until all three of the claws are destroyed, after which Prophet will finish off the Alpha Ceph with Crysis 3‘s signature weapon.
- Destroying the Alpha Ceph does not stop the True Ceph from moving through the wormhole, but now empowered to hack into Archangel, Prophet turns the CELL super weapon into an instrument for saving Humanity. Because the True Ceph warship appears to resist a blast capable of incinerating a planet for a brief moment, this moment might hint at just how advanced the True Ceph are. However, the blast eventually destroys the warship and closes off the wormhole.
With a more cohesive story and superior, tactile gameplay compared to all previous installations, Crysis 3 represents the series at its most evolved stage. Each level accommodates for stealthy and aggressive play-styles: the inclusion of the predator bow and hacking means that one can adopt a truly silent approach to every situation, making use of the environment to move from place to place to complete goals. If one should choose an approach befitting of Rambo, this is also possible, as one can customise their Nanosuit to take more damage and improve firearm handling. The incredibly powerful Ceph weapons are now usable, and the presence of Ceph batteries scattered around the maps mean that Prophet has a chance to stand toe-to-toe with even the toughest of Ceph enemies. In particular, the boss fights were absolutely thrilling: at no point did I ever feel that I was ill-equipped to take on the bosses, making use of the environment and weapons to unleash destruction against the enemy. Crysis 3 also does a phenomenal job of portraying the Ceph, giving their true form as entities beyond human comprehension; it turns out that the forces that have been going to down on humanity are their equivalent of Homo Erectus, merely serving as guardians to a world that humans have since damaged. Beyond messages of what it means to be human, Crysis 3 also suggests that humanity should generally be more cautious about how we treat the Earth. All in all, Crysis 3 is perhaps the strongest installment in the franchise, taking back its title as one of the best-looking games of 2013 and also demonstrating that it’s possible to construct a reasonably compelling narrative in a game that might otherwise be seen purely as a technology demonstration.