Crysis 3’s narrative is a confused, muddled mess, with two central pillars of focus, one which revolves around the tyrannous, menacing Cell faction, their primary motivation being the acquisition of power; acting indefatigably in their search, often do they commit acts of brutal violence, unflinching and remorseless, almost corrupted by the tangibility of that power. Having as sole motivation power and renown is cliched, unoriginal, many villains and villainous groups being driven by that same end – it is overabundant as motivator. This overabundance reduces the group into the mundane, showing total lack of originality – they merely exist, possessive of no greater ambitions, devoid of humanity and resonance, characterized solely by darkness – these are villains, and the game repeatedly and explicitly conveys their villainy, again by emphasizing their brutalities; player identification falters as it is made evident that Cell are lacking of any profound depth. They exist merely to be destroyed, and their presence prompts the narrative’s progression, a reclaiming of a dying, overgrown New York, obliterated, its once-majestic beauty tarnished and tainted by their greed and lust for power, totally and completely corrupting.
In efforts to inject some life into the narrative, the secondary plot thread is developed, revolving around the beastly, calculating Cephs, inhabitants of a distant planet, recently reawakened and now exerting their immense power on New York, shaping its evolution and devolution, acting alongside Cell, assisting them sometimes, abandoning them at others; here is a force of considerable strength, a strength which is conveyed from the first. Contrast in motivations here emerges. These hostile aliens are sentient, possessive of tactical prowess and endurance. And yet, they seem devoid of higher thinking, ideas and abstract concepts lost upon them. Given this, they likely have zero larger motivations, vastly detached from Cell. As the narrative progresses, these two narrative threads intertwine, seeing the uniting – then the prompt splitting – of Cell and Ceph. The former faction seeks energy to bolster the power and effectiveness of their endeavors. Accordingly, the Cephs are recruited – abounding in energy, they are desirable entities, ripe for exploitation, desirable but deadly and unstable. Cell overreaches – destruction inevitably ensues, mankind’s fragility conveyed in the struggle which follows. Cell, with countless soldiers of immense strength and training, cannot combat this force once awakened; mankind is helpless, defenseless. The game’s greatest message here emerges, principally when regarding the player character and protagonist, the only one who can preserve humanity – Prophet. Revived in the game’s opening, his being is characterized most strongly by the nano-suit to which he is engrafted, imbuing only him with the powers to silence this threat.
After a brief, well-animated cutscene which succinctly summarizes many of the events transpiring earlier in the series, Prophet is promptly turned to; long remaining in a state of stasis, the world around him has morphed tremendously in his absence, darkness spreading; being in this state of protracted slumber, his powers for resolution are tragically restrained – mankind is deprived of its greatest weapon. Either realizing the need for his power and the desperation of its acquisition, or struggling with bouts of guilt, Prophet’s chamber is shattered by the endearing Psycho, squad mate and companion to Prophet in their earlier travails, becoming as literal brothers, a bond which even the passage of time cannot sever, though tension still hangs in the air when considering this reunion, what precisely it implies for the pair and for the world proper. Speaking with a prominent British accent, Psycho injects personality and humor into the narrative, grave at times, gay of heart at others, abounding in sincerity and earnestness while also showing trepidation – he is likable, far surpassing Prophet in that regard, the latter mostly devoid of life. The camaraderie which exists between the pair is remarkable, and as the narrative progresses, they are almost always presented together, as in the very opening, when the pair perform a daring escape from a series of ships, tossed about in violent waters, where the game’s technical brilliance and artistic creativity are made manifest, heavy rain falling always, notions of the atmospheric and brooding evoked.
Fast after leaving the stasis chamber, gameplay is turned to, a weapon thrust into Prophet’s still-thawing hands – a meagre pistol, its strength is somehow amplified in Prophet’s superhuman grasp. After bit of prodding from Psycho, gunfire resounds throughout the air, many mechanics introduced to the player; intuitive in construction, clinging also to the design principles inherent to the FPS genre, the overwhelming never shows itself, even as the game’s more involved systems are introduced, centered primarily around Prophet’s nano-suit. Two suit functions rise above the others in terms of sheer usefulness, their effective employ becoming intimately connected to eventual success; one power serves as a cloak, concealing Prophet from the opposition, permitting redirection, or a brief reprieve from the bombastic gunplay. The secondary critical function is far less exciting, though just as crucial to victory – at the press of a button, Prophet’s entire body is encased in a shell of armor, protection against gunfire and environmental damages, lessening the strengths of both Ceph and Cell. Collectively, these abilities permit considerable player freedoms, and this tutorial level aboard the shift is effective in function, a good grasping of these systems achieved. This freedom, though, can be condensed into two principal approaches, related to the two primary suit features – a bold frontal assault is one avenue of possibility, while slower, more predatory approaches can also be adopted. The organic mixing of these abilities results in a particularly enriching experience.
Managing the suit’s energy levels becomes central to the gameplay, each feature understandably depleting its charge, the armor feature depleting at a fairly minimal rate, while the cloaking systems can devour it rapidly and greedily. Even basic locomotion lessens the meter, Prophet’s exaggerated jump height or blinding sprint also draining the suit. The recharge rate is fairly generous, though that need for constant maintenance persists to the last – become too aggressive, advance boldly on the opposing position without sufficient energy, then death is sure to follow, aggressiveness almost punished. Tension abounds, particularly when regarding the cloaking feature, with its immense energy consumption, draining far faster while in motion – remain in an exposed position while the meter is totally drained, death is sure to follow here, too.
These systems all synergize profoundly, stealth especially soaring. Advancing into a sprawling, open environment, surveying and marking the opposition with the visor, plotting a plan of attack, then executing it, killing one foe only to dart away again into the safety of cover, then promptly resuming the killing frenzy after the suit’s energy has recharged, opposition remaining oblivious – here are remarkably enjoyable, cerebral moments, the game displaying its commanding uniqueness. Even before departing from the ship, Prophet is given a compound bow; totally silent, never disrupting the cloak, it aids greatly in stealth, only furthering player freedom. Immense frustration also abounds when considering these innovations – as the narrative progresses, such scenarios become scarcer and scarcer, the opportunities for predation draining away, the game consequently adopting the position of mindless shooter, not too dissimilar from others of the genre, save for excellent mobility and gunplay. Had these engagements been emphasized to the last, the game would soar exaltingly.
The gunplay, fortunately, is engaging from the first, whether wielding the bow for silent stealth kills, or adopting a louder approach, making effective employ of an assault rifle or shotgun. A strict two-weapon limit is in place, though restrictiveness rarely arose, the constant possession of the compound bow only decreasing further restrictiveness, particularly when regarding the alternate ammunition it can fire, bolstering player freedom, one weapon becoming effective for far greater scenarios – repetition is also eschewed. In further efforts to empower the player – a constant theme the game draws upon – all weapons can be modified on the fly, attachments, scopes, and other modifications equipable at the mere press of a button; altering one scope for another can have a dramatic effect on the gunplay, an assault rifle which performs well at close range configured to perform excellently at considerable distance. The massiveness of the arsenal also contributes to the gunplay’s compelling nature, manifold assault rifles present, alongside shotguns, pistols, and more imaginative weapons, some relying upon energy ammunition. Ammo, too, is not present in abundance – quite often was my stock depleted. Despite this, it contributes to an air of tension, rather than the expected frustration, as shot moderation becomes central to the gameplay, this centrality more important when wielding certain weapons. The gun modelling is remarkable, highly detailed, almost whimsically unique. As assault rifle, traditionally mundane, can be of an ornate sort, cybernetic webbings spreading throughout the model. Alien weaponry is occasionally forced upon the player, and while suffering from their own flaws, their sense of exoticism and imagination is compelling.
While the gunplay is characterized exclusively by strengths, with excellent modelling and a sense of impactfulness upon firing, only bolstered by effective audio design – while the gunplay achieves these successes, certain failings do arise, principally when regarding the changing nature of the opposition. The tactics involved in combatting the Cell are naturally different from those needed to vanquish the encroaching Ceph, the former requiring traditional tactics, the latter requiring more imaginative approaches. While intriguing in theory, the nature of this rift is immense, almost a failure. As humans, Cell are vulnerable, powerful but devoid of commanding endurance, easily dispatched with a single headshot, capable also of sustaining but a few bullets to the chest – in combatting them, the systems are believable, fair. The Cephs, conversely, are brutal and unfun to fire, literal bullet sponges, able to withstand considerable gunfire, and even a constant barrage of explosives. Their presence can completely disrupt the pacing of the gameplay, and while their narrative strengths are here conveyed accurately, that conveyance does not result in satisfying gameplay systems. First encountering them can be an arresting experience, as they shamble about in tall grass, stalking Prophet, using their invisibility and predatory stylings to great effect, menacing and frightful in appearance and in action. But after this awe has worn off, their frequent emergence marked a sort of disappointment, much disappointment arising when considering the relative ineffectiveness of stealthy approaches while in their presence. The Cell are enjoyable to fight; the Ceph frustrating.
Whether engaging directly or embracing misdirection, the game’s mobility options facilitate both approaches, being liberating and satisfying, further conveying the nano-suit’s strengths. Prophet has an extended jump height, while an intuitive mantling system is in place, Prophet capable of clambering over many obstacles, fast obtaining verticality, and all of the tactical options that that obtaining provides – locomotion also enriches the experience of the game, serving an empowering function. Locomotion is especially crucial here when considering the frequent largeness of the game’s many maps and environments. Having departed from that ship, tossed about at sea, New York is promptly introduced in an arresting manner, viewed by fair elevation, where the immensity of change is easily discernible, everything overgrown with foliage, the skyscrapers and other structures having their spines exposed, obviously subject to brutal abuse; one of mankind’s greatest accomplishments is reduced into a state of rubble, beautiful in a way, though in no ways comparable to the beauty of the thriving city. Draw distances are immense, conveying the largeness of the cityscape, though a fair degree of invisible walls funnel the player in a certain direction, not necessarily robbing them of freedom, but merely providing direction, a maintenance of brisk pacing, ensuring no pointless wandering. Being in the presence of these towering if derelict skyscrapers, or viewing a sprawling dam from considerable distance, Prophet’s smallness is conveyed, as if despite his manifold powers he is insignificant. Technical and creative achievements are immense, the designers deliberately embracing that creativity. A common portrayal would show only the destruction and devastation of the environment – here are flowers and trees, beautiful lighting effects, showing that the sun, with its beautiful rays, never abandoned the city and its remaining inhabitants.
And then, as the narrative winds ever onwards, matters begin to deteriorate, even environmentally. As the Cell become scarcer and scarcer, the Ceph gradually become primary antagonist, and in the precise struggle between that race and the determined Prophet, even New York will be departed from, replaced by an environment that is equally technically impressive, though odd, not personally resonant when regarding its generic nature – the final explorable environment marks Ceph’s primary base of operations upon Earth; very detached from the streets, grasses, and skeletal buildings of New York, the transportation to this environment can be jarring, evoking impressive sensations, the developers’ creativity on full force. Completely bizarre aesthetically, its novelty is prominent, though that novelty fast wears off, as the environments are unenjoyable to traverse, being cavernous and claustrophobic, limiting mobility options. Peopled solely by the Ceph, with strange, robotic tentacles coiling about the environment, here science fiction has completely taken over – the generic here dominates.
Save for the skew in enjoyment evoked by the Ceph and the Cell, the gameplay is engaging throughout, founded upon enjoyable systems, all of them contributing to an abundance of player freedom. The lack of narrative focus, though, marks the game’s greatest flaw, attempting to tell two tales which coalesce messily towards the conclusion, clashing greatly. The narrative reward is slight; the gameplay reward, however, is immense, a challenging final boss combatted, able to withstand an absurd degree of gunfire – besting this Ceph threat was a triumphant affair. Regarding the narrative further, certain ambitions are present, showing that while the game is generic, certain unique messages and poignancy are to be conveyed. Much of this poignancy centers around Prophet, the suit that he inhabits. All throughout the narrative is he regarded as a monster, even by Psycho, who was once grafted into the suit himself. More determined resistance – a belittling of Prophet’s remaining humanity – springs from the lips of a female scientist and resistance leader, alternately regarding Prophet with hesitation and open hostility; Prophet is somehow morphed into a vulnerable character, at least emotionally, himself questioning the nature of his existence; it is remarkable and profound.
What makes Prophet valuable as a soldier makes him valueless as a human being, and all characters in the narrative seek to communicate the gradual destruction of Prophet’s humanity; very few are sympathetic. The game is devoid of any real narrative heft, though the presence of these characters – the growth they experience as the narrative progresses – rescues the title from narrative disaster, the conclusion neatly wrapping all of the plot threads crafted by earlier games in the series. Here is no darkness or grittiness – the game ends on a highly optimistic, sentimental note, Prophet musing on the future. Even without this scattershot narrative, Crysis 3 remains a compelling title, empowering the player, necessitating an almost cerebral approach to its many combat engagements, investing the player in a fairly unique fashion. When it embraces the uniqueness made manifest in the nano-suit and its various functions, the game truly soars. But when the gameplay falters, veering off course and becoming a more traditional, mindless shooter, empowerment deprived of the player, the game’s strengths are squandered, a frustrating admission, particularly when considering the great frequency of that squandering, the game repeatedly losing its way, true, lasting greatness never achieved.