For many, Crysis is all about the nano-suit. The game’s signature gadget, and the key to the bulk of its many gameplay ideas and innovations, is as much of a character in its own right as any of the cast, weapons or locations.
However, this is the third Crysis game and continuing to rely on a fancy set of overalls to entice us into the world of super-soldiers and corrupt organisations is probably not going to cut it. Thankfully, Crytek seem to be well aware of this and, while the suit does have some new tricks of its own, the primary focus of our demo resided elsewhere.
Namely, with a bow and a city being overrun by mother nature.
The tagline we were fed for Crysis 3 was ‘the hunted is now the hunter’, in this case that means the kind of hunter that carries a bow and arrow, hides in the shadows and wads through tree-lined swamps. That may sound like a bit of a technological step down from all the fantastical super-jumps, cloaking devices and futuristic weaponry the series is known for, but Crytek are fully committed to making the bow something special and unique. So committed, in fact, that Crysis 3’s marketing materials are dominated by the thing.
In theory, the bow will allow you to play with a much greater emphasis on stealth than before. Unlike the game’s guns, you can fire the bow while cloaked which allows for increased freedom when it comes to eliminating whole groups of enemies from the shadows. No longer must you give up your hiding spot just to dispatch of a single enemy.
A variety of arrow types are available, although we’ve only seen two thus far. Piercing arrows are capable of taking out many enemies in a single shot, while explosive arrows act much like a long-range grenade. How ammo and damage are being balanced is not known precisely at this point, but that will certainly be key to keeping things both interesting and rewarding.
It’s not all about stealth, though. When things inevitably go wrong, and you find yourself the attention of Ceph everywhere, Prophet has a few new tricks and tools up his sleeves designed to reign infernal judgment unto his adversaries.
The Typhoon assault rifle is capable of firing 500 rounds per second with as little recoil as a water pistol. While the Typhoon sounds like the perfect choice for gunning straight into battle, its clip size of 720 rounds means it’s much more suited to burst fire and putting a mere 100 bullets into the head of a Ceph.
More interesting than that are the new abilities of your nano-suit. Prophet can now remotely hack turrets and turn them back on his enemies, adding further fuel to the stealth approach. Because of all the time spent around the Ceph, the nano-suit is now able to dial into the frequencies required to wield alien technology; opening the door for plasma guns and Ceph heavy mortar launchers. Combine those with the now oh-so-normal nano-jumps, nano-punches and nano-cloaking and each combat scenario promises a decent amount of tactical freedom.
To tackle these extra powers, the enemy has been given a few upgrades of their own. Drones patrol the dome that are able to detect you even when cloaked and in the shadows, the idea being to prevent you from becoming over reliant on the stealth approach. Scorchers are bug-like machines that carry enormous flame-throwers, and mid-sized Armoured Core-style mechs were teased during the demo’s finale.
Crytek are also looking to keep things interesting by providing a wide range of different environments throughout the campaign. Set 20 years after the events of the second game, the villainous Cell Corporation has covered New York City with a giant ‘nano dome’ (dubbed, the Liberty Dome). The public line is that the dome is designed to destroy any remaining remnants of the Ceph by having nature weed it out and overrun it, the real story is that Cell want to harness Ceph technology and need a place to study it.
Things have not gone exactly to plan, however, the inside of the dome not only being overrun with Ceph but also by nature. Think I Am Legend, then multiple it by 100 and you’ll be some way to understanding the degree to which nature is taking hold of the once great city.
Our demo, set some twenty-to-thirty per cent into the game, takes place in a Chinatown that is slowly degrading into a marshland. Banners and billboards covering shops are still partially visible through the semi-flooded land and thick swathes of vines and trees, but this is hardly a place you’d want to call home. The amount of overhead foliage means ground level never sees proper sunlight, buildings are being weakened and crumbled by invading root systems and mud has wholly replaced pavement.
For someone like me who has always harboured a fondness for this kind of sci-fi fare, it’s incredibly intriguing on a visual level and even more so from a human vs. vs. alien vs. nature perspective. Crytek has dubbed the game’s environments an ‘urban rainforest’, with various areas of the city succumbing to different types of flora – including dense jungle and grasslands.
Visually it looks stunning running on the giant PC sitting in the corner and blowing out enough hot air to single-handedly melt the ice caps. Crytek told us that console optimisation will be much better than it was with Crysis 2, but that remains to be seen.
Whatever the case, what we saw looked mighty impressive and it’s clear that Crytek are genuinely trying out new ideas rather than merely pumping out a generic sequel. Crysis 3 is not due out until roughly this time next year, so it’s probably safe to say that there’s yet more info to come.