If it weren't for all the sci-fi clichés, this futuristic first-person shooter would be as entertaining as it was beautiful.
Crysis 3 only offers half the story
PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Crysis 3 is a gorgeous game. Its creator, the German studio Crytek, has lived up to its promise that it would set a new benchmark for computer graphics. On a state-of-the-art PC, the game is spectacular.
You probably don't have a state-of-the-art PC, but that's OK. We played Crysis 3 on Microsoft's eight-year-old Xbox 360, and it still looks pretty good. If only all that beauty was in the service of something more interesting than another alien bloodbath.
Crysis 3 throws two types of enemies at you: the alien Ceph and the human employees of Cell, a corporation that has built a giant dome over the ruins of New York City. As a supersoldier nicknamed Prophet, your job is to get inside the Liberty Dome and figure out what Cell is up to.
Prophet is equipped with a nanosuit, a combination of human and alien technology that has two primary functions: armour and cloaking. If you're the kind of player who likes to plunge into firefights, you'll keep turning on the armour. If you'd rather avoid attracting attention from the Ceph, you can hit the cloaking switch for temporary invisibility.
The nanosuit's other major feature is a visor that lets you scope out the battlefield before you rush in and helps you hack enemy systems, so you can disarm minefields or turn turrets against their builders.
And, of course, Prophet has an assortment of human and alien firearms at hand.
All this takes place in a New York City that will be unrecognisable to anyone who lives there now. Familiar neighbourhoods such as Chinatown and Hell's Kitchen are flooded or overgrown with vegetation, and there are only a few glimpses of landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge. Right in the middle of the whole thing is a hydroelectric dam.
It's a shame, too, that the story is so cliched. We're not giving anything away by revealing that there's a connection between Cell and the Ceph, and other plot twists are so baldly telegraphed that the only surprise is how long it takes the characters to figure them out. And it wraps up with a desperately tedious boss fight that renders most of the best tools in Prophet's arsenal useless.
Fortunately, Crysis 3 comes with a robust assortment of multiplayer games. There are the expected variations on deathmatch, capture the flag and king of the hill, but the real standout is Hunter, a clever game of hide-and-seek in which nanosuit-clad hunters pursue less powerful Cell guards; any guard that gets killed joins the hunters. The suspense is excruciating.
For fans of first-person shooters, the solid online action may be enough to make Crysis 3 a worthwhile purchase. If you're a PC gamer who wants to show off your new graphics card, it's probably essential. But if you're looking for a fresh approach to video-game science fiction, you won't find it here.