Twenty years after the end of Crysis 2, New York is encased in a giant nanodome built by the nefarious Cell Corporation. The city’s become massively overgrown, full of jungle-like ruins perfectly suited for hunting – not animals, of course, but Cell soldiers and alien Ceph. Once again, you’re wearing the series’ signature nanosuit – now as Prophet, not Alcatraz – and everyone else is simply prey.
Watching the most recent demo of Crysis 3, we were reminded of how we felt entering new areas in Crysis 2. Before leaping down into a grassy trainyard, for instance, Prophet takes a moment to survey the landscape. An enormous tower gun lies on the left, waiting to rain death on anyone who wanders through; Cell troops are scattered in and around the huge field. The choice is one series fans are used to: activate your damage-reducing armor mode and wade in, guns a-blastin’? Or enable your invisibility cloak and take a more stealthy approach, where you avoid some foes and silently knife others from behind?
While Prophet’s deciding, he gets advice from Psycho, the once-nanosuited hero of PC shooter Crysis Warhead who’s now your A.I.-controlled comrade. In the demo’s first few minutes, this outspoken Brit has two nice character moments: one where he fails to kick open a steel door, falling backward on his butt; and a lament that Prophet gets to do “all the fun stuff” while the now-suitless Psycho provides support. When Prophet drops down into the trainyard, that “fun stuff” begins, as he runs through the crowded area, dispatching Cell trooper after Cell trooper while dodging earth-rending shots from that lethal tower gun.
Because sprinting’s no longer tied to your energy bar, you can race around for longer periods of time, making the whole experience of running, shooting, leaping, and pulling yourself up onto ledges seem faster and more intense. Your new hacking ability looks fun, too, whether you’re deactivating mine traps or turning Cell turrets on their owners. What really looks empowering, though, is your new compound bow – a classic hunting weapon that you can equip with various tips for maximum damage. An electrical tip instantly fries two enemies standing in water, for instance, while explosive tips let you drop far-off foes with one well-aimed shot.
One tweak that’ll keep you from getting too cocky is enemies’ energy-sapping EMP grenades. Their purpose, says producer Mike Read, is to keep players from running through too much of the game with their cloak activated, simply skirting around most conflicts (as some people, including our reviewer, did in Crysis 2). Of course, with so many different kinds of guns to pick up and a melee attack where you lift a Cell soldier in the air and choke him to death, combat should be hard to resist.
Don’t get us wrong: though the focus still seems to be on tactically assessing a landscape full of opponents and then deciding how best to eliminate or avoid them, there’s definitely a story here. When Prophet wanders by a flyriddled pile of Cell corpses – ones who aren’t his victims – he and Psycho actually seem concerned. Our demo guide wouldn’t tell us what this gory sight (relatively early in the seven to nine-hour solo campaign) meant, but we were certainly intrigued.
Oh, and did we mention the visuals? With loads of graphics options maxed-out in our PC demo, the game looked absolutely gorgeous – lush vegetation, dazzling light shafts, the works. Naturally, it won’t drop jaws quite this much on Xbox 360, but when Read tells us to expect a beautiful console version, we believe him; after all, Crysis 2 was easily one of the 360′s better-looking games. Between that and several multiplayer modes (including a new Hunter mode pitting suited players against Cell soldiers), we have a lot to look forward to.