Transhumanism is an interesting theme to base a game on. The cyberpunk and transhumanist genres haven’t really saturated popular culture as much as I originally anticipated after The Matrix made its debut 1999. That aside, the motif in Crysis 3 of the struggle to remain human in the face of overwhelming technology is core to the story and the character arc of the protagonist, Lawrence “Prophet” Barnes. Ultimately, however, the execution of this idea through the story is poor.
Prophet is defined by his nanosuit, at an increasing cost to his humanity. At this point in the franchise, he literally *is* the suit. In an unusual turn of events in the second game, his memories were imprinted on the suit which was then given to another soldier, who died while using the suit. The end result of this is that Prophet is no longer human in the common terms, he is the memory of a man trapped within a suit of advanced and alien technologies housing a dead body that wasn’t even his own.
I think this is an apt reflection of where the Crysis 3 stands in the franchise. The first title was a technological marvel, and while the actual gameplay mechanics may not have been as cutting edge, the sheer agency given to the player to explore this incredibly rendered island was extremely compelling. While the second title was not as much the technological marvel as the original, top science fiction writer Richard Morgan penned a decent story to complement more focused, engaging playgrounds for the player to experiment with different combat styles. Unfortunately, Crysis 3 is devoid of any interesting story beats or combat situations. The franchise has become solely reliant on advanced technology, and does nothing interesting with its tools. Like Prophet, the game is a hollow shell, an empty suit, with no elements the player can connect with from a mechanical or narrative standpoint.
On the surface of this largely vacant experience is a lot of beauty to behold. Crysis 3 is simply the best-looking game I have ever played, and a reminder on the heels of the 2012 indie renaissance that graphics are an integral part to great experiences in gaming. The game itself is a prophet, showing us a vision of what titles will look on the next generation of consoles. Running on a GTX 670, I was able to experience on maximum settings at a 1920×1200 resolution, and was frequently astounded at the environments. Numerous times I found myself stopping to take a moment to smell the roses and soak in the gorgeous environments I was exploring.
That being said, Crysis 3 is first and foremost an FPS, and as such it largely fails. Gone is the playground set-up from the first and second games, where the player would be presented with interesting open-ended combat encounters. In the past, this allowed for a great sense of power, agency and danger, and with the lack of any such encounters, the game feels hollow. Additionally, the game has tried to hide its poor AI by encouraging the player to rely primarily on stealth through use of the cloak and bow. This might have been acceptable if the levels had more verticality or alternative approaches, but the level design is bland, resulting in an unfulfilling experience.
The magic well that the former Crysis games had tapped has seemingly run dry, and CryTek has churned out a game that feels like a product designed to showcase their new technology to other developers moreso than provide a meaningful game experience to players.