Crysis 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) is a sci-fi first-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic, tropical New York City. You play as 'Prophet', a human-alien-cyborg-thing armed with a variety of guns, a deadly bow and special abilities conferred by a mysterious suit of digital armour.
Like most modern FPS games, Crysis 3 goes to great lengths to establish its story and setting. There really is no need. The plot is risible - an evil corporation, alien invaders, a 'prophecy', the end of the world blah blah - and as usual is told through a series of boring, badly written cut scenes that feel tacked-on, because they are. If this was 1994 the plot would consist of a paragraph on the back of the box. It would be more compelling if it was.
But while narratively Crysis 3 does no more or less than most modern FPS games, in almost every other aspect it's able to mutate the norms of the genre into something more surprising.
Most obviously, the variety and range of gameplay options on offer is far more creative - albeit occasionally excessive - than usual.
Your Nano Suit can cloak you from enemies and protect you from attacks, though only for a finite time. Sneaking up on goons to dispatch them from behind - or just sneaking past - is tremendous and nerve-wracking. Your 'visor' can tag enemies and analyse the battlefield, and a heat-vision camera adds another useful way to assess danger. The guns and grenades are generic, but your hunter's bow is an execptionally fun way to carve a path of destruction thanks to its interesting range of arrow types (electric shock, explosives) and the satisfying thud when one hits home.
Crysis 3 blends the open-world gameplay of the original with the less succesful, and more linear, structure of Crysis 2. The result is that the game basically consists of a set of connected 'arenas', through which you have to navigate either through stealth or straight-forward aggression, and more usually both.
Still, the freedom on offer is genuine, and trying new strategies is entertaining. It's also forgiving for a less skilled player, with your cloaking device and shield allowing you an easy escape, at least in the early stages. Unfortunately the game doesn't make the most of the varied attacks and abilities it gives you, and feels unfocused. And the arenas aren't as open as they pretend to be. But as a gameplay experience it's distinctive and unfamiliar, which in an over-stuffed genre is a real plus.
The game's best feature is its setting. The ruins of New York have never looked better, with almost-familiar landmarks cracked into pieces and made resplendent with realistic plants, wildlife, weather and gunge. Graphically the game is stunning, if not actually pretty, and allows for a very consistent but varied range of terrain.
In multiplayer Crysis 3 is also fun, if not all that enthralling. The Hunter Mode, in which a team of marines is gradually whittled down by silent Nano-Suited assasins, is especially creepy and exciting (though a little inbalanced in favour of the bow-weilding super beings). The most hardcore FPS fraggers won't find a reason to switch from Call of Duty here, but if the single player campaign grabs you and the meagre six hours of gameplay on offer isn't enough, it's a tasty extra challenge.
Crysis 3 is a game embedded deeply in its (narratively almost-defunct) genre, and for all its innovative gameplay ideas doesn't break much new ground in the grand scheme of gaming.
But compared to the billion-selling Call of Duty - and even more so to EA's other shooter, Medal of Honor: Warfighter - this is an entertaining and distinctive experience filled with creative ideas, executed with an extraordinary eye for graphical detail.