In a sea of modern shooters, Crysis 3 tries to distinguish itself with gorgeous graphics, an epic sci-fi vibe and open environments with a breathtaking mix of a concrete jungle and an actual jungle. It’s a good solid game with a well-paced campaign, satisfying combat and seldom intense multiplayer; but something is missing. Unlike the iconic Nanosuit, the game’s wonderful graphics just can’t carry the load all by themselves, leaving Crysis 3 as a fun, easy but mediocre ride that lacks any real “oomph”.

20 years after the events of the previous game, Laurence “Prophet” Barnes has once again regained full control over the Nanosuit, assimilating Alcatraz’s mind completely. As he emerges from cyro-sleep, Prophet discovers that the alien threat known as the Ceph has all but disappeared and the CELL military organization has seized control over what was once New York City. Psycho, his old buddy from the original Crysis, quickly convinces Prophet to join the resistance fighting against CELL, even though Prophet is more bothered by visions of a Ceph apocalypse. Sure enough the Ceph make a surprising return, and it is up to Prophet and his suit to save the earth from both CELL and an alien invasion. The overall story is pretty easy to follow (for once), mainly because there isn’t all that much going on. Due to a relatively short campaign with only one or two major plot developments, Crysis 3 ends up feeling like an extensive expansion rather than a full blown game.

But of course, not a lot of people play a Crysis game for the story; they do it for the amazing graphics. Even on consoles this game looks incredible, with lush jungle environments peppered with the debris of a once great civilization, realistic lightning and weather effects, crisp textures, life-like character models – the works. And that’s just the equivalent of the “medium” settings on a PC, assuming you can find one that’s able to run the game on higher settings. Crysis 3 is the ultimate benchmark for your PC, much like the original game was back in the day. If your machine can run the game on “high”, let alone on “very high”, you’ll be treated to a visual experience that’s almost out of this world.

However, the action itself is pretty terrestrial. It’s not bad, mind you, it’s just… plain. Apart from the big set-pieces, most of the game feels like moving from one gunfight to the next, albeit with great maneuverability and good pacing, so there’s never a dull moment, just a bunch of mundane ones. Prophet can approach each of these gunfights head on with maximum armor and a machine gun, or creep slowly through the vegetation, fully cloaked and armed with the new hunter bow. Both game styles are fun to try out, and once you hone in on your favorite combination of the two, the game becomes a lot easier. Using the bow especially takes the edge off the hostile encounters, since it can take down most enemy variants with a single strike and keeps Prophet cloaked while doing so. It starts getting a bit weird when you realize a Ceph warrior can take a slug to the chest and still keep going, but one arrow to the knee and it’s down. But hey, it is still very fulfilling at first.

So the combat is fun, fluent and abundant, but something is still missing. You can call it variety, but that’s not entirely true. The game offers plenty of ways for Prophet to dispatch his enemies, but only a handful of them are truly exciting to pull off. When playing through Crysis 3, it just feels like you’re going through the motions; sure, many of the things that make a good shooter are there, but they are just not enough to help the action feel original. Basically, we’ve seen it all before in Crysis 2, not that long ago.

If the single-player campaign feels a little familiar, it goes double for the multiplayer. Everything one would expect from a modern multiplayer experience is there, from the generic modes to the standard customization options. The only thing that makes it stand out is the Nanosuit and its powers: turning on your armor at the right time can mean the difference between life and death, and the deadly combination of a cloaking device and a sniper rifle can quickly turn the tides of battle. Just imagine de-cloaking in front of a surprised foe and putting a shotgun shell through his face in point blank; truly satisfying. Thanks to the Nanosuit, every match is fast-paced and players must constantly adapt to survive.

Survival is also the name of the game in the new Hunter Mode – a round-based mode that pits a team of CELL operatives against a duo of Nanosuit-clad hunters armed only with a bow. This nerve-wrecking mode is slower than the others, but is much more intense in many ways. Witnessing your team being picked off one by one makes the whole thing feel like a “Predator” homage, and each time you manage to take down one of those cloaked hunters fills you with pride and courage; until an arrow finds its way into your skull. When played with the right team, Hunter Mode is definitely the go-to multiplayer experience the game offers.

Crysis 3 is an amazing looking game with impressive graphics and visual design, but at its core lays a mediocre shooter that fails to rise above the competition. The single-player campaign is way too short and easy, but manages to entertain while it lasts, even though we’ve seen most of it when playing Crysis 2. The same can be said about the game’s multiplayer experience, but thanks to its fast-paced nature and new Hunter mode, it feels somewhat fresher. Crysis 3 succeeds in regaining the series’ stature as a technical benchmark but fails to innovate enough on the gameplay front, preventing this sci-fi shooter from reaching for the stars.

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