Crysis 3 Preview: Welcome (Back) To The Jungle

Big game hunter.

When Crysis has been great, it's been Predator. When we surveyed Korean encampments from a distance, planned our assault and attacked from the trees we were essentially Arnie and his travelling band of musclemen. When we cloaked, pounced, cackled and clutched enemies in our oven-mitt hands we were that super-powerful Predator, toying with our prey. For the sequels to both Predator and Crysis, however, a transfer to an urban setting left some feeling that pig-faced tusk-alien and Nanosuit had lost something special.

"We changed the recipe a bit for Crysis 2," admits Rasmus Hoejengaard, Crytek's Director of Creative Development. "Some people liked it, some people didn't - which is how it always is, right? What we want to do now is to take the 'likes' of each, and combine. We want to have the breadth of Crysis as well as the verticality of Crysis 2, while at the same time not opening it out so much that it alienates players. It needs to be fed in digestible chunks..."

Crysis 3, then, frames its hero Prophet as a hunter - hunkering down on the predatory nature of the nanosuit, and presenting him with a Rambo 2 bow and arrow. Our new surroundings, meanwhile, are the best of both worlds. Crytek is taking the jungle of Crysis and the New York of Crysis 2, putting them in a Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker, switching on Maximum Speed and winding that handle...

The story posits that after the war against the Ceph the evil CELL Corporation built biodomes over areas where alien residue had been left behind. Accelerated natural processes within these domes was ostensibly supposed to 'grow out' the Ceph infection like a misjudged hair dye, but in fact were yet another way for CELL to get their mucky hands on illicit extra-terrestrial technology. The somewhat inevitable consequence is a Center Parcs at war...

The game's opening sees Prophet surface into New York's Liberty Biodome, sprung from CELL chokey by the series' lovable mockney (and star of Crysis: Warhead) Michael 'Psycho' Sykes. It's 20 years after the close of Crysis 2 and the city is much changed. Chinatown is a swamp, trees are growing out of yellow cabs, butterflies flit around the rusted hulks of destroyed mechs and lush grass covers once busy urban thoroughfares.

Crytek calls the places you'll visit on your violent travels 'the seven wonders' of the Biodome - having brainstormed the most beautiful (and gameplay-enhancing) natural hubs that the rainforest can provide. They're only lifting the veil on swamps and sweeping grasslands currently, but Angel Falls-style waterfalls cascading off skyscrapers and battles through a forest canopy high above Manhattan's streets are surely on the list...

"A slight issue with the plotline is that Prophet and Psycho must now be well into their 50s, presumably nano-prevented from aging by their suits."

Let's focus on Chinatown, however, where Prophet has come across the bloody aftermath of a battle between CELL and the Ceph. It's an action bubble that's not quite as wide as others in the game - in fact watching a play-through makes it hard to gauge quite how much sand lies within this sandbox - but it's a fantastic demonstration of Prophet the hunter.

Bloodied human bodies decorate his entrance, a Ceph craft passes by a nearby window, advertising hoardings smoulder and water cascades down a decrepit subway escalator as our hero moves up to tag his prey. The Ceph are laying down defensive lines around Prophet's objective, a vast communications tower - so it's up to you whether you go in all guns blazing, or tackle affairs with a little more stealth. As ever, however, you'll likely opt for a little of column B before resorting to a lot of column A when scenery starts exploding.

Prophet's bow and arrow is, frankly, rather awesome. You can fire it when cloaked, making it a charming accoutrement to a stealth approach when taking down foes at a distance. It can also, meanwhile, be fitted with more piercing arrows - and then explosive tips should your stealth go south. Yes, that's right, a game has finally (finally!) given you the opportunity to become Rambo Gizmo.

Successful shots with the Bow are rewarded with a tracking camera shot not unlike the one in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

Big sells with the Nanosuit, meanwhile, include the ability to remotely hack systems like enemy turrets to turn them to your own side. The EA marketing machine, meanwhile, is going to great pains to underline that the suit has also evolved to the point at which it can handle enemy weapons - conveniently forgetting the original Crysis' rubbish ice gun.

Nevertheless Prophet can now get to grips with gigantic alien plasma deathgivers, just as much as he can experimental CELL weapons like the Typhoon which captures traditional New York excess by firing five hundred shots a second. A full complement of nano-speed, nano-strength, nano-armour and nano-biff-off-skyscrapers are also still available.

More on Crysis 3

As Prophet you'll have these extra hunting smarts, then, but your enemy will also be far more capable at flushing you out from your various hide-holes. Hovering drones can strip you of your cloak, while metal eyed aliens called Scorchers (that don't look a million miles away from the ship pilot in Flight of the Navigator) can ignite any grass or overgrowth that you're skulking within.

Improved alien smarts are, as ever, promised alongside this - with a lot of Crytek attention also directed toward neat ways to flag up just when enemies are being clever boys. One ploy that currently falls a little flat, however, are Prophet's vocal barks, which currently come over more than a little Duke Nukem. With the game releasing in 2013, however, there's still plenty of time to dial that back a little.

This city rainforest could genuinely put the Predator securely back into the Crysis war machine, while the light dinting through the glass ceiling of the Liberty biodome will likely make the CryEngine sing. Then again, we've heard promises of a return to more open combat before. Whether or not Crysis 3 can truly be crowned as king of the urban jungle will very much depend on which parts of its back catalogue Crytek truly has in its sights...

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