We have benchmarked no game more than Crysis 3. It took pride of place in our GPU and CPU testing for a colossal eight years - longer than any other title. And even today, the fully maxed Crysis 3 PC experience poses profound challenges to the most powerful PC components on the market. That's one reason why we're still playing the game, the other is - put simply - that we love it, and the good news is that the upcoming Nintendo Switch rendition of Crysis 3 Remastered is shaping up very, very nicely. The idea of this game running well on a 2015 mobile chipset - downclocked, no less - is mind-bending but there it is.
There are a couple of good reasons why Crysis 3 Remastered runs well on Switch and that starts with the scalability of the original game. Yes, Crytek's 2013 game is monstrously demanding at its highest settings, but knock back the quality presets and it turns out to be far more manageable on a wider range of kit - and let's not forget that there was a rendition of the game that ran on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Yes, it didn't run particularly well, but a foundation was there - and in actual fact, the Switch version is scaled up from those last, last-gen versions of the game. That leads us onto the second key reason why this project succeeds: the quality of the developer. The entire Crysis Remastered Trilogy on Switch was handled primarily by Saber Interactive's Swedish studio. It did a great job on the first Crysis Remastered, but its pedigree goes further than that - this is the studio that pulled off the impossible with the Switch conversion of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
The video content on this page demonstrates rather well how good the Switch port of Crysis 3 looks, but at the fundamental level, Saber takes the PS360 version, strips out the lacklustre post-process anti-aliasing of the period and replaces it with TAA - all but eliminating the pixel popping, jaggies and shimmering. This is just a first look, so we've not gone deep in terms of comparisons, but it's also clear that detail levels - particularly on grass - have improved tremendously. Quality upgrades are thinner on the ground compared to Crysis and Crysis 2 Remastered, but once again, SVOGI real-time global illumination is added - even on Switch.
Additionally, the sub-optimal performance from the PS360 era appears to have been addressed to a certain degree thanks to a combination of the Switch's more modern GPU and also via the implementation of dynamic resolution scaling, with native pixel counts reaching a peak of 900p when docked. Target frame-rate is 30fps (not the 31fps seen in the original!) and even under load, the Switch delivers nicely. The one negative here is that when the hardware is pushed hardware, inconsistent frame-pacing can cause the perception of stutter and lower performance, even when the update averages out at 30fps.
We are looking at gold master code for this preview - the same version that'll appear on the physical cartridge - but there is a day zero patch in development that should improve the experience still further, but in the here and now, it's been fascinating to revisit this challenging game on a mobile chipset, and while Crysis 3 isn't renowned as the best game in the series, the fact I'm still playing it eight years later and enjoying it suggests that there's something there.
Yes, similar to Crysis 2 in that the 'wide linear' options of the first Crysis are pared back in favour of a more traditional 'campaign', but there are a selection of levels that are built around a significantly larger scale, that are more evocative of the original formula. The addition of the bow came at a time where a lot of games added this kind of weapon to their arsenals but it's a genuine game-changer in Crysis 3. It allows for the Nanosuit's cloak mode to become much more viable in combat scenarios - the bow is the only weapon that doesn't drain Nanosuit power completely once fired. The various arrowheads are fun and the physics of the bow can be glorious - yes, arrows do arc through the air and targeting needs to be compensated accordingly.
And in addition to this, Crysis 3 still looks beautiful. Released in 2013 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, it was a game ahead of its time in many ways. Environmental artwork, density and materials were terrific. Character rendering was absolutely first class. All of these elements still hold up today and while Switch is looking good, this was always a game that looked at its best on PC and I genuinely can't wait to see what the new Remastered version will look like - but I hear that ray tracing is in the mix. And yes, part of me really hopes that the very highest settings will still bring PC's finest kit to its knees. Why? Because maybe Crysis 3 Remastered can pick up where the original left off, taking its place in our benchmark suite for another eight glorious years.