Crysis 3's new emphasis on stealth.
Look back to Crysis 2 for a lesson in augmentation. That game was as much the Nanosuit 2's story, a tale of increased speed, strength, and that tactical option of eavesdropping, as it was about losing a city. In Crysis 2, Crytek gave you the technology to fight an alien force invading New York City.
Crysis 3 on the other hand is a Darwinian ode about adapting to survive a place that has out-evolved you.
New York City has transformed. The city is encased in a giant Nanodome by the corrupted CELL Corporation who leaves it to grow over as a wasteland of swamps and strange rainforest terrain. Chinatown is over the horizon and it's in shambles. The area is an apparent ghost town that hints at the New York of the previous game, and while the buildings are still there they've cracked, eroded, and gone sour-green after years of Mother Nature taking her toll. This game takes place roughly twenty years after the last.
Alongside that backdrop is a plot that hinges on learning how to survive these alien surroundings. And it connects deeply with Crytek's choice of weapons.
A plot that hinges on learning how to survive...
Crysis 3 is Prophet's story, as recently revealed in the studio's first teaser for the game. A composite bow has been added to his arsenal and can be used in stealth without breaking him out of a hidden stance. This suggests a stronger focus on stealth tactics for the studio, but also the importance of new weapons to the Crysis storyline.
Crytek's strategy for the third in the series is to tie everything back to a singular theme: the hunt. It's maybe strange territory for a game that shares DNA with one as open sandbox as Crysis, but the shift to a more choreographed sandbox environment in Crysis 2 hinted at where the series could really end up. Now even the weapons have to relate to the narrative.
"We don't want to fall into a trap of developing tenuous old rifles. It needs to tie into the fiction. Its theme is of a hunter, so it is a no-brainer to give him a bow. We didn't want to create weaponry that was simply different than in previous iterations of the game, we wanted to build a narrative around it – about being the hunter," explains senior creative director Rasmus Hojengaard.
"Prophet has been held back before," he adds. "Now his whole tonality seemed like the right thing to follow up on [in this game]."
And it's true, Prophet has the movement of a hunter. Combat in the gameplay demo that's played echoes the stalking of prey. We're shown how stealth forms the basis of both his composite bow and melee kills, and how he carefully works around enemies while hidden before he attacks. And with the bow encouraging more stealthy combat this time around, a cat-and-mouse undertone emerges out of the belly of the game.
This is Crytek's "AAA" take on gameplay, short for Assess, Adapt, Attack. Prophet will spot an enemy, then identify their threat level and weapon before deciding on his next move.
A Ceph Stalker is shown to us in the foreground of our demo about a minute in. His back is turned as if begging to be drawn into combat but, instead of pointing out the obvious, Hojengaard points to the side of the screen, toward a pond humming with dragonflies where Prophet stands undetected. It's a minute detail that leaves most of the crowd shifting in disinterest but this is the kind of passing detail that speaks to where the studio's head is.
The game is the result of a learning process that began with the original Crysis and that's affected their philosophy of how Crytek attacks the series from a development standpoint.
"It's a mixture of both Crisis 1 and Crysis 2. That wasn't the original goal but we're reaping the results of that. Now we feel like we found the right recipe," says Hojengaard.
...A mixture of both Crysis titles
He's referring to how the game is structured this time around. The studio looked at the open qualities of the first game and the more structured tones of its sequel, and the result, he says, is Crysis 3 which sits somewhere in between. He likens this to pearls on a string, where users are funneled through corridors of narrative before they reach larger open-ended environments that ask them to put some use to their free will.
"It's a combination of linear and sandbox gameplay. If you want the player to have massive Michael Bay moments then don't put the player in a sandbox and say 'Go find it!'"
But it's Prophet and his shifted reliance on stealth that bring the most significant changes to the game. One example is a new enemy, a Seeker, which floats mid-air; a spherical shell designed to detect and de-stealth Prophet. Sure, the dragonflies are nice but this is a change in ecosystem on a macro-level that gives one of the game's marketing taglines – the hunted becomes the hunter – some genuine depth.
Even outside of stealth, Prophet's new abilities build around less in-your-face methods of combat. The tools of his enemies can be re-programmed from afar and used against them. Hacking, we're promised, will feature prominently in the game and will carry its own place in the story.
"Hacking has a huge arc that ties through the game. In development, in designing these new features, avoiding arbitrary decisions is the key."
Shoot 500 rounds per second.
While studio remains mum about whether Prophet's suit will offer up new abilities, we're shown he can now wield enemy weapons first-hand. One of which, the Typhoon, will shoot 500 rounds per second. Another can be used to hurl plasma missiles and grenades.
This suggests a new kind of Crysis. This time Crytek emphasizes exactly what is possible when fighting from the sidelines, ten meters out in the comfort of a hacking terminal, or directly behind an enemy, undetected. Crysis 3, it seems, offers new ways to attack old problems.