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'Crysis 3' is all about a return to form: Wide open spaces

Archers take aim!

Crysis 3
Crysis 3
Russ Frushtick is the director of special projects, and he has been covering the world of video games and technology for over 15 years. He co-founded Polygon in 2012.

Narrow alleyways and linear maps are four letter words for Crytek.

When people think back to the highlights of the original Far Cry, they think of one thing: Wide open spaces. And maybe mutant apes. But mostly: Wide open spaces. Crysis stuck with this model, giving players giant environments to play around in, letting them approach situations in any way they saw fit. And then came Crysis 2. While not what one would call closed off, Crysis 2 wasn't nearly as wide open as its predecessors, often forcing players into tight alleyways, limiting maneuverability and player choice. When levels did open up, they were invariably far more memorable and fun. Crytrek, the developer of all the above games, listened to what people liked and didn't like about Crysis 2 and now they're acting on it with Crysis 3.

Crytek had a playable demo of Crysis 3 on hand at a recent press event. In the demo, players were tasked with disrupting a massive dam constructed in the middle of the ruins of New York City. Although the game takes place not long after the events of Crysis 2, New York City has been changed dramatically by a terraforming device, accelerating plant growth to the point where Central Park looks like a rain forest.

The new jungle setting allows for a lot of the core changes in Crysis 3. The dam map was enormous, with trees, waterfalls and rushing rivers. Prophet, the hero of the series, is able to navigate this terrain using his nanosuit. Control-wise, little has changed since Crysis 2. You can still alternate between stealth more and armor mode, leap 20 feet in the air and sprint faster than a Chevy.

The suit's versatility has always been one of the highlights of Crysis, but stealth options were always limited by the player's arsenal. Silenced weapons were tough to come by and weren't terribly damaging. Crysis 3 remedies this with the introduction of the compound bow. Depending on what arrow you pull back, you can deal a silent headshot, or a long-range explosive charge, or an electrifying bolt to enemies. And, because the bow is integrated into your suit, it won't cause you to instantly get booted out of stealth mode when you fire your first shot.

With this in mind, we were able to navigate the map with new-found confidence, silently plugging enemy soldiers while slowly making our way to the all-important objective. Crytek calls its maps "action bubbles" in that they are almost like circular arenas with plenty of vertical space to move around. While playing through the demo, Crytek devs explained that the action bubbles in Crysis 3 will be considerably larger than anything we saw in past games. Marketing speak, sure, but the map we were playing through was definitely enormous, spanning what looked like a square half-mile. And, according to reps, this is just a medium-sized action bubble.

Predictably the map was absolutely stunning. Crytek has always known how to push hardware. Zero draw distance showing off an unbelievable vista with dozens of guards and robotic mechs patrolling the man-made lake. Worth noting that this was all running on a PC (specs unknown), so we wouldn't get the same level of fidelity on consoles, but it's good to know that the engine still has room to grow.

But, ignoring the bells and whistles, I'm just happy that the focus on player choice and freedom of movement is back to being a priority for Crysis 3. After all, this is why people fell in love with Crytek in the first place.