Written by Jon Morris Tuesday, 17 April 2012 08:03
EA Games announced yesterday that Crysis 3, the next installment in the graphic-intensive future soldier series, will be released in spring of 2013 on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. The game will run on the much-lauded CryENGINE, and according to EA it will be "the ultimate sandbox." The currently available information indicates that players will assume the role of an "ultimate hunter," using a compound bow and alien weaponry in addition to the usual fare of assault rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles. There is a multiplayer component that EA describes as "expanded," and the announced pre-order bonuses include early access to weapons that are presumably unlockable through normal play. The official website makes clear that once again, the baddies will be a mix of aliens and shadowy mercs.
Let the speculation begin.
Will existing fans buy in? By announcing pre-order bonuses a year before the game is expected to release, EA is certainly indicating that they hope so. The Origin pre-order page confirms that players will once again control Prophet, a well-known character to anyone who has played earlier Crysis games. Regardless of having played any previous titles or not, virtually every gamer knows that the series sports legendary graphics that stress weaker systems and allow stronger machines to truly show their power. Assuming the consoles are somewhere in the middle from a graphical standpoint, chances are the game will be gorgeous. At this point, Crytek almost has to make the prettiest game in the world to live up to their own legacy. Previous titles have also sounded good, and it's fair to say that all of the current AAA titles under the EA banner have top-notch sound and music. But will the eye and ear candy be enough to attract players en masse?
The game takes place in a nanodome-encased New York City, which should create great potential for mind-bending juxtapositional artistry. All of the previous titles have centered around the concept of being a mechanically-enhanced super-soldier who adapts physically and mentally to varied challenges. The combination of alien and human foes in a not-too distant future setting provides fertile ground for engrossing storylines, as evidenced by the earlier installments. If done right, the new emphasis on being a hunter could prove very rewarding, particularly for those who have any lingering desire to exact revenge on the forces that have pursued your character in the past. The third installment of a trilogy is the natural setting for a protagonist to strike back in a decisive battle against bitter foes. Whether or not the story truly breaks any new ground, the potential is there for a highly enjoyable thrill ride through a violent playground full of sensory delights.
Will the multiplayer be improved over Crysis 2? Some feel that the multiplayer side of Crysis 2 got an undeservedly bad rap, and there are still some servers out there. Of course, the single player aspect of the Crysis games has always been huge, and for some players it completely eclipses the multiplayer. However, in this crowded market, a sixty-dollar price tag brings with it the expectation that there will be more than just a decent single player campaign. Recent events have placed EA in the crosshairs of many consumers, with one of the most discussed issues being the perception that the company does not listen to its customers. Crysis 3 provides a perfect opportunity for EA to change this unfavorable image, or permanently cement it in consumers' minds.
In addition to widespread frustration caused by the non-optional, cumbersome-at-best account system that plagued Crysis 2 multiplayer from the beginning, the biggest complaints centered around the amount of cloaking in multiplayer, which of course necessitated the prolific use of the "Nanovision" feature. The now-infamous, intolerably loud "NANOVISION ENABLED" suit announcement that could not be turned down or turned off will surely be on players' minds as they look forward to Crysis 3. Will Crytek and EA give the player more detailed control over in-game options? There will likely be significant angst if the interface is not more fleshed out this time around. Adaptability must be more than a buzzword. Many feel that a game centered around an incredibly powerful, technically sophisticated suit should, as a matter of course, include full functionality, evidenced by a large number of configurable options for players.
A compound bow and "Hunter" nanosuit module are heavily featured in all of the existing press materials, and will be useable in multiplayer. One wonders if the bow will be gimmicky, or will it be a well-integrated option amidst a plethora of useable weapons? No one familiar with the series will expect cloaking to be removed as a viable technique, but players may tire quickly of multiplayer if any particular suit mode is overly dominant. It appears that there will be a large number of weapon choices available to the player, but we can all imagine one possible world in which there are cloaked archers in complete control of matches while everyone that chooses a more traditional approach is little more than fodder. While it is true that gamers often miss the cues that should lead them to use teamwork or alternate weapons to battle against the popular kits in a given game, care should be taken to ensure that right out of the box one can do reasonably well with something besides the cloak and bow setup.
Although it appears that the Crysis 3 pre-order bonuses will not include any weapons that cannot be unlocked through normal play, the question remains whether those who pre-order will have an unfair advantage over those who do not. Pre-order bonuses are common, and many consumers exercise the option to pre-purchase games as close to their release dates as possible. However, it is important to reward the faithful pre-order customer in a way that does not overly disempower the person who pays full price the day the game releases. In the first month or two of a new game, that is exactly the type of thing that can derail the development of a promising multiplayer community. Even from an emotionless, profit-driven point of view, it stands to reason that long-term interest in multiplayer and an active community make the task of selling DLC much easier.
The original Crysis is legend. Crysis 2 was arguably underrated, but any sequel with such a distinguished pedigree is going to be held to a high standard. The impending release of Crysis 3 will generate much fanfare and anticipation over the next year. Will it live up to the hype?