This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Crysis 3.
When two games come out late in the week, my task then is to decide which one to plough through over the weekend and which one to devote the whole of next week to. Basically, it's about taking an educated guess as to which one is more likely to be a quick hacked out puff of bunny flatulence that will come and go like a gentlemen caller at your mum's house, and which one will be an overwritten slog with dialogue edited by a comatose man with safety scissors. In this case, an educated guess that had to be made about Crysis 3 and Metal Gear Rising. I didn't say it was always a difficult educated guess, mind.
And I'd just like to express my appreciation to Crysis 3 for being over in two quick sessions, so the weekend I'd set aside for ploughing through it could instead be spent exploring the human body's maximum pie capacity. The fact that it hasn't been that long since Crysis 2 made the whole affair smell of hack-job to me, and what also didn't bode well was that the graphic for Crysis 3 on the Xbox Dashboard showed the Crysis 2 box art. I suppose it's easy to overlook the fine details when you're hacking out a sequel with a fucking meat cleaver.
Long time, and medium time and probably the short time viewers as well actually, will remember that I quite liked Crysis 2 which managed a rare thing of having an unstoppable messianic super-soldier who was simultaneously vulnerable and sympathetic, because Alcatraz was a barely-alive mush sealed in a nanosuit against his will by Prophet, a passing wanker. In Crysis 3 however, we are now playing as Prophet because his personality was still in the nanosuit and has somehow overwritten the Alcatraz identity, with Alcatraz offhandedly mentioned once in the opening backstory basically as a big pile of convenient spare parts that happened to be lying around. You fucking dick, Prophet! So we're just left with the unstoppable messianic super-soldier with none of the vulnerability, and also he's a fucking bodysnatcher now.
Crysis 3 opens with Dickbag emerging from suspended animation 30 years after the last game ended to find humanity now enslaved, and must join a civilian resistance partially consisting of old colleagues of his, 'cause Crysis 2 had so much fun nicking ideas from Half-Life 2, we might as well go for the record. In this case it's CELL, a corporation with the same ethics as Weyland Yutani but none of the insatiable appetite for self-destruction, who have enslaved humanity by monopolizing the world's energy.
On Prophet's side, we have Psycho from Crysis 1, The World's Most British Man, whose every word seems to form into a chip butty as it passes through the air, and whose main task is to rather desperately demonstrate personality to make up for Prophet's deficiency in that area. So he's really cross at CELL for taking away his favorite pajamas, and he gets betrayed, because video game stories have to feature at least one betrayal (I think that was a part of the Treaty of Versailles) and you can't effectively betray Prophet because he has all the character of a Jaffa Cake. Also, there's the resistance leader lady who doesn't like Prophet for no particular reason besides token character conflict, which is a shame because there were so many perfectly adequate reasons to dislike Prophet.
Together, they destroy CELL's power facility, but Prophet is concerned that this will make the aliens come back, because the Foreshadow-tron 4000 is going ballistic and there's still two thirds of the game to go. But everyone blows him off and sure enough, the aliens come back. Wow, who could have seen that coming? If only there was someone around here whose name means someone who predicts things!
It seems to me like jumping the plot ahead 20 years is the drastic move one saves for the crazy big sequel with the all new engine and mechanics, not the 'wimpy glorified level pack insultingly brief "whoops forgot to change the Xbox dashboard graphic" sequel that comes out less than a year later, 'cause the end result is a game in which I feel a little detached from events. There are a lot of things happening and I wasn't entirely sure how or why. As soon as the big alien gets loose, all the alien soldiers just sort of materialize and immediately invade, with the explanation that they were hiding behind someone's fridge or something all along, and CELL have a doomsday satellite that they're going to blow up New York with, except it will also blow up the world, so we have to go to a control room and bang our heads on a wall so that it doesn't.
The defining moment for me was during one of the in-game mission briefings when two sentences in, I realized I didn't know what the blinking crikey the leader lady was going on about. It felt like a conversation from about two thirds of the way into an episode of Star Trek when the bloke with the engine filter stuck to his face explains the solution he's come up with by reading aloud the contents page of the Enterprise's technical manual.
Maybe I just don't have the genius brain for some good old hard sci-fi, the kind of hard sci-fi where the most significant new addition is a bow and arrow. Yeah, that's some real hard fuckin' sci-fi right there. It completely illustrates how desperate they were to find a new feature to trumpet the amount of fuss that gets made about a fucking string tied to a bendy stick. First it features prominently on the box art and then it's introduced in the first mission in what sounds like a conversation from the fucking shopping channel:
"Gosh! I just love exterminating my fellow man with the most advanced projectile weaponry in existence, but sometimes I think that if I could just pick the bullets out of the ruined bodies of my victims, put them back in my guns and use them again, then that'd be so much more productive! But there's no way I can do that, is there...?"
"Well, Prophet! Have you tried Bow & Arrow?"
"Bow & Arrow, you say?"
"Yes! Not only does Bow & Arrow allow ammo recovery, but it's also silent, can be fired without de-cloaking and does about twelve times the damage of a bullet for some reason."
"Gosh, Psycho! Bow & Arrow sounds so convenient, it almost makes me wonder why they were completely supplanted by guns fucking centuries ago!"
Alright, maybe it's playing up to the whole stealthy predator image they're going for, and maybe it is fun to nail a complete bastard to a wall by his memories of childhood, but the thing is, Prophet isn't an alien Predator who needs to kill sentient life to make his cosmic balls feel big, and Crysis 3 still hasn't adequately explained to me why I should bother hunting all the enemies when it's easier to cloak past them and go straight to the objective.
And don't say, "because it's fun". I'm the kind of guy who needs context for that kind of thing. I like my porn to have a story. I don't get anything from it if I don't know who this woman is and what kind of poverty has driven her down to use blowjobs as payment for all her deliveries and household maintainence. And I'm not going to go out of my way to stealth hunt blokes I don't percieve as either a threat or an obstacle. In a sandbox maybe, but this is a linear game no matter how many pointless side missions they throw in that consist of only going to a single spot that's slightly out of your way.
So Crysis 3, kinda forgettable. "How forgettable?" you ask. I'VE FORGOTTEN!!
- Shot an arrow into the air: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- So no-one thought to maybe push a broom around New York at any point in the last twenty years
- But will Prophet ever be able to ecscape from Alcatraz