New York has gone to shit. Beautiful, beautiful shit. In Crysis 3, the speedily developed sequel to 2011's near-future shooter, Mother Nature shows Lady Liberty how to properly dominate a skyline.
It's the best of both worlds: Crysis' organic greenery butting heads with the sequel's towering skyscrapers. Sunlight pierces thick patches of canopy, flooded streets swell into raging rivers, vines scratch and claw at buildings and wildlife flits about your face. This is less urban jungle and more urban rainforest.
And you call it home.
It's 2047, 23 years after US army major Prophet slapped on his Nanosuit 2.0 and took to the quarantined, alien-invaded Big Apple - but this time something's taken a big old bite of it. Namely, C.E.L.L. (Crynet Enforcement and Local Logistics), a private military company under US government mandate. They really, really want your exoskeleton and will do anything to get it - like erect a multi-mile Nanodome over the city to lock you down.
UNDER THE DOME
It's all a bit The Simpsons Movie, but the 'Liberty Dome' is a compelling idea. Under its transparent cover the city splits into districts known as 'The Seven Wonders', another bit of propaganda it seems as there's nothing wonderful about them. The story - the one they've fed news stations and the public anyway - is this citywide structure is there to protect the population and rid the planet of remaining alien forces.
But you know the truth. Biomedical company CryNet (parent of C.E.L.L.) wants your suit and the Earth-invading Ceph want you dead. They're all overlooking one thing: you're not locked in with them... they're locked in with you.
This is more paradise than prison, and Cabela's Dangerous Hunt presumably proved developer Crytek's inspiration in the way you track and stalk through thick vegetation. (We're joking, of course. Or... are we?) It's a sprawl you've slaughtered through before, but this New York is different. In a word, it's stunning. In two, it's absolutely stunning, and looks set to continue Crysis' lineage of hardware-defying graphics.
Rasmus Højengaard, director of creative development at Crytek, had this to say when we tracked him down at the preview event: "Obviously we're limited by things such as memory, but we have brilliant R&D guys and they're able to do things that no-one has done on consoles before." Fair point, but will this be a tale of two cities - the better being the PC version? "What's important", says Rasmus, "is the experience doesn't change."
Regardless of platform, this is surely a contender for best-looking game of all time. CryENGINE 3 is a fierce reminder Crytek are among the best in the business at both squeezing juice out of ageing platforms and putting the frightening power of newer ones to dazzling effect.
But something's got to give.