While much of the attention so far has been focused on its visually impressive campaign, tomorrow console and PC players get to experience Crysis 3's multiplayer mode via the public beta. Ahead of the deploy, we visited EA to examine what Crytek's multiplayer offering brings to the arena.
Our session was limited to just two multiplayer maps, based in Crysis 3's Museum and Airport locations. Museum mixes indoor and outdoor environments and is set within the crumbling confines of the old metropolitan museum, with a mix of mist-shrouded ground levels, elevated walkways and the disintegrating galleries and stairwells of the decrepit art institute.
Airport, which proved the more popular choice in the between-rounds map voting, is a slightly larger affair located in the wreckage of what we presume is La Guardia airport (since it's the closest to Manhattan). Here, you'll be duelling amongst the wrecks of old aircraft, arrivals halls, baggage reclaim areas and cargo containers in an arena which mixes medium and close quarters combat to great effect.
Both maps are bounded, so you can't stray too far beyond their confines without getting a 'return to the war zone' warning but that does mean the action is always concentrated and intense.
Our session was limited to just two multiplayer modes, exactly the same as you'll experience in the Crysis 3 multiplayer beta tomorrow. The first, Crash Site is a standard, though nonetheless very enjoyable king of the hill-style affair, where you battle to hold and secure a series of moveable locations.
This results in some severe scraps with brutal fire fights erupting around each circular zone of control as attackers struggle to hold onto their gains and defenders launch all out assaults to eject them before the time limit runs out. Enlivening proceedings in this mode are also two vehicles. One's a tripod-like walker tank which rains pain and destruction down on the opposition, while the other's a helicopter-like hover flyer which operates like a mobile weapons platform allowing players to shoot and snipe from up high with impunity.
A mighty nano-suit powered leap into either will secure the spoils and can quickly change the balance of power during matches.
Also scattered around the war zone are ammo dumps and various technologically advanced weapons left by the alien Ceph, which are much more powerful than your conventional arms. Securing a few of these for your arsenal is another way to quickly tip the balance in your favour and if you're up against vehicular opponents? Well no better way of introducing yourself than a mortar round straight to the cockpit or if you're in close quarter combat, the endearing sound of tech riot shield crunching face.
Far more intriguing though is Crysis 3's Hunter gameplay mode. In the PC version, up to 14 players take the role of a variety of Cell operatives whose drop ship is taken down (rather comically) in the introduction to each mission. Facing them are two hunters armed 'only' with infinite nano-suit cloaking and deadly Predator bows who are charged with stalking and taking out the Cell operatives within a strict two minute time limit. Once a Cell operative is downed, they respawn as a hunter and turn on their former comrades.
It might sound a touch unbalanced if you're the hapless Cell ops, but we're here to tell you it is absolutely tremendous fun, with huge bonuses scored for being last man standing, taking down a hunter or best of all, surviving the whole round. This leads to some intriguing and often hilarious tactical dilemmas: do you band together in a big mass with your fellow Cells and try to survive as a group, fearing the invisible arrow from the dark? Or do you strike out on your own, lurk in a dark corner and try to decoy the hunters with some carefully placed holograms and wait tensely as the clock ticks down?
As a hunter you do feel massively overpowered being able to leap Predator-like around the level, stalk Cells without being seen and take them out with an arrow in the back, but the clock is always ticking inexorably down and when there are just a few victims left, it's a real rush to make the final kill and secure vital points.
As you can probably tell, we rather enjoyed this mode as it offers something very different from your standard run-of-the-mill deathmatch type experience. Let's hope Crytek has included plenty more asynchronous modes and ideas to enjoy in the full multiplayer game.
At the start of each match, you'll also find additional options for a meta game with changing goals like 'make the first kill', 'rack up a certain number of kills with a specific weapon' and other moving targets. Fulfil these and you'll earn even more experience, points and abilities in between rounds and rise rapidly in both rank and class.
In both modes there's also the opportunity to customise your player with default classes like scout, sniper and assault and these provide plenty of different weapons and equipment to choose from, with the option to also create your own unique custom classes. These will have a dramatic effect on both your look (snipers sport some rather fetching tech ghillie suits for example), load out and play style, so choose wisely.
While understandably a lot of Crysis 3 previews have focussed on the joy of its looks and the single-player campaign, on this showing there's going to be plenty for multiplayer fans to dive into. We're hoping for a few more modes and game styles for the full release, but Hunter mode itself almost earns the admission price.
Crysis 3 releases on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 on February 21.