Even on PC, however, eye-melting visuals can't mask everything. Like how gun clips empty after one or two encounters, meaning you'll constantly have to pause fights to rummage through boxes of standard, special and explosive ordinance. Why not just make clips bigger? It's a pick-and-mix when you need a one-stop-shop. Snowballing the issue, Ceph are bullet sponges. Perhaps there should have been fewer and tougher foes, shifting emphasis back onto stealth.
The minute you dig deeper, you start to see Crysis 3 for what it is: a standard semi-detached built on solid diamond bedrock; a perfectly playable shooter containing everything you'd expect and nothing you wouldn't. There's a bald marine with regenerating health, sniper rifles and C4, health and armour upgrades, heat vision and hacking, a turret section, periphery characters squawking down your radio, and a story in which you're the world's last hope, tasked with saving a population you never meet.
There's nothing wrong with all that, of course. A campaign that gives you the chance to fry enemies inside their armour with a microwave rifle, or wrench an Mk. 60 fully automatic machine gun from its support and run amok, or bolt a silencer to your Alpha Jackal shotgun and go all No Country For Old Men shouldn't be sniffed at. But you'll likely come away more satisfied than staggered. The rule remains the same throughout: the better your machine, the more Crysis 3 can distract you from its slightly muddled core.
A note of caution for PC owners, however. We were told you'd need to crossfire four of the latest graphics cards to max out the experience. One Nvidia GTX 680, for instance, costs £400. That's upwards of £1500. For Crytek, this is the ultimate benchmarking tool, the theory being you'll return to the game in four or five years with an updated machine and play Crysis 3 all over again. It's a fine theory - but we'd rather play it now.
The bad news? You'll never max out the settings on PC unless you're a millionaire
Our review took place on a high-end AMD machine and even this beast slowed to around 10 frames-per-second on ultra settings, while the Xbox 360 and PS3 version look to be running on the equivalent of low. (It should be noted, however, that several developers told us a day-one patch from AMD would raise the framerate.) Sure, on medium the game still looks better than anything else on the market, and while we can't fault Crytek's ambition, the game's outrageous requirements will doubtless infuriate anyone who doesn't own a PC that costs the price of a new Ford Focus. The good news is Crysis 3 looks great on consoles (again, relatively speaking) and fantastic on any PC that can handle it; the bad news is it won't max out unless you're a millionaire.
So, Crysis 3 is a difficult one to score in a multi-format review. It's a showpiece, a supermodel FPS, but on consoles there's less makeup to conceal its lack of ideas. On PC, however, the beauty is so effective in papering over the cracks, the fact that the series still remains a long, long way behind Half-Life 2 and Halo hardly seems to matter.
How does Crysis 3 cope with multi-man warfare?
After the campaign (which, by the way, is worth replaying using different suit upgrades and tactics), there's a surprisingly solid multiplayer to tuck into courtesy of an entirely separate development team based in Nottingham. Like last time it's a combination of Halo-like superhuman physicality (high jumping, turret-carrying, ass-sliding) and CoD's speed, health bars and unlock trees, but everything's now noticeably tighter: hit boxes are more accurate, melee more consistent, and guns more satisfying to shoot.
It's a mode balanced and tweaked to ensure fairer competition, with each death accompanied by a kill-cam revealing from your opponent's viewpoint exactly how your died. Less distressing are personal post-match highlights reeling off each player's top-five kills - a nice touch.
Better than tweaks are additions. Hunter is an ultra-tense viral gametype where two Nanosuited players armed with bows and infinite stealth energy eliminate less powerful CELL operatives like a weaponised hide and seek. Extraction sees attackers steal electronic nodes from defenders and courier them to a hovering helicopter, and Spears is a typical domination mode lent dimension by being able to choose whether to sneak in invisibly or armour-up for a head-on clash.
Cloak-spamming opponents frustrate at first - but there are ways to counter them
Popular tactics include wrenching metal panels from capture points and flinging them for instant kills, slamming onto choke points using air-attacks, and hopping on a turret of the neutral, AI-controlled VTOL (the only vehicle in multiplayer, aside from the drivable Pinger mech). Cloak-spamming opponents prove frustrating at first, but there are ways to counter them: the proximity alarm perk sounds whenever someone's near, the surveillance perk highlights enemies in blue when viewed through a scope, and shooting while invisible instantly depletes suit energy.
Each of the 12 maps are visually distinctive, ranging from an overgrown airport, oil-tanker-strewn Chinatown, towering hydrodam (swimmers risk being swept over the edge by currents), collapsed Brooklyn Bridge and the return of Crysis 2's best map, Skyline, now all rusty and dilapidated. They do, however, deviate little from mid-sized arena templates, leading to samey matches where players chase each other's backs. Don't expect epic sniper showdowns or mad vehicular capture-the-flag contests. Kills come fast and respawns faster, with new ranks, challenges, perks and weapon attachments paving the road to level 50.
Very decent, then, and unlike most multiplayer modes bolted onto predominantly single-player games (step forward, Spec Ops: The Line), definitely worth your time.
A slick, enjoyable shooter. Peers have fresher ideas - but from a technical perspective, Crysis 3 is peerless.
- The best-looking game of all time
- Refreshingly open levels
- Surprisingly good multiplayer
- Only millionaires will max it out
- A lack of new ideas
- Single-player lasts 5-6 hours