crysis grass big

Hands-down, the best-looking game I’ve seen is Crysis 3. Coming on Feb. 19, this gorgeous title from publisher Electronic Arts and developer Crytek feels like you’re walking into another world. And it’s scary, too.

cevat yerliCevat Yerli (pictured left), the chief executive of Crytek, showed off the game in a preview yesterday that showed how far the PC version had come since we last saw it at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) video game trade show earlier this year. The single-player level revealed terrifying creatures running through tall grass in the overgrown jungle of a future New York City, which has been turned into an urban rainforest.

In the swaying grass, the monsters can hide and attack from any quarter. Your defense is heavy weaponry and an armored (and sometimes invisible) Nanosuit. It reminds me of the scenes from Jurassic Park 2 where Velociraptors hunt in packs in the tall grass and close in on their surprised victims.

crysis grass 3Everything about the graphics show how much better the DirectX 11 graphics, rendered with Crytek’s CryEngine 3, look on a PC than anything that can be displayed on a current-generation console. It is almost routine for your character’s vision to warp as water runs down the face plate of your helmet. The visual effect is disorienting and amazing. But you shake it off because there are so many other cool things to see just wandering around the world.

Of course, when the bad guys start shooting at you, you snap out of the reverie and begin firing back. The combat options are plentiful, and they’re all based on the theme of “the hunted becomes the hunter.” Your character, Prophet, has badass sniper and machine guns, but he can pull out a deadly composite bow and shoot arrows silently into his enemies.

A brand new level

crysis inside 2You start the new level as Prophet, fully armed in a Nanosuit in a stairwell. The lighting and shadows make everything look real. You’re inside an abandoned industrial building (pictured right), where the sunlight comes through all of the holes. You have to decide whether to use stealth in killing enemy guards with a knife or arrow. Or you can just start shooting.

I did a little of both, and I played very cautiously because it was so easy to get killed even with the powers of the Nanosuit. I picked off the enemies one by one and moved from cover to cover. Above me, guards fired, and bot guns pinned me down. I had to maneuver close to the robot guns and convert them by hacking them. Once hacked, the guns turned on my enemies. After I made it through that level, I wound up in the grass, where I had to deal with the monsters. And that was pretty scary even though I could disappear or armor up. The monsters jump out one after another. Hopefully, they won’t be smart enough to hunt in packs.

Yerli said his team has optimized the code for the CryEngine and the visuals are looking much better than before. The 150-person team has worked on the title for about 2.5 years. The quality of the work really shows.

crysis grass 2In this story set in the year 2047, the hero Prophet has returned to New York, where he finds the city encased in a Nanodome created by the corrupt Cell Corp. New York is literally an urban jungle, overgrown with trees, swamps, and rivers. There are seven distinct environments known as the “Seven Wonders.”

“Crytek is a studio where technology inspires gameplay,” Cevat Yerli, the chief executive of the German game development studio Crytek, told GamesBeat. “With this level, we wanted the grass to affect your decision-making. How do you negotiate the grass? How does the enemy shape it? As you enter it, it becomes an emergent gameplay experience. It’s not just beautiful. It’s part of the gameplay experience.”

The grass is just one of the “Seven Wonders of Crysis 3” that we’ll see in a video series made by famed director Albert Hughes, the creator of Dead Presidents. The videos set the stage for the launch of Crysis 3, introducing its enemies, weapons, and gameplay features.

crysis wonders“When EA and Crytek approached me about being involved in creating ‘The Seven Wonders of Crysis 3’ video series, I liked the idea of creating emotional stories using only computer-generated images,” said Hughes. “The challenge of producing something intensely human without ever seeing a human onscreen was incredibly compelling, and the technology of the CryEngine that Crytek developed enabled me to do that and venture into a completely unique medium of storytelling.”

The first video episode debuts on Dec. 12.

A new style of asynchronous multiplayer

Yerli’s team also showed off the new Hunter mode of multiplayer combat, where two players in Nanosuits (which give you superhuman armor or invisibility) square off against eight other players. In this mode, the weaker players have to communicate and gang up on the more powerful opponents as if they were bringing down an elephant. Since hunting plays such a big part of the single-player campaign, it should also be incorporated into multiplayer.

“We wanted to stay true to our sandbox experience of Crysis One,” said Yerli, “and create a single-player-esque multiplayer experience.”

I’m looking forward to playing this game. The only question is whether it will truly step up in terms of the drama of the story. That is traditionally where Crysis has been weak compared to titles like Halo or Uncharted. If it is moving, then Crysis 3 will deliver a big punch when it releases early next year.