Beauty is in the eye of the settings obssesser, yet by most measurements Crysis 3 is definitely the most impressive-looking game ever. When you get into it, the amount of detail the artists have put into the world hits you right in the face, and also in the heart for those of us who were young children when gaming looked like this.

Cranked to maximum settings (forgive the rather obvious "gruff maximum man" references all over the place), Crysis 3 with its new build of the Cry Engine is a marvel of software engineering and art. It's simply amazing to look at, and has stuff in it that we've never seen in games before.

Of course, the trade off is that you really do need the Matrix hive mind to run it with everything set to full tilt. Post processing and MSAA are the main culprits once more - these two if cranked all the way up give the name Cry Engine the meaning Cevat Yerli probably had in mind as he was conceiving of this beast. Crysis 3 will make your PC weep with agony. Judging by my own setup and how it runs for me, it probably needs something like two 7970s or 680s, hopefully 32GB RAM, and the fastest CPU you can get your hands on.  You can check the official system requirements from Cevat and company, but these may not translate into actual performance on your machine thanks to the whimsical nature of PC gaming and hardware. There are just too many variables with a game this massively advanced, thus simply going for the most powerful gear available is the only way to be sure.

So while I was hoping to get a good hour or two of gaming done as soon as Origin OK'd Crysis 3 for play (it was available for pre-load from last weekend), this turned into a quick first impressions thing because most of the allocated time was spent messing with the graphics settings. Initially I tried the everything to the top approach, but it was too uncomfortably in slideshow territory, with Fraps reporting 15-25fps. My setup is a Core i5-3470, 16GB RAM, and HD 7950. No overclock on anything.  

 

With these settings I was getting the almost slideshow-like output described above, though it wasn't consistent. It would reach as high as 30fps in areas that had less effects going on, but it wasn't satisfactory.

After doing the graphics settings (and prior to realizing they were not entirely tenable on my PC) I also looked at some of the other options Crytek offer, and as expected there's quite a few. This game supports 3D, obviously, and even lets you determine HUD bobbing.

Having played the first Crysis twice, Warhead once, and Crysis 2 twice (on two platforms no less), I know better than to choose one of the harder difficulty levels. I have no idea what post-human warrior entails, but in my case it might involve an ASUS monitor flying out of a window, so no intention on finding out.

Whichever difficulty you choose, there's an optional tutorial that covers all your FPS basics plus the nanosuit functions. It's neatly done, presumably from the perspective of CELL, the somewhat corrupt corporation introduced in Crysis 2. Officially, this is Nanosuit 2.0, and the tactical overlay has been improved to allow for convenient remote hacking of various things, like turrets, which then turn on their handlers. This isn't the most original touch ever, but it's a welcome addition. It even comes with a hacking mini-game (naturally), which I personally enjoy.

Even segments like the weapon modification screen got a significant upgrade, and your trusty SCAR is simply beautiful now.

So Crysis 3 is an amazing achievement in art, design, and technology. But Crytek/EA and everyone involved forgive me: I have to say the story is not the most coherent ever. First of all, Prophet...how the guy made it from Lingshan to NYC remains unclear. Then, he blatantly shot himself in the head in Crysis 2 and somehow put the suit on Alcatraz. Yet here he is, talking and alive, and in space for some odd reason. A lot of this is explained via collectibles, which I suggest you hunt down if you care about the story. Most of the tale has been retconned, and we learn of how Prophet is still around, but to say it's something you'd readily believe would be a stretch. Then again, this is a sci fi shooter at heart, so all's good.

As a side note, do keep in mind this is very much a sequel to Crysis 2, and has very little do to with Crysis/Warhead in terms of feel or gameplay. I don't think you get a lot of open world here, and the interface is simply an upgraded Crysis 2 front-end. So if you're a purist bent on more of what the first game offered, don't get your hopes up too much and enjoy this for what it is.

Psycho comes back for more, and while this is a cutscene, the actual in-game characters look just as good. Motion capture and facial animations are plain incredible. Voice acting is good, too, though in a very Crysis-like way. Having been familiar with these guys for more than six years now, they're definitely relatable, and it's like hooking up with old friends. Which is exactly what happens in this scene.

Look at this, look at the detail, the lighting...every rain drop is rendered beautifully, and obviously this crunched up JPEG does not do the real thing complete justice. Sure, it looks like the ship from Metal Gear Solid 2, and the story takes us once again to New York, but we can look past these and realize the significance of Crysis 3 may not be in fireside storytelling: it's a milestone in gaming technology and artistry, of that there is no doubt.

At this point, after a few minutes of actual gameplay, I decided the settings needed to be toned down in order to assure a more palatable framerate. So these are the settings I finally went with. Fraps was reporting 30-60fps with these, depending on scene. The game runs very smooth with the settings as shown.

This is all in the same location, as I didn't progress very far into the game. But the visuals are downright stunning. No texture flicker, no pop-up. Everything runs silky smooth. The upshot of Crysis 3 being soooo gorgeous is that even if you dial down the settings to very medium it will still look incredible. In a weird yet very impressive way this makes the most technically accomplished game ever also very accessible to folks with more modest PCs.

From my brief spell with Crysis 3, opponent AI isn't much better than that of a gallery shooter. The frontline CELL grunts you run into are not the smartest, and generally avoid cover. The story does make a point of them being quite poorly trained and not very motivated, but still - you'd expect them to have a more prominent survival instinct. As it is, Prophet just blasts through them. I suspect later on in the game when the Ceph finally show up the difficulty spikes up significantly.

Cloak engaged, indeed! But with CELL being on the pushover side of the spectrum, there's really no need for this, so the game forces it on you by way of stealth sections, where if you don't cloak properly a gunship might show up to shred you, and that one isn't as tender as CELL cannon fodder.

You can carry quite a few weapons, and all of them are lovingly done, with my favorite being the Feline, which we were also introduced to in Crysis 2.

Then there's the much-advertised torque bow Prophet gets to play with, which is fun to use as it's stealthy yet immensely powerful. In terms of violence and gore, Crysis 3 isn't really over the top. There isn't much blood, and the bow doesn't seem to impale baddies on walls or anything.

Collectibles. This time I truly recommend you look for them if you want to make sense of the story. If you're just in it for the graphics and action then so be it, but they do add a lot of depth, even if they make Prophet seem kinda like those guys from the Prototype games. Don't want to spoil it for you, you'll see what I mean.

 

Couple more shots to share the beauty and glory of this game. There's simply no doubt. If you're an even remotely interested gamer you will get Crysis 3. Sure, there may be aspects of it you won't like, but I urge you to view it in the correct historical context. And certainly if you're a dedicated gamer you've had it on pre-order so you're playing it as we speak. Maybe let us know what you think in the forums? Maximum feedback and all that.