Crysis 3: “By tightening things up and having less breadth, we can have a lot more depth … and that’s what we’ve done.”
Crysis is back. Prophet is back. Only this time, developers Crytek have opted to turn the story entirely on its head. So what really happens when the hunted becomes the hunter?
Reprising the role of Prophet, it’s twenty years after the events of Crysis 2 and you’re back on the streets of New York City … only the Big Apple might not be entirely as you remember it. Still scarred from the wars of the past, the city’s been encased in the Liberty Dome, a nano-dome designed to keep the bad guys out and artificially accelerate organic growth. Trouble is, Cell Corps appear to have been a victim of their own success; the boosted organic growth has essentially ensnarled the city, turning NYC into an “urban rainforest”; a sprawling, manufactured ecosystem complete with forests, swamps and rivers.
Turns out it’s not an accidental by-product. On discovering that the domes exist not to save the land but essentially just steal it (oh, Cell Corps, when will you learn from your for global domination attempts of the past?), Prophet’s had enough. Determined to take them down, he steps into the rainforests of Liberty Dome … and so kicks off Crysis 3 and a new tale of “revenge and redemption”.
“We wanted you to understand the motivation of why you were a certain way, behaving a certain way,” Director of Creative Development, Rasmus Hojengaard, told GGS at the recent EA Showcase. “We want you to feel a certain way, [but] also we wanted to broaden the gameplay style. We definitely saw some advantages in the gameplay style of Crysis 1, and we definitely saw some advantages in Crysis 2, but it’s about using those things in the right and proper time [...] rather than try and push one agenda through the entirety of the game. That’s why the concept of the Seven Wonders [of the Rainforest] is great. It gives us that palette of different approaches, moods and designs to support each of these different ways of pushing gameplay and story.”
From the little we’ve seen, this is undoubtedly true. The nano-domes – stuffed with textures, light, life, and, as you might expect, one or two of those pesky Ceph – showcase not only the capabilities of Crysis 3‘s CryEngine 3, but also the intricacies of the game’s visual narrative. Yes, the environments might seem familiar, particularly given the back-drop of Crysis 2 … but don’t be fooled. All existing architecture, even environments you might have seen before, has been adapted and rebuilt from the ground up. But that’s not the only improvement. Hojengaard is anxious for us to know that Crytek have learned lessons about past storytelling, too.
“We did our homework really well, and very early on. We have a development team that is very strong [and] really understands what we’re trying to do here. They just do awesome stuff. We’re also pushing the story a lot more. We’re simplifying it. The depth comes from the characters rather than the complexity of the concepts going on in the world, which is a little bit of a different take on the storytelling.”
It’s a point that Hojengaard drills home again and again. Yes, there’s a new artistic intensity and a commitment to embracing the Seven Wonders of the rainforest … but it’s the narrative that he keeps coming back to. So with a new-but-yet-to-be-announced writer on board (Richard Morgan has stepped away from the project, reportedly to focus on his family commitments for now), what is it that will be so different this time?
“We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we’re going to layer our storytelling. We learned that sometimes it’s better to boil things down and be rich about what we’re explaining, rather than trying to make everything as big and complicated as humanly possible. We’re trying to add context to everything that we do, whether it’s on a meta-story level or a literate story or the actions taking place in the game, trying to make sure that it’s all inter-connected.”
“We want the player to walk away with a much deeper understanding of what all these Ceph guys are about,” he adds. “It’s not necessarily that you like or dislike them, but that you understand what their greater motives are, [...] how they function as an entity. It gives context. Same for Cell, and for Prophet – you need to know where he’s coming from. We layer story differently in this game; some things will be in your face that you can’t miss for the life of you, and then we’ll have stuff going on in the level where there’s a chance you’ll miss it if you’re distracted and blowing stuff up. You’ll also have ambient storytelling – stuff written on walls, reactions from the environment to your actions, [but also] stuff hidden in emails … although you’re probably going to be a die-hard fan if you’re looking for that stuff.”
Hojengaard isn’t wrong. From the demo we viewed, it’s already apparent that Crysis 3 – whilst stuffed with crisp, clear detail – is indeed working towards more horizontal gameplay. And while some themes may, apparently, be more discreet than others, there’s one you simply cannot miss: the hunt.
“Of course, firstly [the hunting theme] fits the setting really well,” admits Hojengaard, “but secondly it’s about the characters, right? Prophet has been kicked around in the past, and that has made him make some questionable decisions, [ones he might] not have [made] had he not been in that situation. It means that he’s thinking, Screw this, it doesn’t lead to any good to keep doing what these guys are telling me, I’m going to do things the way I think things need to be done now. Part of taking charge of these things is hunting things down. It’s a theme that resonates through everything in the game – his arc, the setting, the weaponry, his past, the future that he’s going to define for himself … so yeah, it plays a big role but the specifics of that … well, you’re going to have to wait and play it.”
If the thought of waiting until 2013 pains you, take a breath. Even the brief demo we saw gave a vivid and long-lasting impression of what lies in store for C3. Bigger and better weapons (living in Cell tech for as long as he has means Prophet can now make use of all that Ceph tech lying about), bursts of natural and engaging dialogue from Prophet et al and a glimpse of his all-new hacking capacities mean that whatever we have to wait for, it’s probably going to be worth the wait.
“The hacking ability, using the Ceph tech … it all ties into a bigger theme, [...] and into Prophet’s motivation as a person – or whatever he is inside that suit. You have other characters reflecting that back by having completely opposite motivations or opinions, which creates friction but also gives a great potential for these characters to support each other. By tightening things up and having less breadth, we can have a lot more depth … and that’s what we’ve done.”
Crysis 3 looks set for release in 2013. Can’t wait? Nope. Neither can we.