The Vulnerable Side of Crysis 3

How a series long dominated by alien-killing machismo flashes a slightly different side.

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For a series that lets you throw people by their necks and knock steel doors off their hinges with your bare hands, there's something oddly vulnerable about Crysis 3. Sure, in many ways this is the same sci-fi first-person shooter you've seen in previous installments--right on down to the part where you pick up enemies by their necks and throw them from cliffs, buildings, or buildings sitting atop tall cliffs. But there's this other side of Crysis 3 that hasn't been explored in previous games, a side where all that machismo recedes for a moment or two and you get to look at the game's setting and central characters in an altogether different light.

Remember Psycho? He of the cockney accent and with a penchant for British vulgarities? Psycho was one of the nanosuited supersoldiers from the original Crysis, and he went on to star in the series' lone expansion, Crysis Warhead. Psycho returns as a player companion in Crysis 3, but he's a different man now.

No longer equipped with a nanosuit, Psycho now belongs to a sort of underground resistance network fighting the CELL private security forces responsible for erecting a massive dome around New York City after the events of the last game. Decked out in plainclothes and looking a little pudgy, Psycho comes off a bit timid and shell-shocked after what has happened in the past. He feels like a veteran battling post-traumatic stress disorder, only he never got to come home from his war. He's still fighting it.

In one memorable scene, Psycho and Prophet (Crysis 3's main character) approach a gate leading up to an elevated subway line. Psycho attempts to knock down the door, but just winds up hurting himself and falling to the ground. It's then up to you, the player, to finish the job as Psycho looks on in what can only be described as abject embarrassment.

That sense of vulnerability is reflected in the environment, as well. New York has long been portrayed as the type of city that is able to overcome any tragedy or disaster that comes its way, a place where people are simply too proud and stubborn to see their home devolve into anything less than one of the greatest cities in the world.

In Crysis 3, though, there's a certain loss of identity that's hard to ignore in those moments you're allowed to take a look around you outside of combat. After aliens invaded New York in Crysis 2 and effectively demolished the city, Manhattan is now covered in a giant dome designed to quarantine the lingering threat. The result is a city that has returned to nature, with dense foliage and greenery overtaking the buildings and concrete.

You see a bit of New York in those glimpses at its iconic skyline, but often you're so surrounded by jungle that it's hard to tell you're in the city at all. Are you on 7th or 5th Avenue? Is this Central Park or some new jungle? So much of the city's defining characteristics have been smoothed over by destruction and overgrowth that it becomes that much harder to pinpoint where you are. It feels like a different New York, one that wasn't--for once in history--able to rebuild itself.

Will Crysis 3 take all of this and turn it into a first-person shooter that's a little less aggressive and a little more contemplative? Who knows. It might very well become the same sort of alien invasion story we've seen twice before. But for a few moments here and there, Crysis 3 does let you look at its characters and settings in a somewhat different light. For a series three games and one expansion deep, that change of pace--however fleeting--is nice to see.

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