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‘Crysis 3’ pixel perfection that's only skin deep

Crysis 3's visual fidelity is unmatched in the first-person shooter genre. The game brings to mind the other post-apocalyptic games like "Enslaved," but it lacks the depth of pacing and storytelling.

In “Crysis,” the soldier known as Prophet acquired a powerful nanosuit based on alien technology. Over time, soldier and suit changed and bonded to a degree that left little of Prophet’s humanity.

The results help drive the action in “Crysis 3,” the M-rated sci-fi shooter developed by Crytek for Electronic Arts.

The game opens with Prophet held in a sort of suspended animation by the evil corporation known as Cell. While he’s been asleep, Cell has taken over New York City and encased it in an enormous dome. Beneath the dome, Cell harvests energy from an incredibly powerful source with the help of slave laborers, who are kept in line by a trigger-happy paramilitary force.

Prophet is awakened and released by Psycho, a former companion who was “skinned” to remove his nanosuit. Psycho is part of a resistance unit working in the remains of New York City. The Big Apple has decayed into a jumble of high-rise ruins covered by dense vegetation — a perfect hunting ground for Prophet.

“Crysis” fans will recognize much of the game’s mechanics. Your suit can go nearly invisible so you can sneak up on enemies, or it can turn rock-hard to deflect their attacks. It has a handy visor that tells you all you need to know about your surrounding and its dangers. It allows you to run fast and jump high. It’s also handy for bashing faces or kicking objects large enough to squash your foes. Because of energy limitations, you’re not exactly Superman, but you’re still pretty powerful.

Using these abilities at the right times and against the right foes is important — and a lot of fun — but probably not vital. Unless set at the highest difficulty levels, most of the enemies aren’t particularly hard to defeat.

You’re provided with an interesting selection of weapons, including some nifty gadgets developed by the alien Ceph. (Unfortunately, I can’t say much about them without revealing some key plot points.)

The biggest change to Prophet’s arsenal — and the game overall — is the addition of an extremely cool bow. The predator bow can fire regular arrows, which can be extremely effective when used in stealth mode. But when heavy firepower is in order, you can select arrows that electrocute, burn and explode. The effects can be quite satisfying.

While all of Prophet’s gear and abilities are very fun to use, there’s really nothing spectacular about the missions he tackles. They generally involve killing virtually everything that pops up on the screen. Exploration does yield rewards, such as upgrades to your nanosuit and weapons and ammo. And taking side missions can result in extra gear or help from nonplayer characters, such as timely mortar support. However, in the end, the game doesn’t really offer much more than a sprint to a finale that seems to come a little too soon.

In addition to the single-player campaign, “Crysis 3” offers a solid selection of online multiplayer options. One is a cool variation of the popular “Infected” mode from “Halo.” It starts off with two players hunting down 10 other players. As the hunted fall, they join the ranks of the hunters.

The graphics are excellent. The settings look great, with incredibly rich color and detail. The characters also are well rendered and animated. You’ll probably notice a few visual glitches, but a lot fewer than you’ll see in most high-end games.

The controls and interface are well-designed and efficient.

The game earns its mature rating for violence and a medium-size dose of vulgarity.

Bottom line: “Crysis 3” is a lot of fun to play, but feels a bit short and shallow.

Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested), PlayStation 3, PC

Online: www.crysis.com

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