Crysis 3, like practically every other shooter released today, features a competitive multiplayer package. But what Crytek reckons makes it more compelling than others is its approach to making it feel like a single-player game thanks to its new Hunter mode.
Crytek's CEO and founder Cevat Yerli said that what's being attempted with Crysis 3's multiplayer is a "single player-esque" experience that feels part of the same DNA as the campaign.
"We didn't want it to be, 'Here's the single player, now after you're done with single-player just jump into multiplayer', [something] that everyone has been doing for a while, including Crysis 2," he explained. "We wanted to offer some new modes, and also offer something that you can migrate to easier."
Kill the Hunters... or you'll take on the Hunted
The brunt of this single-player approach comes in the form of the new Hunter mode. With two players starting as cloaked, bow-wielding super-soldiers, they must work together to take down a team of CELL soldiers.
If they successfully kill a soldier, they'll respawn and join the Hunter team, increasing their strength and chances of whittling down the CELL numbers. With invisible foes picking off helpless soldiers, it reminds of us of 1987 sci-fi action classic Predator.
What makes it feel like a single player experience is that when the match comes down to one CELL player against 11 Hunters, they will "really try to hunt you down like AI try to do", explains Yerli.
"If there's one guy surviving, he's just amazing. That reward is as personal and as cinematic as you can get," he said.
"So it's the most single player-esque rich, or cinematic multiplayer experience you can get, whether you're playing as the Hunter or the CELL troops."
Yerli continued by saying in Hunter mode you never lose; whether you're the last survivor or you're the first CELL trooper to join the Hunters, you continue progressing, like in a campaign.
"Even if you get shot, killed and respawn, it's fun enough for you to try again. In truly competitive, symmetric multiplayer, there is a loser at the end of the day. Even if you respawn, or lose a session, you lost it. If you lose it again and again, it's the same experience again. With the Hunter mode you always get a different experience."
Yerli added: "I like it a lot because, honestly in the last 15 years that I've been engaged in multiplayer gaming generally, this is the single most interesting thing I've seen from conceptual stage to the implementation. I'm super excited about it because it differentiates Crysis 3."
The Liberty Dome and its Seven Wonders
Crysis 3 is set within the Liberty Dome, a setting that combines the decaying remains of New York City and the wild rainforest seen in the original Crysis, promising a stunning place for players to fight online.
Even with the strong drive towards a single player-style multiplayer experience, one of the biggest elements of Crysis 3's campaign - Prophet travelling between the biodome's Seven Wonders, a set of thematically-rich areas that push diverse gameplay styles – won't translate directly over to multiplayer.
While maps will be based on these areas, without the presence of AI opponents what the Seven Wonders offer in the campaign won't feel as "exaggerated".
"They're not necessarily fully exploring the same experiences because of the way that the AI takes advantage of it," said Yerli. "If the human players play like AI then it would feel like that, but normally they would play different."
"The levels are inspired from what you see in the single player campaign anyway, but they are recreated in order to drive the multiplayer modes and rulesets, right? Effectively, they're there, but they're not as exaggerated as the single player versions."
Acclaimed TimeSplitters studio Crytek UK returns
As with Crysis 2, multiplayer will be handled by Crytek UK, the Nottingham-based studio formally known as Free Radical Design. The acclaimed developer worked on best-selling and fan-favourite shooter series TimeSplitters, and one of its co-founders developed one of the most seminal console shooters of all time, GoldenEye 007.
Crysis acquired the team in 2009. Yerli said that the team features "some of the best people we have in our company", and has pushed the company as a whole forward. The new Hunter mode is a testament to their expertise.
"For me, I'd say they are some of the best people we have in our company, I really appreciate their contributions to Crytek," he said.
"[They have] added to the company, not just from a resource perspective, but from a culture and enriching the combat expertise and enriching the multiplayer expertise. They truly expanded Crytek, in a way." It sounds like Crysis 3's multiplayer is in good hands.
Crysis 3 will be available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC from February 22 in Europe and February 19 in North America.