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Art of 'Crysis 3': New York City as an urban jungle

Crysis 3

EA has finally pulled the curtain off the much anticipated "Crysis 3," scheduled for the second quarter of 2013 and destined for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

The third chapter of the "Crysis" saga has the player assuming the mantle of series regular "Prophet" and must again deal with a very hostile New York City.

But unlike in the second installment, the city has completely transformed into a jungle-like environment, much like it was in the first game:

The concept of terraforming the Big Apple into a literal urban jungle is hardly original. But "Crysis 3" may go down as the most vividly realized take thus far. Creating such a rich setting was no easy feat.

When asked Rasmus Hoejengaard, Crytek's director of creative development, about the design difficulties, he said it started with meditation by the design team, who used Hollywood movies as examples of what to do -- and what not to do.

"They really thought hard about the concept of what a rain forest in a city would really mean," Hoejengaard explains. "Without strong art direction -- not to insult any movies -- we would have ended up with 'I Am Legend,' in which it would have just been New York City, but with a lot of vegetation."

To illustrate his point, the following example was given: "When you see a rock formation with an accompanying waterfall, it's only up-close that one will realize that it's part of a collapsed building." The fact that the structure is recognizable will further add to the emotional impact of the situation, adds Hoejengaard.

When asked what the key goal of the new game was, Hoejengaard said how Crytek sought to tell the story in a completely different manner than previous chapters. "We wanted more of a personal story, told in a sci-fi setting, as opposed to sci-fi tale with a bunch of random people in it."

Fans of the series might view part 3 as the perfect combination of part 1 and 2, setting-wise, but it goes beyond just the locale. "Part 1 was an open environment, and offered sandbox gameplay. Part 2 was more linear, because of the urban environment, and thusly did not support an open world," says Hoejengaard.

"Part 3 is a combination of both, an urban landscape that has been reclaimed by nature, which offers the possibly of sandbox gameplay, but also a more linear experience, depending on the point in which the player is at. It's a dynamic that we didn't have before and which we're very excited about."

According to preliminary plot details, the game takes place in the year 2047, and New York City has been encased in a Nanodome, dubbed the Liberty Dome, by the Cell Corporation.

The excuse given is that it's designed to protect denizens from the Ceph, the squid-like alien race that are the primary troublemakers of the franchise. In reality, the Liberty Dome is part of the Cell Corporation's plans for world domination that Prophet must take down.

The player must traverse seven distinct locations within the dome, known as the Seven Wonders. Part of his arsenal is a lethal composite bow, the Nanosuit that is another series mainstay, and some repurposed alien technology, which when combined will transform the player into the deadliest hunter on Earth once again.

When asked what inspired the characters and settings of "Crysis 3," a surprising combination was disclosed. For Prophet, Hoejengaard stated the film "District 9," particularly the concept of a human becoming empowered by alien technology.

As for Prophet's motivations, the Occupy Wall Street movement was cited. The Cell Corporation is a large entity that claims to have people's interests in mind, but does not. Prophet is the kind of person who wants to bring down the fat cats, and level the playing field.

There are countless comics books, movies and novels that have help to add texture to the games, says Hoejengaard. And like other popular franchises, when asked if "Crysis" was a trilogy, Hoejengaard responded relatively clearly. "It more or less is one, though that has never been explicitly communicated."

As for the technical challenges, the Crytek team is in better shape than they were just before "Crysis 2" came out. "We had to develop the console version of the engine [CryEngine 3] while also creating the game at the same time, plus it was our first console release as well," says Hoejengaard.

"So this time [with 'Crysis 3'], because we're not in the position of having to totally revamp our engine at the same time, and because we finally have experience with the console platform, we can finally push the quality and create the most beautiful and immersive game possible."

Matthew Hawkins is an NYC-based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of  Attract Mode , and co-hosts  The Fangamer Podcast . You can keep tabs on him via  Twitter , or his personal home-base, .