Ah, Crysis, the most mythical of beasts in the PC herd. Running Crysis on maximum setting was kind of like spotting a unicorn. We all knew a guy who said he had done it once, but deep down we knew he was lying.
Don’t get me wrong, I played Crysis (on low) and I loved it. Sneaking around a huge jungle island, fighting Koreans and aliens and taking to the Battlefield inspired multiplayer arenas held a lot of fun. Unfortunately, Crysis had a really high barrier for entry and it wasn’t widely played during its time; even when Crytek tried to optimize the engine for the Crysis Warhead and Crysis Wars, the game still chugged processing power like no tomorrow.
Now Crytek is back with a new engine and they have consoles in their sights. Does Crysis 2 succeed in being the best of both worlds, or has Crytek traded their PC cred for the console market?
The good news for PC players is that Crysis 2 is still very much in touch with its roots. While I did play and beat Crysis 2 on the Xbox 360 (and thus will be focusing on that for this review) I did have an opportunity to get hands on time with the PC version and I found them to be very close in comparison. Both versions had excellent controls for their platforms and the graphics were nearly identical with the only difference being the much smoother framerate on the PC. For an engine that used to give people nightmares, Crytek have taken great strides with the newest version of the Cry Engine, and the Xbox SKU showed that consoles haven’t yet hit their limits in terms of graphics.
Since I’m already gushing about the visual presentation in this game, I’m just going to dive right into that. Crysis 2 is freaking gorgeous, no bones about it. Whether it’s the verdant beauty of the trees or the sunlight glinting off the steel monoliths of New York City, Crysis 2 is a real feast for the eyes. Every little detail is rendered to perfection, and you’ll often be amazed that such images are coming out of a home console. While I did mention that the PC version gets a higher framerate, the 360 still chugs along at a reasonable pace with nary a slow-down.
If you’ve been on the fence about this game, or just plain haven’t been interested, you need to at least rent it to get a good look at this game running. There are a few deficiencies, like the human characters being poorly animated and some scenes suffering from draw-in, but for a good ninety percent of the game you’ll be sucked into the amazing visual ride.
Graphic whoring aside, one of the big selling points of the first Crysis was the nanosuit, the next-generation armor worn by the game’s protagonist. The nanosuit has been upgraded for this game, and figuring out how to use the suit’s variety of modes to get through combat encounters is where the real meat of this game is.
As is typical with sequels these days, the nanosuit has been streamlined to make it easier to fit the myriad options onto a game pad. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, it just means that Speed and Strength are always active and the only modes you have to toggle are Armor and Stealth. Armor is pretty useful for running into engagements headlong and using the nanosuit’s energy bar to take damage for you, but I found Stealth to be the most fun. As long as you don’t run right up to enemies and stick your gun in their face, you can bypass a lot of the fighting if you pay attention to troop movements and have an eye on your energy reserves.
The nanosuit can also be upgraded with nano-catalysts that you take from the Ceph, your extra-terrestrial foes. There are certain options to choose from for each armor mode, but only one from each category can be active at the same time. Couple this with the option to tool up your guns with different attachments, and you have a way to tailor the game to suit your play-style whether you’re a sneaky guy or more of a battering ram. Crysis also (and finally, may I add) implements a first-person cover system, which can be described as a glorified lean. When you come up to an object like a pillar or a median, you have the option of using the left trigger to lean over and aim down your sights, exposing only a small section of your body. It’s nice to see this kind of thing in a first-person shooter, especially after playing Call of Duty for all these years, which is just crying out for this kind of mechanic.
Crysis 2 has a fairly lengthy campaign by modern standards, running about seven hours in total (I’ve seen eleven to twelve mentioned elsewhere, as well). The game has some awesome set pieces, but the story is sadly lacking in impact despite the involvement of the very vocal Richard Morgan. Much of the plot remains a mystery for most of the game, and you only really get a sense of what’s going on if you pick up the hidden email conversations scattered throughout the game. Additionally, the fact that your character Alcatraz (that’s apparently his last name) doesn’t speak a word of dialog the entire game really got on my nerves; there were several points where I was actually getting frustrated by his refusal to talk. There’s apparently a reason why Alcatraz is a mute, but since this is never spelled out for you, it just added to the whole lackluster feel I got from the plot.
For something that the game developer’s were touting for a long time before release, watching Crysis 2 fall on its face from a story perspective is more than a little disappointing. Another area where the single-player game falls a little short is the AI of the enemies which ranges from competent to absolutley moronic. Sometimes the enemies will group together in squads and go hunting for you, and other times they’ll run into walls and walk off of high ledges and kill themselves. Both the human and alien foes suffer their respective brain-farts, and it’s a little jarring to go from a knock-down drag ’em out fight to walking up behind clueless enemies and snapping their necks because they lost sight of you for a moment and forgot what they were doing.
Crytek also tweaked multiplayer this time around leaving behind the Battlefield/Counter-Strike combo of the old Crysis and implementing a Call of Duty formula. You advance in rank by gaining experience through kills and special parameters and you can assign perks to your various armor modes and unlock guns and attachments. The arenas are also smaller this time around, so the multiplayer feels like a CoD clone where everyone can go invisible and turn into walking tanks. It’s really a shame that Crytek decided to shamelessly rip off CoD (some of the perks even come straight out of the CoD playbook) and give us yet another fifty level experience grind. The multiplayer is solid regardless, and a lot of the hit detection problems I experienced in the beta have been taken care of. It’s still a treat to romp through really good looking evironments and shoot guys, so if you enjoy the CoD formula, you might get a kick out Crysis 2’s multi. If you’ve had it up to here with that style of progression, though, prepare to be disappointed.
All in all, Crysis 2 is a really solid offering, and without a doubt is the best first-person shooter of the year so far. The campaign was a lot more fun than I was expecting, and even though the story didn’t engage me I was still more than happy to progress through each encounter and try to see how I could use the nanosuit to get a leg up on my adversaries. While Crytek has ditched the open-world of the last game, the mechanics really benefit from the enclosed sandbox design.
Honestly, I’m playing through the game again just to get another look at the graphics that I might have missed due to being up to my waist in alien corpses. Crytek takes clear inspiration from several recent disaster movies and throws you directly into the middle with great results. If it weren’t for the dumb AI, the over-hyped non-existent plot and the CoD multiplayer, this would have earned an easy A.
So that’s what I thought of Crysis 2. Has anyone else tried this, and what do you think? MAXIMUM COMMENTS.
How does our grading system work? Check out our grade chart!