With Crysis 2, Crytek is making a long-awaited opening towards the console audience. The German developer of PC posterboys Far Cry and Crysis is going multiplatform for the first time in its existence, but, unfortunately, it also shows…
Don’t panic, though, dear readers, because Crysis 2 is still a great game that can effortlessly stand up to the very best the first-person shooter has to offer. It could, however, have been a lot better.
Take the story for instance. If you’ve never played Crysis, chances are the game’s narrative will come across as unstructured and confusing. Crysis 2 is set three years after the first game and introduces a new protagonist: a U.S. marine that goes by the name of Alcatraz. From the onset, Alcatraz receives a shiny nanosuit 2.0 from Prophet, the team leader from Crysis. He summons you to find an antivirus for the mysterious alien infection that is spreading across the citizens of New York. As you might have guessed, your suit is key in finding a cure.
The nanosuit is Crysis 2’s bread and butter. Alcatraz’ high-tech biomechanical costume has three different operating modes(cloak, armour and power), that each offer different tactical possibilities. Cloak turns you invisible and is therefore very -uhm- suited for making a few quick stealth kills (nicely gory, by the way!) or thinning out the opposition from a safe distance with a telescopic rifle. Armour mode lets you do just the opposite: with armour maxed, you can just storm in and blow the Ceph aliens back to their home planet. The last function, power, doesn’t need to be triggered, but you use it when sprinting, jumping (including an air stomp that sends everyone around you flying) or when throwing cars.
You can’t make unlimited use of your nanosuit; that would have made the game a little too easy. You only have a limited ammount of energy, so you can’t be overly reckless. Fortunately, the suit recharges its batteries when taking shelter for a few seconds. As you progress, you’ll be able to buy different kinds of upgrades for the suit, such as lower energy drain or bullet reflection. However, those ugrades don’t pack the punch you could have expected and you can only activate four at the same time (out of a possible twelve), furthermore limiting their purpose. Finally, the nanosuit 2.0 also comes equipped with infrared vision and a scan mode that lets you analyze the battlefield and mark enemies, tactical options and ammo crates on your interface.
So, more options than a Swiss army knife. Still, Crytek has succeeded in keeping the controls lean and slick. While the original’s control scheme at times felt clumsy, the sequel has made great strides in streamlining the experience. Though, admittedly, the simplification is largely due to bringing the game to consoles, it’s still a welcome change.
But there are also some trickier consequences of going multiplatform. Crysis and Far Cry are famous for their huge, open levels, with multiple paths leading to the objective; this is far less the case in Crysis 2. Because the game is set in the streets of NYC, it feels more confined and linear. You also get the feeling you’re just blasting your way from one set piece to another, without having the time and space to do some exploring. That’s a real shame, because it detracts from what made the game unique in the first place and puts it more in the slipstream of games like Killzone or -at times- even Call of Duty.
Crysis 2’s AI is still in pretty good shape. Enemy soldiers will try to pin you in one location and then try to flank you; they’ll always call in back-up and they’re quite adept at throwing grenades. They’ll also actively go hunting for you when you make a tactical retreat. The Ceph are less sofisticated, but they can take a lot more punishment before they go down. And no worries, they’ll never act as dumb as Halo’s Flood. The game offers a nice challenge on normal difficulty, even for experienced players. Nearing the end, however, the difficulty will spike regularly (same goes for your level of frustration). In the later levels, the relative distance between checkpoints makes itself felt.
Crysis has always been known for its cutting-edge visuals and that’s something that hasn’t changed in this installment. The texture sharpness and detail is uncanny, the draw distance is huge and the framerate remains solid throughout. Crysis 2 sometimes struggles during some of the largest-scale firefights, but never becomes unplayable. Regardless, it’s clear the game pushes the PlayStation 3 to its limits, so if you happen to own a potent PC, you might want to pick up that version instead. The game is also playable in 3D for the lucky few with such a set-up.
Soundwise, Crysis 2 manages to impress, albeit not as much as with its graphics. Explosions and weaponry sound impressive, even larger than life, though the voicework can be corny at times. The nanosuit’s deep robot voice is even downright annoying. Honestly, if I hear “cloak engaged”, one more time, some innocent bystanders will get hurt. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack is decent, but the man has written loads of better scores in the past.
The multiplayer offers a nice change of pace, but there are better online shooters available. Here, everyone is running around in nanosuits, which can make for some varied matches. Some players will opt for the stealthy way, while others will just try to kill’em all. Unfortunately, not all game modes are available from the start. In the beginning, you’ll have to be content with (team) instant action (read: deathmatch) and crash site (read: king of the hill). As you gain experience, your rank will go up and you’ll unlock extra perks, which let you mold your online character to your liking. Again: the multiplayer isn’t by any means bad, but it’s definitely not Crysis’ strong suit either.
When it’s all said and done, however, Crysis 2 is still a very good game. The nanosuit’s countless possibilities help keep the gameplay feel fresh throughout. Though Crysis 2 is more linear than -and ultimately not as good as- its acclaimed predecessor, it can still lay claim to the title of best shooter of 2011 thusfar. Whether it can also remain on top, is a whole different matter.