Crysis 2 Review
Game: Crysis 2
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Most gamers will have heard of Crysis by now, and whether they have played the title or not, the name alone is synonymous with incredible graphics. Crytek are taking a different approach this time though, and rather than releasing a PC only game that requires an expensive PC to run (at the highest settings anyway) they are hitting both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, attempting to prove that the Crytek engine is the future of first person shooter gaming.
A great video game isn’t just about incredible high-definiton graphics though, and hopes are high that Crysis 2 delivers on all fronts. Does it succeed or fail? Let’s find out!
STORY: Crysis 2 starts out with you, a marine known only as “Alcatraz” appearing on a boat. Hungover and in the wrong place at the wrong time (John McClane style) you are on the way to assist with some kind of operation. Unfortunately, all hell is breaking loose outside of the confines of the boat, and after the vessel is hit, it starts to sink.
Escaping to shore, nearly dead, opening your eyes only to see spacecraft approaching, shots being fired, and water washing over your semi-concious being, you are rescued by a mysterious character, referred to as “Prophet”. After waking up properly, you’ll find yourself in the nano-suit that headlines Crysis 2. Prophet has placed you in the suit, and taken his own life. From then on, you will be on a mission to find out what the hell is going on, amidst Cell attacks and Alien invasions.
The nano-suit is really the star of the show here, and whether or not you can accept it as a substitution to any truly great narrative will come down to your own preference. The story is almost inconsequential; it’s all about the suit, and this is rather a shame as it makes it rather difficult to care about the events within the game, let alone the characters. The story is simply a device to allow you to shoot more enemies, whilst in a cool suit. If storytelling and narrative are important to you, sadly you may find Crysis 2 severely lacking. If you can accept that the suit is the story, then you’ll get along just fine, happily killing the enemy whilst seeing some truly beautiful sights.
GRAPHICS: If you are even remotely interested in Crysis 2, you’ll already know that the game uses Crytek’s own engine (CryEngine 3), and looks rather splendid. Console wise, comparisons will be drawn to Killzone, (Killzone outshines Crysis 2 on console at least, but again this will be a matter of debate) but to see Crysis 2 in its true majesty you’ll need to run it on a high end PC.
On Xbox 360 though, the game does look wonderful, embarrassing its competition in the process. The weaponry is fantastically detailed, shadows are incredible, the skyrises of New York look marvelous, and the smoke and dust effects are simply magnificent. You’ll run out of superlatives to describe how Crysis 2 looks well before you even reach the half-way point. Console gamers need not fear, whilst PC players will (obviously) get the best visual experience, you are getting a stunning looking title whatever platform you play on.
SOUND: Akin to Half-Life, don’t expect the playable protagonist to actually say anything, ever. Non-playable characters will certainly voice their opinion quite often on how they are going to kill you, but the thing you’ll hear the most is the nano-suit telling you which power you have just started using. Nowadays, in a blockbuster title such as Crysis 2, the fairest thing to say about the audio, is that it’s exactly as it should be, superb. Despite the voice acting being rather good, it doesn’t succeed in making you care an awful lot about the characters.
The soundtrack is excellent as well, lending gravitas to scenes which require it, whilst providing a subtle tension to the more quiet moments. The nano-suit itself is suitably futuristic and alien-sounding, chirping in whenever you use one of the powers. All in all, Crysis 2 won’t let you down when it comes to the audio, though it’s a shame that Alcatraz is completely devoid of character until it is too late, Alcatraz is no Gordon Freeman.
GAMEPLAY: Now we’ve dispensed with the pleasantries let us be honest. Crysis 2 is all about the nano-suit. Without it, you’d just have any other first person shooter, albeit a very pretty looking one. The nano-suit though, gives the game its personality, as well as providing the fundamental difference between Crysis 2, and other titles from the genre.
Starting with the cloaking ability (right bumper on an Xbox 360 controller), you can literally become invisible to the enemy, sneak up behind them and perform a stealth kill. This is immensely satisfying and you’ll probably be tempted to spend a lot of time cloaked, or you would, if the suit didn’t have an energy bar which drains when in use. If you decide to run full tilt at an enemy whilst cloaked, you can expect the energy bar to drain extremely quickly, but if you truly act with stealth, the energy can last quite some time, rewarding you for playing with genuine stealth with a satisfying silent melee kill.
The power armour gives you a truly alternative method though. The antithesis of stealth, this enables you to quite literally “run and gun” at your enemy, and take little damage. Again, the energy drains whilst in use. The more damage you take, the quicker the suit energy will drain. You can also perform a super jump (and indeed grab a ledge and pull yourself up) by pressing and holding the jump button. This adds verticality to the title, something that most first person shooters cannot boast. Rounding off the abilities is the tactical visor, which allows you to locate enemies and mark them, making them glow red for easy spotting. You can’t shoot whilst using this ability though, so you need to be careful that you aren’t spotted as you scout the area.
There are lots of other abilities that are unlockable after a certain amount of playtime too. For example, there are secondary suit abilities called modules that allow you to see where bullets came from, so you can identify targets that you might not have previously seen, or enhance your ledge grab speed, make your footsteps silent, and so on. Only four of these can be enabled at one time, but again this adds a tactical angle to events.
The weapons in Crysis 2 have a nice weight to them, and they feel pretty nice to use. Like most first person shooters, you’ll end up with a favourite that you want to cling onto, but the pistol is a decent sidearm that is useful against the Ceph if you get in a jam. Enemy variation after the half-way point means you need to use the JAW rocket launcher at times, and standard grenade and C4 usage round off the armoury available to you. The weaponry is customisable as well, and mid-game you can add a silencer, and you can even change scopes as well! AI wise, the Ceph are far more enjoyable to fight (they vary up their attack patern) than the CELL soldiers, and on higher difficulties you will face a severe challenge indeed.
All these things combined add up to a title that allows you to play it however you see fit. Mix it up by stealthily removing individual enemies, then storm the troops with the power armour before jumping up high and re-cloacking. Whilst this is nothing new to the Crysis franchise, console owners may be experiencing this kind of thing for the first time, and may even find it slightly overawing, but should persevere with it as it will yield rewards after time.
The only major gripe involving gameplay is the fact that, at times, the enemies in the game can appear to be bullet sponges. You might think you’ve killed a CELL soldier, but they will get back up, and quickly too. They are also brutally accurate, even on lower difficulties, and whilst they don’t miss too often, at the same time they are quite stupid. If you are spotted, you can get a reasonable distance away and hide, re-cloak and start the assault again, with different tactics. Enemy wise, there isn’t too much variation at all. Once you’ve played a few hours, killing the same old soldiers is replaced by killing the same old Ceph Aliens. At least once you get to the point that the Ceph are more prevelant you can unlock more of the suit’s modules though, and they offer attack variations that the CELL soldiers do not.
MULTIPLAYER: All of the aforementioned gameplay elements truly shine in the Crysis 2 mulitplayer. Again, every type of player can be rewarded for showing skillful play with their chosen nano-suit ability preference. You might think that being able to hide from view in cloaked mode would break the game, but you can see people, just not until you get close. The feeling when you realise you are stood opposite a cloaked enemy and you both notice one another is immense, panic sets in and unless you remain calm, you will die.
As is the norm with an online first person shooter these days, unlocks and a leveling up system are present, and plenty of multiplayer modes are on show, though some of them are unlocked at certain levels. This isn’t the end of the world though, as the first one unlocks at level 6, which you’ll attain fairly easily. Helping you level up is the fact that you don’t just level up by killing people, you also gain XP by using the cloaking skill, or the power armour, and these individual skills also level up. There are also dog tags to unlock, which are usually achieved by fulfilling hidden criteria, such as killing an enemy by shooting through something. All in all, the multiplayer is excellent, though the killcam defies the truth a lot of the time, and latency is an issue that needs addressing.
LONGEVITY: Single player wise, the campaign is a good length for a first person shooter (most players will probably take upwards of 10 hours!), and the higher difficulties can be extremely taxing. There are all manner of different collectibles throughout the campaign as well, should you desire that kind of element. Obviously though, as with most titles in this genre, once the single player campaign is over, the multiplayer is the big draw, and with a patch apparently already in the works to address latency issues reported by players, it would appear that Crysis 2 will be supported as long as people are prepared to play it.
VERDICT: Crysis 2 is a stunning looking game that is only really let down by a poor storyline. You might love the fact that the entire game is a shooting gallery for you to test the upgradable nano-suit, but you could just as easily hate it because it uses the suit for the bulk of the narrative.
However, any fan of the genre (especially Call of Duty fans) will love the multiplayer. The nano-suit truly shines online, allowing for multiple play-styles. Whether you utilise the stealth cloaking and pick people off quietly, or you fire up the power armour and run and gun people to death, Crysis 2 is a genuine new contender in the online first person shooter market, and one that requires other developers stand up and take notice.