Crysis 2 leaps out of a lengthy campaign of marketing and hype and ground stomps into the rubble-filled streets of Lower Manhattan. When it hits the right beats it is a game which is unrivalled in its little sub genre but there are one or two caveats to that wholesome praise.
Choosing Lower Manhattan as the backdrop for a disastrous alien invasion and a heroic struggle through the collapsing buildings was perhaps a logical choice for CryTek. New York City is home to a fair few of the world’s most iconic buildings and the island nature of Manhattan allows the premise of a certain degree of isolation to be instilled. It might also have been a brave choice too.
The collapsing buildings, streets filled with mangled wreckage, rubble and the thick, beige cement dust hanging in the air can do nothing but remind almost any player of those tragic, iconic scenes on September 11 2001. For some, the recreation of a Lower Manhattan under attack might be a little too upsetting but the passage of time makes this sort of trading on deep set notions of tragedy inevitable in any entertainment medium. The familiarity in the imagery makes the narrative more believable.
Your suit has a number of key features that effect game play. Each ability the suit bestows on its wearer is regulated by an auto-recharging energy meter. You can cloak, harden your armour, sprint and leap for a limited time but when your energy runs out the effect ceases and if you’re not careful you could find yourself in the midst of battle and totally exposed. The suit also offers a ‘Nanovision’ mode which acts like thermal imaging and a kind of tactical visor with zoom. This tactical visor highlights key points on the game’s many set-piece sandbox areas that you have to work your way through, giving you hints towards the various ways you can progress.
The cinematics are often extremely impressive and the in game visuals are some of the best multi platform console graphics we’ve seen. The voice work often flounders and gives the dialogue a stilted feel which is far below what the scripting deserves. This is a shame because otherwise, the presentation is really very good.
You can choose to toughen up and enter into a full on firefight with all the area’s enemies if you wish. Alternatively, you could choose to use your cloak and the various plentiful cover to sneak through or around them. In many areas you have to choose wisely as one course of action will see you die repeatedly while the other may seem surprisingly easy. In many areas it is a viable tactic to just harden your armour and run through the field of enemies to the next checkpoint.
This brings us to one of the disappointing areas of the game. The checkpointing is often poorly placed and when the difficulty spikes, admittedly usually due to the wrong tactic being employed, you will repeatedly die in certain areas. This is made all the more infuriating by the fact that you will often have to repeat ten minutes of easy progression through an area before you get to the difficulty spike and die again. Sometimes the action is just so relentless that you might have spent twenty minutes really struggling with an area full repeating waves of tough enemies only to be killed by one of the final ones and have to repeat every wave again from the start.[drop2]It’s fortunate then, that you can upgrade your weaponry with various attachments ranging from different types of sights to under-barrel attachments and extended clips. On top of that, you can also upgrade your suit via a menu built around your suited hand, with each face button responsible for a finger, each with a different area of the suit to provide upgrades for.
Suit upgrades are paid for with samples of nanotechnology harvested from fallen alien invaders while weapon upgrades are found throughout the course of your game on the different weapons you can pick up.
The single player campaign is longer than many more recent FPS heavyweights but this is both a blessing and a curse. It’s nice to have a lengthy campaign to sink your teeth into but in truth, there are some places where the pacing grinds to a halt and you’re left trudging along wondering where the excitement went. It feels like there is perhaps a quarter of the game made up with less than exciting filler and it all falls in the first half. This might put some people off but if you persevere, and you will probably still want to, the second half of the game is unrelenting action and joy. Paced with a kind of frantic desperation befitting of the plot twists and rarely tripping up over its sporadic quiet patches, the second half of Crysis 2 is better than any other sci-fi FPS on any platform.
The game is not without its issues though. In addition to the early pacing problems and the poor checkpointing, we noticed several strange glitches or bugs which were, at least, amusing for the few minutes we endured them. Ranging from disappearing guns (hot ammunition seemingly spewing forth from our consciousness) to the usually pretty solid enemy AI taking leave of its senses. There were times when enemies found the side of a container crate vastly more interesting than the super soldier with an assault rifle pinging rounds into them from two metres away. They wouldn’t even turn around for a melee attack.
So, with a comparatively lengthy campaign to work through (and new game plus a possibility) there should be plenty of replay potential in Crysis 2 without even touching the standard, persistent upgrade track (like perks) of multiplayer.
The multiplayer may be built on very similar systems and paths as Call of Duty, et al. but it plays more like a Halo game. The augmented abilities that the suit bestows on the players make the movement feel like Master Chief’s. From the time we’ve spent with Crysis 2’s multiplayer it would also seem to be a little unbalanced. The victors on the battlefield will always be those who use cloaking, Nanovision and sniper weaponry most effectively.
- Looks beautiful on consoles, approaching the best of PlayStation 3 exclusives.
- The story is compelling and expertly written.
- The movement and superhuman abilities are used to great effect.
- Cinematics are fantastic and the vistas often breathtaking.
- Checkpointing ranges from just acceptable to infuriatingly tough.
- Voice delivery is often a bit wooden.
- Some little AI glitches and multiplayer balancing could put people off.
All things considered, Crysis 2 is a triumph. Sure, it has its occasional issues with checkpointing and enemy AI but you will usually be having too much fun to care too much. The early pacing really does drag for a few stretches but the latter half of the campaign more than makes up for that and the multiplayer, while a little unbalanced, can present great opportunities for superhuman struggles powered by the ubiquitous Nanosuit. It plays like a strange mix of Call of Duty and Halo but in taking the best aspects from each of these series, Crysis 2 might just have found a winning balance.