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Crysis 2 Review

Crysis 2

(This review used the Xbox 360 version of the game)

If you have played video games over the last few years, then you have probably heard the line “Can it run Crysis?” That phrase has almost taken on meme levels, and one day could stand next to classic expressions such as “All your base are belong to us,”, and “Our princess is in another castle”. The original Crysis was something of a graphics vampire, and only the strongest (computers) survived—or at least only the strongest were able to run the game at its full potential. It was also a well-made game beyond just the graphics, which further propelled the its burgeoning legend. So when the sequel was announced to be heading to consoles where most of us lowly mortals can actually try to play the damn thing, the anticipation was high, to say he least.

The original game was a commercial success, with 3 million copies sold around the world, but the console market opens the franchise up to a new and much larger potential audience. But can it bring that level of legendary graphical excellence to the console market and succeed on a new platform? The answer is yes, very much so.

There are a few glitches that pop up now and then, and the story takes a while to get going–especially for people who didn’t play the first game–but these are minor complaints, and quickly forgotten compared to the fantastic overall package Crysis 2 offers. Continue on to find out more in our in-depth review.

Welcome to New York! Now go kill stuff

The story of Crysis 2 serves as both an introduction to the series, as well as a direct continuation of the original game—because let’s face it, the majority of people playing the console version of this game won’t have a clue what the story is about, except that you are in New York and there are aliens that need a whuppin’. But then again, what more do you really need to know?

You take control of Alcatraz, a new protagonist to the series who is part of  Marine Recon Force, and is shot down en route to a New York, which has been hit by a plague that is related to the ongoing alien invasion. With his team scattered or dead, Alcatraz is severely wounded and rescued by Prophet, one of the nanosuited soldiers from the first game. In the original game, Prophet was captured and presumed dead, but later returned with a connection to the aliens that allowed him to understand them better than anyone else. Prophet, however, has seen better days. He gives you his suit, then tasks you with the protection of a Doctor who has information on how to fight the aliens.

The nanosuit that Alcatraz is now wearing is special though, and it has a connection to the aliens that makes it the most effective weapon against them.

Crysis 2

Standing in the way of some good clean alien killin’ fun is the CELL private military that works for Crynet, the makers of the suit. They think that you are Prophet, and they want their suit back, with or without you attached.

Fans of the original will appreciate the connection to Prophet, while the inclusion of a new character is a good idea by the developers Crytek to start the series off for new fans. If you don’t have a clue who Prophet is though, or if you just don’t care about the character, the early part of he game is slow going in terms of story.

The problem with the story is simply that it takes a long time to get going—it will be several hours before you complete your initial goals and begin to get a sense of what is really going on. This isn’t a major issue though, as once the game really begins and you are in control of Alcatraz, you are trust into combat and will rarely have a moment to focus on the plot anyway.

As the game progresses and you are pushed further into the thick of a crumbling New York, the story does pick up, as does the level of intensity. Still, there is just something missing from the plot. The characters aren’t very well realized, and your own character is never fleshed out at all. The emphasis is on the look and play of the game, and it shows. The plot is very adult, and it features mature themes, but it feels more like an intellectual exercise than an emotional one.

This is a minor complaint though. The story does pick up, which wipes way the beginning, when you are given plot details almost grudgingly. The gamecan last between 12 and 15 hours depending on how you play—which leads to another brilliant feature of the Crysis series.

Choreographing the Sandbox

Crysis 2 features a gameplay mechanic that Crytek has dubbed a “choreographed sandbox”. This style originally debuted on the developer’s first entry, Far Cry, but Crysis 2 does it a bit differently. Where Far Cry had huge open environments to allow you to choose how to get to your objective (which worked in a mostly nature setting) the streets of New York are a bit different.

When you enter a new area, you put your visor down and the onboard computer gives you multiple options on how to proceed. The locations are still huge and there are several paths to each objective, but the game keeps you in the same area. As a result, unlike Far Cry, which featured huge lengths of wandering aimlessly, you are always in the middle of the fight. Basically, the choreographed sandbox still keeps you on a linear path, but it gives you several options in regards to tactics.

Crysis 2

The AI is also a big part, and when it works properly—which is doesn’t always—the enemies will react to your tactics and plan accordingly. If they are behind a barrier and you are shooting over them, they will not raise their heads, instead they will move to the side and try to find new cover. They might also try to lob a grenade or rejoin their teammates to try to flank you. It is an incredibly advanced AI. It doesn’t always work—more on that in a bit—but when it does it is remarkable.

This gameplay style alone should guarantee that each time you play through you can have a different experience, and there are several options. If you choose to go Leroy Jenkins on an area, you can, then the next time you play you can put on your Sam Fisher face and sneak by it–the choice is up to how you want to play it.

Gameplay done right

The hook of the Crysis series is the nanosuit that you wear, which gives you certain abilities. The first of these is the visor, which gives you an augmented-reality view and offers you a look at where the objective is, points of interest, weapon locations, and where enemies are. There is also a nanoview, which is essentially a thermal view with a fancy name.

But the real feature of the suit comes from the stealth and armor abilities. Both of which are available at any time, as long as you have energy for the suit, which regenerates. You can also upgrade your suit throughout the game by picking up alien material off the corpses of fallen alien enemies. These unlock mostly passive enhancements, with a few exceptions, including things like a ground stomp.

The guns are also plentiful, and each firearm will feature certain additions. For example, some SCAR rifles will have a silencer, while others will not, but they may have a long-range scope. These attachments can also be added and removed on the fly for each gun. The further you progress through the game, the more powerful attachments you will find, including things like grenade launchers and the like. It makes switching weapons fun and natural.

Crysis 2

All of these things together, plus the standard abilities for the suit like a power jump, ledge grabs and sprinting all offer a fantastic sense of balance. You need to learn to use the tools you have—all of them—and as you do you will see the care that the developers spent on each aspect of the game.

If your normal style in FPS-type games is to move slowly and utilize stealth, you will have your moments, but there are also times when you will need to run at the enemy and attack head on. You can also throw on a silencer and snipe from distance, but you then switch to a shotgun and jump into the middle of the battle when the enemy begins to try to flank your location. The energy gauge is well designed, and it will run down quickly, but it also regenerates at a good pace to make sure you are using your perks but not relying on any one style of attack.

If there are any complaints to be leveled at the gameplay, it is the same issue as with the story—it takes a while to get going. The suit is yours immediately, but although there are plenty of weapons in the game, you won’t see more than three or four until a few hours in. The same is true for the alien samples you need to upgrade your suit. Again though, minor complaints.

The story might have its dull spots and likely won’t totally immerse many, but the gameplay is more than enough to win most people over.

So can it run Crysis?

I’ll put this simply, just so there is no ambiguity—Crysis 2 is the best-looking game ever made for consoles. There really isn’t anything that compares to it. When it comes to consoles, there is a ceiling to the graphical quality–there is only so much a console can do. You won’t come home and pop in a game on your 360 and suddenly be fooled with graphics so good you think they are live-action, the hardware just isn’t up to it. That being said, Crysis 2 does things I simply didn’t know where possible on a console.

The game looks stunning, but beyond that, the most impressive thing is the level of detail. It is positively staggering. When you see a wall in the game filled with images, as you approach you will see that the images are individual pictures of people and no two look alike. Every road looks like it is worn and cracked, and every wall is adorned with paintings. But the real king is the lighting effects.

Time plays a big part in the game, and you will find yourself moving through New York at various times of day. Whether it is the dead of night, or high noon, the world reacts accordingly, and it is always, always amazing to see.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the game is that throughout the relatively lengthy campaign, Crysis 2 just keeps looking awesome. Each new area has something to look at, and each section will have you stopping to just look around for a minute. Crytek knew they had a reputation to uphold, and they lived up to it.

Multiplayer

It is almost like there is a court order somewhere that requires all games, especially FPS games to feature a multiplayer, and Crysis 2 is no different. The online section offers six game modes over 12 maps, with several upgrades, modifiers and levels to gain experience through.

The experience system is familiar to anyone that has played online FPS games. As you make kills, assists or help with objectives, you earn experience, which then unlocks new weapons and suit perks. As you use each weapon, you can add attachments to each weapon as well. Pretty familiar stuff.

The game modes are: Team Instant Action, a team deathmatch mode; Instant Action, a free-for-all; Crash Site, a game similar to headquarters in Call of Duty, where an alien pod lands and you need to hold the territory to gain points; Capture the Relay, essentially capture the flag; Extraction, a round-based game where one team defends and the other attempts to capture “ticks” and bring them back to their base, which in turn gives them a nanosuit boost; Assault, another round-based game where one team attempts to break in to the defending team’s base and download information, while the other team is a special assault class that tries to stop them.

Crysis 2

There are also several modifiers to help keep it interesting, including things like “beginner’s playground”, which limits the games to players under the rank of 10 only. You can also play with squads or without, and there is even an option to play without nanosuits.

The game types are all fun and familiar, but it will require patience, as the games are unlocked by progressing to certain levels. In general the games are fun and fast paced, but like with the game, it takes a while to get to the point where you can experience the things you may want.

The multiplayer modes move as well as the game, and the inclusion of the suit powers—which use more energy than in the campaign to make it fair—create some incredibly original fights. You may be chasing someone when they go invisible and climb a wall, then ground stomp you and attack. There are also plenty of weapons and attachments to use, but again, it takes a while to get to the point where you have the weapons you want unlocked. The games themselves are well balanced, but the leveling system is a bit off. Most of the game types are even locked until mid-level ranks, which is odd. It might help it keep the game fresh and encourage the longevity of the game though. When the demo was released, many complained about an imbalance that favored certain classes like snipers, but that is something that changes in higher levels.

If you have the patience to level up and stick with it through the brutal early ranks, you will find a deep and engrossing multiplayer experience.

The ugly

For all its beauty, there are a few flaws with Crysis 2. With a game this beautiful, I hate pointing out the flaws. It is like eating a perfectly cooked steak and finding that it is just a bit over-salted. Sadly, the game just has glitches. They are all minor, and in another game might not even be noticeable, but they are there. One example of this is the reflection in windows, which is rarely the actual reflection you should see. This is almost never an issue, but when the reflection on a skyscraper is of something that isn’t there, it is bit jarring. I doubt this would even be noticeable in another game, but it stands out in Crysis 2.

The bigger issue is the enemy AI, which switches from brilliant to broken at the drop of a hat. Sometimes you will be in an intense firefight and realize that the enemy has flanked you, forcing you to change tactics and find new cover. Other times you will walk up to them as they are frozen in place, or they might run directly into a wall and suddenly begin a surreal dance party. It is an issue.

The flaws in Crysis 2 are rare though, and while you will see some odd glitches, they are the exception rather than the rule.

Conclusion

Despite the slow starting story and the handful of glitches, the staggering beauty and well-balanced gameplay make the single-player campaign among the most technically sophisticated games of this generation of consoles. Throw in the multiplayer and you have a fantastic overall package.

You will root for this game to be perfect, because it comes so close. But because of that, when it fails, it will take you right out of the moment. The story begins slowly, and even though it picks up, it is never really engrossing, while handful of glitches will make a memorable firefight into one you will want to forget.

But, Crysis 2 is still a must play for FPS fans. It is without question the best-looking game on any console, and it is just fun to play. The multiplayer is also a blast, but the long wait to open things up might scare people away and back towards one of the dozens of other online FPS titles waiting to embrace them.

There are a few things to dislike about this game, but they are few, and compared to the excellence of the game, minor. Crysis 2 is a game worth playing, and one that will make a lasting impression.

Score: 9 out of 10

(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by EA)

{Updated to correct a typo. Thanks to “The Meme Police” for pointing it out.}