Crysis 2 is the sequel to Crysis, a game that once prided itself on its ability to bring even the beefiest of gaming rigs to its knees when it was released back in 2007. Even today, Crysis remains one of the best looking games on the market. The problem is that the beauty in Crysis was mostly skin deep, featuring a lackluster alien invasion story, uneven pacing and largely unfulfilled promises of complete freedom to approach the game any way you want. That said, Crysis still provided a promising foundation, so was developer Crytek able to learn from their mistakes, bringing the gameplay up to par with the visuals, or is Crysis 2 just another flashy tech demo?
You take control of a Marine named Alcatraz in Crysis 2, a voiceless man with zero personality. Things don’t start off so well for poor Alcatraz, as he and his squad are ambushed by a “Ceph” (the game’s alien antagonists) gunship and are subsequently cut to ribbons by incoming fire. Instead of dying on the spot, he wakes up inside a Nanosuit, the series’ signature attire and embarks upon a mission to destroy the Ceph who have invaded New York City. Along the way, you’ll also meet the requisite sci-fi supporting characters – the nerdy scientist, the jacked up military commander, the sympathetic female type, and the power-hungry old mad man. The characters are not particularly well voiced and often sound either extremely forced or just bored, and the story plays out in a predictable manner.
On the gameplay side of things, those shooter fans who are used to the fast pace and smooth controls of something like Call of Duty are going to be in for a bit of a rude awaking with Crysis 2. It feels very clunky on a controller at first and it will likely take some time to get acclimated. You can adjust aim sensitivity all you like, but it never really compensates for the game’s relatively slow and sometimes choppy framerate. Playing the game on an appropriately powered PC alleviates these issues for the most part, but the conversion to consoles was not without its hiccups.
The main draw in Crysis 2 is your Nanosuit, outfitted with several abilities to help you survive – armor, speed, stealth and strength, as well as a scanning visor for marking targets and Nano-vision to see heat signatures in the dark. Your suit abilities work a little differently this time than they did in the first game. Rather than accessing an abilities wheel (which would have been cumbersome at best on a console) their use has been made more dynamic. Want super strength? Just hold the melee button rather than tapping it. Want to jump high? Hold the jump button. Want super speed? Visit the state of Michigan…I mean, hold the run button!
In theory, employing a mix of your abilities as well as available tactical options in combat is the key to success. In practice, however, you’ll likely find yourself relying primarily on your cloak and armor abilities. Depending on whether you’re fighting humans or aliens, a typical fight progresses something like this – you’ll be presented with tactical options before entering a large area, usually something like “Resupply” or Stealth”. Your next step will then be to don your Tactical Visor and mark any targets, weapons caches or other useful battlefield tools that are scattered about so that they’ll be visible on your mini-map. Once you’ve done that, the best way to proceed tends to be cloak, pick off one enemy, hide, let your energy recharge, cloak, shoot another guy, and repeat the process until the field is empty. It’s fun the first few times, but when it becomes clear that there isn’t a ton of variation on this sequence of events, you’ll begin to wish the game would pick up the pace a little.
To its credit, the game does intensify in the second half once you’re fighting mostly aliens. When the far more nimble and deadly Ceph become your primary opponents, it then becomes necessary to utilize a wider range of your Nanosuit’s abilities. For each Ceph you kill, you’ll extract “Nano Catalyst” material from their corpses which can be used to buy enhancements for your suit. There are four categories to choose from and each one has three upgrades, though you can only activate one enhancement at a time in each category. It’ll be up to the player to determine what’s more useful to them in a given situation – is it better to deflect bullets or to simply extend the duration of your armor ability? Would it be more useful to run and climb more quickly, or is it better to use your Air Stomp? These are the decisions that become increasingly important as the game progresses and your suit enhancements can mean the difference between life or death.
Crysis 2 is a long game, clocking in at around 13 hours, give or take an extra hour or two depending on how often you die. For better or worse, that’s a lot longer than the Call of Duties of the world today. On the one hand a longer campaign means you’ll get more value out of it. On the other hand, it’s difficult to properly pace such a long shooter and many of the firefights and the time between them begins to feel like filler. The fact that you spend the entire game in New York City without the environmental variation that was found in Crysis 1 does not help matters.
That isn’t to say the New York City environment isn’t lovingly rendered, of course. The vision of the Big Apple under siege is a haunting one and the city is packed full of little details, right down to the traffic cameras that snap your picture when you run past them. Thanks to the CryEngine 3, Crysis 2 is definitely one of the best looking games you can get on a console, though you’ll sometimes catch glimpses of objects popping in around you. Also, as mentioned earlier, the framerate, while mostly stable at 30 frames per second, does tend to chug on consoles when things get too hectic. Fans of the original Crysis will also notice things like environmental destruction have been scaled back considerably. So while it is largely unmatched on a console, PC fans may ultimately be underwhelmed, especially if they’ve been running the original Crysis or Crysis Warhead at the highest settings.
Being a shooter in this day and age, Crysis 2 also contains a number of multiplayer modes to choose from. The options are most standard fare – deathmatch and team deathmatch, as well as capture the flag and territories variants. Basically all the modes you expect to find in a modern FPS. It’s also got the now standard system of leveling up and unlocking weapon attachments and perks by scoring kills and completing skill challenges. Available perks give you bonuses like side packs for extra ammo, air stomp, stealth enhance, aim enhance, increased reload speed and you can customize your loadouts with any combination of three perks.
Crysis 2′s multiplayer does manage to differ from other shooters in a couple of ways. The most obvious difference is the fact that everyone wears a Nanosuit and is equipped with cloak, armor speed, strength and a tactical visor. You’re going to see – or not see – a lot of people sneaking around with cloak activated, so it’s a good idea to grab the perk that reveals their footsteps or otherwise makes them more visible. The other way multiplayer differs is in the way you acquire killstreak rewards. In most other shooters, getting 3, 5, 7, kills in a row or more will grant you special bonuses in battle. In Crysis 2, scoring kills is not enough – you must collect the dog tags from your fallen foes and you’ll sometimes find yourself unable to do so. It’s an interesting design choice and it means that you’ll sometimes have to scramble if you want that one last dog tag to call in air support or activate Nanosuit disruptors.
In the end, Crysis 2 is many things, but not all of them are good. It’s a lengthier game than the average shooter, but its pacing is also much slower. It’s one of the best looking games on the market, but it runs at a slower framerate. It’s got a fun and comprehensive multiplayer suite, but there isn’t enough about it that makes it stand above its competition. There is a lot of that give and take with Crysis 2. There is some good fun to be had, but you’ll have to be patient to get to it. If instant gratification is your only interest, Crysis 2 may not be the game for you.
Crysis 2 was released on March 22nd, 2011 for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Review is based on the Xbox 360 version.