It seems to have become common practice to talk about what Crysis 2 doesn’t do. Certainly, we at the Newb Review could follow suit… ah, what the hell, let’s do it. Crysis 2 is a game that doesn’t (at time of writing) support DirectX 11, it’s a game that is far from bug-free, a game that doesn’t deliver world-changing AI, and a game that, at its core, doesn’t make much, if any, narrative sense. What you’re left with following such a salvo of detractions should be little more than a failure to deliver on the game’s grandiose intentions; the ruins of an FPS to contrast with the gleaming cityscape architected by the hype machine.
Yet the game that rises from the dust remains amongst the finest first-person shooters of this generation, and not simply because it’s one of the finest looking console games ever made. Read on to find out why.
In truth, I wasn’t expecting much when I sat down to start reviewing Crysis 2. After all, once the hype has died down, PC games have rarely translated well to their console counterparts without fundamentally reworking, handicapping, or lobotomizing the experience. My first hour or so with the game did little to change my mind. Certainly, the game looked stunning, but there was something ‘floaty’ about the experience. The bullet-sponge human enemies seemed to be soaking up far too many rounds for my liking, whilst my own super soldier felt fragile, vulnerable and not so super at all. Not a great combination.
A few hours further in however, and Crysis 2 had me hooked. Being of PC pedigree, this game demands head-shots, and provides the player with plenty of tools to go about getting them. Refreshingly, every weapon in the game is useful, albeit some are optimal at a very limited range, whilst others seem able to perform at almost any. Every weapon in the game is also customisable on the fly; with silencers, scopes, extended magazines and grenade launchers to be attached, switched and removed whenever you can spare the moments needed to do so. Acquiring a new modification will unlock it for the rest of the game, so it’s worth picking up that silenced shotgun for a moment, even if you don’t want to use it then and there.
You wouldn’t be much of a super soldier if you were reliant on firearms alone however. Like its predecessor, Crysis 2 puts the player in control of Some Bloke In A High Tech Suit, and this suit can be upgraded. Initially providing increased strength, durability and agility (kicking cars around is an early perk), your bread-and-butter abilities are a cloak and an armored shell. By the end of the game you can supplement these with a variety of additional toys, unlocked with what amounts to the blood of your alien enemies. Ranging from the ability to see through an enemy’s cloak to the ability to sprint and super-jump for longer, it’s a system that does well to empower you later in the game without crippling you at the start.
This range of upgrade options might lead you to believe that you can play Crysis 2 in a variety of ways, with the suit being customisable to support your approach. This is certainly true to an extent. Each area in Crysis 2 is a sandbox of sorts, and enables players to sneak up on unsuspecting enemies for stealthy melee kills, snipe from a distance or simply move from cover to cover, guns blazing. That said, there’s a definite ‘right way’ to play Crysis 2, particularly if you want to get through the toughest difficulty setting, and ultimately the suit augmentations are biased towards this style of play. I won’t spoil the discovery for you, but play like you’re Predator, and use your cloak and armour abilities in a see-saw fashion, and you’ll soon get the hang of things.
The artificial intelligence is inconsistent at best in Crysis 2. Enemies advance, flank, retreat and move to investigate suspicious noises or activity, but they will also hide on the wrong side of cover, run against walls, collide with each other and sometimes seem to perform a jittery dance on the spot. The Pingers – bipedal alien tanks – also have an irritating knack of facing you for a significant amount of time, irrespective of whether you’re cloaked. Particularly grating when their weak-point is on their backs.
Dodgy AI is supplemented by some glitchy moments of gameplay. Towards the end of the game, a bridge you must cross has enemies which spawn two at a time. I can tell you this, because every time enemies spawn, they flicker at the center of the bridge, before vanishing to wherever they’re actually supposed to be. A later moment had me reload and repeat the same combat set-piece four times before finally triggering the scripted event that would let me continue. Oh, and though not strictly a bug, welcome back to respawning enemies; a particular bugbear of mine that would be best left in games of the last generation.
When Crysis 2 was in development, much of the hype surrounded the groundbreaking new approach to storytelling. Science fiction author Richard Morgan was employed to deliver a truly engaging story, and went on record last year to slam the narratives of other shooters, describing Modern Warfare 2’s plot as “Totally implausible”. If anyone doubted he could backup his words with better words, Crysis 2’s story can be summarised, spoiler free, thusly: The game places you in the role of a one-man-army named after a prison, who spends the entire game so chronically hungover that he’s rendered mute, and often passes out in pools of water. In this role, you must help the bastard lovechild of Gary Oldman and Rolf Harris work with and against an evil pensioner to save the world from an malign race of calamari who live under Central Park. Excellent work Richard.
Mercifully, the story can be ignored, even if the in-game cutscenes are unskippable. What’s left is a beautifully presented portrayal of Manhattan under siege; the environment becoming progressively closer to total devastation as you approach the climax. Even on a console, some of the views are breathtaking, and the sound design is excellent. Those who like to pause between combat to drink in the sights will find plenty to quench their thirst in Crysis 2.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that you were playing a new episode in the Call of Duty franchise when you first play Crysis 2 online. The player cards are replaced with doglegs, still customisable with your nation’s flag, weapons are upgradeable and interchangeable through 5 custom class slots, challenges are presented for additional XP and maps can be voted for. Such levelling and unlocking of rewards presents the player with a scale of longevity that’s certainly equal to the market favourite. It remains to be seen if the Crysis lobbies stay as populated and attract the same interest as those of CoD, but at present finding a match is a smooth process.
In the multiplayer games themselves, the differences are similarly subtle. The perks and kill streak rewards in Crysis 2 are also lifted from Call of Duty, offering the usual 3, 5 and 7 kill enhancements. The custom perks to give your character an edge are about as original, and offer the same silent footsteps, faster aiming, and longer running boosts as Call of Duty with only a few omissions and extras. These perks are notably different from those available in singleplayer however.
The nanosuit’s, cloak and armour features define Crysis 2 as whole, and so it’s the nanosuit that sets the online experience apart. The ability to stealth defied my original skepticism by not being overpowered. Where I expected to be caught unawares by players who were literally invisible, I regularly spotted these shimmering sneaks and dispatched them quickly, favouring armour myself to outlast the firefight. Of course, occasionally these boys and girls papered my rock by getting the drop on me, and it was certainly an even fight. To be truly effective you have to master switching between armour and stealth as necessary, with the standout players able to know when to employ neither, instead using their suit power for a better melee attack, faster run and so forth. In any case, Crysis 2’s “if you cant beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach to multiplayer adds much to the game as a complete package and as a contender for the best shooter on the shop shelves.
Graphics: 4.5/5 As is well documented elsewhere, Crysis 2 looks gorgeous, and is certainly amongst the best looking console games ever made. Unfortunately, such looks come with a price, and both 360 and PS3 version hide framerate drops with liberal motion blur. It’s also evident that the PS3 was not the lead platform, and has noticeably more pop-in and framerate drops than its 360 sibling, which do affect your appreciation. PS3 owners should deduct half a point from the final score.
Sound: 4/5 A well-scored soundtrack includes work by Hollywood favourite Hans Zimmer, and this was certainly money well spent. Satisfying combat effects and some decent voicework add to the experience – never has “Cloak engaged” sounded so cool.
Gameplay:3.5/5 Combining exploration and stealth elements with tactical action and a functional cover system, Crysis 2 offers one of the finest shooting experiences of this generation. Only a few glitches and some unfortunate AI prevent the game from scoring higher in this category.
Longevity:3/5 With the ability to carry-over your abilities and weapon modifications to successive playthroughs, the game rewards players who come back for more, albeit with reduced rather than increased challenge. There are plenty of collectibles to track down in singleplayer, and the usual host of multiplayer unlockables for those that perservere.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Flawed yet beautiful, Crysis 2 is an excellent singleplayer experience. Combined with multiplayer created by the team formerly known as Free Radical, it’s a tantalizing package for fans of the genre, and not one that should be missed. Crysis 2 walks so close to FPS perfection that at times its flaws seem all the more pronounced, but surely this is truly testiment to its strengths.