The first Crysis ushered in a new era of graphical benchmarks with lush, tropical forests and sandy beaches of Korean-held islands. Crysis 2 trades these getaway destinations for a more concrete jungle on America's home soil. The freedom to tackle encounters as you see fit makes a return as well, but poor checkpoints and an allergic-to-bullets hero discourage all but the most stealthy of playthroughs.
The campaign sets off on a rather high note. The protagonist, Alcatraz, is calmly hanging out with his fellow marines on-board an underwater submarine stationed off the coast of New York City when an alien race of squid-like creatures called the Ceph bombards their position. Tasked with escaping the sinking sub before you drown, this unfortunate predicament serves as the tutorial. Having sustained near fatal injuries during the evacuation, the player is then given the nanosuit by its former user, Prophet, to aid humanity’s last stand. From thereon, nonstop explosions and set pieces reminiscent of Michael Bay films are the name of the game. Players will take the fight back to the Ceph with a deadly array of weaponry and a billion dollar nanosuit at their disposal, and what a dreary fight it will be.
"If I had a billion dollars, I'd buy you a nanosuit..."
Crytek has done a magnificent job of mapping the nanosuit’s powers to a control pad. Cloaking and armor buffs activate with a tap of the shoulder buttons, and alternate firing modes, visor controls, and heavy explosives find placement on the D-pad. Knowing the ins and outs of your equipment will be the key to winning many firefights. Crysis 2 takes a page out of Killzone 3’s book here. The single-player includes a cover-based mechanic for those who prefer not to restart from checkpoints over and over. Simply pressing against a wall will glue Alcatraz to its surface. Unlike Killzone 3, though, moving the analog stick in any adjacent direction will remove Alcatraz from cover when the chaotic firefights demand players to keep on guard.
For those of you that have tired of corridor based shooters nowadays, Crysis 2 breathes some life back into open-world first-person shooters. Even though gamers are still charged with rendezvousing with a cast of poorly fleshed out characters, how they get there is purely up to them. There are still limits to where players can go, but the sectioned off portions of the city never feel claustrophobic. Rarely will players backtrack down the same dilapidated avenue throughout the eight-hour campaign.
With this new-found freedom also come many new gameplay options. Do you choose to activate the nanosuit's power armor and go in guns blazing? Will you the trigger the active camouflage and pick off enemies with a suppressed weapon? Or do you opt to use the super jump ability to scale the nearby rooftops and systematically knife enemies in the back? Variety is the spice of death in this case and is pulled off wonderfully – to a degree – in a game whose genre has nearly forgone player choice in the recent years. I hesitate to give Crysis 2's breaths of liberty a standing ovation, though. Any difficulty above the default setting requires a pure stealth build to progress beyond the tutorial. Alcatraz may have a billion dollars worth of government experimentation augmenting his every move, but the armor serves no purpose against the mercenaries carrying anti-personnel weaponry of their own. Bullets pierce the nanosuit's interwoven material like paper, and Alcatraz may as well be throwing rocks at his foes with how little punch his own firearms pack.
I'm sure the lumbering, bipedal alien just wants to be friends.
Whatever your play style may be, the environments are always a sight to behold. With an incredible attention to detail, the visuals rival those of Killzone 3. While the surroundings are not entirely destructible, signs splinter and cement barricades crumble, ruining anyone’s day hiding behind them. Facial models also lack the jagged edges that are commonly present in other shooters. I will praise the developers for the effort put into making a body behind the gun, too. Looking down, players will instantly notice Alcatraz has been given a pair of legs to navigate the debris of a once bustling metropolis. While such an aspect has been around since the Halo 2 days at least, I can't name but a handful of first-person shooters that have actually implemented this design.
When gamers have had their fill of apocalyptic New York City, multiplayer provides a lag-ridden respite with fresh nanosuit abilities to boot. The online portion is standard fare with six game modes, twelve maps, and unlockable weapons and perks. However, I’m not without my gripes. The multiplayer may be entertaining at first, but after the first ten levels the game falls prey to Call of Duty syndrome. New players looking for a reprieve from the sometimes infuriating single-player will not catch a break when they’re gunned down by more advanced players with better perks and weapons that far outstrip their own.
The spawn system needs some major adjustments as well. Several times I found myself crouching behind a wall waiting for my energy to recharge only to be stealth killed by an opponent whom literally respawned directly behind me. Moreover, there are no dedicated servers and lag is not uncommon. I can give Crytek some compliments when it comes to the killstreaks, though. In an attempt to discourage the frequent camping that plagues most shooters, players will need to first gather dog tags that drop from dead enemies in order to activate kill bonuses.
The locales are more than just eye candy.
I cannot fathom the hype behind Crysis. Sure, the graphics provide the eyes with a visual plethora of color, and the bear resemblance to Call of Duty's, but I still feel like it’s missing something. The developers borrowed heavily from the most popular franchises, but Crysis 2 lacks the fun factor that keeps me coming back for more. I had to force myself through the last couple hours of the single-player, and I watched as enemies simply walked through walls or got stuck on their comrades at least a few dozen times. The dry voice acting will not sell players on the characters' emotions, and even with the licensed help of famous composer Hans Zimmer – whose other projects include Modern Warfare 2 and The Dark Knight – the orchestral soundtrack in no way compares to the impact of his film works.
The checkpoint system could also use some tweaks, the menus are needlessly complicated to navigate, and I believe the nanosuit turned Alcatraz into a brain-dead lapdog. No matter which scientist or obvious antagonist is issuing the orders, Alcatraz simply makes his way to his next destination, gunning down any hapless enemy soldiers or Ceph without question as if he will be rewarded a piece of candy for doing a good job when he gets there. Crysis 2 is still worth the time and effort, but I wish it did more to distinguish itself from the competition.
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-12 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, PC