If Den Of Geek gave awards to games based on presentation alone, then Crysis 2 would probably get the first ever 10 star rating on the site.
Normally, I’m no graphics whore, and firmly believe that good visuals don’t make a good game, but getting my hands on Crysis 2, I couldn’t help but stop and take time out just to ogle the stunning visuals.
Long before you even get to the nitty gritty of actual game play, Crysis 2‘s appearance knocks you for six. I honestly think that this may well be the single best looking FPS I’ve ever seen, on any platform. It really does look that good.
The level of detail present in the game world, made possible thanks to the new CryEngine 3, is incredible, and the fidelity of the overall visuals is something that screenshots alone can’t convey.
And, when you realise this is all running on the Xbox 360, with nary an instance of slowdown anywhere, you begin to realise just how good Crytek’s new engine really is. This is seriously amazing stuff, and if it looks this good on console, just imagine how good it’ll look on a fully kitted out gaming PC.
I could go on all day about the individual visual flare, such as the amazing reproduction of New York, the epic set pieces that seem like they’ve made their way right out of a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster, or the impeccable modelling of characters and weapons, but I think you get the idea. This is one fine looking title.
Play it, already!
With the unavoidable kick in the photoreceptors out of the way, let’s get down to the actual game. Crysis 2 has been a long time coming, and unlike the original title, isn’t based on some generic island. This time, events take place in the urban sprawl of New York City. As ‘Alcatraz’, a member of an elite team of Marines, you’re sent to the city, which is under attack by an alien force and also under siege by an army of overzealous private military types. Your objective is to aid a scientist named Nathan Gould. Your mission doesn’t start well, though, as your submarine is attacked and you’re left for dead.
Luckily, you’re found by Prophet, the team leader from the original game, and you’re given a nanosuit along with the goal of finding Gould somewhere in the city. From then on, you’re set loose in NY, with some groovy nanotech powers to play with.
This intro, featuring a dash through a sinking submarine, replete with impressive water effects and the eventual alien attack and timely rescue by Prophet, is presented so well you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all eye candy to get you started. But no, this merely sets the scene perfectly for the rest of the game, which looks equally impressive, if not more so, and the specifics of your physical condition after the attack come into play later on in the game.
Six billion dollar man
As with the original, Crysis 2 mixes in traditional FPS gunplay, alongside the nanosuit’s various powers and abilities, to create a unique and freeform superhero-like adventure. These powers include super strength that lets you rip heavy machine guns off of tanks, maximum armour, which can protect you against enemy fire and cloak, which turns you almost invisible, allowing you to sneak by enemies and execute stealth kills.
You can also use a variety of visual modes, including a cool thermal vision and battlefield analysis mode that points out enemies, supplies and provides suggestions on the best course of action, such as flanking options, stealth routes and so on.
This mixture of abilities is implemented brilliantly, and all modes are easy to activate. What’s more, so accessible and useful are these that you soon develop an almost instinctive feel for them. For example, you can be slowly sneaking around when you hear some enemies approach from around a corner, and without thinking, you hit stealth to stay hidden. Likewise, you can be exploring an area and can come under fire all of a sudden, and in a split second you’ll engage the armour mode to protect yourself.
It’s this fluidity and ease of use that makes these abilities truly integrated into the game, and they never feel overused or forced.
In fact, Crysis 2 improves upon the first game’s nansuit and you can now use two powers at once, if you wish, mixing things up a little (with increased energy drain). It’s a slightly streamlined approach, with some of the modes from the first game being combined into one (such as speed and strength), but it works, and keeps the whole thing accessible and more intuitive. Other changes include a measure of handicapping, to further balance them out, such as the armour mode, which causes Alcatraz to move slowly.
The level of control you have over the suit and its powers is great, and although the abilities on offer aren’t the most inventive we’ve ever seen, they’re tailored to the game play brilliantly, allowing for some great moments, such as single handedly taking out an entire squad of soldiers, complete with supporting vehicles.
Importantly, though, Crytek has managed to balance the powers the suit grants users, thanks to the limited energy reserves, ensuring that players aren’t overly powerful. Each mode drains energy at differing rates (stealth mode runs it down fast when you’re running, for example), so you have to use it carefully. The energy does regenerate quickly, but in the middle of a firefight or stealth approach, you need to be careful and plan your moves.
You’ll need to master these abilities, too, as the game can be challenging, as the various areas are often left wide open, with danger coming from any direction.
This open-ended play is another great feature, and you’re rarely left with only one option to approach a situation. You can, of course, go in guns blazing, but you can also use stealthy methods, such as ducking into an underground sewer to avoid a patrol instead. You may choose to take the high ground, sniping foes from a safer vantage point, or you could stealth kill a foe so that his body creates a distraction.
The options are all there, and often these involve good tactics and judicious use of your suit’s abilities. It’s never overly scripted (except early on when your suit teaches you its various abilities), and you always feel like you’ve got options to play with.
You’re also forced to vary your tactics, not only as you face different enemies, which present whole new challenges (such as nimble aliens and hulking heavy troops), but also as you’re not invincible, and plunging headfirst into a group of soldiers can easily get you killed if you don’t think things out first.
Making full use of the environment is also key, including the good use of cover, and even using such items as cars as makeshift missiles (as they can be power kicked around) , or even the odd TV screen, shopping trolley or any number of other debris, which can be hurled at your foes.
As well as your suit’s abilities, which can be further upgraded by infusing the suit with alien DNA, granting access to improved armour, upgraded stealth systems and extra vision aids, you can also utilise a wide array of weapons, including pistols, rifles, SMGs, rocket launchers and so on. These can be upgraded on the fly with such items as silencers, scopes and larger clips, adding more flexibility to combat.
You’ll also occasionally get to use vehicles, too, which can produce some impressive impromptu bouts of OTT destruction.
With such a high level of presentation and a genuinely open approach to situations, it’s a shame that the enemy AI pales in comparison to the rest of the game’s features. This AI, which can be fine much of the time, is prone to all sorts of glitches and bugs. I’ve seen enemies run round in circles for no reason, get stuck on walls, fall off ledges and more, creating an embarrassing display of ineptitude, which is made all the more noticeable due to the rest of the game’s impeccable presentation.
On the flipside, though, I’ve also seen enemies approach my exact hiding place, even when I’m cloaked and the stealth meter is empty, only to discover me, and some can see you from a county mile away, even when you’re mostly hidden behind cover.
These are extreme cases, and to be fair, much of the time the AI is decent enough, but it’s enough of a problem to damage the experience somewhat. Hopefully, this can be patched up a bit in future.
There are also some geometry problems, such as getting stuck on some scenery and being unable to sneak over small steps, and the stealth kill move can be hit and miss, with a very narrow angle of approach needed to hit it.
However, these flaws don’t detract from what is an otherwise excellent title, and one that keeps you coming back for more. And when you’ve ploughed through the single player, there’s always the multiplayer to go at too.
This works very well, and makes great use of the suit powers and agility to create a unique online experience that separates it from the likes of CoD, even if it does steal some elements from the much-loved shooter.
It’s really refreshing to see a more sci-fi shooter that offers something different from the slew of boring middle eastern-centric FPS titles on offer, and hopefully, it’ll do well enough online to warrant extra content and a loyal fan base.
Crying out loud
Crytek has once more produced a game that sits ahead of the pack when it comes to the underlying engine. As with the original Crysis and even the classic Far Cry, it’s no doubt going to set the bar for future releases once more.
It aptly demonstrates this goal with the very first achievement titled ‘Can it run Crysis?’, and it manages to deliver a great game underneath the stunning visuals, making it more than a one trick pony.
Crysis 2 is a great FPS that plays almost as well as it looks, and despite a few niggles here and there, it’s a highly recommended title.